July 31, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Why I signed the Freedom Conservatism Statement of PrinciplesClassical liberals committed to equal opportunity are conserving the ideals that make America great. (AVIK ROY, JUL 29, 2023, Freedom Conservatism)

At the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity, we describe ourselves as "a liberal think tank for the 21st century." While the term "liberal" has become associated with the left since the New Deal, it once meant something different:

All of us at FREOPP are big believers in the foundational importance of free inquiry, without which we won't come up with innovative new ways to improve Americans' lives. The broad tradition of political liberalism, as described in Wikipedia, is one of "liberty, consent of the governed, and equality before the law"; of evidence-based scientific knowledge; and of "more positive and proactive measures...required to ensure that every individual [has] an equal opportunity of success."

Today, this older form of liberalism--one that seeks to conserve the founding political tradition of the United States--has opponents on both the left and the right. And since FREOPP's policy reforms are rooted in using classical liberal principles--individual freedom and free enterprise--to improve the lives of Americans on the bottom half of the ladder, the broader contours of American politics are relevant to our mission.

That's why I recently helped to organize a group of around 150 signatories to publish what the group calls the "Freedom Conservatism Statement of Principles." Several of my FREOPP colleagues joined in the effort. It's an important initiative for many reasons, not least because the free-market reforms that FREOPP scholars have developed can only succeed if we build a network of alliances with those in both parties who share our mission.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


In Private Messages, DeSantis Ally Pedro Gonzalez Argues Nancy Pelosi Is Jewish and Faults Trump for Condemning White Supremacy (Alana Goodman, July 31, 2023, Free Beacon)

The politics editor of the paleoconservative Chronicles magazine who gained prominence through appearances on Tucker Carlson's Fox News program, Gonzalez argued in online messages obtained by the Washington Free Beacon that former House speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) "can't be criticized" publicly because she is a Jew--Pelosi is a Roman Catholic--and that Jewish scholar Yoram Hazony is an unfit spokesman for American nationalism because he was born in Israel. [...]

In those messages, Gonzalez, who has made a name for himself as a vocal supporter of Florida governor and 2024 Republican presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis, wrote that "not every Jew is problematic, but the sad fact is that most are," and that the "only tactical considertation [sic] of Jews is screening them for movements."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Israel's democracy movement is ready for a fight -- and we need your help (AMI AYALON, GILEAD SHER AND ORNI PETRUSCHKA, 07/28/23, The Hill)

Of course, many true friends of Israel have long bristled at the more familiar actions of the ultra-nationalist right in Israel: the oppression of the Palestinians, the growth of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and the tolerance of Jewish hooligans violently rampaging in Palestinian areas. 

Compared to these outrages, the so-called "judicial reforms" might seem to be a nuanced matter. But in fact, they are a dagger striking at the heart of the notion that America and Israel have shared values. 

The proposals included measures letting the government to appoint cronies to the Supreme Court, override even its puppets on the court via its majority in parliament and remove critical checks on corruption. Down the road, they include removing "fraud" and "breach of trust" from the list of crimes officials can be charged with -- two of the three charges Netanyahu is currently facing in his trial.

Given that Israel lacks a formal constitution -- its idealistic 1948 Declaration of Independence and a series of easily amended "basic laws" are no substitute -- and that the same coalition controls the government and the parliament, these proposals amount to a near-Putinization of what has until now been a liberal democracy for 75 years. Netanyahu would effectively control all three branches of government.

This reflects a vulgar view of democracy as amounting to a tyranny of the majority, wildly out of sync with the American system of checks and balances on top of guarantees for each citizen secured by the Bill of Rights.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Driver Plows Car Into Migrant Workers in 'Intentional Assault,' Police Say (NY Times, 
July 31, 2023)

The attack follows a deadly crash in May in which the driver of a Range Rover barreled into a crowd of migrants in Brownsville, Texas, killing eight of them. That driver was arrested and charged with manslaughter and other charges.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Militant humourlessnessA pseudo-history of British comedy leaves one depressed (Tim Dawson, 7/31/23, The Critic)

Part of the problem is that a genuine exploration (and celebration) of post-war British comedy would cause Stubbs' central premise -- that British culture was a wasteland of racism, homophobia and misogyny, "blighted with offensive caricatures" -- to fall apart.

Over 2,200 television sitcoms have been made in this country. In that context, Love Thy Neighbour, Curry and Chips and a few other obnoxious efforts are exceptions -- regrettable exceptions, but exceptions nonetheless. Take a random episode of a random sitcom produced in Britain since 1946 (Stubbs' assertion that Britain's "first television comedy" transmitted in 1949 is incorrect), and you'd be unlucky to find anything offensive.

Clinging to its muddled premise, the book lurches bittily and bitterly through page after page of sub-Wikipedia commentary.

Much of it is more interested in the Conservative Party than comedy. Stubbs notes in a slightly sinister "Your name vill also go on ze list!" manner whether a writer or performer held Conservative sympathies, issuing moral judgments accordingly, then moving onto his next target.

Stubbs admits that growing up he didn't understand much of the comedy he watched, and this lack of comprehension seems to have extended into adulthood.

July 30, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 6:06 PM

60-40 NATION:

Fox News Host Confronts Trump Lawyer With Grim Polling on Trump's Actions (Newsweek, July 30, 2023)

[A] new poll conducted by NPR, PBS NewsHour and Marist offered grim news for Trump, finding that most Americans disapprove of his actions.

The poll, which surveyed 1,285 adults from July 24 to 27, found that 51 percent of Americans believe Trump's actions were illegal, while another 27 percent sad they view his actions as unethical. Meanwhile, only 19 percent of respondents said Trump did nothing wrong. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:02 PM


Why the U.S. economy is so immune to rate hikes (Felix Salmon, 7/30/23, Axios)

Rate hikes in many other countries, especially the UK, hurt most of the population very rapidly, thanks to their high homeownership rate and how short-term their mortgages are.

The U.S. has positioned itself to be able to withstand rate shocks much more easily.

Household and corporate debt is mostly fixed-rate rather than floating-rate, meaning that debt payments don't immediately rise when rates go up.

There's also less debt, overall, than there has been historically...

Debt is particularly low considering the rate of return on investment.

Posted by orrinj at 5:59 PM


Better energy harvesting with 'law-breaking' device (Emily Velasco, 7/30/23, Phys.org)

The connection between an object's ability to absorb and emit energy in the form of electromagnetic radiation--its absorptive and emissive efficiencies--has long been explained by something known as Kirchhoff's law of thermal radiation. The law, a concept devised by Gustav Kirchhoff in 1860, states that absorptive and emissive efficiencies are equal at each wavelength and angle of incidence.

A new device developed in the lab of Harry Atwater, the Howard Hughes Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science, breaks that normally tight relationship between the absorbed and emitted efficiencies of an object. The invention may also have important implications for sustainable energy harvesting systems and the development of certain kinds of camouflage.

Posted by orrinj at 5:53 PM


Metaphysical Skepticism: we can't determine the ultimate nature of reality. (Jacob Bell, July 2023, Philosophy))

Metaphysics can be thought of as an investigation into the ultimate or fundamental nature of reality. In other words, it is the attempt to reveal and describe how and what things really are at some foundational level.The most popular kind of metaphysics seems focused on determining whether the world is best described as fundamentally physical, mental, neutral, or some combination of these. I have no quarrel with many of the questions that metaphysics seeks to investigate. Here I am concerned with the metaphysical doctrines which make grand claims, such as 'everything is physical' or 'everything is mental'. Popular examples of these doctrines include physicalism and idealism. Less mainstream positions which are gaining in popularity include neutral monism and panpsychism. I will settle for brief descriptions of the two more popular positions. Physicalism refers to the thesis that everything which exists is physical, including thoughts, numbers, minds, and consciousness (if these things exist, of course). Idealism, in contrast, is the thesis that everything which exists is in some sense mental or a product of consciousness, including seemingly non-mental physical objects such as rocks, chairs, and planets. I am neither a physicalist nor an idealist. This isn't because I take some other metaphysical theory as true, but because I am extremely skeptical of any position that makes grand sweeping generalizations regarding the fundamental nature of reality. Let me tell you why. [...]

 If a theory is logically flawed it cannot be considered a serious contender. However, many competing theories are logically valid, consistent, and coherent. So an appeal to the inner logic of a theory doesn't seem to be decisive if we are comparing theories which are each coherent. Indeed, there is no reason to believe that a system is an accurate description of reality just because it is internally valid. Many great works of fiction are internally valid, even if they appeal to magic. Likewise, some conspiracy theories contain internally valid systems of logic but don't reflect reality, since they're likely to be using false premises. But imagine that we had no way to empirically verify or falsify the premises of a conspiracy theory. How could we then determine that the theory was an inaccurate description of reality? This parallels the problem of verifying or falsifying premises of grand metaphysical theories. If the premises of some metaphysical theory cannot be empirically or experientially verified or falsified, we seem to be restricted to an analysis of its logical validity and internal coherence which leaves us no better off in determining whether the theory accurately describes reality. And a theory that is logically sound and contains no contradictions, but which has no foot in empirical investigation or experience, could be just a fantastical creation of rationality. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Biden and Netanyahu, unhappily bound in a key alliance (AFP, July 29, 2023)

They have known each other for decades, rubbing shoulders at countless international events, but there is little love lost between US President Joe Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu as the Israeli prime minister faces a full-blown crisis over a contested judicial reform.

For the Democratic president, a fervent supporter of Israel for a half-century, the dilemma has become increasingly public as he seeks ways to work with the most far-right Israeli government in history.

While Biden continues to insist on the "ironclad" nature of America's support for its Israeli ally, he describes that country's government as the most "extremist" he has known.

If you ally with extremists you are an extremist.
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


$60 Million Refund Request Shows Financial Pressure on Trump From Legal Fees (NY Times, July 29, 2023)

The political action committee that has been paying former President Donald J. Trump's legal fees requested a refund on a $60 million contribution it made to the super PAC supporting the Republican front-runner, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The decision of Mr. Trump's political team to ask for a refund of money that was meant to help his 2024 campaign, and was instead diverted to an account paying his legal bills, is extraordinary.

It is self-interest that will drive him from the race.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Iran: The new grand ayatollah upsetting the establishment: Seyyed Javad Alavi Boroujerdi, a 72-year-old cleric, has expressed support for minority rights and Mahsa Amini protests (Middle East Eye, 30 July 2023)

One of the striking aspects of Boroujerdi's vision is his focus on the history of Iran before Islam, which is counter to the administration and those clerics close to it, who attempt to ignore ancient Persian civilisation.

Boroujerdi highlights the significance of the Cyrus cylinder, a sixth century BCE document recognised by the United Nations, which notes that the texts "indicate that everyone is entitled to freedom and choice and that all individuals should respect one another".

"I praise the Cyrus cylinder, while some people believe that [there is nothing valuable before Islam]. This is not right," Boroujerdi has said.

Cyrus II of Persia (c. 600-530 BCE), commonly known as Cyrus the Great, founded the Achaemenid Empire, the First Persian Empire. Excavated at Babylon in 1879, the cylinder was inscribed in Babylonian cuneiform on Cyrus's orders. It promotes human rights, tolerance, courage and the respect of minorities.

Beyond human rights, Boroujerdi, unlike many of his peers, rejects the notion of an "Islamic economy", emphasising that Islam does not prescribe specific economic principles.

"We have been working for 43 years, we have done everything by trial and error. Matters should be left to experts and it is not even necessary for an expert to be religious," he has said of the government's approach to the economy.

When it comes to the controversy over whether it should be mandatory to wear the hijab, the cleric has said that true faith should not be defined solely by outward appearance. Boroujerdi has instead encouraged a focus on genuine belief and action, urging society to avoid excessive disputes that strain the fabric of religious unity.

When 22-year old Mahsa Amini died in the custody of the morality police for allegedly not observing regulations concerning the hijab, Boroujerdi said: "She was the daughter of us all and what happened to our daughter was very bitter for us all."

Protests have rocked Iran since Amini's death, and the grand ayatollah has been clear in his response to them. Addressing the Islamic Republic, Boroujerdi said of the protesters: "These people here have their say and they don't agree with what you are doing. Their voice should be heard somewhere. Leave the newspapers free to write it. The press should be free. Different views should be heard on state TV."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


REVIEW: of The Church of Baseball by Ron Shelton (Reviewed by Daniel de Visé, July 30, 2023, Washington Review of Books)

Lots of executives said no to Shelton and his film. Then he walked into a meeting with Thom Mount, the former Universal studio head. "He knew Lysistrata and he knew the infield-fly rule -- that's a small group to find in Hollywood -- and he owned a piece of the Durham Bulls baseball team in the Carolina League," Shelton writes.

Shelton was a first-time director and didn't yet have a story. "What I did have was three characters who had been living in my head for all the years since I left baseball," he writes, continuing:

"Each was a composite, an archetype, and if I was lucky, an original at the same time. I figured that if the tale was about a ménage à trois, it wouldn't come across as a baseball story. I determined that if the woman was sleeping with one of them but the other one was the right guy, well, you didn't have to understand the infield-fly rule to connect with the drama. If it sounds calculated, it was."

July 29, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 7:06 PM


The wounded Jewish psyche and the divided Israeli soul (YOSSI KLEIN HALEVI, 28 July 2023, Times of Israel)

In one sense, what is happening to Israel is hardly unusual. Populist wars against elites are being waged all over the world. And yet Israel is unique: While other societies can endure a populist wave of resentment and even violent hatred, Israel's long-term survival in the Middle East depends on maintaining its modernist elite (while expanding the entry points into the elite to ensure greater diversity). The alternative is gradual - or perhaps rapid - descent into a dysfunctional society led by corrupt counter-elites, precisely the scenario modeled by this government.

Israel is unique in one other way: Our elites are not only "privileged" but sacrificial. There is no elite like ours anywhere else in the West.

Just when we assumed that the era of sacrifice was over, and the stereotype of the Tel Avivis concerned only with their own interests and pleasure had taken hold in the public imagination, along came the most intense protest movement in Israel's history. Led by veterans of elite combat units, by men and women who have taken open-ended leave from positions in high tech and academia to devote themselves to saving Israel, the movement is an outbreak of passionate patriotism, a protective embrace of the Israeli ethos.

Over and over, protesters tell interviewers variations of the same story: I'm doing this for my father who was wounded in the Yom Kippur War, for my son who was killed in Lebanon, for my grandparents who were uprooted from Iraq or who survived the Holocaust, for my great-grandparents who helped build the state. Now, they say, it's my turn to defend the country.

The protest movement persists week after week, maintaining astonishing turn-outs, because its wellsprings are Jewish history and the Zionist story

One of the protest movement's greatest achievements has been in claiming as its symbol the Israeli flag, refusing to cede it to the right. The movement persists week after week, maintaining astonishing turn-outs, because its wellsprings are Jewish history and the Zionist story. This force is unstoppable.

Just as the protest movement is trying to protect the Israeli success story, this government is actively seeking to destroy it. Each party within the coalition has taken responsibility for undermining another aspect of modern Israel.

The far-right zealots are in charge of ensuring that Israel becomes an outcast among democratic nations. The ultra-Orthodox state-within-a-state is laying the ground for the eventual ruin of the Israeli economy, forced to maintain an ever-expanding, chronically under-productive population. And a thoroughly corrupted Likud is in charge of dismantling the independent judiciary, the last line of defense for Israeli democracy.

This government, which promotes itself as the guarantor of Israeli security, is the greatest internal threat to our security in the nation's history.

Posted by orrinj at 4:44 PM


Arsenal, Identity, and Evolution (JONATHAN FOSTER, 7/25/23, Football Paradise)

Once, while out skating, I took a crack to the back of my head in a fall, knocking myself out. When I began to come around, I experienced an accelerated evolution of consciousness itself. My vision went from nothing to blurry to sharp. I began to pick out objects that morphed into people hovering around me. As I lay on the cold ice I detected the sensation of the sun on my face and the weight of my body. 

But I had no idea who I was. There was thinking going on, but who was doing the thinking was a mystery to the thinker. It was as if I was a floating mind with no identity to root me into my body. I could have been anyone. Eventually (a matter of a half a minute or so that felt like an eternity) I regained a sense of myself. My identity returned and I got to my feet and skated off the same person I was before I fell. I think. I hope. 

However, identity, this thing we think we are, is a social construct, not some fixed immutable physical attribute. It can be disconcerting to think of the self as fluid, considering we cling so hard to the concept, but this fluidity and the ability to alter one's "identity" isn't a bad thing at all (although a more considered approach than a blow to the head is always a better idea), and it's always good to let the mind roam free.

Posted by orrinj at 8:01 AM


'The Agreement Is Broken': Israeli Reservists Resign to Protest New Law (NY Times, July 29, 2023)

For 33 years, Eitan Herzel has proudly dovetailed his career in Israel's vaunted tech industry with reserve duty in an elite commando unit of the Israeli military.

Several times a year, for a total of roughly 30 days, Mr. Herzel left his job as a tech engineer to report for duty -- initially as a fighter and then to guide the selection and training of new commandos.

That life of service came to a sudden end on Tuesday when Mr. Herzel wrote to his commander to resign in protest over the far-right government's decision to limit judicial power, which he sees as an assault on democracy.

"I have an agreement, like every soldier, between me and the country," said Mr. Herzel, 55. "Israel is a country that is both Jewish and democratic," he added. "If it becomes only Jewish and not a democracy, then that agreement is broken, and I can't serve anymore."

Posted by orrinj at 7:52 AM


Posted by orrinj at 7:10 AM


JOHN ADAMS AND THE RULE OF LAW (Stuart Hatfield, 5/22, Journal of the American Revolution)

 It was very important to him that the Massachusetts Constitution created a government of laws, not of men. The question is, what sources did Adams to arrive at this concept?

John Adams was raised in the Congregational Church, later becoming a Unitarian. He believed in a simpler form of Christianity and described himself as a "church-going animal"[2] With this in mind he was familiar with the Bible and most likely was exposed to one of the first written expressions of the rule of law in Leviticus 19:15, "You shall do no iniquity in judgment. You shall not favor the wretched and you shall not defer to the rich. In righteousness, you are to judge your fellow." [3] This passage essentially states that when it comes to judgment one should not be biased by financial status; all should be judged equally. Considering how Adams thought and wrote about the Bible, it would not be a stretch to infer that passages such as Leviticus stuck in his mind.

Adams referenced the Bible often in his writing and took every effort to present it as the guide, by which men should live and be governed. In an 1813 letter to Thomas Jefferson, he wrote, "the Bible is the best book in the world. It contains more philosophy than all the libraries I have seen."[4] In another letter to Jefferson, he discusses the "principles" of the Revolution and where they came from. "The general Principles, on which the Fathers Achieved Independence, were the only Principles in which, that beautiful Assembly of young Gentlemen could Unite, and these Principles only could be intended by them in their Address, or by me in my Answer. And what were these general Principles? I answer, the general principles of Christianity."[5]

To his good friend Benjamin Rush in 1807, he wrote of the Bible, "It is the most Republican Book in the World, and therefore I will still revere it. . . . I believe to be the only System that ever did or ever will preserve a Republic in the World.[6] There is no doubt how much his faith played a major role in the development of his view of proper republican government and the desire to base his ideal government upon the rule of law.

Adams came from a family of farmers, but as soon as he began to show an aptitude for learning his father decided that he must attend Harvard. The plan, of course, was that John would enter the priesthood and much of his early learning led in that direction. Once he got to Harvard, he discovered two things: the law, which he preferred to the priesthood, and books.[7] When exactly the course correction from minister to lawyer happened at Harvard is not very clear. In his reminisces he recalled that once he became involved in the debating and discussion club, he was told that he seemed to have some ability at public speaking and that he would make a better lawyer than a preacher, and he never looked back.[8] One thing that is for sure is that was here at Harvard he received the classical education that lay the groundwork for his belief in the rule of law. So, what were some of the things he would have learned as part of that education?

It is in the writings of Aristotle, the Greek philosopher that the oldest sense of the rule of law can be found. Aristotle posited the question of whether men should be ruled by the best leader or the best laws. As he explored the notion, it became evident that both answers had their advantages and disadvantages. He reached the conclusion that men should be governed by laws because they were usually well thought-out and could be applied to different situations. Aristotle claimed "that to give authority to any one man when all are equal is unjust."[9] He also stated that, "Equality consists in the same treatment of similar persons, and no government can stand which is not founded upon justice."[10] The importance of equality and justice is evident, not just in men dealing with men, but men dealing with government. All are to be equal under the law. Adams would have read the writings of Aristotle and it is clear that some of this stuck.

Plato, another classic philosopher, spoke many times on the rule of law in his writings stating, "Where the law is overruled or obsolete, I see destruction hanging over the community; where it is sovereign over the authorities and they its humble servants, I discern the presence of salvation and every blessing heaven sends on a society."[11] This can easily be interpreted to mean that the laws should be sovereign over even the authorities tasked with upholding them.

From the Romans, he would have been exposed to Cicero, perhaps the greatest lawyer of his age. In his Murder Trials, Cicero recounted several of his most high-profile trials, which he won, and the impact that they had. He discusses how no one is above the law, even calling out "government employees and people in power," further showing how the rule of law was alive in well in the classic writings.[12]

One can hardly overstate how little influence the Enlightenment has on Anglospherics.
Posted by orrinj at 6:59 AM


Christopher Nolan: the last Tory: The director is a mass entertainer with an elitist disdain for the masses. In his films, order and hierarchy reign. (Will Lloyd, 7/29/23, New Statesman)

Oppenheimer does not sympathise with Oppenheimer. The bomb, his life's work - which Nolan condemns as a modernist project like those of Freud, or Stravinsky, or Picasso - is a hideous error. The film ends with Oppenheimer tremblingly realising that he has unleashed forces that could destroy the planet. You sense Oppenheimer's, and by extension Nolan's, longing for a return to the old, straight, predictably lined systems of Isaac Newton's universe, and to absolute moral values more generally.

Christopher Nolan is an auteur who claims to be a craftsman, an engineer who despises new technology, a starkly conservative Englishman who lives and works in the most liberal city in the United States. Above all, Nolan is a mass entertainer with an elitist disdain for the masses.

Aggregations of human beings in a Nolan movie are usually a bad sign. In the Batman trilogy they mass only as gangsters, or anarchists, or filthy, deluded revolutionaries. In Interstellar the people are reduced to yokels, who no longer have the vision to save themselves from a dusty environmental apocalypse. The one major crowd scene in Oppenheimer, when the scientist receives the acclaim of his colleagues, degenerates into grotesque bacchanal, where people vomit and scream and fondle each other. Nolan is terrified of the masses because he is terrified of himself, and his lucrative ability to tell them stories. "Who are the people?" Elliot Page's Ariadne asks Leonardo di Caprio's Cobb in Inception. "They're projections of my subconscious," he replies.

Without rules, human beings are nasty and brutish. This lofty insight leads Nolan to believe that the filmmaker and the audience can never be equally matched. He does not do traditional scored research screenings or focus groups. He forced through the cinematic release of Tenet in September 2020 during the pandemic, seemingly unconcerned by Covid circulating in enclosed spaces among herds of unvaccinated people.

The epic scenery of his films - Nolan keeps returning to glaciers, huge, empty glittering cities, and the fizzing, baffling matter of particle physics - feel like intimidation devices. So too do his incomprehensible multi-timeline plots, the insanely loud scores of these pictures, and his delight in forcing actors into masks and helmets and cockpits, where their dialogue can barely be understood. All the fear and flight and anger inside Nolan is contained in these attempts to dominate his audience. If he can dominate us, he can dominate those feelings too.

Haileybury might have been "Darwinian", but Nolan also happily told Shone that he "enjoyed my time there". The reconciliation of brutality and cruelty with order and hierarchy is what Nolan always hopes to achieve. The dormitory room might be bleak, but it will always shelter us. Horror is necessary to prevent greater horror. This is Tory propaganda on the grandest possible scale. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:50 AM


Posted by orrinj at 6:47 AM


How Bad Is China's Economy? Millions of Young People Are Unemployed and Disillusioned (Brian Spegele. July 26, 2023. WSJ)

Young people need to stiffen their spines and embrace hardship, says leader Xi Jinping, who labored in the countryside in China's Cultural Revolution. If they can't find jobs they want, they should work on factory lines or engage in poverty relief in rural China.

The government's guidance is ringing hollow with many young people. Growing up in a period of rising prosperity, they were told that China was strong, the West was declining and endless opportunities awaited them.

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

Posted by orrinj at 6:38 AM


The new conservative arguments for an un-modern America (Becca Rothfeld, July 28, 2023, Washington Post)

At first glance, the post-liberals may look like tempting allies for, well, liberals. They are vocal critics of several of the GOP's most entrenched shibboleths: Dreher, for example, confesses that he broke with mainstream Republicanism when he tired of its disregard for environmental degradation and its "uncritical enthusiasm for the market." To the post-liberals, both the Republicans and the Democrats are in league with the enemy: the liberal leviathan.

They are the Left, wishing to conserve nothing of liberalism and are quite correct that conservatism is the defender of liberalism.

July 28, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 4:37 PM


Posted by orrinj at 3:10 PM


'Disgusting': Black Republicans livid over DeSantis' slavery attack (BRAKKTON BOOKER, 07/28/2023, Politico)

Donalds, who largely praised the guidelines as "good, robust and accurate," took issue with the idea of "personal benefit" and said that part is "wrong and needs to be adjusted." Donalds supported DeSantis for governor but has backed Trump in the presidential primary.

That prompted an onslaught from the DeSantis camp. Christina Pushaw, the director of rapid response for the DeSantis presidential campaign, mused, "Did Kamala Harris write this tweet?" referencing the vice president's recent trip to Florida, in which she denounced the new standards.

DeSantis dug in, disparaging his fellow Republican with one of the worst insults one can lob: comparing him to a Democrat. "Are you going to side with Kamala Harris and liberal media outlets or are you going to side with the state of Florida?"

To some prominent Black Republicans, it was a DeSantis misstep. And one that comes as his campaign is attempting to jump-start its flagging operation.

"It's just not a good position for the DeSantis campaign to take. And they're doubling down and that's what's even more disgusting," said the Black Conservative Federation's Johnson.

Posted by orrinj at 8:52 AM


Why Do So Many People Still Support Donald Trump? (Bob Altemeyer, May 2023, The Authoritarians)

Compared to most people, experiments have shown that people highly likely to support Trump have a limited tendency to think for themselves. Instead they have adopted the opinions of others, especially persons they consider the "proper authorities." Almost everyone does this during childhood, but most people eventually develop some independence in their thinking. Trump's supporters, by and large, have not. [...]

Maintaining your beliefs by restricting your contacts to people who agree with you will definitely increase your certainty that you are right, but it also means the whole pack of you can be wrong but never find out. A good example of this occurred in March 2023 when Chuck Callesto tweeted three misleading stories about the January 6th attack on the Capitol that exonerated Trump supporters and blamed Antifa instead. With Elon Musk's endorsement these were viewed up to 58 million times. When fact-checkers pointed out each story was false https://www.cnn.com/2023/03/16/politics/fact-check-january-6-videos-musk/index.html Callesto acknowledged his mistakes. But the correct information was seen at most by about 150,000. Obviously, the agreeable messages spread like wildfire within the "echo chamber," but very few of its sounding brass were interested in relaying a disagreeable truth. 

This fits in perfectly with Trump supporters' attitudes toward group cohesiveness. They believe more than most people that members owe extreme loyalty to groups they belong to. One should never criticize them and their leaders, and nothing is lower than a group member who does. So belief that left-wingers staged the January 6th insurrection, that the election was stolen, that climate change is a liberal hoax, that gays have an agenda to make other people gay, that injections against COVID actually put the virus in your veins as well as microchip tracking devices, and that a secret cabal of Jewish financiers and high-ranking Democrats run a white-slavery operation out of a Washington pizzeria and eat babies--these beliefs fly around the Internet among Trump supporters virtually nonstop and unopposed, picking up energy like protons swirling around a nuclear accelerator. And the people who get bombarded by the absurdities and in turn bombard others thrill at being so tightly immersed in the In-group--almost totally, dogmatically beyond the reach of evidence and reason. Where they have been most of their lives.

We know these things about Trump supporters, and much, much more that you can find on this website, because as a group they score very highly on a psychological test that measures one's tendency to be an authoritarian follower. Research in this area began in the early 1940s as an attempt to understand the psychology of Nazi supporters. If you look back on what we have covered in these few pages, you will probably see the similarities with Trump's followers, if you did not spot them already. This is a striking, dreadful thing to say about so many of one's fellow Americans. But can there be any doubt by this time that everything our democracy is based upon, down to the Constitution and the rule of law itself, is at risk?

But we are not doomed. America was well-served by its free press, by its judicial system, and by its military leaders in the recent battle, and by the tens of millions who fought their way through all the Republican roadblocks to exercise their right to vote.

Recall the Editor's Preface to the Time-Life Books edition of The True Believer: [H]offer's hero is 'the autonomous man,' the content man at peace with himself, engaged in the present.  In Hoffer's book, this hero, nourished by free societies, is set off against 'the true believer,' who begins as a frustrated man driven by guilt, failure and self-disgust to bury his own identity in a cause oriented to some future goal.

Posted by orrinj at 8:48 AM


By the Rivers of Babylon We Remember Zion: This famous psalm is read on the eve of Tisha B'Av and sets the tone for an emotionally challenging holiday. (RABBI NEAL GOLD, 7/27/23, My Jewish Learning)

Psalm 137 is recited on the eve of Tisha B'Av, which commemorates the destruction of both Temples. It opens the liturgy, and sets the tone for the day. The liturgy of Tisha B'Av includes a wide array of kinot, poems of sorrow and mourning, giving voice to themes of exile and longing. But this ancient psalm, older than the kinot, captures the pain of exile from the Land of Israel perhaps most eloquently of all. The psalm is short -- only nine verses -- and can be divided into three parts, each with its own themes and challenges for today's spiritual yearners. The first four verses read as follows:

By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat, sat and wept, as we remembered Zion.

There on the poplars we hung up our lyres,

for our captors asked us there for songs, our tormentors, for amusement:

"Sing us one of the songs of Zion."

How can we sing a song of the LORD on alien soil?

In these opening lines, we can hear the sadism of the locals as they mock the newly-arrived Israelites: "Sing us one of those spirituals from the Old Country..." Some scholars remark that the Israelite response, "How can we sing... on alien soil?" reflects another aspect of loss: the poet, like many of the exiles, is wondering whether the God of Israel can hear or act when the people are no longer in their homeland. Perhaps prophecy and prayers only "work" when the People of Israel are located in the Land of Israel? This is more than a rhetorical question: the exile commemorated on Tisha B'Av is not only about distance from a physical place, but also from God. That distance is the cause of pain and loneliness that is reflected in the psalm.

If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither;

let my tongue stick to my palate if I cease to think of you,

if I do not keep Jerusalem in memory even at my happiest hour.

Here, the pain of loss melts into resolve. The poet doesn't know if God has forgotten, but the poet has not forgotten! The Temple in Jerusalem was the place where God and the people found great intimacy. The memory of this closeness is what Tisha B'Av is ultimately about: not a longing for sacrifices, but for the intimacy with God that worship evoked.

These lines are reflected in some well-known Jewish customs. In many times and places, Jews would leave a wall of their home unfinished or unpainted. This was a reminder that wherever the householder lived, it was still a place of exile until Jerusalem and its people would once again be whole. This practice is first described in the Talmud, Bava Batra 60b.

Another famous Jewish ritual reflects these verses: breaking a glass at a wedding. After all, surely the moment a couple is married must be their "happiest hour." Shattering a glass at this moment reminds onlookers of the work still to be done, although perhaps this couple's love is a step in bringing unity back to a fragmented world.

Posted by orrinj at 8:34 AM


Humans in the New Age of the Machine (NICK RIPATRAZONE,  07.16.2023, Common Good)

One of the most formative poets in my life is Gerard Manley Hopkins, a 19th century British Jesuit priest. By all accounts, Hopkins was a dry preacher and an overworked teacher, but he was a poet of staggering talent. His prosody -- the manner and aesthetic of his poetic lines -- were out of place and time, equally or more stylistic than writers a hundred years after him. His poems were dense and dynamic; his phrases were fresh and his images jarring. His locus, though, was Christ. Hopkins's union of style, substance, and spirituality remains a marvel.

McLuhan, a Catholic convert, was drawn to Hopkins both because of his faith (Hopkins had also converted, like others at Oxford) and the poet's oddly modern linguistic mode. McLuhan thought that "Pied Beauty," one short poem, was a "catalogue of the notes of the sense of touch," a "manifesto of the nonvisual, and like Cezanne or Seurat, or Rouault it provides an indispensable approach to understanding TV." McLuhan's sweeping claim is ultimately true: Hopkins's poetic approach transcended his medium and his time.

I asked ChatGPT to write a poem that parodied Hopkins's "God's Grandeur." The original poem begins with a declarative, classic first line: "The world is charged with the grandeur of God." That grandeur, Hopkins writes, "will flame out, like shining from shook foil; / It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil / Crushed." Three lines in, and the word and sense play is dizzying: "shining" and "shook" blend together, made parallel with the alliterations of "gathers" and "greatness," as well as "ooze" and "oil." The decision to push "crushed" to the following line is so smart, its finality prefacing the poem's only, and central, question: "Why do men then now not reck his rod?"

"God's Grandeur" is a poem about how generations have "trod" across the earth, as "all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil." The first stanza is dirty and mucky; the second stanza glows with nature, where "lives the dearest freshness deep down things." What saves us, Hopkins reveals, is the Holy Ghost, the illumination of Christ.

Like much of Hopkins's verse, it is deeply skilled, devotional, and -- I say this in the best possible way -- it is strange. I could have asked ChatGPT to write an essay on it, but knew that essay would ken and spin from an encyclopedic stroll through human writings. I wanted ChatGPT to make something derived from, but not derivative.

"Oh how the world is full of waste and shame," the program began its poem, "The garbage heaps pile high, the oceans choked, / The air is thick with pollution's choking cloak, / And all creation groans in anguished pain." "Waste and shame" is an odd phrase -- the implication of the stanza as a whole is that the world does not feel such shame, so it is as if the program attempted to simultaneously create a text and append an outside perception. "Oceans choked" could work as a phrase, but "choking" in the next line is a clunky repetition.

Is it folly to parse these lines? The bigger problem, though, is one of tone. Apparently the program perceived "parodies" to mean "write a version of." Now, I could have offered it feedback, which likely would have resulted in a better poem -- but its revisions would then be an extension of my knowledge of Hopkins, and, likely, my own poetic inclinations.

Perhaps I am raging too much against this machine. I'm guilty of paltry drafts -- and my own weren't dashed on the screen in seconds. ChatGPT can't write good poetry, yet; but why does it matter?

I suspect that my desire to debunk the program's artistic attempts is a matter of survival. I am trying to affirm the value of human creation, and it seems easy enough to deconstruct the program's flimsy attempts at verse. In The Spider's Thread: Metaphor in Mind, Brain, and Poetry, the poet and psychologist Keith Holyoak considers how the genre of "found poetry" complicates our ideas of traditional creativity. Ranging from blackout poems, where poets armed with Sharpies darken a newspaper column to discover a poem, to poetic lines culled from subway station ads and spam messages, found poems require both an existing text and a human curator.

But do they?

Posted by orrinj at 7:50 AM


Individual Autonomy Is Not the Enemy of a Humane Liberalism: A Response to David Brooks (EMILY CHAMLEE-WRIGHT, JUL 25, 2023, UnPopulist)

[B]rooks' essay isn't really about the debate over assisted suicide. Rather, the real subject is what sort of liberal society we want to live in. In Brooks' telling, philosophical liberalism, built upon a foundation of individual liberty, is a very good idea. But if taken too far--as he argues happened in the case of MaiD--this very good idea can land us in a hellscape in which we destroy community and any sense of obligation to care for one another. We need a better alternative. 

This line of thinking is not new. We hear critiques of individualism from both progressive and new right critics of liberalism. But Brooks' critique is neither right nor left. He is offering--and here I sincerely aim to pass the intellectual Turing test--a philosophically liberal critique of philosophical liberalism. 

And if that's right, it's incumbent upon philosophical liberals to take the critique seriously and not merely write it off as Brooks having taken a turn to the left or having joined the ranks of the post-liberal right. Either move would be inaccurate. Worse, either would be an act of intellectual laziness, leaving behind an opportunity to understand something important about the nature of the liberal project.

The case I want to make is that liberalism's core principle of individual autonomy is not a recipe for social decay. It is an essential ingredient in what makes liberal societies humane sites of meaning-rich social connection in which capable but fallible human beings cooperate, adapt, and learn. 

First, let me define my terms. By "liberalism" I mean the grand project of political, economic, intellectual, and civic freedom. 

An individual who was free would have no external restrictions placed on his behavior.  No organized polity has ever permitted--nor desired--this. Civil society exists to restrict such freedom.

The liberal project is to try and find the best system that Fallen Man can come up with to balance freedom and restriction.  It proceeds from the premise that the optimum we have thus far discovered is republican liberty: restrictions that we arrive at mutually (via participatory government) and apply universally (to protect minorities) are permissible.  Ideally, no claim of personal freedom ought to be able to trump such objective laws.  

Posted by orrinj at 7:44 AM


How the Saudi Empire bought football (JONATHAN WILSON, 7/28/23, UnHerd)

So neither billionaire nor government involvement in football is new -- it wasn't even new when Mussolini transformed the 1934 World Cup into a celebration of fascist Italy. But the investments made in sport by Saudi Arabia over the past two years have taken it to a new level. A Guardian report suggests spending by the Saudi Public Investment Fund in sport totals at least £6bn since the beginning of 2021. Saudi Arabia has staged Formula One grands prix and world championship title fights; it set up a rebel golf tour, is planning a $500m "esports city" and bought Newcastle United. A bid to host the 2030 World Cup appears to have stalled, but earlier this year the PIF bought the four most storied teams in the Saudi league -- Al Nassr (which had already signed Cristiano Ronaldo), Al Hilal, Al Ahli and Al Ittihad.

Whether the PIF is an arm of the Saudi state depends who it is talking to. Richard Masters, the CEO of the Premier League, claimed he had "legally binding assurances" that the PIF, which is chaired by Mohamed bin Salman, the Crown Prince and prime minister of Saudi Arabia, is an independent body. In a filing to a US federal court investigating the establishment of the rebel golf tour, though, the PIF was described as "a sovereign instrumentality of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia", while a discovery order was dismissed as "an extraordinary infringement on the sovereignty of a foreign state". Masters told a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee in March that he was unable to comment on the discrepancy.

Saudi clubs have been busy this summer signing rafts of ageing players -- standard practice for a league looking to raise its profile and establish itself. It was the business model of the North American Soccer League in the Seventies, and countries as diverse as Japan, Australia, India and China have followed a similar path. What is different is that Saudi pockets may be deep enough that, having established credibility, they can soon start to entice stars who are at or approaching their peak. Which brings us back to Mbappé. His time at PSG has been, certainly from a purely footballing point of view, a failure. Although PSG are perennial winners of the French league, it means very little when they are so much richer than everybody else. PSG have never won the Champions League. Other than 2020, when they lost in the final to Bayern Munich, they haven't really got close. In each of the last two seasons, since Lionel Messi joined Neymar and Mbappé to form a vaunted but disjointed forward line, they've gone out in the last 16.

Elite modern football is not won by a collection of egocentric superstars, no matter how individually gifted. Coaches who leave PSG speak of a corrosive dressing-room dynamic, of bitter infighting and essentially ungovernable players who object to game plans that require too much running. The best sides are coherent units in which every component not only has a critical function in itself, but in relation to other components within the system. It is not something easy to represent statistically, but a useful guide is how much defending forwards do. Mbappé made a total of 10 tackles and six interceptions in the whole of last season: he has become symptomatic of the way PSG's stars are indulged to the detriment of the team. There is a sense that, brilliant as Mbappé is, he could be better and that he is stagnating at PSG.

...you can't afford to play him, as Cristiano Ronaldo showed. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:40 AM


Why this NYC apartment complex will use a giant underground heat pump (Maria Gallucci, 12 June 2023, Canary Media)

The concept of tapping the earth's heat has been around for centuries, and modern heat-pump technologies have existed for decades. Yet relatively few buildings in the United States have taken this approach to date, owing to high upfront costs, the complexities of digging into the ground, and the fact that geothermal technology remains obscure to many people. Around 50,000 geothermal heat pumps a year are now installed in the United States, representing a tiny fraction of the country's many millions of buildings.

"Geothermal resources are literally beneath our feet and hidden in the ground," Alexis McKittrick, a program manager at the U.S. Department of Energy's Geothermal Technologies Office, says later by email. ​"The public is generally unaware that geothermal resources exist and could be used for a wide array of applications."

That's starting to change as city councils and state governments in New York and nationwide begin to restrict planet-warming emissions and limit fossil-fuel use in buildings, which account for 13 percent of annual U.S. emissions. A raft of new federal incentives, including through 2022's Inflation Reduction Act, is also expected to make systems more affordable and increase overall installations, McKittrick said.

Posted by orrinj at 7:34 AM


The Other Father of the Constitution : a review of The Constitution's Penman by Dennis C. Rasmussen (Guy Denton, 7/25/23, Law & Liberty)

Thankfully, Morris' political views are explored with greater seriousness than his attitudes to sex. Rasmussen focuses on the role Morris played in the design and ratification of the Constitution at the Philadelphia Convention. His thesis, essentially, is that Morris deserves significantly more credit for molding the document and the character of the United States than history has tended to grant. We learn that Morris was a man of strong and often idiosyncratic opinions; he argued that certain facets of American government should take on a form far removed from what we recognize today. He was an ardent nationalist who disapproved of federalism, spoke of "the splendor of the American Empire" before the American nation even existed, and believed the states should be merged into a singular entity. He opposed the idea of a democratically elected Senate, arguing instead for an "aristocratic body" whose members would possess great wealth and serve for life without pay. (One can only imagine the conspiracy theories that would stem from the Senate today if its members included Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Mark Zuckerberg.) Likewise, he advocated a House of Representatives composed exclusively of "common people" to serve as a check on the influence of the wealthy.

But in other areas, Rasmussen reveals how Morris' views profoundly influenced the structure of American government. Morris was committed to the idea that the American people should elect the president and fought harder for its adoption than any other delegate--he also prevented the presidency from being limited to a single term and lobbied exhaustively for George Washington to become the first occupant of the office. His influence on the judiciary was less substantial in the short term, but much of what he favored for that branch of government--judicial review, the independence of judges from Congress, and a system of federal courts--would eventually come to pass.

Morris was also a fervent opponent of slavery. He campaigned against the "nefarious institution" vigorously at the Convention, standing for his principles in the face of the wicked culture that surrounded him; his example would later inspire Abraham Lincoln and Henry Cabot Lodge. Rasmussen makes an especially incisive point on the issue, observing that Morris' "ringing denunciations of slavery make it harder to accept the idea that the framers, as creatures of their times, simply did not know any better. Morris knew better, and he told them so." It will take courage of this kind to preserve America's traditions of liberty today against the illiberalism of the nationalist right and progressive left alike, and Morris' example should continue to prove vital as the nation encounters new challenges.

Though James Madison is typically referred to as the "father" of the Constitution, Rasmussen contends that Morris deserves equal "paternity." He explains that although the initial draft of the Constitution was written by a five-person committee, it was Morris who combined that draft with a list of alterations agreed on at the Convention to create the final document. "There is hardly a provision in the document that was not touched by Morris's editing pen," Rasmussen writes. His most sweeping changes included reducing the number of articles from twenty-three to seven--dedicating the initial tripartite to the legislature, executive, and judiciary was his idea--and simplifying the draft's verbose language into "crisp, measured prose" so that the Constitution's meaning could not be misconstrued. 

Morris' most pertinent contribution, however, was the Preamble. Originally, the Constitution began simply by listing the states involved in adopting it. Morris changed that opening into what we know today: a rallying cry of freedom that elegantly presents the purpose of the American experiment. By referring simply to "We, the people of the United States" rather than addressing each state by name, he ensured that future states could join the union without any complications. Moreover, by declaring that the United States had been founded to establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, secure the blessings of liberty, and so on, he "induced" all Americans to "bind themselves" to the pursuit of these ideals. The Constitution placed government in the hands of the American people alone, trusting them to act as their own sovereign. In the preamble, Morris provided this exceptionally democratic act with a moral framework to guide its course. Throughout American history, figures such as Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, and Susan B. Anthony have cited that framework to direct the nation toward the ultimate fulfillment of its founding principles. 

...is to look at what the document is trying to achieve. The Preamble is the lodestar. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:59 AM


Israel's Land Grabs in the West Bank are Helping Justify the Far-Right Government's Power Grabs: Tolerance of harsh measures in the occupied areas has distorted Israeli politics (EMILY TAMKIN, JUL 27, 2023, The UnPopulist)

Late last month, after the United Nations and the European Union voiced concern over violent attacks by Jewish settlers against Palestinians, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joined them. "Calls to grab land illegally and actions of grabbing land illegally, are unacceptable to me. They undermine law and order in Judea and Samaria and must stop immediately," he said at a cabinet meeting, using the biblical terms of the regions that make up the West Bank. At the same meeting, he touted his record of having "doubled" settlement construction in the West Bank, and as having done so "despite great and unprecedented international pressure."

But the pressure was exerted because such construction is illegal. And herein lies the paradox facing Netanyahu, as violence in the West Bank continues: Informal illegal land grabs and violence are happening within the context of formal illegal land grabs and violence.

First, the scope of the violence: United Nations' experts said that 2022 was the deadliest year in the West Bank since 2005 when tracking started. Some 150 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces; 33 of them children. The experts also said that 2022 was the sixth consecutive year of increased settler attacks. "Armed and masked Israeli settlers are attacking Palestinians in their homes, attacking children on their way to school, destroying property and burning olive groves, and terrorizing entire communities with complete impunity," they said.

This year is on pace to be still more violent. According to the Associated Press, as of late last month, 137 Palestinians had been killed by Israeli fire in the West Bank so far this year. Meanwhile, 24 Israelis have been killed by Palestinians. Earlier this summer, an Israeli raid on Jenin in which five Palestinians were killed was followed by Hamas gunmen killing four Israelis. This was followed by Israeli settlers rampaging through the town of Turmus Ayya, reportedly setting roughly 30 houses on fire.

Israel has never recovered, but still has time to, from Ariel Sharon's stroke.
Posted by orrinj at 6:56 AM


The Death of Conservatism Is Greatly Exaggerated (CHRISTINE ROSEN, JULY 24, 2023, Religion & Liberty)

Citing Marx, Askonas claims that "a technological society can have no traditions."

Elaborating on this claim, Askonas argues that "modernity liquidates traditions for the same reason that a firm might liquidate an underperforming factory: to improve the allocation and return of capital." This is an intentionally limited definition of tradition, one that purports to measure the usefulness of tradition as akin to a commodity that should be replaced when it becomes inefficient. Askonas also blames conservatism for too readily acquiescing to technological change. Using the example of the introduction of cheap agricultural fertilizers and the many unintended consequences its use had for the practice and culture of farming, Askonas claims this demonstrates "how extensive the social impact of a single technology can be, and how little the conservative defense of tradition offers in response to this sort of change." For good measure, he throws in the charge that conservatives also lost the culture war, not because their ideas were wrong, but because of "the Pill and the two-income trap."

None of this is new. In the 1950s in The Conservative Mind, Russell Kirk acknowledged, "For a century and a half, conservatives have yielded ground in a manner which, except for occasionally successful rear-guard actions, must be described as a rout." Like Askonas, Kirk identified how, throughout the modern world, "things are in the saddle," including "industrialism, centralization, secularism, and the leveling impulse," and he indicted conservative thinkers for lacking "perspicacity sufficient to meet the conundrums of modern times." A similar lament emerged in the work of mid-20th-century sociologists such as Robert Nisbet, who noted in The Quest for Community, "Surely the outstanding characteristic of contemporary thought on man and society is the preoccupation with personal alienation and cultural disintegration."

And while Askonas enjoys citing Karl Marx, his argument is far more indebted to French sociologist Jacques Ellul, whose 1954 book The Technological Society examined in detail the erosion of moral and social values wrought by technological change. Another significant influence is Neil Postman, whose Technopoly was subtitled "the surrender of culture to technology." There are many, many more--including, it must be said, Theodore Kaczynski, the Unabomber, whose manifesto included a special shoutout attacking conservatives that sounds quite similar to Askonas': "The conservatives are fools," Kaczynski wrote. "Apparently it never occurs to them that you can't make rapid, drastic changes in the technology and the economy of a society without causing rapid changes in all other aspects of the society as well, and that such rapid changes inevitably break down traditional values."

In other words, there is a rich (dare I call it) tradition of critical assessments of technology's impact and unintended consequences, both from within and outside the conservative intellectual world, which Askonas surely knows but does not make mention of in his essay, perhaps because in those works tradition is treated as the complicated and nuanced thing it is, rather than the one-dimensional straw man Askonas needs us to accept so that his obituary for conservatism will make sense.

MAGA, appropriatety,  approaches this from the Marxist lens, but it's a story as old as Cain and Abel, where God rejects the technologist

Posted by orrinj at 6:52 AM


Chumship: a review of The Sullivanians: Sex, Psychotherapy and the Wild Life of an American Commune  by Alexander Stille (James Lasdun, 7/27/23, London Review of Books)

In April​ 1986, the Village Voice published a long piece about a cult-like community on New York's Upper West Side led by a group of psychotherapists. The therapists had somehow persuaded several hundred well-educated 'patients' to give them almost total control over their lives: most sensationally their sex lives, but also their work, finances, friendships and children. The community, known formally as the Sullivanian Institute for Research in Psychoanalysis, had been in existence for almost thirty years, over which time it had attracted some notable members, including Jackson Pollock, Richard Price and Judy Collins. But its more disturbing practices had passed unnoticed by the wider world until the Voice ran its exposé. Even then, as members defected and word spread of the grotesque cruelties perpetrated in the name of its supposedly utopian ideals, it lingered on into the 1990s.

There were some minor exaggerations in the Voice article - for instance, there was no actual rule that members couldn't sleep more than five hours a night, though in practice they seldom had time for more - but as Alexander Stille's amazing excavation of their largely hidden history makes clear, the piece mostly erred on the side of understatement, so extreme was the megalomania of the group's patriarch and his associates.

The project began with noble intentions, at least on the part of one of its two founders. Jane Pearce was a public-spirited Texan from a prominent Austin family with department store money on one side and intellectual distinction on the other (her father was an academic and prison reformer). After qualifying as a doctor, she went to New York to train as an analyst at the White Institute - 'a revolutionary alternative to mainstream, orthodox Freudian psychoanalysis', according to the institute's official history - under the then renowned Harry Stack Sullivan. Where orthodox Freudian practice focused on the internal dynamics of the individual psyche, Sullivan stressed the importance of patients' social context: 'what people do with each other', as he put it. He and his colleagues (who included Erich Fromm) rejected the Freudian posture of detachment - the analyst as 'blank screen' - in favour of a more responsive relationship with patients. His 'interpersonal' methods achieved positive results with schizophrenics - considered untreatable by Freud - and in a hospital in Maryland he created a ward for them where active fellowship was cultivated between patients and staff. His attentiveness to social context opened him to the psychological impact of forces such as institutionalised racism (he collaborated with the Black sociologist Charles S. Johnson), while his democratic instincts in general introduced a note of human warmth into the chilly atmosphere of the American psychoanalytic establishment.

Sullivan died in 1949, by which time Pearce had a thriving practice of her own. She had also succumbed to the charisma of Saul Newton, who worked in the White Institute's bursar's office. Whether Newton's intentions were noble even at the outset is open to question, but they were certainly backed by a formidable ego. 'He just exuded power,' his adopted daughter recalled, 'and I was afraid of him.' When he wasn't yelling at people, he was often punching or slapping them or treating them to exhibitions of fender-ripping road rage. 'The threat of violence, and a willingness to act on that threat,' Stille writes, 'were a central part of Saul Newton's persona.' But so, it appears, was a hunger for status, and perhaps a touch of genuine idealism, which required him to find reputable channels for his belligerent energies. After an explosive rupture with his parents, both of whom he believed had murderous intentions towards him (he certainly did towards them), he studied social work in Chicago, joined the American Communist Party, and went off to fight in Spain, where he later claimed to have killed lots of anarchists and Trotskyists, before serving in the Second World War.

Psychoanalysis was at the height of its prestige when he returned to the States, and those working in the field were treated with deference. The White Institute was a natural draw, and Newton quickly got a job there. By then he was living with the woman who was soon to become his third wife, but that didn't stop him from seducing Pearce, who would become his fourth. The poems she wrote about him suggest that Pearce was besotted ('Now I know what ecstasy is'), but for Newton the relationship was at least in part a career move: with her money and credentials, Pearce presented the possibility of a field of operations on a scale commensurate with his sense of his own importance. He considered himself the equal of Freud and Marx.

No, that was Darwin.

Posted by orrinj at 6:50 AM


Ultra-fast niobium batteries boast 6-min charge for Lotus Elise-based EV  (JONATHAN M. GITLIN, 7/27/2023, ArsTechnica)

As just about everyone who has driven one knows, EVs really are better at almost everything. They're three to four times more efficient than vehicles that burn gasoline, there are fewer moving parts to break, they're quieter and smoother, and they offer near-instant torque.

But it still takes longer to recharge a battery than refill a gas tank, and EV charging locations don't shout their presence with 50-foot ad displays along highways. That's engendered a general sense of range anxiety among many car buyers, leading car makers to pack their EVs with bigger batteries in an effort to beef up their range numbers. And that, in turn, makes those EVs heavy and expensive.

"Our dream is 10 miles/kWh. I don't know if electric cars can get there or not, but we're certainly looking at things [that] potentially enable [up] to 10 km/kWh, for example," said Steve Hutchins, VP of operations and engineering at Nyobolt, the British battery startup responsible for this project. "You've got to have a slippery car, and you've got to have a lightweight car. So our part is the lightweighting part."

Nyobolt is commercializing research originally conducted at the University of Cambridge using niobium tungsten oxides for battery anodes. "Charging is when the lithium ions go into the anode. So it's more to do with the mobility of the lithium ions than anything else," explained Hutchins. "Ninety-five percent of the world's cars have graphite anodes. They've got a layer structure, and the gap is bigger than the lithium ions, so the lithium-ion can go in, but the mobility is limited. We've been developing anode materials, started at the University of Cambridge, where the mobility is up to 100 times higher."

"Mobility in the anodes is one thing, but to get a fast-charging cell--it's basically the same as high power cell--the electricity goes one way or the other; you still have to have very low resistance to do that," Hutchins continued. To that end, Nyobolt has developed the niobium anode materials in the UK, and another team in the US--"basically the team from A123 that developed the Formula One KERS cell; we just got there at the right time as they were laying people off," according to Hutchins--developed the cathode.

Posted by orrinj at 6:46 AM


Heat pumps sold so fast in Maine, the state just upped its target (Canary Media, 7/27/23)

In 2019, Maine embraced heat pumps as part of its climate strategy, setting a goal to install 100,000 of the machines by 2025.

But a few days ago, Maine Governor Janet Mills (D) announced that the state had surpassed that target two years ahead of schedule, deploying at least 104,000 heat pumps in homes and businesses. Now, the state has set a new goal: installing another 175,000 heat pumps by 2027.

"We are setting an example for the nation," said Mills at the announcement event. ​"Our transition to heat pumps is creating good-paying jobs, curbing our reliance on fossil fuels, and cutting costs for Maine families, all while making them more comfortable in their homes -- a hat trick for our state."

Posted by orrinj at 6:28 AM



"Net-positive energy" refers to the surplus of energy generated by the building's renewable energy systems after accounting for its energy consumption, which simply means it produces twice as much energy as it consumes. 

Further, 100% of the building's water is supplied by rainwater that is treated on site, while water discharges are also treated on site for reuse. It was also built using second-hand (salvaged) materials during the construction process.

Environmental advocates envision a future when the living-building standard surpasses the 25-year-old LEED certification as the premier symbol of excellence in sustainable construction, according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy. 

"We're not talking about buildings that are less bad. We're talking about buildings that are actively good," said Shan Arora, director of the building, as reported by The Chronicle. 

July 27, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 7:28 PM


Special counsel brings more charges against Donald Trump in Mar-a-Lago classified documents case (Tierney Sneed, Marshall Cohen and Jeremy Herb, 7/27/23, CNN)

Special counsel Jack Smith on Thursday brought additional charges against former President Donald Trump in the case alleging mishandling of classified documents from his time in the White House.

Prosecutors allege in the updated indictment that two Trump employees - Walt Nauta and Carlos De Oliveira - attempted to delete security camera footage at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort after the Justice Department issued a subpoena for the footage.

Posted by orrinj at 2:29 PM


Israelis fear new limits on Supreme Court will bolster Orthodox establishment's sway (Michele Chabin, 7/27/23, RNS) 

Critics of the court claim it has come to be more powerful than the Knesset, so its authority needs to be weakened. Civil rights activists say the new law, and many others in the pipeline, could harm Israeli democracy. Both sides agree that it will strengthen the power of the Orthodox Jewish establishment.

Of the 141 bills waiting to be debated and voted on by the Knesset, 24 would expand Orthodox Jewish leaders' control over the entire Jewish population, according to Restart Israel, a nongovernmental organization.

Some Israelis worry that the crisis could lead to a permanent schism between segments of the population.

Posted by orrinj at 4:59 AM


Science Has a Reproducibility Problem. Can Sample Sharing Help? (TIM VERHAGEN & JULIE NOVÁKOVÁ 07.27.2023, UnDark)

THE OPEN SCIENCE movement, which seeks to make research more transparent and more widely accessible, has been transforming the scientific landscape for several decades now -- almost certainly for the better. A move toward transparency in the journal peer review process could help increase trust in academic publishing; widespread data sharing has enabled scientists to more easily check their peers' work and build off one another's results; and open access publishing models have helped democratize knowledge, allowing anyone, anywhere to read a study's findings. (Admittedly, open access models -- which typically require authors to pay upfront fees -- have also created publication barriers for some researchers and unleashed a tsunami of predatory journals that sacrifice quality for profit.)

Is this where open science ends, though?

The two of us -- a materials science researcher with the Czech Academy of Sciences and a trained evolutionary biologist who's now active in science education and outreach -- believe open science can go a step further: Scientists should make a more concerted effort to share their physical samples. Doing so would improve reproducibility, spur innovation, and help level the playing field in a pursuit where funding and resources are unevenly distributed.

To see the importance of sample sharing, one need look no further than the Covid-19 pandemic. Although China publicly shared the genetic sequence data of the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, about two weeks after the first cluster of cases was reported in late 2019, the world had to wait another two and a half weeks to get access to physical samples of the virus, from researchers in Australia. While synthetic biology has made it possible to reconstruct viruses from genetic data, actual viral isolates can still be needed to recover infectious viral particles for developing diagnostic tests, antivirals, and vaccine testing.

Posted by orrinj at 4:44 AM


AI could replace politicians and CEOs if they play by Darwinian rules of evolution: expert (Fox News, July 27, 2023)

AI replacing politicians or CEOs holds merit, according to the director of the Center for AI Safety, Dan Hendrycks. Hendrycks is a machine learning researcher who has published extensive studies on the potential catastrophic ramifications of artificial intelligence, including AI gaining the upper hand over humanity by playing by Darwinian rules. 

Hendrycks told Fox News Digital this week that AI could evolve to the point that the machines take over politicians' jobs, as well as jobs in the highest echelons of industry, and pointed to a corporation in China that already has an AI CEO. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:39 AM


Let the Flowers Bloom: Eight Ways You Can Maximize the Power of Compounding (Justin Carbonneau, 7/27/23, Validea)

What do you think the main driver of long-term wealth creation is? Your job, profession and salary, your education, inheritance, hard work and resourcefulness, living within your means, savings or something else? Of course, all these things matter and play an important role, but for most of us who invest I would argue it's the power of compounding over long periods of time that is the most powerful force in building wealth. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:31 AM


AUKUS pact: US says 'door's very much open' for New Zealand ((Reuters, AFP, July 27, 2023)

The US has given a clear indication that there is room for New Zealand and other countries to become involved in The security pact currently involves Australia, the UK and the US.

"The door's very much open for New Zealand and other partners to engage as they see appropriate going forward," Blinken told a news conference in Wellington.

Posted by orrinj at 4:27 AM


Green hydrogen on track to be cheaper than fossil gas hydrogen by 2030 (Joshua S Hill, 27 July 2023, Renew Economy)

A new report from BloombergNEF has found that green hydrogen, created using renewable energy, is on track to be cheaper than existing grey hydrogen, made using gas, in five key markets by 2030.

July 26, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 4:47 PM


With Israeli-US ties troubled, China says Xi 'looking forward' to Netanyahu visit (Times of Israel, 7/26/23)

Netanyahu met with China's Ambassador Cai Run and was gifted with an autographed copy of Jinping's book.

You've got your Uighurs; I've got my Palestinians.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


China issues guidelines to save the economy - from Xi Jinping (Chris Taylor, 7/26/23,  RFA)

According to Bloomberg, private investment in China contracted this year - now comprising just 53% of overall fixed assets investment, down from a peak of 65% in May 2015. The NDRC said its aim is to maintain private investment at a "reasonable level."

It is the first time in decades - apart from 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic - that private investment has contracted in China.

 Meanwhile, the 31-point joint statement by the Communist Party and the government last week, may have included pledges to treat private companies the same as state-owned enterprises and to consult more with entrepreneurs on policy initiatives, but they were widely received with skepticism by entrepreneurs.

Writing in the New York Times, Li Yuan said, "After three years in which the government cracked down on private companies, stamped out innovation and exalted state-owned businesses, the document represents a near-concession by the Communist Party that its campaign failed spectacularly."

"The country's economic problems are rooted in politics," the columnist wrote. "Restoring confidence would require systemic changes that offer real protection of the entrepreneur class and private ownership. If the party adheres to the political agenda of the country's paramount leader, Xi Jinping, who has dismantled many of the policies that unleashed China's economy, its promises on paper will remain just words."

You can't have a Clash of Civilizations when there is only one.
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Democrats champion free markets as Republicans target Wall Street (JASPER GOODMAN, 07/25/2023, Politico)

The GOP's war on corporate America's environmental and social agenda is creating an unexpected set of Wall Street allies: Democrats defending free-market capitalism.

Leading progressives and longtime finance industry critics including Rep. Maxine Waters of California and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, both Democrats, are embracing the role as House Republicans escalate attacks on investing practices that take into account environmental, social and governance -- or ESG -- factors. The GOP campaign is pitting Republicans -- historically the party that's less eager for government regulation in finance -- against big money managers and other Wall Street players, including BlackRock and JPMorgan Chase.

When your ideas can't succeed you have to oppose markets,

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


What Jazz Is: The many improvisations of Sonny Rollins.: a review of Saxophone Colossus: The Life and Music of Sonny Rollins BY AIDAN LEVY (GENE SEYMOUR,  August 7/14, 2023, The Nation)

Sonny Rollins is the last living progenitor of jazz's make-it-new ascent during the 20th century. Like many of his peers, Rollins has at various times been both inside and outside of history's flow; he has also been at various times an enigma and a victim, a cautionary tale and--now more than ever--a role model. Though sidelined by illness, Rollins, now approaching his 93rd birthday, remains a living testament to jazz, to American music, and to improvisational possibility itself. He has never quite enjoyed the same instant-recognition status in popular culture as Sinatra, Aretha, or even his onetime bandmate Miles Davis. But he's also more than a cult hero revered by those huddled along the fringes of the musical zeitgeist. Rollins has always shown an iron will that permits him not just to invent and reshape sound but also to adapt to and, above all, survive whatever the world has thrown at him.

A figure of such heroic stature deserves a monument worthy of him. And until something even larger and more expansive comes along, Aidan Levy's new biography of Rollins, Saxophone Colossus, will do nicely. Taking its name from the 1957 album that I, among many others, would recommend as the best place to begin assessing Rollins's storied, varied, and endlessly fascinating body of work, Saxophone Colossus can be read as a bildungsroman of a Black American artist reinventing himself and his art throughout a crowded, challenging life. With meticulous detail (the reference notes and annotations are almost as voluminous as the footnotes to a David Foster Wallace article about a tennis match), Levy's book recounts Rollins's painstaking, dogged, and ultimately inspirational struggle to summon forth the sounds he heard and continues to hear in his head. To do so, if I've properly read what both Levy and Rollins say about this process, you need to take in whatever's in the air around you, rechannel the raw data, and make it up--and make it new--as you go along. You have to, in other words, improvise. As Rollins puts it early in the book, it's about "having my rudiments ready to go whenever the spirit hits me. My part of the bargain. I want to get that right...it just has to happen because that's what jazz is. It's natural. It's like the sky--it's never the same two days in a row."

To be able to make creativity and invention sound "natural," one needs an avid, almost greedy urge to absorb anything--and everything--that is out there. Accounting for Rollins's eclectic range of interests is part of what gives Levy's narrative the worlds-within-worlds momentum of a Rollins solo.

July 25, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 5:58 PM


Vaccine Politics Linked to Excess Republican Deaths During Covid, Study Finds : "It's one of the most telling metrics I've seen in how the politicization of the pandemic has played out in the real world." (Tori Otten, July 25, 2023. New Republic)

The study, published in the JAMA International Medicine journal on Monday, found that there was no significant difference in excess death rates between Republicans and Democrats until April 2021.

But starting on May 1, 2021, after vaccines were available to all adults, the excess death rate for Republican voters spiked dramatically, becoming 43 percent higher than the excess death rate for Democrats. The study found that differences in excess death rate were concentrated in counties with lower vaccination rates, and particularly among Ohio voters. ("Excess death" refers to the increase in the number of deaths compared to the pre-pandemic death rate.)

"The differences in excess mortality by political party affiliation after Covid-19 vaccines were available to all adults suggest that differences in vaccination attitudes and reported uptake between Republican and Democratic voters may have been a factor in the severity and trajectory of the pandemic in the U.S.," the study said.

One of the researchers, Jacob Wallace, said the report shows a "very sad story."

"It's possible that thousands of deaths ... could have been averted," said Wallace, an assistant professor of public health at Yale.

Meanwhile, Donald and Tiny Trump fight over which can claim credit for more of those deaths.
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Oppenheimer's Nihilism: Where Is Christopher Nolan? (Jesse Russell, 7/25/23, Voegelin View)

It is also a film, like much of Nolan's other work, that subtly celebrates liberal democratic America as being essentially superior to its political competitors (Nazism and Communism). [...]

There are two key pieces of dialogue in the film that provide a map to understanding its intellectual structure. The first is when Oppenheimer explains that the weakness of the Nazis against which they are competing is their anti-Semitic prejudice. Adolf Hitler infamously denounced quantum physics as "Jewish science," hamstringing the German science effort. America, in contrast, is a (relatively) more free and meritocratic society in which people of a host of cultures and ethnicities can excel. 
This philosophy has undergirded much of Nolan's implicit political philosophy in his films. In the Batman Nolanverse, a host of characters such as Batman Begins' Ra's al Ghul, The Dark Knight's Joker, and The Dark Knight Rises' Bane have all challenged the dominate Anglo-American order (represented by Gotham); however, Gotham's heroes always (albeit sometimes reluctantly) fight to protect that order and eventually triumph. Similarly, in Oppenheimer, despite the flaws of the American military and political establishment, the United States of America is better than the threatening alternatives of Soviet Communism and German Nazism even if this is somewhat passé in contemporary intellectual circles, especially online and in elite universities. America is imperfect, yes, but is still good and better than the rest.

The second key piece of dialogue in the film occurs when Murphy's Oppenheimer explains to a woman the nothingness that lies at the heart of existence according to certain strands of theoretical physics. This nothingness is present in all of Nolan's films, but, in Oppenheimer, as in Dunkirk, it eats away at too much of the film. Nihilism is now at the forefront of the film. No figure represents nihilism more than Oppenheimer himself. On one level Nolan celebrates Oppenheimer as a dashing and brilliant intellectual who (like Nolan himself) achieved fame and fortune in the United States. In the film, Oppenheimer pushes the Trinity Project to success, rides horses across through the New Mexico desert with a beautiful woman, reads T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland and savors other elements of European High Modernism (showing him as a cultured man saving the best of western culture), stands up to Nazism, sweeps multiple women off their feet, clashes with the American military establishment, raises a family, mourns the bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and ultimately becomes an advocate for world peace and arms control. Nolan's Oppenheimer is a loyal friend and advocate for workers rights, while, in Nolan's reading, remaining loyal to America and avoiding the pitfalls of communism. Nolan's Oppenheimer is the nihilist superman, a man driven to success in an ultimately empty universe of nothingness by sheer force of will.

Yet at the same time Nolan's Robert Oppenheimer is a selfish academic whose womanizing has catastrophic consequences on family and friends (Oppenheimer has some of Nolan's most graphic sex scenes that may offend some viewers). He is further tormented by ambition and guilt and spends much of his time detached from those around him. We finally do not know, by the end of the film, how much guilt the nuclear bombs dropped on Japan should be laid at the feet of Oppenheimer and how much others are to blame. However, Nolan's nihilism that seeps through much of the film causes us to question why, according to Nolan's moral framework, we should care either way about Oppenheimer's triumphs or his serious moral failings?

 It's always seemed like the whole point was that liberalism triumphed over Oppenheimer. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Xi Jinping's Three Balancing Acts (Neil Thomas, 7/24/23, China File)

Xi Jinping has ruled China for over a decade, but the way he rules it is changing. Xi faces domestic and international environments that are markedly worse than when he took office in 2012. The economy is struggling, confidence is faltering, debt is looming, and strategic competition with the United States and its allies is endangering the future of China's technological advancement and economic growth.

Gosh, Nationalism/Socialism seemed so likely to work this time...

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Guess who's holding Trump accountable? Regular American jurors (Andrew Mitrovica, July 25, 2023, Al Jazeera)

The ordinary, anonymous Americans who constitute the three grand juries which, to date, have charged or are expected to charge a vulgar simpleton who was cloaked in enormous power as president - have heeded Franklin's call to keep their republic intact.

They are doing their part in corralling an unrepentant scoundrel who yearns to exercise the privileges and prerogatives of an omnipotent monarch.

This is an essential act of citizenship that has required enlightened Americans to reject - sometimes at great risk and usually with little fanfare - the sinister designs of a demagogue who prefers autocracy to democracy.

So was the defiance of largely anonymous Capitol police officers, motivated no doubt, in part, by the imperative to preserve, protect and defend the US Constitution. They stood their ground despite being outnumbered, overwhelmed and hurt in body, mind and spirit.

They prevailed.

Rather than wallow in disappointment, forlorn liberal writers ought to applaud the resolve of honourable Americans who have held a dishonourable president to stiff account. They have acted as a bulwark - as Franklin envisioned - against a "populist" charlatan intent on extinguishing the republic in his obsessive pursuit of money, power and vengeance.

The delicious irony is that, ultimately, Trump's fate will be decided by the kind of everyday, anonymous Americans he detests and to whom he would deny membership at his gilded monument to kitsch and extravagance, Mar-a-Lago.

July 24, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 12:38 PM


A viral video of Christian women being paraded naked sears the Indian conscience (Joseph D'Souza  24 July 2023, Christianity Today)

In the Vietnam War, a horrifying photo of a naked young girl under the Napalm bombing seared the American conscience concerning immoral activity throughout the war. Now, a viral video of Christian Kuki women -- paraded naked in public, groped, gang raped and one of them killed -- has seared the Indian and even the global conscience.

Barely 24 hours after the video went viral, the Chief Justice of India expressed serious concern from the Court and asked the central government to act, or else the Supreme Court would take matters into their hands.

The central and the state Government in Manipur have failed to deal with the ethnic strife and carnage in Manipur, which has left the minority Christian Kuki population victims of heinous violence. This has occurred with complicity from the police. This is indeed the state of affairs wherever minority Christians have been attacked in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and other states. Local police throughout India allow Hindu extremist mobs to attack hapless Christians without consequences.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


One year old, US climate law is already turbocharging clean energy technology (Isabella O'Malley & Michael Phillis, 7/24/23, Independent)

One target of the law is cleaner transportation, the largest source of climate pollution for the U.S. Siemens, one of the biggest tech companies in the world, produces charging stations for EVs. Executives say this alignment of U.S. policy on climate is driving higher demand for batteries.

"When the federal government makes an investment, we get to the tipping point faster," said Barbara Humpton, CEO of Siemens USA, adding that the company has invested $260 million in battery or battery storage projects in recent years.

The law also encourages more of the type of batteries that feed electricity to the grid when the wind is slack, or at night when the sun isn't hitting solar panels. It could put the storage business on the same upward trajectory that solar blazed a decade ago, said Michael McGowan, head of North American infrastructure private markets for Mercer Alternatives, a consulting firm.

Derrick Flakoll, North America policy associate at Bloomberg NEF, pointed out that sales at the largest manufacturer of solar panels in the U.S., First Solar, skyrocketed after the law passed, creating a big backlog of orders.

"This is years and years of manufacturing capacity that is already booked out because people are bullish about the U.S.-produced solar market," he said.

The IRA is also helping technologies that are expensive, but promising for near-term decarbonization.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM



In North America, the distinctly non-Roman theme of the fasces representing unity made its own inroads. Already in May 1775, at the Second Continental Congress, one delegate was mooting the fasces as a symbol for the union of thirteen rebellious British colonies that would form the United States. Thomas Jefferson for his part preferred Aesop's "father presenting the bundle of rods to his sons" as a device. What positively secured the fasces' role in American symbology was this Congress' decision in August 1776 to adopt E pluribus unum (Latin for "out of many one") as a national motto. Although the new nation's official seal (adopted 1782) did not include the fasces, it soon featured prominently in the repertoire of patriotic images.

Particularly important in promoting the image was the French artist Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741-1828). His sculptural portrait (begun 1785, signed 1788) of a relaxed George Washington resting his left arm on a tall axeless fasces - again, one thinks of the statue of Louis XIV at Musée Carnavalet - strongly influenced other artists' depictions of the war hero who was elected first president of the United States (1789-97). Indeed, just weeks after the new United States constitution took effect (4 March 1789), the emblem found also an official place in American political life: the House of Representatives as one of its first acts adopted a fasces-like mace to serve as the badge of its Sergeant-at-Arms.

The story of the American fasces took another turn after the year 1789, the year which also saw France erupt in revolution. Put briefly, America's early leaders, architects and artists leveraged direct knowledge of Classical antiquity (including that fable in Aesop involving a fasces-like bundle of sticks), but also observed what individuals in Britain and France had made and were making of the emblem in the public sphere. Indeed, a major role in this iconographic effort was played by foreigners, such as the French-born artist Maximilian Godefroy (1765-1840), who designed a gargantuan "Fascial" war memorial for the city of Baltimore (1815); the British medallist Thomas Halliday (1771-1844), who engraved a memorable commemoration of Washington with axed fasces (1816); and the Italian-born sculptor Enrico Causici (1790-1833), who was the first to introduce a representation of the fasces - in this case, bound with a rattlesnake - into the United States Capitol building (1817-19). One did not need expert acquaintance with the fasces to use it as a symbol, as much later the experience of the US dime designer Adolph A. Weinman (1870-1952) demonstrates, who erroneously thought a "battle-axe" was inserted in the bundle of the fasces he used for the "Mercury" ten-cent piece first issued in 1916.

Starting in the early 1830s, escalating conflict over slavery raised questions about the long-term stability of the American union. As the political atmosphere became more and more heated, it caused the fasces - now widely understood as the unity symbol par excellence - to proliferate, in everything from campaign broadsides to high art. By the mid 1850s, Southerners seem to have regarded the fasces, especially when joined with a liberty cap, as promoting the abolitionist cause. For instance, in 1854-5, we find the Mississippian Jefferson Davis (1808-89, later president of the Confederate States in 1861-5) trying to nix their inclusion as decorative elements of the Capitol building extension he was then supervising. Once actual civil war broke out between North and South in 1861, and especially after the assassination of United States president Abraham Lincoln in April 1865, the emblem grew only more powerful as a marker of American union. Decades later, it was specifically the fasces that the designers of the Lincoln Memorial (dedicated in 1922) chose as a main design element, multiplying and magnifying axeless bundles in their tribute to the slain president who had preserved the United States.

July 23, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 6:18 PM


Britain is now a poor nation. This is the number one issue we face - yet our leaders ignore it (Daniel Hannan, 7/22/23, The Telegraph)

It is true that, in global terms, we are still wealthy. It is true, too, that the EU, which has made similar mistakes to ours, is also on the slide, so that we do well enough when we measure ourselves against France, Germany or Spain. But look at the other Anglosphere countries, and a very different picture emerges.

The average American is 39 per cent wealthier and 38 per cent more productive than the average Brit. Housing is also much cheaper in the US, as was energy even before the Ukraine war.

If Britain were a US state, it would languish at the bottom of the league. When my friend Douglas Carswell, the former Conservative and Ukip MP, emigrated in despair at our lockdown, he chose Mississippi, where he now runs a think tank. He picked that state because it ranked 50th out of 50, and he believed that, if school choice and tax cuts could be made to work in Mississippi, they would work anywhere. What he found, to his surprise, was a higher standard of living than he had left behind. 

"A teacher or a registered nurse here starts on maybe £41,000", he tells me. In Britain, outside London, a teacher gets around £30,000, a nurse £25,000.

"The superintendent of a typical school district in Mississippi takes home £130,000 a year, similar to a Cabinet minister," says Carswell. "I know landscape gardeners who make more than the hedge-fund managers I knew in west London".

All this, remember, in the poorest state in the Union, a state whose median income is less than two thirds of the American average. As the economist Sam Bowman puts it, "Americans could stop working each year on September 22 and still be richer than Britons working for the whole year."

Posted by orrinj at 10:02 AM


Inside the White-Hot Center of A.I. Doomerism (NY Times, July 11, 2023)

[A]nthropic's employees aren't just worried that their app will break, or that users won't like it. They're scared -- at a deep, existential level -- about the very idea of what they're doing: building powerful A.I. models and releasing them into the hands of people, who might use them to do terrible and destructive things.

Many of them believe that A.I. models are rapidly approaching a level where they might be considered artificial general intelligence, or "A.G.I.," the industry term for human-level machine intelligence. And they fear that if they're not carefully controlled, these systems could take over and destroy us.

"Some of us think that A.G.I. -- in the sense of, systems that are genuinely as capable as a college-educated person -- are maybe five to 10 years away," said Jared Kaplan, Anthropic's chief scientist.

Just a few years ago, worrying about an A.I. uprising was considered a fringe idea, and one many experts dismissed as wildly unrealistic, given how far the technology was from human intelligence. (One A.I. researcher memorably compared worrying about killer robots to worrying about "overpopulation on Mars.")

But A.I. panic is having a moment right now. Since ChatGPT's splashy debut last year, tech leaders and A.I. experts have been warning that large language models -- the type of A.I. systems that power chatbots like ChatGPT, Bard and Claude -- are getting too powerful. Regulators are racing to clamp down on the industry, and hundreds of A.I. experts recently signed an open letter comparing A.I. to pandemics and nuclear weapons.

At Anthropic, the doom factor is turned up to 11.

Why AI Will Save the World (Marc Andreessen, 6/06/23, Andreessen Horowitz)

The first and original AI doomer risk is that AI will decide to literally kill humanity.

The fear that technology of our own creation will rise up and destroy us is deeply coded into our culture. The Greeks expressed this fear in the Prometheus Myth - Prometheus brought the destructive power of fire, and more generally technology ("techne"), to man, for which Prometheus was condemned to perpetual torture by the gods. Later, Mary Shelley gave us moderns our own version of this myth in her novel Frankenstein, or, The Modern Prometheus, in which we develop the technology for eternal life, which then rises up and seeks to destroy us. And of course, no AI panic newspaper story is complete without a still image of a gleaming red-eyed killer robot from James Cameron's Terminator films.

The presumed evolutionary purpose of this mythology is to motivate us to seriously consider potential risks of new technologies - fire, after all, can indeed be used to burn down entire cities. But just as fire was also the foundation of modern civilization as used to keep us warm and safe in a cold and hostile world, this mythology ignores the far greater upside of most - all? - new technologies, and in practice inflames destructive emotion rather than reasoned analysis. Just because premodern man freaked out like this doesn't mean we have to; we can apply rationality instead.

My view is that the idea that AI will decide to literally kill humanity is a profound category error. AI is not a living being that has been primed by billions of years of evolution to participate in the battle for the survival of the fittest, as animals are, and as we are. It is math - code - computers, built by people, owned by people, used by people, controlled by people. The idea that it will at some point develop a mind of its own and decide that it has motivations that lead it to try to kill us is a superstitious handwave.

In short, AI doesn't want, it doesn't have goals, it doesn't want to kill you, because it's not alive. And AI is a machine - is not going to come alive any more than your toaster will.

Now, obviously, there are true believers in killer AI - Baptists - who are gaining a suddenly stratospheric amount of media coverage for their terrifying warnings, some of whom claim to have been studying the topic for decades and say they are now scared out of their minds by what they have learned. Some of these true believers are even actual innovators of the technology. These actors are arguing for a variety of bizarre and extreme restrictions on AI ranging from a ban on AI development, all the way up to military airstrikes on datacenters and nuclear war. They argue that because people like me cannot rule out future catastrophic consequences of AI, that we must assume a precautionary stance that may require large amounts of physical violence and death in order to prevent potential existential risk.

My response is that their position is non-scientific - What is the testable hypothesis? What would falsify the hypothesis? How do we know when we are getting into a danger zone? These questions go mainly unanswered apart from "You can't prove it won't happen!" In fact, these Baptists' position is so non-scientific and so extreme - a conspiracy theory about math and code - and is already calling for physical violence, that I will do something I would normally not do and question their motives as well.

Specifically, I think three things are going on:

First, recall that John Von Neumann responded to Robert Oppenheimer's famous hand-wringing about his role creating nuclear weapons - which helped end World War II and prevent World War III - with, "Some people confess guilt to claim credit for the sin." What is the most dramatic way one can claim credit for the importance of one's work without sounding overtly boastful? This explains the mismatch between the words and actions of the Baptists who are actually building and funding AI - watch their actions, not their words. (Truman was harsher after meeting with Oppenheimer: "Don't let that crybaby in here again.")

Second, some of the Baptists are actually Bootleggers. There is a whole profession of "AI safety expert", "AI ethicist", "AI risk researcher". They are paid to be doomers, and their statements should be processed appropriately.

Third, California is justifiably famous for our many thousands of cults, from EST to the Peoples Temple, from Heaven's Gate to the Manson Family. Many, although not all, of these cults are harmless, and maybe even serve a purpose for alienated people who find homes in them. But some are very dangerous indeed, and cults have a notoriously hard time straddling the line that ultimately leads to violence and death.

And the reality, which is obvious to everyone in the Bay Area but probably not outside of it, is that "AI risk" has developed into a cult, which has suddenly emerged into the daylight of global press attention and the public conversation. This cult has pulled in not just fringe characters, but also some actual industry experts and a not small number of wealthy donors - including, until recently, Sam Bankman-Fried. And it's developed a full panoply of cult behaviors and beliefs.

This cult is why there are a set of AI risk doomers who sound so extreme - it's not that they actually have secret knowledge that make their extremism logical, it's that they've whipped themselves into a frenzy and really are...extremely extreme.

It turns out that this type of cult isn't new - there is a longstanding Western tradition of millenarianism, which generates apocalypse cults. The AI risk cult has all the hallmarks of a millenarian apocalypse cult. From Wikipedia, with additions by me:

"Millenarianism is the belief by a group or movement [AI risk doomers] in a coming fundamental transformation of society [the arrival of AI], after which all things will be changed [AI utopia, dystopia, and/or end of the world]. Only dramatic events [AI bans, airstrikes on datacenters, nuclear strikes on unregulated AI] are seen as able to change the world [prevent AI] and the change is anticipated to be brought about, or survived, by a group of the devout and dedicated. In most millenarian scenarios, the disaster or battle to come [AI apocalypse, or its prevention] will be followed by a new, purified world [AI bans] in which the believers will be rewarded [or at least acknowledged to have been correct all along]."

This apocalypse cult pattern is so obvious that I am surprised more people don't see it.

Don't get me wrong, cults are fun to hear about, their written material is often creative and fascinating, and their members are engaging at dinner parties and on TV. But their extreme beliefs should not determine the future of laws and society - obviously not.

Posted by orrinj at 9:58 AM


How the Brain Creates Your Physical Sense of Self (Diana Kwon,  July 12, 2023, Scientific American)

The 19th-century philosopher William James proposed that the self could be split into two parts. The first was an "I" that physically perceives and experiences the world, and the second was a "me" that encompasses a mental narrative about oneself, based on one's past experiences. Neuroscientists equipped with high-tech tool kits have begun to achieve some success in the long-running search to find the brain areas responsible for creating these two aspects of the self.

The discovery of "me" came first. The default-mode network, a term coined by neurologist Marcus Raichle in 2001, has emerged as a key player in the "me" aspect of the self. This collection of brain areas is active when a person is not focused on a task, and researchers have found that it plays an important role in processing self-referential thoughts. "[This network] has kind of been baptized as the center for the sense of self," says Josef Parvizi, a neurologist and a professor at Stanford University who researches the self.

The "I," in contrast, has been harder to pin down--at least until very recently. The awareness we have that we inhabit a body (call it an essential "I-ness") forms a bridge that constantly switches back and forth between a conscious and unconscious state of mind. Suppose you're sitting at the kitchen table or standing waiting for a train. Unless you're in pain, you have no moment-by-moment awareness of your hand, your shin, your big toe or even your body as a whole. But as soon as you think of any of these spots, you can feel their presence immediately. "I-ness" is that feeling that you indeed occupy your own body.

The skepticism that saved the Anglosphere from the tragedy of the Enlightenment was that was asking how the "me" creates the "I"

Posted by orrinj at 9:53 AM


Study Shows 60% of Women Regret Their Decision To Abort (Bridget Ryder,  July 16, 2023, European Conservative)

Conducted by David C. Reardon of the Elliot Institute in St Peters, Missouri; Katherine A. Rafferty of the University of Iowa at Ames; and Tessa Longbons of the Charlotte Lozier Institute in Arlington, Virginia; the study found that 60% of women who had abortions would have preferred not to have aborted, and that these women experienced negative emotional and mental sequela connected with the abortion. 

"Sixty percent reported they would have preferred to give birth if they had received more support from others or had more financial security," researchers found. 

Posted by orrinj at 9:51 AM


This thermal cloak keeps things cool when it's hot, and warm when it's cold...no electricity required. (Prachi Patel, July 20, 2023. Anthropocene)

An inexpensive, lightweight new fabric could help keep cars, spacecraft, and machinery cool in the summer and warm when the temperatures dip in winter. Detailed in the journal Device, the new "thermal cloak" does not need any power, and could reduce the energy needed for cooling and heating.

Besides making cars more bearable to get into in sweltering heat or frigid cold, this electricity-free fabric cover could have a key benefit for electric cars. Exposure to extreme temperatures degrades battery performance and shortens their lifespan. The thermal cloak could help reduce that damage.

Posted by orrinj at 9:49 AM



PC Magazine reported on the new ruling, which states that all "portable batteries" -- meaning those in devices like smartphones, tablets, and cameras -- must be designed in a way "that consumers can themselves easily remove and replace them." [...]

Aside from being good for users, the rules could save millions of otherwise perfectly good phones from getting tossed away. According to Euronews, more than 150 million smartphones end up every year in landfills, where they release toxic metals that can contaminate water and soil.

This is partly because replacing a battery often costs almost as much as getting an entirely new phone, according to Euronews. Making batteries that users can easily replace will go a long way in both saving consumers money and reducing this massive amount of e-waste. 

Posted by orrinj at 9:43 AM


India Rebukes EU for Its "Colonial Mindset" Over Ethnic Unrest in Manipur  (Thomas O'Reilly, July 23, 2023, European Conservative)

Since May, Manipur has been plunged into a state of low-level civil war driven by sectarian rivalry between the majority Hindu Meitei population and the predominantly Christian Kuki tribe. So far at least 130 people have died. 

The carnage stems from attempts by the regional BJP government to clamp down on Kuki poppy, which Kuki officials argue is part of a wider attempt to undermine their influence in the state.

The central Indian government has been accused of implicitly supporting Meitei militias. In response, New Delhi deployed 40,000 soldiers to quell the violence, which has often manifested itself through the systematic rape of women. 

The European Parliament reacted by passing an emergency resolution on July 12th, pinning the violence on "nationalistic rhetoric" from India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, accusing the government of promoting a form of "Hindu majoritarianism" against racial and religious minorities.

MEPs also called for aid agencies and independent observers to be given free access to the region. 

Immediately after the resolution passed, Indian BJP officials took to social media to condemn the decision and linked it to a wider plot by the country's opposition--and Western NGOs--to destabilise the ruling government by politicising the situation in Manipur.

Bingo! Globalization is Anglofication. 

Posted by orrinj at 9:33 AM


'Breakthrough' geothermal tech produces 3.5 megawatts of carbon-free power (Kris Holt, July 18, 2023, EndGadget)

For a natural geothermal system to produce electricity, it needs a combination of heat, fluid and rock permeability, as Bloomberg notes. In many areas, the rock has the required levels of heat, but not enough permeability for fluid to flow through it.

An EGS creates this permeability artificially by drilling deep underground and injecting fluid to create fractures in the rock. That approach can vastly increase the number of potential sites for a geothermal power plant.

Fervo says it's the first company to "successfully drill a horizontal well pair for commercial geothermal production, achieving lateral lengths of 3,250 feet, reaching a temperature of 191°C, and proving controlled flow through rigorous tracer testing."

One of the major advantages of geothermal power plants is that they're entirely carbon free -- Google aims to run all of its offices and data centers on carbon-free energy by 2030. These plants can also operate at any time (unlike solar and wind), making geothermal energy a compelling source of renewable power.

Posted by orrinj at 9:31 AM


Small-town GOP officials are torn over Biden's clean energy cash (Jeff Stein, July 23, 2023, Washington Post)

FAIRFIELD, Ohio -- Tony Zartman has listened to opponents of a proposed solar farm claim that runoff from the panels would contaminate their drinking water. He's heard that wind turbines make cellphone service impossible. And he's been told that solar farms would be overrun by rats that would torment neighbors.

One recent Tuesday morning, Zartman stood a few feet away as the three Republican commissioners of Fairfield County weighed the fate of a proposal to build a solar farm on central Ohio farmland worth more $250 million. A Republican, Zartman had approved a major renewable energy project while commissioner of Paulding County, and for the past year, he has crisscrossed the state urging others to do the same. The Fairfield commissioners should put politics aside, Zartman urged, and approve the proposed site. Jobs would come. The money the company was providing for the project was real. Tax revenue would jump.

Do I hate Greens more than I love my constituents?

Posted by orrinj at 9:23 AM


Putin is openly worrying about revolutions, saying Russia has already hit its 'limit' (Ryan Pickrell Jul 20, 2023, Insider)

Responding to the mention of a recent mayovka event at a meeting, Putin offered insight into where his thoughts are these days.

The term mayovka has been linked to both innocent springtime activities and revolutionary dissidents, and Putin seemed to zero in on the latter, expressing a desire to avoid a revolution.

Noting that the name "worried" him, he said that he hoped events like this wouldn't "lead to a revolution," per a RBC report.

"The limit on revolutions in our country has already been exhausted in the last century," said Putin, referring to a timeframe which includes the collapse of the Soviet Union, a significant development he has called the 20th century's "greatest geopolitical tragedy."

There is no Russia.

Fall Of The Empire? Ethnic Separatism On The Rise In Russia (Pavel Lysyansky, May 18, 2022, World Crunch)

They began to show up more and more in 2019: people were displaying symbols of separatism at protests in different regions of Russia. One example that marked this movement were the flags of the Ural People's Republic at protests during the spring of 2019 against the construction of a temple in Yekaterinburg, the industrial city in the Ural mountains 1,100 miles east of Moscow.

The Russian Federation consists of 85 federal subjects, consisting of republics, krais, oblasts and cities of federal importance (two located on the Crimean peninsula are not internationally recognized). Every federal subject has its own head, a Parliament and Constitutional Court. The system was an attempt made in Soviet times to solve the problem of the country's ethnic and economic diversity by forming national republics.

So, the population of the Russian Federation does not consider a federal center or federation as a core value. For that reason, in some territories people may perceive their separation from Russia as quite possible.

Posted by orrinj at 8:32 AM


DeSantis doubles down on claim that some Blacks benefited from slavery (Kevin Sullivan and Lori Rozsa, July 22, 2023, Washington Post)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is intensifying his efforts to de-emphasize racism in his state's public school curriculum by arguing that some Black people benefited from being enslaved and defending his state's new African American history standards that civil rights leaders and scholars say misrepresents centuries of U.S. reality.

"They're probably going to show that some of the folks that eventually parlayed, you know, being a blacksmith into doing things later in life," DeSantis said on Friday in response to reporters' questions while standing in front of a nearly all-White crowd of supporters.

Posted by orrinj at 8:13 AM


Five ways in which green policies drive economic growth (Erik Solheim and Talal Rafi, 7/22/23, LSE)

A study by Gartner shows that 85 per cent of banks and investors consider environment, social and governance (ESG) factors when making decisions. Investors are looking towards green investments not only because it is the right thing to do but also because it benefits companies' bottom line. Firms that adopt a green business strategy tend to have an enhanced reputation and greater customer loyalty. They are better able to meet government regulations. For business models, greener is leaner. There's greater efficiency and reduced waste. Government subsidies can help drive green investments, making products cheaper and businesses more profitable. Investment-friendly regulations make operations easier. The rising cost of fossil fuels increases the growth potential of the renewable energy sector. Last month, for the first time more investments were recorded in solar energy than in oil, a sign of shifting global energy trends. The availability of green investment products has increased drastically.

Posted by orrinj at 7:58 AM


Government by Reason--or by Passion?: On Lincoln and democracy (Allen C. Guelzo, Jul 21 2023, City Journal)

No one understood Americans' devotion to their democracy or shared it more thoroughly than Lincoln. For the safekeeping of their democracy, Americans "would suffer much for its sake. I know they would endure evils long and patiently, before they would ever think of exchanging it for another." Certainly, he would. "We have the best Government the world ever knew," Lincoln told a newly recruited regiment of New Yorkers 26 years later--a government in which "the people" had the "right to decide the question," whatever the question might be. And it was one that he was happy to share as broadly as possible: when "I see a people borne down by the weight of their shackles--the oppression of tyranny . . . rather would I do all in my power to raise the yoke, than to add anything that would tend to crush them."

This was not because Lincoln had no eye for Americans' political excesses. But what mitigated the baleful tendency of passion in democracy was law. In one American law treatise and discourse after another in the 50 years after independence, the law was held up as "a moral science of great sublimity," wrote Baltimore jurist David Hoffman in 1817; it was nothing less, said the Irish exile William Sampson, than "the public reason, uttered by the public voice." The vocation of the lawyer, then, was (according to Hoffman) "the conservation of the rights and prosperity of the citizen, and the vigorous maintenance of the legitimate and wholesome powers of government," while the responsibility of "the good citizen" was "to love the laws, and . . . to obey them." Aristocracies were "governments of will"; democracies were "governments of law." So long as Americans allowed themselves to be ruled by reason, they would choose to be ruled by law, and all would eventually be well with their democracy. But if Americans should surrender to "the dictates of passion and venality, rather than of reason and of right," warned Brown University president Francis Wayland, at "that moment . . . will the world's last hope be extinguished, and darkness brood for ages over the whole human race." Even democratic government's most reckless champion, Andrew Jackson, was--at least at first--a lawyer. The man who proposed to save it from Jacksonian passion--Abraham Lincoln--was a lawyer, too.

July 22, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 7:08 PM


India: Further reports of sexual violence emerge in Manipur (Murali Krishnan | Jessie Wingard, 7/22/23, Deutsche-Welle)

Ethnic clashes erupted in May, a day prior to the first-known assault case, following a protest march organized by members of the minority Christian Kuki population. They had been angered by a court order calling on the government to consider granting the majority, mostly Hindu, Metei population the same tribal benefits enjoyed by the Kukis.

These would allow tribe members to purchase land in areas where the Kukis and other tribal groups reside and would guarantee them a share of government jobs. The Kukis say this would strengthen their already dominant position in the state.

Posted by orrinj at 2:03 PM


Posted by orrinj at 9:36 AM



For the Amish, solar power allows access to clean, renewable energy while remaining off-grid. The shift benefits the environment as well.

Burning kerosene, like burning all dirty energy, releases carbon dioxide. Kerosene lamps also produce black carbon, which absorbs light and heats its surroundings. 

According to the Climate & Clean Air Coalition, mass black carbon has a per-unit warming impact on climate that can be up to 1,500 times stronger than carbon dioxide.

Burning kerosene also comes with severe health risks and can damage the lungs and increase asthma and cancer risks. Exposure to diesel exhaust can also cause serious health conditions like asthma and respiratory illnesses and can worsen existing heart and lung disease.

Switching to solar eliminates all of this, although the trend is still fairly recent in Amish communities. 

"We really didn't see a lot of adoption until 2015 or maybe even later ... In the last four years, it's really taken off," Mark Horst, the owner of King Solar in Kansas, told Anabaptist World. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:37 AM


Special Counsel May Indict Trump Under Reconstruction Era Anti-Klan Statute (Lucian K. Truscott IV, July 22 | 2023, National Memo)

In what Constitutional experts are calling an "elegant" legal move, Special Counsel Jack Smith has cited a post-Civil War civil rights statute as one of three laws Defendant Trump may be prosecuted under in the target letter Smith served last Sunday. The law, 18 U.S. Code 241 is called "Conspiracy Against Rights" in the criminal code, and was passed during the Reconstruction Era at a time when Black citizens were facing extraordinary amounts of violence in the South when they tried to vote.

The law is said to have been passed, at least in part, against Ku Klux Klan violence, and was part of a number of statutes passed to support the rights Black citizens and others enjoyed following the passage of the 14th Amendment, guaranteeing all citizens equal protection of the laws.

The law should send chills down the spine of Defendant Trump. Here it is in its entirety:

If two or more persons conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same; or

If two or more persons go in disguise on the highway, or on the premises of another, with intent to prevent or hinder his free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege so secured--

The first scary thing about the law for Defendant Trump is that it is specifically crafted as a conspiracy statute. The second scary thing is its broad scope. The third scary thing is found in its final section, which specifies that if death results from violations, or if kidnapping is involved in commission of the crime being prosecuted under the act, punishment can be "any term of years or life, or both, or may be sentenced to death."

The Orange doesn't fall far from the hangin' tree.

Posted by orrinj at 8:15 AM


Tony Bennett saw racism and horror in World War II. It changed him. (Dave Kindy, July 21, 2023, Washington Post)

What were the chances? Thousands of miles from home, in a foreign land devastated by war, old friends bumped into each other on the street.

It was Thanksgiving Day, 1945, when two U.S. Army soldiers met unexpectedly in Mannheim, Germany. Part of the occupation force in a conquered city that had been leveled by Allied bombing during World War II, they had sung together only a few years earlier in a musical group back in high school in New York City.

The young men decided to spend the rest of the day together, attending a church service and then having a turkey dinner. At least, that was the plan. Their impromptu reunion was cut short just before the meal.

Tony Bennett, singing star with an enduring second act, dies at 96

An Army officer blasted the two soldiers -- one Black and the other White -- with a hate-filled rant for being together in public. In the segregated military of the day, the two men were not allowed to socialize. Back then, the punishment for Black and White soldiers associating with one another was more severe than if they fraternized with civilians in occupied Germany.

The White soldier's experiences in the Army had a profound effect on him. The 19-year-old corporal -- who also survived the horrors of combat and witnessed unspeakable atrocities while liberating Nazi death camps -- vowed to become a pacifist and to work for racial harmony.

Anthony Dominick Benedetto made good on his promise when he later marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, Ala., under his professional name: Tony Bennett. The experience prompted the legendary singer of jazz songs and American standards, who died Friday at 96, to speak out for peace and equality for the rest of his life.

"I couldn't get over the fact that they condemned us for just being friends, and especially while we served our country in wartime," Bennett wrote in his 1998 autobiography, "The Good Life." "There we were, just two kids happy to see each other, trying to forget for the moment the horror of the war, but for the brass it just boiled down to the color of our skin."

July 21, 2023

Posted by Stephen Judd at 10:32 AM


Tony Bennett/Bill Charlap: Look for the Silver Lining

Tony Bennett is 89 years old, and he's seemingly been around forever.  No matter how old (or young) you are, you know who Tony Bennett is.  

As a boy singer in the 50's, his pop hits (and those of his frequent collaborator Rosemary Clooney) put Columbia Records at the top of the music business.  He expanded into jazz (recording wonderful albums with Count Basie, and, later, with the pianist Bill Evans), but retained his place in the pop world and in 1962 he recorded his most enduring hit, the iconic "I Left My Heart in San Francisco."  Like many artists born a bit too late for the Swing Era and a bit too soon for rock, his career struggled in the late 60's and 1970's, as his forays into rock/contemporary music didn't ring true for a singer so rooted in the Great American Songbook.  In the 1980's, he returned to his roots: dressed a suit-and-tie or tux, backed by a piano trio or big band, and performing the music of the Gershwin brothers, Cole Porter, Rogers and Hart, Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern and the rest.  And what a return it's been - an unprecedented second act that has been going on for almost 35 years, during which he has released some of his greatest recordings,  brought the Songbook to (at least) 2 new generations (with everything from his MTV Unplugged appearances to duet recordings with everyone from kd lang, to Amy Winehouse to Latin stars such as Gloria Estefan and Vicente Fernandez), and become ever-present in pop culture (appearing on The Simpsons, singing at World Series games, being imitated by Alec Baldwin on Saturday Night Live, and starring in a new Barnes and Noble commercial with his recording and touring pal Lady Gaga). 

But I'm not writing this post about Tony Bennett's new album because he's 89 or because of his wonderful career in music.  I'm writing about him because the man remains a truly great singer.  His remarkable tenor voice combines operatic power and emotion, with the pop and sizzle of a big band brass section and the sensitivity of a crooner.  This album puts that wonderful voice in a perfect setting, the songs of Jerome Kern (who pretty much invented the modern concept of the musical play with Showboat) and backing by pianist Bill Charlap and his long-time regular bandmates Peter Washington (bass) and Kenny Washington (drums).

The album contains many of the Kern tunes that have become jazz standards ("All the Things You Are," "The Song is You," "Yesterdays," "Long Ago and Faraway," "Dearly Beloved," "I'm Old Fashioned" and "The Way You Look Tonight") along with some lesser-known songs.  To all of these Bennett brings an unmatched emotional range which turns each song into a miniature story and his easy-going sense of time and swing (I particularly like the swinging, jazz waltz arrangement of "I Won't Dance").  Although there are Kern songs I like better than "Pick Yourself Up," Tony's version (video above) is my favorite song on the album.  Not only does it swing and contain a tasty double-time solo from Charlap, but it captures Bennett's inherent warm spirit and optimism.  Sinatra could plumb the depths of longing and melancholy in his songs; even when Tony Bennett sings of love lost or, in the case of "Pick Yourself Up," of men who had to fall to rise again, you understand that this is a man who always looks for (and finds) the silver lining.


(originally posted 11/22/15)

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Republicans Are at War With College Towns. And They're Losing.: Growing population in America's highly educated enclaves has led to huge gains for the Democratic Party. And it's changing the electoral map going into 2024. (CHARLIE MAHTESIAN and MADI ALEXANDER, 07/21/2023, Politico)

Under the state's traditional political math, Milwaukee and Dane -- Wisconsin's two Democratic strongholds -- are counterbalanced by the populous Republican suburbs surrounding Milwaukee. The rest of the state typically delivers the decisive margin in statewide races. The Supreme Court results blew up that model. Dane County alone is now so dominant that it overwhelms the Milwaukee suburbs (which have begun trending leftward anyway). In effect, Dane has become a Republican-killing Death Star.

"This is a really big deal," said Mark Graul, a Republican strategist who ran George W. Bush's 2004 reelection campaign in Wisconsin. "What Democrats are doing in Dane County is truly making it impossible for Republicans to win a statewide race."

Photo illustration of red and blue bubbles with people at voting booths.
In isolation, it's a worrisome development for Republicans. Unfortunately for the larger GOP, it's not happening in isolation.

In state after state, fast-growing, traditionally liberal college counties like Dane are flexing their muscles, generating higher turnout and ever greater Democratic margins. They've already played a pivotal role in turning several red states blue -- and they could play an equally decisive role in key swing states next year.

July 20, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 7:39 PM


Obsessing Over Elite College Admissions Is the Opposite of Progressive: America's broken admissions system is a symptom of a dangerously unequal society, not its cause. (FRANCISCO TORO, JUL 17, 2023, Persuasion)

Participants march at a rally protesting the Supreme Court's ruling against affirmative action on Harvard University Campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (Photo by Ziyu Julian Zhu/Xinhua via Getty Images.)
Imagine the entire cohort of U.S. graduating high school students this year as a group of one thousand bright-eyed 18-year-olds: kids of every class and race, spanning the whole spectrum of talent, wealth and oppression. What should the goal of progressive politics be for them? Where should attention be focused?

Let's look at our thousand more closely. 380 of them--overwhelmingly poorer and disproportionately black, Latino, and male--will stop their school careers here. They'll go directly into the workforce, where they'll earn less and live worse than most of the rest of the group.

Another 190 of our original thousand will enroll in a two-year college. Just 55 of them will actually complete a two-year degree within six years. The other 135 will fail to get any qualification, and they will be at a particular disadvantage in the workforce.

You might think the left would focus their energy like a laser beam on the 570 out of every thousand graduating seniors who never enroll in a 4-year university in the first place. Racial minorities dominate this group, and their socio-economic results are terrible. If you're actually concerned about social and racial justice, this is where you need to look.

Alas, our conversation is mostly about the 430 of every thousand graduating high school seniors who will enroll in a 4-year college program. And not even about all of them, because most will attend schools that admit most or all of the students who apply.

...by steering them towards skill-training instead of college.

Posted by orrinj at 2:03 PM


Extracting a Clean Fuel From Water - A Groundbreaking Low-Cost Catalyst (ARGONNE NATIONAL LABORATORY, JULY 20, 2023)

A multi-institutional team led by the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory has developed a low-cost catalyst for a process that yields clean hydrogen from water. Other contributors include DOE's Sandia National Laboratories and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, as well as Giner Inc.

"A process called electrolysis produces hydrogen and oxygen from water and has been around for more than a century," said Di-Jia Liu, senior chemist at Argonne. He also holds a joint appointment in the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago.

Proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolyzers represent a new generation of technology for this process. They can split water into hydrogen and oxygen with higher efficiency at near room temperature. The reduced energy demand makes them an ideal choice for producing clean hydrogen by using renewable but intermittent sources, such as solar and wind.

Posted by orrinj at 1:53 PM


The 'very liberal' doctor, the pro-GOP car dealer and the movement against offshore wind (BENJAMIN STORROW, 07/19/2023, Politico)

Some scientists are even more blunt.

Michael Moore, a scientist who studies whale deaths for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod, called the claim that sonar is killing humpbacks a "conspiracy theory."

Wind opponents are "just NIMBYs," said Robert Kenney, a marine biologist who retired from the University of Rhode Island after four decades studying the endangered North Atlantic right whale. "You lie enough and use social media to spread it, and there is a certain group of people who believe it."

Posted by orrinj at 8:07 AM


While Defendant Trump Faces Oncoming Indictments, His Business Is Failing (Lucian K. Truscott IV, July 20 | 2023, National Memo)

The Bulwark also broke a story early Wednesday afternoon about the problems Defendant Trump is having in his real estate business. He owns an interest in two major office towers, one in New York, and the other in San Francisco, at a time when rentals of office space in major metropolitan areas are plummeting because of work-at-home policies that came out of the COVID days. The New York building was refinanced by Defendant Trump in 2021, taking on $950 million of new debt. Under the terms of his partnership in the building, he cannot sell his interest until 2044, and it's losing money at a breakneck clip.

In San Francisco, Defendant Trump owns 30 percent of a 52-story skyscraper on which he and his partner, the Vornado Realty Trust, took out a $1.2 billion mortgage, also in 2021. Bloomberg has been playing close enough attention to the financial, legal and political travails of Defendant Trump that they can report the San Francisco tower mortgage has been put on a "watchlist for default," which is significant because a recent office building sale in the same downtown area went for what the Wall Street Journal called a "fire sale price."

The value of that poor building had dropped to $60 million from $300 million in just four years, establishing a floor value for the neighborhood of about $200 per square foot. Defendant Trump's mortgage puts a value on his building of $900 per square foot, meaning if the building was sold today at a price area buildings are currently worth, the sale price would come nowhere near covering its $1.2 billion debt.

So. Indictments, subpoenas, target letters, fights with Republican governors of Republican states he doesn't need to be fighting with, refusals by former press secretaries and presumed friends to endorse him, financial woes, and yet another apparent proffer agreement by a close aide involved in his fake elector scheme...what else might be in store for Defendant Trump?

Posted by orrinj at 6:51 AM


The A(braham) Bomb: Why we're fighting our political battles like religious wars (WALTER RUSSELL MEAD, JULY 19, 2023, Tablet)

It is difficult if not impossible to grasp the direction and the dimensions of world history, to say nothing of American history and contemporary developments, without coming to terms with the peculiar form of monotheistic religion associated with the wandering herdsman widely considered by Jewish, Christian, and Muslim believers to be the father of their respective faiths. It is out of the Abrahamic world that America's religious, civic, and political culture have emerged, and if we want to grasp the nature of the forces that both unite and divide us today, we will need to come to grips with the reality that we are, whether we like it or not, the heirs of Abraham.

"Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One," is the classic statement of Jewish faith. "I believe in One God," is the opening of the classic formulation of Christian doctrine known as the Nicene Creed, repeated every Sunday by congregations all over the world. "There is no god but Allah," is how the Islamic statement of faith opens.

The belief that there is one all-powerful, all-knowing God, the Lord of Time and the Ruler of the Universe--who, acting alone and without aid, made everything that exists--is, whether one personally agrees with it or not, the most consequential idea ever to thrust its way into human consciousness.

I don't mean by this statement to disparage Hindu, Buddhist, or other non-Abrahamic belief systems. Ancient Greek philosophers found their own way to the concept of a unitary divine being without, so far as is known, direct exposure to Abrahamic religion. Similarly, philosophers and mystics in the great Asian traditions arrived at their own ways of understanding that unity of power, benevolence, and wisdom the family of Abraham worships as God. But Abrahamic religion puts the unity of God at the center of popular piety, greatly intensifying the power of this world-altering concept to reshape the social and intellectual landscape of a given culture.

As a grand hypothesis that claims to provide a single explanation for everything that happens in the heavens and on earth, the monotheistic idea is, for one thing, a daring leap that opens the door to a world of speculation and research--a path from tinkering to science. Postulating a single creator for the entire universe leads to the belief that the universe is predictable and rule driven. Events in the natural world are not just one darn thing after another; they do not reflect the caprices of minor deities. There are laws of nature, and because human beings are created by God--and in the Abrahamic religious accounts we were created in God's image--most if not all of those rules should be discoverable by the human mind. The mathematical reasoning that we do in our heads corresponds with the mathematical structure that exists in the external world, and the experimental results we obtain in our labs here on earth can help us understand the nature of quasars at the far ends of the universe.

Similarly, in philosophy the idea that there is one all-powerful and self-sufficient God who created humanity in his image serves to stimulate the quest for truth. Our minds may not be able to plumb the full depths of divine transcendence, but the correspondence between creature and creator, a correspondence that includes the faculty of reason, means that as far as our minds can reach, they can discern the truth. Reconciling the scriptures of the great Abrahamic religions with the conclusions of Greek philosophers was the business of Jewish, Islamic, and Christian thinkers well past the classical period. The works of Maimonides, Averroës, and Aquinas, each representing the culmination of centuries of reflection, still stand as massive monuments in the history of human thought and continue to shape and inspire philosophers and political thinkers to this day.

Abrahamic thought and religion are as foundational and constitutive in the worlds of politics and history as they are for science and philosophy. Abrahamic religion holds that every human being matters, is a direct object of concern and care by the Creator of the universe, and is an immortal soul whose fate has eternal significance--and that the history of the human race is a moral and ethical story with a purpose and a meaning. Those are genuinely world-shaking convictions, and people who have never read a word of the Abrahamic scriptures or darkened the doorways of an Abrahamic house of worship live in a world shaped by Abrahamic values and ideas.

Women matter. Peasants matter. Slaves matter. Social divisions like race, caste, and wealth are evanescent. God judges impartially between rich and poor, and every human being lives under the same moral law. Every human being has rights by divine decree that do not depend on or proceed from the will of the state. Rulers are accountable before God not only for their personal conduct but also for the consequences of their policies on the poor and the weak. These are radical ideas, and they have touched off more than one revolution in the long course of history. They continue to subvert tyrannies and challenge hierarchies of privilege in our time. In my opinion, the Abrahamic political revolution will continue as long as imperfect human social orders fail to live up to the requirements of Abrahamic justice.

That is the point at which the Right/Left deviates from America.

July 19, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 8:05 PM


The Right Has Become Post-Religious (Jesse Smith, 7/19/23, Public Discourse)

In his new book The Godless Crusade: Religion, Populism, and Right-Wing Identity Politics in the West (Cambridge University Press 2023), Tobias Cremer offers a different interpretation of the conspicuous religious element in modern populist politics. He argues that across Western democracies, populist parties are increasingly employing religious symbolism and rhetoric in an identitarian rather than a religious way. What appears to be an embrace of Christianity is more a celebration of cultural markers (say, Christian history and architecture) used to define themselves against outsiders than an expression of Christian beliefs or moral commitments--Christendom without Christianity. Mobilizing statistics, political analysis, and the content of interviews with 114 political and religious leaders in Germany, France, and the United States, Cremer makes a strong case that religious-themed populism is not the result of religious revival or even backlash, but rather of secularization. This work marks a key contribution to conversations about religious populism and Christian nationalism.

Posted by orrinj at 7:57 PM


On the eve of Tisha B'Av, Israel risks an unforgivable process of self-destruction  (David Horovitz , 20 July 2023, Times of Israel)

For Netanyahu, as has been the case from the beginning of last year's election campaign -- when he did everything, including mainstreaming racist, homophobic, misogynistic and Jewish-supremacist politicians, in order to successfully maximize his victory prospects -- the equation has always been straightforward: Without sidelining the courts, and subsequently enabling his coalition partners to proceed with legislation that the judges would otherwise strike down, he is politically finished.

Demonstrators march with national flags during a 'Day of Resistance' to protest the government's judicial overhaul plans, near the Supreme Court in Jerusalem on July 18, 2023. (RONALDO SCHEMIDT / AFP)
And Netanyahu has single-mindedly followed his devastating overhaul path from the very first week his Likud, far-right and ultra-Orthodox government took office. When he paused the bills in March, it was out of necessity rather than consensual magnanimity, because his sacking of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, for daring to publicly oppose the legislative blitz, had unleashed new highs of public opposition and a brief display of wariness from a minority in the coalition who have since largely fallen into line.

His interest is not only personal but also acutely short-term. Just days ago, already forgotten in the insane Israeli news cycle, Netanyahu was in the hospital with dehydration -- possibly after collapsing at home; we've not been told -- and now has a heart monitor. He is 73. Were he incapacitated, who would take over? Justice Minister Yariv Levin, the deputy prime minister? The former deputy PM Aryeh Deri, ousted from the cabinet by the justices because of his recidivist abuse of public funds? Or somebody else even less inclined to respect Israel's foundational democratic and liberal Jewish values?

Posted by orrinj at 1:55 PM


Judge clarifies: Yes, Trump was found to have raped E. Jean Carroll (Aaron Blake, July 19, 2023, Washington Post)

The filing from Judge Lewis A. Kaplan came as Trump's attorneys have sought a new trial and have argued that the jury's $5 million verdict against Trump in the civil suit was excessive. The reason, they argue, is that sexual abuse could be as limited as the "groping" of a victim's breasts.

Kaplan roundly rejected Trump's motion Tuesday, calling that argument "entirely unpersuasive."

"The finding that Ms. Carroll failed to prove that she was 'raped' within the meaning of the New York Penal Law does not mean that she failed to prove that Mr. Trump 'raped' her as many people commonly understand the word 'rape,' " Kaplan wrote.

He added: "Indeed, as the evidence at trial recounted below makes clear, the jury found that Mr. Trump in fact did exactly that."

Posted by orrinj at 1:51 PM


Jewish American groups say Herzog in US a 'palatable' cover for Israeli violence (Azad Essa,  19 July 2023, Middle East Eye)

Israeli President Isaac Herzog may not be an ally to Benjamin Netanyahu or an official part of the Israeli government, but as a representative of the state, he is complicit in the occupation and discrimination of Palestinians. 

This is the message from several progressive Jewish American groups to US politicians as Herzog visits Washington, in a trip analysts describe as US President Joe Biden's attempt to showcase that the US-Israel relationship transcends the current disagreements with the far-right government led by Netanyahu. [...]

While IfnotNow and the anti-Zionist group Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) have fully endorsed the decision by some lawmakers -  including llhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Jamaal Bowman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Cori Bush - to boycott his address in Congress on Wednesday, other progressive Jewish groups say that Herzog's visit presents a rare opportunity for lawmakers to raise concerns over the rapidly deteriorating conditions in Israel and occupied Palestine.

According to a Middle East Eye tally, 192 Palestinians, including 33 children, have been killed by Israeli forces in 2023 alone.

"I think [lawmakers] should use the spotlight that his visit brings to raise the issues of settler violence, settler expansion, creeping annexation, discrimination both in occupied territories and Israel, and raises the issue of Israel's own democratic struggles - the judicial coup - that is happening," Hadar Susskind, president of Americans for Peace Now (APN), told Middle East Eye.

Since January, Netanyahu's coalition government has been pushing for judicial reforms Israelis say will give the government greater control over the appointment of judges and reduce the ability of the judiciary to veto government decisions. 

"There's a lot of people - including Democratic elected officials - who are very happy to talk about the judicial coup part because it is easy to cast - rightfully I think - Netanyahu and his coalition as the bad guys and Herzog as the good guy in that ... so they can welcome him.

"I think Israel's democracy is important and it is worth fighting for. But that cannot be the end of the discussion. You also have to talk about the occupation where there is no democracy. You still have to talk about the discrimination and violence," Susskind said.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Everyone in America is Totally Insane (JOHN GANZ, JUL 16, 2023, Unpopular Front)

If you consume a lot of conspiracy material you will brush up against antisemitic propaganda very fast. The fact that it is taboo makes it a tempting move in the discourse: the entire conspiracy game revolves around discovering forbidden knowledge, so the upset caused by mouthing off an antisemitic opinion seems to confirm that you landed on the right square: "Oh, so you're saying I can't say that, therefore it must be true." The more you object and get upset, the more it seems to confirm the correctness of the view. [...]

While Kennedy appears to be a liberal of a sort, he is really a type of reactionary populist of a sort: he represents the nostalgic desire to return to a more innocent time in America, when the middle class was strong and healthy and the Kennedys were in charge. His anti-vaxxism and even his environmentalism also implies a world of lost purity and poisoners.

Still, the "declining class" theory perhaps doesn't quite explain everything. Lots of socially successful people believe crazy things. As I suggested above, conspiracy theories have been a part of American political life since the beginning. In fact, there's a case to be made that they are the most characteristically American way of viewing politics. While Hofstadter's history of American paranoia only goes back to the anti-masonic scares, in his Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, Bernard Bailyn noted how a strong belief in a malign conspiracy on the part of the Crown formed one of the central pillars of the Colonial rebels' thinking. In fact, their preoccupation with conspiracy was so obsessive and pervasive that some historians have even suggested that the leaders of the American Revolution were mentally disturbed. But as Gordon Wood, Bailyn's student, writes in his essay "Conspiracy and the Paranoid Style: Causality and Deceit in the Eighteenth Century" that the discourse of conspiracy was pervasive in 18th century thought in general:

Everywhere people sensed designs within designs, cabals within cabals; there were court conspiracies, backstairs conspiracies, ministerial conspiracies, factional conspiracies, aristocratic conspiracies, and by the last half of the eighteenth century even conspiracies of gigantic secret societies that cut across national boundaries and spanned the Atlantic. Revolutionary Americans may have been an especially jealous and suspicious people, but they were not unique in their fears of dark malevolent plots and plotters...In the Anglo-American world at the time of the Revolutionary crisis there was scarcely a major figure who did not tend to explain political events in these terms.

If this was the norm, surely they could not all be cracked. Instead, conspiratorial thought was the result of certain shared assumptions about the nature of human action. As Wood writes, "It presumes a world of autonomous, freely acting individuals who are capable of directly and deliberately bringing about events through their decisions and actions, and who thereby can be held morally responsible for what happens." This was not irrational, but in way it was too rational, it took everything in the world of politics to be the consequence of the decisions of rational actors. If something went wrong, if things happened that were not quite what their authors said they wanted, that's because they were lying about their real intentions: "The belief in plots was not a symptom of disturbed minds but a rational attempt to explain human phenomena in terms of human intentions and to maintain moral coherence in the affairs of men." Wood points out that conspiracy was the favored explanatory model of the most intelligent people just when such explanations no longer really made sense: "Human affairs were more complicated, more interdependent, and more impersonal than they had ever been in Western history...Yet at this very moment when the world was outrunning man's capacity to explain it in personal terms, in terms of the passions and schemes of individuals, the most enlightened of the age were priding themselves on their ability to do just that."

The Left/Right is, essentially, our cohort of Continental Europeans, believing in Reason.  And if Reason were true then it would require malign forces to prevent it working.  Liberalism/conservatism recognizes that the notion of Rational man is bunk.  It is what has always saved us from Utopianism.  

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


July 18, 2023 (HEATHER COX RICHARDSON, JUL 19, 2023, Letters from an American)

"I approve this message."

Joe Biden's Twitter account put that line over an ad using the words of Georgia Republican representative Marjorie Taylor Greene's Turning Points Action Conference speech from last weekend, in which she set out to tear down the president's policies but ended up making him sound terrific. 

The description she intended to be derogatory--that Biden "had the largest public investment in social infrastructure and environmental programs that is actually finishing what FDR started, that LBJ expanded on"--was such an argument in Biden's favor that the Biden-Harris campaign used it to advertise what the Democratic administration stands for: "[p]rograms to address education, medical care, urban problems, rural poverty, transportation, Medicare, Medicaid, labor unions."

July 18, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 10:58 AM


Special counsel informs Trump he is target in probe of efforts to overturn 2020 election (Katherine Faulders, John Santucci, Alexander Mallin, and Luke Barr, July 18, 2023, ABC News)

The letter, which sources said was transmitted to Trump's attorneys in recent days, indicates that yet another indictment of the former president could be imminent -- though it is not immediately clear what kind of charges he could ultimately face.

Target letters are typically given to subjects in a criminal investigation to put them on notice that they are facing the prospect of indictment.

Trump similarly received a target letter from Smith before he was indicted by a grand jury in Florida for his alleged mishandling of classified documents after leaving the White House and his alleged efforts to obstruct the government's investigation.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Israel recognizes Morocco's sovereignty over Western Sahara (Deutsche-Welle, 7/18/23)

Israel has recognized Rabat's sovereignty over the disputed Western Sahara region, which the separatist movement Polisario Front claims as its territory, both Israel and Morocco announced on Monday.

...is mutual denial of Muslim self-determination.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Investors wanted: China's economy loses its swagger (Chris Taylor 7/18/23, RFA)

Foreign direct investment is calculated to have fallen to U.S.$20 billion in the first quarter of this year, compared with $100 billion in last year's first quarter, when China was in lockdown, according to The Wall Street Journal.  

Initial bounce-back growth in the aftermath of long lockdowns due to COVID-19 is fading as consumers draw back from spending and exports slump. Compounding the pinch is the slow collapse of China's all-important real estate sector as well as the ongoing problem of accumulated local-government debt.

Beijing has stated it has no money to bail out local government debt due to overspending on COVID-19 mitigation. A massive infrastructure spending spree on the heels of the Great Financial Crisis of 2008 saw the construction of roads to nowhere, ghost cities, unoccupied tower blocks and unfinished theme parks.

Local governments have to deal with a debt hangover from years of profligate spending compounded by what is believed to be an 18% jump in health expenditure during COVID-19 and a 23% fall in revenue due to the real estate sector slump.

In the meantime, 2023 was supposed to be the "Year of Investing in China," as Beijing has hailed it, but foreign investors aren't buying it, not least because President Xi Jinping's administration has shown every sign of being determined to make it harder to do business in China, not easier.

All they really need to do is change their economics, politics, and religion and adopt Anglospheric culture.

July 17, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Whites now more likely to die from covid than Blacks: Why the pandemic shifted (Akilah Johnson and Dan Keating, October 19, 2022, Washington Post)

Skill Wilson had amassed more than three decades of knowledge as a paramedic, first in Memphis and then in Fayette County. Two places that felt like night and day. [...]

The nature of the virus makes the elderly and people with underlying health conditions -- including hypertension, diabetes and obesity, all of which beset Black people at higher rates and earlier in life than White people -- particularly vulnerable to severe illness and death.

That wasn't Skill.

The virus also attacks unvaccinated adults -- who polls show are more likely to be Republicans -- with a ferocity that puts them at a much higher risk of infection and death.

That was Skill.

He joined the choir of critics opposing vaccination requirements, his rants in front of the television eventually wearing on Hollie, who, even if she agreed, grew tired of listening and declared their home "covid-talk free."

So, she said, Skill commiserated with like-minded people in Facebook groups and on Parler and Rumble, the largely unmoderated social networking platforms popular with conservatives.

"We're Republicans, and 100 percent believe that it's each individual's choice, their freedom," when it comes to getting a coronavirus shot, Hollie said in January. "We decided to err on the side of not doing it and accept the consequences. And now, here we are in the middle of planning the funeral."

New immune-evading covid variants could fuel a winter surge

Capt. Julian Greaves Wilson Jr., known to everybody as Skill, died of covid Jan. 23, a month after becoming infected with the coronavirus. He fell ill not long after transporting a covid patient to the hospital. At the time he died, infection rates in Fayette County had soared to 40.5 percent among people taking coronavirus tests.

They're Replacing themselves.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Fani Willis: The No-Nonsense Georgia Prosecutor on a Collision Course With Donald Trump (Cameron McWhirter and Jan Wolfe, July 16, 2023 , WSJ)

Willis has carved out a reputation in Georgia legal circles as a no-nonsense prosecutor and workaholic who relishes taking on complex cases. Her path to power has put her on a collision course with former President Donald Trump, whose behavior after the 2020 election is thought to be central to her investigation of alleged attempts to overturn President Biden's narrow victory in this state.

State grand juries were being seated in Atlanta last week, setting the stage for jurors to hear evidence soon. The case could lead to criminal indictments for Trump and others who sought vigorously to negate his loss here. For about 2½ years, Willis has led an extensive probe into the matter, including questioning under oath of politicians and Trump supporters such as Rudolph Giuliani, once his lawyer, and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a political confidant.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


China's Economy Barely Grows as Recovery Fades (Jason Douglas, July 17, 2023, WSJ)

China's economy barely grew in the second quarter from the first and youth unemployment hit a record high in June, providing evidence of a fading recovery that risks leaving the global economy underpowered this year as recession stalks the U.S. and Europe.

The sluggish pace of growth in 2023 is piling pressure on Beijing to reignite an expansion that is in danger of fizzling out as consumers refrain from spending and exports slump. A drawn-out real estate crunch and shaky local-government finances are compounding the gloom. More than a fifth of Chinese age 16 to 24 are out of work.

The struggle to keep growth motoring ahead is the most pressing challenge among a lengthy list of issues facing Chinese leader Xi Jinping and his top officials. 

No, it's not. Their existence is.

July 16, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 5:26 PM


A New Game Called Immaculate Grid Makes Stars Out of Baseball's Has-Beens: 'My day has arrived.' Journeyman players of yesteryear are enjoying a moment of stardom thanks to new trivia craze. (Jared Diamond and Joseph De Avila, July 16, 2023. WSJ)

LaTroy Hawkins is the definition of a Major League Baseball journeyman. He never made an All-Star team or won a World Series. For 21 seasons from 1995 through 2015, Hawkins crisscrossed the country while pitching for 11 different teams.

That résumé won't send Hawkins to Cooperstown, but it makes him a Hall-of-Famer in the Immaculate Grid--a new Wordle-like daily quiz game that tests players' knowledge of MLB minutiae.

Immaculate Grid has sparked a surge of appreciation for players just like Hawkins: the nomads who build their careers in relative anonymity, whose contributions to baseball might otherwise have been forgotten.

"The game is not made up of superstars, I can tell you that much," Hawkins said, referring to baseball, not Immaculate Grid. "The game is made up of guys like me." [...]

The real fun for many is finding a player that nobody else would ever think about.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


New technique may help achieve mass production fusion energy (University of Rochester, 7/15/23)

Dynamic shell formation is an alternative method to create targets in which a liquid droplet of deuterium and tritium is injected into a foam capsule. When bombarded by laser pulses, the capsule develops into a spherical shell, then implodes and collapses, resulting in ignition. Dynamic shell formation does not require the costly cryogenic layering that conventional methods of generating inertial fusion energy employ, because it uses liquid targets. These targets will also be easier to make.

Goncharov first described dynamic shell formation in a paper in 2020, but the concept hadn't been demonstrated experimentally. In a scaled-down, proof-of-principle experiment, Igumenshchev, Goncharov, and their colleagues used LLE's OMEGA laser to shape a sphere of plastic foam that had the same density as deuterium-tritium liquid fuel into a shell, demonstrating a critical step in the dynamic shell concept.

To actually generate fusion using the dynamic shell formation technique, future research will require lasers with longer and more energetic pulses, but the current experiment suggests that dynamic shell formation could be feasible as a path toward more practical fusion energy reactors.

"Combining this target concept with a highly efficient laser system that is currently under development at LLE will provide a very attractive path to fusion energy," Igumenshchev says.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Study reveals people most likely to hold antisemitic views (King's College London, 7/15/23)

People who believe in conspiracy theories are more likely to have antisemitic opinions than non-believers, new research shows.

Dr. Daniel Allington, Reader in Social Analytics at King's has led the most comprehensive study to date examining the opinions of people with antisemitic views. The study is published in Humanities and Social Sciences Communications.

Researchers also found antisemitic views to be more prevalent among people who consider it justifiable to take extreme authoritarian action against political opponents, and people who want to overthrow social order.

The findings suggest that antisemitism may be less closely linked to political beliefs than has previously been implied, and more closely linked to opinions and views on other topics such as religion, ethnic nationalism, and conspiracy theories.

Your lab leak hysteria is showing...

July 14, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 8:32 AM


Renewable energy deployment surge puts global power system on track for the IEA's ambitious net-zero pathway (RMI, 7/13/23)

Rapid growth in solar, wind and battery deployment means that by 2030 the global electricity system can deliver ambitious net-zero pathways, according to new research by RMI done in partnership with the Bezos Earth Fund. This exponential growth in renewable electricity is unlocking widespread benefits, including security of supply and jobs growth, as well as countering energy price inflation.

Complementary research from Systems Change Lab, also published today, shows eight countries have already grown solar and wind generation faster than what's needed to limit global warming to 1.5°C, proving that a rapid transition to renewable energy is possible.

By 2030, solar and wind is forecast by RMI to supply over a third of all global electricity, up from around 12% today. Based on the forecasts, this would see solar and wind generate 12,000-14,000TWh by 2030, 3-4 times higher compared with 2022 levels. It would also surpass recent calls running up to COP28 for a tripling of total renewable energy capacity by 2030.

Meanwhile, fossil fuel demand for electricity will be in steep decline, according to the RMI analysis, down as much as 30% from the 2022 peak by 2030, as renewable electricity further outcompetes hydrocarbons on cost.

Posted by orrinj at 7:56 AM


July 13, 2023 (HEATHER COX RICHARDSON, JUL 13, 2023, Letters from an American)

Yesterday, Trump supporter James Ray Epps, Sr., sued the Fox News Network for having "destroyed" the lives of Epps and his wife. The suit blames the network for lying to its viewers that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, a lie that inspired Epps to travel from his home in Arizona to Washington, D.C., to protest on January 6, 2021. 

In the aftermath of the riot, the suit says, "[h]aving promoted the lie that Joe Biden stole the election, having urged people to come to Washington, DC, and having helped light and then pour gasoline on a fire that resulted in an insurrection that interfered with the peaceful transition of power, Fox needed to mask its culpability. It also needed a narrative that did not alienate its viewers, who had grown distrustful of Fox because of its perceived lack of fealty to Trump." And so, the suit says, the network--especially personality Tucker Carlson--turned on Epps, "promoting the lie that Epps was a federal agent who incited the attack on the Capitol" even after federal officials had cleared him.  

July 13, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 7:08 AM


I Was Part of 303 Creative's Case. I Back Gay Marriage--but SCOTUS Is Right (David Carson, July 13, 2023, DNyuz)

I create through intuition. Creative communication begins with a feeling. Trust your eye, trust your gut. That's where great art comes from.

But all of that requires freedom. The freedom to fail and to experiment. And the freedom to create consistent with your own personal beliefs and artistic choices. If you can't put your own heart and soul into your work, there's no reason to do it.

That's why I was fascinated by the recent U.S. Supreme Court case 303 Creative v. Elenis. The case involves Lorie Smith, another graphic designer and the owner of 303 Creative in Colorado.

She challenged a state law that would force her to create custom designs that celebrate views on marriage she disagrees with. On June 30, 2023, the Supreme Court ruled in her favor and concluded that the government cannot force artists to create art promoting ideas they don't believe.

I filed a friend-of-the-court brief in Lorie's case. Not because I agree with her stance on marriage. Far from it. Let me be crystal clear: I support marriage equality.

Instead, I filed the brief because I believe so strongly in the underlying free-speech principles. And I understood that if Colorado could force one artist to create something inconsistent with her beliefs, it's not hard to imagine other governments in this country doing the same.

That's a scary place to be in as a country if the government can start telling us what we must say and what we can't say.

Posted by orrinj at 6:24 AM


Prices Cool. Sentiment Warms. (Fisher Investments Editorial Staff, 7/12/2023, Fisher Investments)

US Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation slowed again in June, and a strange thing happened: People actually noticed. Headlines heralded the deceleration to 3.0% y/y, in line with the long-term average inflation rate.[i] Pundits also cheered core CPI's slowing from 5.3% y/y to 4.8% and--refreshingly--explained correctly that this figure is skewed higher by shelter costs, which hit CPI at a lag and, in the case of owner's equivalent rent, are mostly imaginary.[ii] Excluding food, energy and shelter, the inflation rate is all the way down to 2.7% y/y.

July 12, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 12:21 PM


Grand jury to be chosen ahead of potential Georgia Trump indictment (GRAHAM KATES, NIKOLE KILLION, CLARE HYMES, JULY 11, 2023, CBS NEWS

A group of Georgians selected Tuesday to be grand jurors may soon consider charges against former President Donald Trump and allies who sought to overturn the state's 2020 presidential election results, which he lost.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has indicated in letters to county officials that potential indictments in the case could come between July 31 and Aug. 18. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Measure It Differently, and Inflation Is Behind Us (James Mackintosh, July 12, 2023, WSJ)

U.S. core inflation--which excludes volatile food and energy--measured using the standard consumer-price index was 2.3 percentage points higher than the European-style inflation, known as the harmonized index of consumer prices. It is the biggest gap there has ever been. 

The main reason is that Europe's measure, known as HICP, doesn't include the imaginary cost of what a homeowner would pay to rent their house, which makes up about a third of the U.S. core CPI. Known as "owners' equivalent rent" or imputed rent, the measure has long had its critics.

Exclude something that no one actually pays, and which is calculated from guesses by homeowners of the rental value of their house, and core inflation's looking basically fine, at a fraction under 3%. I've concentrated on core inflation, because food and oil prices swing so much that they make it hard to tell if the economy is generating inflation pressures the central bank needs to tackle.

So why is everyone still so concerned about inflation?

Because our times are boring without fake crises.
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Can mobile batteries make dirty diesel generators obsolete? (Jeff St. John, 7/11/23, Canary Media)

"Temporary power is a huge market," [Paul Huelskamp, co-founder and CEO of mobile battery systems startup Moxion Power, ] said, with various estimates pegging it at between $4 billion and $6 billion per year globally, and it's primed for rapid growth. And the diesel generators that make up the vast majority of that market ​"are terribly inefficient and terrible for the environment," emitting more than twice the carbon dioxide per unit of electricity produced than U.S. grid power on average, as well as significant amounts of particulate matter, volatile organic compounds, nitrous oxide and other harmful pollutants.

In contrast, Huelskamp said that battery-powered generators can provide quiet and emissions-free electricity much more efficiently and reliably, as long as they're designed to meet the remote-power market's needs. He also claims that despite their higher upfront cost, they are less expensive than diesel on a long-term basis because electricity is cheaper than diesel, maintenance costs are lower, and battery prices continue to fall each year.

Plus, he said of diesel generators, ​"Someday they'll be illegal, at least in California."

July 11, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Under oath, John Kelly raises serious allegations against Trump (Steve Benen, 7/10/23, MSNBC)

After Donald Trump left the White House, retired Marine Gen. John Kelly, the man who served as the Republican president's chief of staff for 17 months, has struggled to contain his contempt for his former boss. Over the last couple of years, Kelly has accused Trump of, among other things, "poisoning" people's minds, having "serious character issues," and not being "a real man."

But even more important than Kelly's assessment of the former president's character are the concerns he's raised about Trump's abuses while in office. Last fall, the week before Thanksgiving, Kelly told The New York Times that Trump, during his presidency, told his chief of staff to use the Internal Revenue Service and the Justice Department to target his critics and perceived political foes.

The Times' report went on to note, "Mr. Kelly said he made clear to Mr. Trump that there were serious legal and ethical issues with what he wanted." The then-president "regularly" made the demands anyway, leading Kelly to remind his boss what he wanted "was not just potentially illegal and immoral but also could blow back on him."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Replacing ACs with heat pumps: A backdoor way to decarbonize heating: The idea has huge emissions-slashing potential, and regulators across the U.S. are starting to take it seriously. (Jeff St. John, 7/11/23, Canary Media)

Since heat pumps are essentially air conditioners that work both to heat and cool homes rather than just cool them, it's relatively simple to install them in place of existing one-way AC systems. And because increasingly harsh heat waves are driving demand for air conditioning in places that haven't needed it before -- and making cooling not just a comfort but a public-health necessity in hotter climates -- the time for rules to encourage homeowners to install bidirectional heat pumps instead of ACs is now, advocates say.

"There's a really big uptick in AC sales as people are adding air conditioners to deal with extreme heat," said Ted Tiffany, senior technical lead with the nonprofit Building Decarbonization Coalition. ​"We want to make sure consumers, developers, government agencies are making the investment in heat pumps, or two-way air conditioners, whatever you want to call them -- especially with incentives coming out."

Those incentives include billions of dollars of home and building efficiency and electrification tax credits and grants from the Inflation Reduction Act. States and cities are adding their own incentives, as well as setting policies to encourage the switch from fossil fuels to electric heating.

July 10, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 12:16 PM


The Case That Could Be Fox's Next Dominion (DYUYZ, July 10, 2023)

Federal prosecutors have not charged Mr. Epps with a crime, focusing instead on the more than 1,000 other demonstrators who acted violently or were trespassing in the Capitol. The Justice Department's sprawling investigation into the attack remains open, however, and Mr. Epps could still be indicted.

Yet for more than 18 months, Mr. Carlson insisted that the lack of charges against Mr. Epps could mean only one thing: that he was being protected because he was a secret government agent. There was "no rational explanation," Mr. Carlson told his audience, why this "mysterious figure" who "helped stage-manage the insurrection" had not been charged.

He repeated Mr. Epps's name over and over -- in nearly 20 episodes -- imprinting it on the minds of his viewers.

Mr. Epps was in the Marine Corps but said in his deposition before the Jan. 6 committee that he had otherwise never worked on behalf of any government agency. He and his wife, Robyn, have fled Arizona and are in hiding in another state, having sold their wedding venue business and ranch after receiving death threats from people who appeared to believe the conspiracy theory. And his legal jeopardy is far from over given that prosecutors are still unsealing new cases in connection with Jan. 6.

Now lawyers representing Mr. Epps and his wife are proceeding with plans to sue Fox News for defamation. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Atomic Blueprint: Algorithmic Breakthrough Unlocks Materials Path to Sustainable Technologies (UNIVERSITY OF LIVERPOOL, JULY 9, 2023)

Our way of life depends on materials - "everything is made of something". New materials are needed to meet the challenge of net zero, from batteries and solar absorbers for clean power to providing low-energy computing and the catalysts that will make the clean polymers and chemicals for our sustainable future.

This search is slow and difficult because there are so many ways that atoms could be combined to make materials, and in particular so many structures that could form. In addition, materials with transformative properties are likely to have structures that are different from those that are known today, and predicting a structure that nothing is known about is a tremendous scientific challenge.

Professor Matt Rosseinsky, from the University's Department of Chemistry and Materials Innovation Factory, said: "Having certainty in the prediction of crystal structures now offers the opportunity to identify from the whole of the space of chemistry exactly which materials can be synthesized and the structures that they will adopt, giving us for the first time the ability to define the platform for future technologies.

"With this new tool, we will be able to define how to use those chemical elements that are widely available and begin to create materials to replace those based on scarce or toxic elements, as well as to find materials that outperform those we rely on today, meeting the future challenges of a sustainable society."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Roots of France's RiotsYears of systemic discrimination made the recent violent protests all but inevitable (Chahrazade Douah, 7/10/23, New/Lines)

I spoke to dozens of young men to make sense of the past 10 days. They will be referred to only by their first names, as revealing their full identities could lead to their losing their jobs or being subjected to harassment. They come from the outskirts of Paris, the much-discussed banlieues, and the notorious northern neighborhoods of Marseille, as well as from smaller towns like Mulhouse, a former industrial powerhouse that has attracted immigrants of all backgrounds. They were all born in France and are French citizens, but express a sense of alienation: They know their ethnic background has informed their experience with the police. Some are as young as 12. All felt the same mixture of shock, sadness, anger and fear when they learned of Nahel's death.

Once the initial shock settled, none of them was surprised. "I simply thought, one more murder at the hands of the police that will go unseen. Then the video came out and we all saw and we all had proof," says Qais, 18, from Marseille. Moments after seeing the video, he told his friend on their Snapchat group, "I'm going down; who's coming along?" At first, they wandered around without any goal, he told New Lines. Then they started to break and burn down anything they could find.

"We know it is the only way to get heard, the only way the media will talk about us, our anger. And don't be mistaken, we weren't just Arabs and Black kids; there were many others with us," he said. In Mulhouse, in eastern France, young men shared the same conclusions. "It's our revolt," Mehdi said. "And if nothing changes, we will carry on. We have no other way. We are fed up."

For these young men, Nahel's death was the final straw. They all tell the same stories of racial profiling and daily altercations with police. Djiguiba, a 16-year-old boy of Guinean and Ethiopian descent from Paris, is already accustomed to frequent police checks. "I am often the only Black kid in my group of friends, so the police will check me first and more often. Sometimes they even ask my friends questions like 'How do you know him?' or 'Are you sure you know him?'"

Qais said he lives through the same daily experiences in Marseille.

"We get stopped every time we go to the city center, as if it wasn't our city," he said. "We just walk around and get stopped. I can tell you they never stop those they call 'the French.'"

Throughout our discussion, Qais would often use this expression to signal that he is not perceived as really French and is not treated the way someone perceived as French would be treated.

"Some are polite but some won't hesitate to call you 'bamboula' or 'tajine.'" The Defenseur des Droits, the government authority responsible for the safeguarding of human rights in France, has pointed out the prevalence and illegality of racial profiling, yet few if any measures have been taken to address the issue.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


From The Unabomber To Uvalde (Steven Gimbel and Gwydion Suilebhan, 7/10/23, 3 Quarks)

Our present-day mass murderers have a very different profile than yesterday's serial killers. Instead of a secretive, seething antipathy, they seem to be possessed by loud, public depravity. School shootings in schools like Columbine, Sandy Hook, Parkland, and Uvalde speak volumes, as do workplace rampages like those at the Santa Clara rail yard, the Federal Express facility in Indiana, and the Walmart in Chesapeake, Virginia. Loudest of all, perhaps, are the shootings born of bigotry, like the massacres at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, and the Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo. These are killings that require no brains, just bullets. The killers never escape. They don't outsmart anyone.

Serial killers may have undermined our shared sanity and sense of safety, but mass shootings shake our confidence in America's underlying social structure to its core. Unrelenting violence at a scale once unthinkable outside of war feels like an effort to renegotiate the social contract and destroy the democratic institutions that guarantee fairness and inclusion. Many mass shooters, after all, have been influenced by one or more on-air or online talking heads pushing updated versions of Nazi Great Replacement Theory and a range of conspiracies dehumanizing anyone seeking fair treatment under the law.

Those talking heads may be the major social change most responsible for taking America from the Unabomber to Uvalde. Where Ted Kaczynski had both the brain and the hands of a killer, as both the author of the manifesto and the builder of the bombs, 21st century technology, from cable news to the internet, has allowed for the separation of mind and body. Hateful pundits transmit bigotry into the ether, then claim innocence on the grounds that they haven't actually hurt anyone themselves.

Meanwhile, an unpredictable few of their audience members, emotionally charged by their rancorous speech, await targeting orders, filled with a manufactured need to "defend Western values", "make America great again," and "restore the culture to its rightful owners."

This dangerous phenomenon is called stochastic terrorism. It works just like the candy racks in grocery checkout lines. Stores know that a certain percentage of people will always make an impulse purchase, even if they don't know precisely who will succumb to temptation.

In the same way, purveyors of hate on the web and on television do not know which viewers will snap, but they do know that a small percentage will. Like Kaczynski, they plot the undermining of the social order through violence, but unlike the Unabomber, they don't do the deed themselves. They write the manifesto, but rely on their audience members to serve as weapon masters. They trigger their viewers, but keep their hands off of any actual triggers.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Why the deepening judicial crisis could be Israel's constitutional moment (Lazar Berman, 7/10/23, Times of Israel)

Israel's democracy is in imminent danger, hundreds of thousands of protesters have been warning for months now in a dramatic series of protests against the Netanyahu government's plans to overhaul the judiciary.

Friends of Israel in Europe and the US are sounding similar concerns. They caution that weakening Israel's Supreme Court in relation to its other governing branches and increasing political control over the judge selection process will fundamentally alter the country's democratic character.

The best part of writing a constitution would be having to formalize the Apartheid regime and snapping out of denial.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


3D-printed "superalloy" could make power plants more efficient (Sam Jarman, 7/09/23, Big Think)

A new high-performance metal alloy, called a superalloy, could help boost the efficiency of the turbines used in power plants and the aerospace and automotive industries.

Created using a 3D printer, the superalloy is composed of a blend of six elements that altogether form a material that's both lighter and stronger than the standard materials used in conventional turbine machinery. The strong superalloy could help industries cut both costs and carbon emissions -- if the approach can be successfully scaled up.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Biden says Russia's war in Ukraine must end before Kyiv can join NATO (Rebecca Falconer, 7/10/12, Axios)

Biden told CNN in an interview broadcast Sunday ahead of attending this week's NATO summit in Lithuania that Russia's war on Ukraine must end before Kyiv can join the alliance.

Add Taiwan too. 

July 9, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 8:17 AM


Freedom Ways (Fred Bauer, Jul 07 2023, City Journal)

Fischer argues that these different folkways have influenced American life for centuries. For instance, the Appalachian region has long resisted centralized federal control, while New England has often shown more technocratic sympathies. Moreover, these folkways have spread far from the original settlements. For instance, though he spent much of his youth in Hawaii, Barack Obama has many affinities with a Puritan mode of politics (infused with moralizing and managerial sentiments). And he can likely trace his maternal family lineage to the Dunham family, which settled in northern Massachusetts in the 1630s.

As Fischer acknowledges, waves of other immigrants have also influenced American culture, and these four folkways do not give a perfectly comprehensive picture of American life. But they have been influential, and they provide a lens for thinking about the different textures of freedom in the United States and beyond.

According to Fischer, each folkway cluster had a characteristic approach to freedom (what he calls "freedom ways"). The Puritans emphasized ordered liberty and moral duty as part of freedom. In his "Little Speech on Liberty," early Massachusetts governor John Winthrop argued that "civil or federal" liberty may "also be termed moral, in reference to the covenant between God and man, in the moral law, and the politic covenants and constitutions, amongst men themselves." For the Puritans, liberty meant the rule of a just authority.

Posted by orrinj at 8:06 AM


Synthetic Evolution: Genetically Minimal Artificial Cells Prove "Life Finds a Way" (INDIANA UNIVERSITY, JULY 8, 2023)

[Evolutionary biologist Jay T. ] Lennon, a professor in the College of Arts and Sciences Department of Biology at Indiana University Bloomington, and his colleagues have found that life does indeed find a way. Lennon's research team has been studying a synthetically constructed minimal cell that has been stripped of all but its essential genes. The team found that the streamlined cell can evolve just as fast as a normal cell--demonstrating the capacity for organisms to adapt, even with an unnatural genome that would seemingly provide little flexibility.

Teleology works.

Posted by orrinj at 7:38 AM


The Triumph of Wilson's Vision of Congress Over Madison's Has Polarized America: a review of Why Congress by Philip Wallach (DANIEL STID, JUL 8, 2023, The UnPopulist)

Even as these success stories were playing out, however, Wilsonians were gaining the upper hand in the realms of ideas and practical politics. In the aftermath of World War II, liberal and reform-minded academics working under the auspices of the American Political Science Association issued a landmark report entitled "Toward A More Responsible Two-Party System." Published in 1950, the report represented a frontal assault on the Madisonian Congress and the heterogenous, coalitional parties that operated within it.

National Democratic Party officials, and a growing caucus of liberal Democratic legislators, seized upon the report's recommendations. Over the next three decades, they steadily put its prescription into practice, nationalizing the Democratic Party and making its congressional majorities more consistently liberal, that is, "responsible."

At the outset of Why Congress, Wallach introduces a pendulum framework for Congress that suggests that its internal structure swings over time, often to the point of diminishing returns, between "openness" and "tight control." The goal is to find and stay at a happy medium--not easy to do given it is a moving target. Alas, this framework is less helpful for understanding the pivotal developments Wallach tracks in the Democratic-controlled Congress of the 1970s. The opening and controlling impulses played out simultaneously, as liberal activists among the Democratic rank and file and their caucus leaders mutually reinforced each other's efforts to gain more power at the expense of the more conservative committee chairmen.

Republicans soon followed suit. GOP minorities in Congress, increasingly enlivened by Ronald Reagan's conservatism, and finding themselves marginalized by the more coherently liberal and forcefully led Democratic majorities, likewise turned on the Madisonian aspects of Congress. Growing numbers of GOP lawmakers preferred the Wilsonian ideal in which ideological parties drew sharp distinctions with each other and sought clear mandates from voters. By the 1980s, this burgeoning faction had found a quirky but relentless standard bearer in Newt Gingrich.

Ever since, Wilsonians have prevailed over Madisonians in both congressional parties. Wallach describes the resulting standoff as "the triumph of partisan posturing over politics." He uses the example of immigration policy to highlight how, in the new environment, lawmakers have found it more difficult to forge legislative solutions to pressing national problems. And try as they might--and have--presidents, the Supreme Court, and state governors cannot resolve such problems in the face of congressional inaction. Indeed, their misguided and unilateral efforts to do so have only served to amplify the polarization that makes congressional policy settlements difficult to achieve in the first place.

Even when Congress manages to act decisively, as it did during COVID, it does so without the free-wheeling and extended debate needed to surface and resolve dilemmas posed by competing priorities. Legislation without deliberation cannot begin to reconcile lawmakers on the losing side--and those they represent--to the enacted policies, a legitimacy gap that widened as the pandemic wore on. As Wallach laments, "we needed leadership, and they gave us cash."

The assessment offered in Why Congress is sobering about how far the institution has fallen. Yet Wallach is hopeful, resolute even, about the possibility of its revival.

July 8, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 4:08 PM


Cannabis Is Linked to Mental Illness (Susan Pinker, July 6, 2023, WSJ)

Several studies have shown that chronic cannabis use is linked to a higher incidence of schizophrenia among men in their early 20s, the age when the disease is usually diagnosed. The first paper on the topic, a Swedish study published in 1997, found that heavy cannabis use was associated with a sixfold increase in schizophrenia risk. In the decades since, social scientists have unearthed a strong link between heavy cannabis use and other severe psychological illnesses, including clinical depression and bipolar disorder.

Now a new longitudinal study has examined the medical records of all citizens of Denmark over the age of 16, some 6.5 million people in all, for patterns of diagnosis, hospitalization and treatment for substance use between 1995 and 2021. In the paper, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry in May, Dr. Oskar Hougaard Jefsen of Aarhus University and colleagues showed that people who had previously been diagnosed with cannabis use disorder were almost twice as likely to be diagnosed later with clinical depression. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cannabis use disorder is characterized by craving marijuana, using it more often than intended, spending a lot of time using it, and having it interfere with friends, family and work.

Even more dramatically, the paper also found that people with cannabis use disorder were up to four times as likely to be diagnosed later with bipolar disorder with psychotic symptoms. As is true of many psychological disorders, the increased risk was higher in men than in women, and the more a person consumed, the greater the risk. The study did not distinguish between different forms and concentrations of cannabis.

Pot is the next tobacco.

Posted by orrinj at 7:19 AM


Eight Hundred Years of Russian Despotism: An Interview with Orlando Figes: In a new book, the historian traces modern Russian aggression to an apocalyptic mythology rooted deep in the nation's past. (Jonathan Kay, 7 Jul 2023, Quillette)

Jonathan Kay: So I'm going to start off with a big question. In your book, you talk about the "sacralization" of the Russian Czars' authority as a legacy of Byzantium. And until I read your book, I really had no understanding of how much Orthodox Christian theology had mixed with Slav ethnic populism to create this kind of theocratic--and maybe even apocalyptic--vision of the Russian Empire as the "third Rome."

Can you explain what that means--the third Rome? You used that phrase several times in your book.

Orlando Figes: This concept of the third Rome, which is at the heart of a Russian sense of mission in the world, presents Russia as a sort of messianic land--a little bit like Israel, I guess--in the medieval theology that was adopted by Ivan the Terrible, who was the first to be crowned Czar. It served to reclaim, after all those years of Mongol occupation, the Byzantine legacy, symbolically, through his coronation.

The idea was that after the fall of Constantinople in 1453, Moscow was the last true seat of Christian orthodoxy. And there would be no other. The idea was that the west lay in a fallen state. It was fallen from a state of grace that Russia still retained by virtue of its orthodox religion.

Therefore, the true salvation of humanity lay with holy Russia. And this idea, of Russia as a providential land chosen to save humanity, is at the very heart of both the Russian Empire, and, later, [Russian] communism. It's deeply connected to the sacralization of power because it presents the Czar as the direct manifestation of God on earth--as Ivan the Terrible saw himself. It was his mission not just to save humanity, but also to prepare his people for the final judgment. [...]

So the Czar is potentially also a tormentor of his people, in order to make them worthy of that messianic role. Putin acts in this tradition. He sees Russia as having a mission that goes beyond its strict territorial boundaries. In the 19th century, similarly, Nicholas I claimed Russia had a holy mission to liberate the Orthodox Christians of the Ottoman Empire. And indeed, he saw his mission going so far as to liberate Jerusalem.

J.K.: I'm going to quote something from your book, which I found remarkable. This is a description of what happened in 1552, after Ivan the Terrible's forces conquered Kazan:

A large horizontal icon called The Blessed Host of the Heavenly Tsar was painted facing the Czar's throne in the Dormition Cathedral. Known as The Church Militant, it shows the mounted figure of Ivan following the Archangel Michael in a procession of Russian troops from the hell-like burning of Kazan to Moscow depicted like Jerusalem, where they are received by the Madonna and Child. The iconography borrows from the Book of Revelation, in which Michael defeats Satan before the Apocalypse. Ivan appears as a new King David and the Russians as God's Chosen People, the new Israelites.

The Church Militant.
This kind of image, if placed in the Western idiom, sounds like something out of the age of Richard the Lionheart. Yet this Russian scene is from the 16th century--at a time when the West already had the printing press. It's the dawn of the Elizabethan age. In the West around this time, people are talking about things like parliaments and theories of taxation and private property. There's something strangely anachronistic about the world portrayed in The Church Militant.

Western philosophers and politicians were then trying to separate the abstract state from the people who ran it. Your contention in the book is that this separation has never really been clearly defined in Russian history.

O.F.: You're absolutely right. And with The Church Militant--I mean, there you have it. Everything we discussed in your previous question is there contained in that one icon.

What Ivan was suppressing in Kazan was a whole kingdom--the khanate--that had remained from when the Mongols had swept over Russia in the 13th Century. This was one of the last offshoots of the Golden Horde, as the Mongol occupation of Russia was known. Ivan's victory was seen as a kind of providential deliverance, ending more than two centuries of Mongol rule over the Russians, which had entailed, at least periodically, the ransacking of towns and the burning of churches.

This was the sort of precarious existence that Russia's Christian civilization endured on a Eurasian steppe peopled by pagans, Muslims, and, in some cases, Jews. The idea here was that the Russians were carrying the Christian mission.

And yes, the idea of the state being fused with the Czar, that absolutely is at the heart of my argument about what makes Russia very different from the Western tradition. As you say, around the time of the Renaissance, and arguably earlier in most Western states, there was a growing separation between both King and church, but also between the idea of the King's office and the idea of the king himself.

That separation didn't happen in Russia, partly because of the Byzantine tradition where church and state are fused and represented through the holy body of the Tsar; and partly because of what I think of as the other great structural continuity in Russian history, namely patrimonialism [a form of governance in which all power flows directly from the ruler].

The idea of state in Russia, which is expressed as gosudarstvo (государство) in the Russian, is completely fused with the idea of the sovereign, the gosudar (государь), which means not just a ruler, but a sovereign or anyone who has a patrimonial property over land--which is, actually, the source of the concept of power itself in Russia.

Posted by orrinj at 7:09 AM


PODCAST: Michael Walzer on Liberalism and its Critics: Yascha Mounk and Michael Walzer discuss liberalism, communitarianism, and why some forms of inequality are more acceptable than others. (Persuasion, 7/06/23)

"It doesn't bother me if you can collect rare books and I can't, or if you can take a month's vacation and I just get two weeks. That doesn't bother me. It's when your wealth matters in every other sphere of activity--and right now, crucially, in politics. It's when your wealth can buy a senator or a judge, or a law, or an exemption from a law--all of that I want to rule out. I don't think it's crucial to a socialist or social democratic society, that someone who has an economic green thumb or some entrepreneur who invents some machine that people enjoy using, that they make more money than I make. It's what they can do with the money that matters."

Posted by orrinj at 7:00 AM


THE PLEASURE OF WALKING (John Wilson, 6 . 30 . 23, First Things)

If there is a special pleasure that comes from walking in an unfamiliar setting, seeing it for the first time, there is also a distinctive pleasure that can only be achieved over time, an intimacy of knowing. Here are the two small brick houses adjoining each other where (so we have conjectured) two old ladies (but we are now old ourselves!) live companionably; could they be sisters, whose husbands have died? Glancing at their windows as we pass feels, for a moment, like looking back in time (the furnishings, briefly glimpsed, are not of this moment). What happened in this other household, where the yard was always gloriously maintained, and where a large garden flourished but is now neglected? We pass by; we keep walking.

Posted by orrinj at 6:53 AM


When Freedom Began to Ring (Paul Finkelman | Lance J. Sussman, July 3, 2023, Jewish Review of Books)

In his famous 1790 letter to the Jewish community of Newport, Rhode Island, George Washington wrote that "the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support." These words were not the kind of quid pro quo sometimes offered by European Enlightenment leaders of the time to Jews; it was not an implicit warning that they ought to behave themselves if they wanted to be tolerated.

President Washington, under whose leadership many Jews had fought during the Revolutionary War, was simply recognizing that America only required of its Jews what it required of all its citizens. 

Because Identity is unChristian/unAmerican.

Posted by orrinj at 6:52 AM


How Chris Viaud returned to his Haitian roots and reshaped NH's food scene (Amanda Gokeem, July 7, 2023, Boston Globe)

WOLFEBORO, N.H. -- Chris Viaud has a lot on his plate.

In March, he took over Pavilion, a fine dining restaurant in Wolfeboro, just a few months after opening Ansanm in Milford with his parents where they serve Haitian food inspired by the family's heritage.

But he said navigating the 70-mile distance between those two towns -- and the kinds of cuisine -- is energizing, not exhausting.

At 32, Viaud is bringing new flavors and a new dining experience to New Hampshire.

Posted by orrinj at 6:44 AM


Perovskite + silicon solar panels hit efficiencies of over 30% (JOHN TIMMER - 7/7/2023, Ars Technica)

Unfortunately, the cutting edge of silicon panels is already at about 25 percent efficiency, and there's no way to push the material past 29 percent. And there's an immense jump in price between those and the sorts of specialized, hyper-efficient photovoltaic hardware we use in space.

Those pricey panels have three layers of photovoltaic materials, each tuned to a different wavelength of light. So to hit something in between on the cost/efficiency scale, it makes sense to develop a two-layer device. This week saw some progress in that regard, with two separate reports of two-layer perovskite/silicon solar cells with efficiencies of well above 30 percent. Right now, they don't last long enough to be useful, but they may point the way toward developing better materials.

The idea behind two-layer--called tandem--photovoltaic devices is very simple. The top layer should absorb high-energy photons and convert them to electricity while remaining transparent to other wavelengths. Then, the layer underneath it should absorb lower energy photons. Silicon, which tends to have peak absorption toward the red end of the spectrum, is a great candidate for the lower layer. That leaves the question of what might make sense to put on top of it.

Perovskites make an appealing candidate. They're an entire class of materials that are defined by the structure of the crystals they can form; they can be made from a huge variety of unrelated chemicals. That has some considerable advantages since it means you can potentially identify some very inexpensive source materials that can combine into a perovskite crystal. Many perovskites will also readily form from a solution of the raw materials, potentially allowing us to put a photovoltaic perovskite coating on a huge range of hardware.


The process of beaming solar power from space was technical, complicated, and involved many acronyms. The California Institute of Technology's (Caltech) Space Solar Power Project (SSPP) launched a device called the Space Solar Power Demonstrator (SSPD-1), which carried an instrument known as the Microwave Array for Power-transfer Low-orbit Experiment (MAPLE) into space.

It was MAPLE that was ultimately responsible for wirelessly transmitting solar energy back to Earth, where it was received by two separate receiver arrays, which then lit up a pair of LEDs (light-emitting diodes), rendering the experiment a success.

"To the best of our knowledge, no one has ever demonstrated wireless energy transfer in space, even with expensive rigid structures," co-director of the Space-Based Solar Power Project, Ali Hajimiri, said in a statement. "We are doing it with flexible, lightweight structures and with our own integrated circuits. This is a first."

U.S. Offshore Wind Industry Is 'Coming to Life' (Heather Richards, 7/06/23, E&E News)

Developed by the Danish energy company Ørsted A/S, Ocean Wind 1 is planned roughly 15 miles from the New Jersey shore, where it would produce enough electricity to power 380,000 homes in the Garden State.

Offshore wind is just taking off in the United States, galvanized by state and federal support. The first two large projects approved during the Biden administration are currently under construction off the coast of New England.

Elizabeth Klein, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management -- the federal agency that oversees offshore wind leasing and construction -- called the project "another significant step forward for the offshore wind industry in the United States."

"The project's approval demonstrates the federal government's commitment to developing clean energy and fighting climate change and is a testament to the state of New Jersey's leadership," she said in a statement.

The project is the first proposed off the coast of New Jersey to reach federal approval and would help advance the state's goal to reach 11 gigawatts of offshore wind electricity by 2040.

July 7, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 7:39 AM


U.S. truckmakers reach deal to phase out polluting diesel big rigs (Timothy Puko, July 6, 2023, Washington Post)

Some of the largest manufacturers of heavy trucks and engines in the country have agreed to accept a California plan to ban sales of new diesel big rigs by 2036 under a deal aimed in part at thwarting potential litigation and maintaining a single national standard for truck pollution rules.

The deal averts a costly court battle with the biggest industry players and eases the transition to clean electric commercial trucks in California, the largest market in the country, and potentially other states. The agreement covers manufacturers including industry giants such as Ford, General Motors, Daimler and Cummins, as well as the Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association, an industry group. All are agreeing to implement the California plan regardless of how it may fare in the courts.

July 6, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 10:15 AM


A clever rooftop panel could make hydrogen fuel cheap--and commonplace: 3D-printed plastic channels coated with aluminum could harvest sunlight to split water without the need to track the sun (Prachi Patel, July 6, 2023, Anthropocene)

Solar panels are a wonderful way to capture the sun's energy for electric power. Another way to use solar energy, fast-gaining traction around the world, is to drive chemical reactions with it and create fuels. The technology, called artificial photosynthesis, can be used to split water into hydrogen for fuel, or to make liquid fuels from carbon dioxide and water.

Researchers in Germany and Canada have now taken a big step towards making such solar fuels affordable and commonplace. In a study published in the journal Joule, they report a detailed design for panel-like reactors that could produce hydrogen on rooftops.

The photoreactors are low cost, have a relatively simple design, and could be easily manufactured via mass fabrication techniques using commonly known plastics, say the researchers. And unlike other systems made so far, the design offers high energy efficiency without the need to track the sun. This leads to a compact system that is easier to maintain and operate, making it promising for small rooftop applications.

Posted by orrinj at 7:40 AM


A New Poll on the Trump Indictments Has a Surprising Result (ANKUSH KHARDORI, 07/06/2023, Politico)

Forty-nine percent of respondents -- including 25 percent of Republicans -- said that they believe Trump is guilty in the pending federal prosecution, which alleges that he willfully retained sensitive government documents after leaving office and obstructed a subsequent federal investigation. A nearly identical 48 percent of respondents -- including 24 percent of Republicans -- believe that Trump is guilty in the Manhattan DA's pending prosecution, which alleges that Trump falsified business records in connection with a payment to the porn star Stormy Daniels in the run-up to the 2016 election in order to keep her quiet about an alleged sexual relationship between the two.

Posted by orrinj at 7:32 AM


The Shepherd of American Courage (STUART HALPERN, JULY 03, 2023, Tablet)

Viewers of King Charles III's recent coronation and consumers of Netflix's The Crown notwithstanding, Americans have a history of hating on kings. As burgers are grilled and beers raised at barbecues this July 4, liberty-loving Americans will, of course, be celebrating the Revolutionaries who declared independence from England's George III. As the Founding Fathers put it, "The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States." Yet few of these full-bellied fans of freedom are aware that an ancient biblical king actually helped inspire the colonists in their fight for independence from England.

Seeking reassurance that their rebellion against the British was in line with God's wishes, colonial ministers sought a model of military might and spiritual standing. They found it in the figure 1 Samuel 13:14 calls "a man after God's own heart": David.

As James P. Byrd notes in his Sacred Scripture, Sacred War, Congress issued a May 26, 1779, statement to inspire its weary citizens amid the harshness of ongoing battles. It invoked the young shepherd boy David's slingshot-powered defeat of the sword-wielding Philistine giant Goliath.

America, without arms, ammunition, discipline, revenue, government, or ally, almost totally striped of commerce, and in the weakness of youth, as it were with a "staff and sling" only, dared in the name of the Lord of Hosts to engage a gigantic adversary, prepared at all points, boasting of his strength, and of whom even mighty warriors "were greatly afraid."
Hoping that providence would guide their hand against the mighty and arrogant British troops as it had David's makeshift weapon against an overpowering foe, Congress saw in the American cause a similarly righteous struggle that, they prayed, might merit a miraculous victory.

This wasn't the first time David had been cited in support of the colonists. John Witherspoon, who taught James Madison and served as president of the College of New Jersey (later Princeton), had wondered, in a 1776 sermon: "Has not the boasted discipline of regular and veteran soldiers been turned into confusion and dismay before the new and maiden courage of freemen in defense of their property and right?"

The Book of Psalms, traditionally attributed to David, had an "overwhelming" popularity in Revolutionary America, Byrd notes. Wartime preachers cited this book from the Hebrew Bible five times more often than the New Testament's Book of Revelation, with no message more timely than David's poetic proclamation in Psalm 144 that God taught his "fingers to fight."

Ironically, a couple of decades prior to the Revolution, David's speech against Goliath as they readied for battle had been used to inspire Native Americans fighting alongside the British against French troops. Hyping up for the heat of battle like Rocky heading to the ring to the chords of "Eye of the Tiger," Jonathan Edwards--whose famous father of the same name had sermonized about "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God"--spoke of a slingshot in the hands of a simple shepherd. Speaking in 1755 from his frontier post in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, he addressed a primarily Native American congregation by recalling David's verbal shot across the bow: "Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a javelin; but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of Hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast taunted" (1 Samuel 17:45).

That is King David?

July 5, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 5:33 PM


The Politicians Who Oppose Investment Freedom: They would impose their views on others (John Rekenthaler, Jul 3, 2023, Morningstar)

Imagine a large fund family, containing 407 funds (a great many, but Fidelity has even more). Over the trailing five years, the average return for that company's U.S. equity funds, which control most of the organization's assets, has exceeded that from three of the five largest providers: Vanguard, BlackRock BLK, and American Funds.

Not bad, right? What's more, the numbers look similar when the company is compared against the entire fund industry. Its funds slightly lag the three-year average but are ahead over the five- and 10-year periods, as well as over the most recent year. (This and all other computations include both traditional mutual funds and exchange-traded funds.)

A bar chart showing the annualized total return for two groups of U.S. equity funds, over various time periods: 1) ESG funds, and 2) non-ESG funds.
Perhaps that presentation exaggerates the organization's accomplishments. If its funds have performed poorly relative to others in the same category but have benefited by occupying the most profitable categories, they could look good despite themselves. We can test that possibility by evaluating the flagship Morningstar Category of large-blend funds.

The apples-to-apples pattern is virtually identical.

Yes, despite these thoroughly unobjectionable results, the company faces what no other fund organization has ever encountered: Congressional opposition. This month, House Financial Services Committee member Andy Barr (R-KY) reintroduced the Ensuring Sound Guidance Act, which would effectively prevent the company's funds from being used within 401(k) accounts. They have been deemed uniquely unsuitable. Every fund competitor may proceed as usual, but not this organization.

My hypothetical "fund company," as you may have already guessed by the proposal's abbreviation, consists of the industry's environmental, social, and governance focused funds. Their results are depicted above, and their retirement-plan futures are now threatened.

Posted by orrinj at 8:20 AM


Returning giant tortoises are helping recreate the Galapagos islands Darwin saw (Warren Cornwall, July 5, 2023, Anthropocene)

When Charles Darwin made the famous voyage that took him to the Galapagos, he marveled at the giant tortoises that lumbered across the islands. He tried to ride them. He ate their flesh. He followed the paths they created in their ponderous travels. And he mused at their differing shapes on different islands, insights that helped steer him toward his theory of evolution by natural selection.

"It is the circumstance, that several of the islands possess their own species of the tortoise, mocking-thrush, finches, and numerous plants, these species having the same general habits, occupying analogous situations, and obviously filling the same place in the natural economy of this archipelago, that strikes me with wonder," Darwin wrote in his account of the trip, The Voyage of the Beagle.

...none of them are separate species.

Careful Crossbreeding Could Resurrect Extinct Galapagos Tortoise (Eliza StricklandSep 23, 2008, Discover)

Researchers may be able to recreate a species of giant tortoise that went extinct from the Galapagos Islands with a program of careful breeding. The new possibility hinges on the discovery that a species of giant tortoise living on the biggest island, Isabela, is very similar genetically to the extinct species, Geochelone elephantopus, which vanished from the island Floreana over a hundred years ago.

By mating Isabela tortoises that are most genetically similar to G. elephantopus, selecting the offspring that are most similar and mating those, through successive generations the species' genetic makeup may be largely restored [The New York Times].

Posted by orrinj at 8:15 AM


Affirmative Action and the Imago Dei (TREY DIMSDALE • JULY 5, 2023, Law & Liberty)

Slavery has rightly been called "America's original sin," and the further violence done to black Americans through Jim Crow segregation is a stain on this nation and in direct contradiction to its stated ideals. Race-based admissions policies were designed to provide an avenue for members of this community to gain access to education, and through education to professions formerly well out of the reach of their forebears.

Statistics purported to demonstrate the effectiveness of these programs, or the lack thereof, have as many interpretations as interpreters, and there is, quite frankly, no clear consensus as to whether these programs work to increase minority access to education. There are, as mentioned above, anecdotes that point to the success of individuals, but it is impossible to demonstrate a causal connection between affirmative action and individual success, especially as opposed to the elimination of legal barriers to opportunity that have occurred in the later part of the 20th century. But the question of effectiveness is moot if the practice itself runs afoul of the law. Our jurisprudence cannot be one of pragmatics if we hope to maintain a free and stable society. And until this case, the Court's jurisprudence as represented in Grutter was certainly more pragmatic than legal, since the scheme was only contingently constitutional.

Notwithstanding, Lewis Powell was right in observing that campus diversity is important. He went too far, however, in concluding that it demanded discriminatory means to guarantee it. But no person of any race, sex, or viewpoint can truly excel in homogenous bubbles in a plural society. At some point, each of us will have colleagues, friends, and neighbors different from us in both superficial and meaningful ways, and we should know how to engage with them as equals.

This is the genius and the truth of the imago Dei: human diversity is as broad as humanity itself, but there is still an essential unity in that each unique and unrepeatable person bears the image of God. We truly are made for and made better in communities of goodwill that seek the best for all members. The imago Dei is the basis of solidarity and the root of understanding that "all men are created equal, [and] endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights." It is an atomized "rugged individualism" that understands our rights as something to assert over and against others and asks God, "Am I my brother's keeper?" or asks a neighbor, "Am I obligated to have concern for your suffering?" It's the personalist anthropology of the Christian tradition that affirms both that we are individual humans with dignity and worth and part of the human collective.

Because we are all unique and unrepeatable, people are much more complex than race-based admissions programs acknowledge or are even capable of capturing. The reality is that there are multiple axes of diversity, and not all axes are relevant to every context. No group defined along any axis is monolithic--not all women hold all things in common. Not all black or white or Asian people hold all things in common. Not all wealthy or poor people hold all things in common. The point is that none of these aspects of identity holistically defines any member or all members of a particular group. Affirmative action, by checking boxes based on one or even a few axes of diversity, cannot equitably take into consideration enough of the factors of inequality to compensate for the things that can make life unfair. In attempting to use such programs to cure one social ill, new resentments are created and old ones are intensified as those who hold underprivileged positions on different axes of diversity are afforded no equivalent special opportunities.

Actual life experiences are a good guide for the admission process.

Posted by orrinj at 8:07 AM


Swing state Republicans bleed donors and cash over Trump's false election claims (Tim Reid and Nathan Layne, July 5, 2023, Reuters)

Real estate mogul Ron Weiser has been one of the biggest donors to the Michigan Republican Party, giving $4.5 million in the recent midterm election cycle. But no more.

Weiser, former chair of the party, has halted his funding, citing concerns about the organization's stewardship. He says he doesn't agree with Republicans who promote falsehoods about election results and insists it's "ludicrous" to claim Donald Trump, who lost Michigan by 154,000 votes in 2020, carried the state.

"I question whether the state party has the necessary expertise to spend the money well," he said.

The withdrawal of bankrollers like Weiser reflects the high price Republicans in the battleground states of Michigan and Arizona are paying for their full-throated support of former President Trump and his unsubstantiated claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him.

The two parties have hemorrhaged money in recent years, undermining Republican efforts to win back the ultra-competitive states that could determine who wins the White House and control of the U.S. Congress in next November's elections, according to a Reuters review of financial filings, plus interviews with six major donors and three election campaign experts.

Posted by orrinj at 7:47 AM


How solar and wind energy are saving Texans from a record heatwave (PETER WEBER, JULY 4, 2023, The Week)

The Texas power grid -- which, uniquely, only serves Texas -- has shuddered and occasionally broken in recent years under the weight of extreme weather, a growing population and aging infrastructure. But so far, the grid has held up this summer. In fact, ERCOT has only asked customers to voluntarily reduce electricity use once during the heat wave. 

And that's due in large part to another record Texas has shattered this summer: Solar and wind farms set a new high water mark for renewable energy generation -- 31,468 megawatts -- on June 28, helping offset the 8,000 megawatts knocked offline at ailing natural gas and coal-fired plants. "Wind and solar are giving us a big enough buffer that even when we have a handful of power plants go offline, it isn't causing disruptions," Dan Cohan at Rice University in Houston told The Washington Post.

Posted by orrinj at 6:56 AM


Ramez Naam and David Roberts go deep on the future of clean energy: In a wide-ranging conversation, Naam explains why he's optimistic about the energy transition -- and why cows, cement and steel keep him up at night. (Ramez Naam and David Roberts, 5 July 2023, Canary Media)

The world of climatetech and clean energy is maturing faster than almost anyone thought possible even just a few years ago. But futurist, author and investor Ramez Naam was ahead of his time: He was one of the first to forecast the exponential cost declines of clean energy technologies such as solar, batteries and electric vehicles and to predict that clean energy and transport would become cheaper than fossil-fueled versions. In 2021, he founded venture capital firm PlanetaryVC to fund startups focused on everything from clean energy to ag tech. [...]

David Roberts: As long as there has been solar, there have been people forecasting that it's going to stop getting cheaper -- that the cost is going to plateau -- but the reality is that it has just kept going down. Do you think the cost of solar will continue to decrease?

Ramez Naam: Back in 2011, I predicted a tenfold decrease in solar costs by 2050, which happened even faster than expected. Solar and battery technology has evolved from being policy-dependent and expensive to being competitive with and sometimes cheaper than gas and coal.

Looking forward, I think the cost of electricity will drop by another four times by the time solar accounts for about a third of all electricity generation globally. Could this happen twice as fast or half as quickly? Possibly. But the key takeaway is that clean electricity, particularly solar, is becoming increasingly cost-effective.

Solar is the fastest-growing of these technologies, with batteries and wind following. The cost of hydrogen electrolyzers and electric vehicles are also dropping, contributing to the shift towards clean energy. These cost reductions are just the tip of the iceberg, as they don't consider issues like energy intermittency. 

July 4, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 5:26 PM


The Man Who Broke Bowling: Jason Belmonte's two-handed technique made him an outcast. Then it made him the greatest--and changed the sport forever. (Eric Wills, June 29, 2023, GQ)

On a Wednesday afternoon in mid-April, the greatest bowler in the world, perhaps in the history of the sport, sat in a booth in a Bowlero in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, a cold wind lashing outside, and pondered how it had all gone wrong. Jason Belmonte was a study in black--black parka, black Jordans, black beard--and his mood was no less dark. He was competing at the World Series of Bowling, one of the sport's major championships, which features three different singles tournaments within a larger one: four chances to win a title on national television. Through 60 games over six days, Belmonte had failed to make any of the first three finals, each of which featured five bowlers. "I can't remember another World Series where I didn't make a top five," he said. The breaks just hadn't gone his way: "A pin would wobble, and it stood, whereas in other weeks it fell."

Hope remained, however slim. He had snagged the 12th and final qualifying spot for the match-play round, to determine which five bowlers would make the last and most important show: the one that would crown the world champion. He would need a run of sustained brilliance, one verging on statistical impossibility, and could only hope that no one else would mount a similar charge.

For nearly every other bowling mortal, the idea of a comeback would have been an exercise in self-delusion. But Belmonte, 39, has never conformed to expectations. When he first alighted on the scene, Belmo, as he's known to his fans, resembled an alien species: one that bowled with two hands. And not some granny shot, to be clear, but a kickass power move in which he uses two fingers (and no thumb) on his right hand, palms the front of the ball with his left, and then, on his approach, which is marked by a distinctive shuffle step, rocks the ball back before launching it with a liquid, athletic whip, his delivery producing an eye-popping hook, his ball striking the pins like a mini mortar explosion. Not everyone welcomed his arrival. He's been called a cheat, told to go back to his native Australia; a PBA Hall of Famer once called the two-hander a "cancer to an already diseased sport."

But Belmonte never cowered in the face of the criticism, never deviated from his approach, and has now inspired a rising generation of bowlers to emulate his game. Today, a growing faction of two-handers headline the PBA Tour, some of them major winners, with even more rising in the youth ranks: kids who want to hook it like Belmo, who want to send the pins into concussion protocol, as the announcers might say on a Fox telecast. Even Walter Ray Williams, Jr., whose 47 career titles are the most in PBA Tour history, now dabbles in the two-hander on the senior tour.

Posted by orrinj at 1:09 PM


A viral left-wing Twitter account may have been fake all along: The Erica Marsh account shows how 'rage baiting' remains a powerful way to win attention and score political points (Drew Harwell, July 4, 2023 a, Washington Post)

In eight months, Erica Marsh has become one of the most consistently viral left-wing voices on Twitter, gaining more than 130,000 followers for her hyper-liberal, often melodramatic opinions on the biggest flash points in American news.

Tech is not your friend. We are. Sign up for The Tech Friend newsletter.
She's been especially popular with conservatives, who promoted her as a perfect symbol of how overly theatrical and inane progressives can be -- like when she attacked the Supreme Court's affirmative-action decision last week by saying "no Black person will be able to succeed in a merit-based system." The tweet was viewed more than 27 million times.

There's just one problem: She's probably a fake.

The "proud Democrat" in Washington, as she described herself on Twitter, doesn't show up in any local phone or voting records. The Biden presidential campaign, where she said she worked as a field organizer, has no record of her; neither does the Obama Foundation, where she claimed to have volunteered.

Her only other known social media profile, on TikTok, posts copies of her tweets but has never included her speaking or showing her face. And a digital-imaging expert said that the three purported selfies she's posted on Twitter -- showing a young, smiling blond woman -- bear the hallmarks of digital manipulation.

"I strongly suspect that this person doesn't exist," said John Scott-Railton, a senior researcher at the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto who studies online disinformation.

Posted by orrinj at 7:19 AM


Posted by orrinj at 7:08 AM


Lost in Transition: The popularity of Harry Potter reveals a yearning for rites of passage that no longer exist. (John Carroll, 3 Jul 2023, Quillette)

The effect on college and university students has been marked. There were positive effects, with iGen members drinking less, smoking less, being safer drivers, and waiting longer to have sex. On the negative side, these kids arrive at university having had far fewer offline experiences than their predecessors; they have grown up more slowly and are less mature; and they spend much less time going out with friends. They are more solitary, more socially alienated, and more given to gloomy introspection.

The COVID years have aggravated the problem, with home-schooling forcing greater isolation and more dependency on devices. Relevant agencies and psychotherapy services have noted the deleterious effects on teenage mental health. With universities, an already existing trend has been accelerated, away from face-to-face teaching and live seminars to online classes. Australian parents are now reporting with horror their late teenage children spending all day in their pyjamas in their bedrooms attending their online classes, lectures, and tutorials--a recipe for depression. At every turn, our society seems to be switching off its socialising, and encouraging a solitary monastic existence spent alone with screen devices.

The origins of cancel culture lie here, coinciding with iGen reaching university. Lukianoff and Haidt argue that heated interaction in public, including the robust exchange of conflicting opinions, builds up defences in the individual, in a necessary toughening up for survival and success in the adult world. Too much emphasis on safety, too much over-protectiveness, will cultivate less robust, more thin-skinned characters with paranoid fears of imagined dangers waiting round every corner out in the public world. As with the body, which needs to catch viruses in order to build up antibodies, the psyche needs some exposure to harsh experience to build up resistance to social hurt.

July 3, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 7:23 PM


Jack Smith Probe of 2020 Election Challenges Focuses on Trump Lawyers: Prosecutors examine efforts to create fake electors and claims made in fundraising drives (C. Ryan Barber and Sadie Gurman, July 3, 2023, WSJ)

Special counsel Jack Smith's team in recent weeks has taken a growing interest in the role of lawyers and other figures involved in legal efforts aimed at reversing Donald Trump's loss in the 2020 election, people familiar with the matter said.

Prosecutors from Smith's team have issued subpoenas and asked questions centered on several key figures in those postelection efforts, including Sidney Powell, a pro-Trump lawyer who spread baseless claims of widespread voter fraud. The subpoenas have also requested communications with Emily Newman, a lawyer who worked with Powell, and Mike Roman, a Republican operative who headed Election Day operations for the Trump campaign and dispatched lawyers to swing states before November 2020.

Federal prosecutors also recently interviewed Rudy Giuliani, who served as Trump's personal lawyer at the time, for roughly eight hours on topics including Powell, people familiar with the testimony said. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:13 PM


That Essential Morning Coffee May Be a Placebo (Angharad Brewer Gillham, 7/03/23, Frontiers Science News)

The scientists recruited people who drank a minimum of one cup of coffee per day and asked them to refrain from eating or drinking caffeinated beverages for at least three hours before the study. They interviewed the participants to collect sociodemographic data, and then did two brief functional MRI scans: one before and one 30 minutes after either taking caffeine or drinking a standardized cup of coffee. During the functional MRI scans, the participants were asked to relax and let their minds wander.

Because of the known neurochemical effects of drinking coffee, the scientists expected that the functional MRI scans would show that the people who drank coffee had higher integration of networks that are linked to the prefrontal cortex, associated with executive memory, and the default mode network, involved in introspection and self-reflection processes. They found that the connectivity of the default mode network was decreased both after drinking coffee and after taking caffeine, which indicates that consuming either caffeine or coffee made people more prepared to move from resting to working on tasks.

Waking up on the right side of the bed
However, drinking coffee also increased the connectivity in the higher visual network and the right executive control network - parts of the brain which are involved in working memory, cognitive control, and goal-directed behavior. This didn't happen when participants only took caffeine. In other words, if you want to feel not just alert but ready to go, caffeine alone won't do - you need to experience that cup of coffee.

Posted by orrinj at 8:44 AM


Organic rebirth: A monumental masterpiece, miraculously brought to life (Norman Lebrecht, 6/25/23, The Critic)

The Czechs have unique credentials in Mahler, both as the composer's homeland orchestra and because the brass and wind soloists he wrote for in Vienna were often of the same origin. Mahler insisted (in a letter to Leos Janacek) that he spoke no Czech. On occasion, however, his music does - very loudly - and this orchestra speaks his idiom better than any other. Its soloists should have been named in the sleeve notes so we could give them credit, yet another record label oversight.

The Mahler scores I have studied in the Czech Philharmonic archives bear the markings of epic interpreters - Mahler himself , Zemlinsky, Bruno Walter, Vaclav Talich, Rafael Kubelik. Each adds his own perspectives and Bychkov's is no less valuable than any of his predecessors. Bychkov takes the early movements at a rather deliberate 'moderato' that proves deceptive in retrospect  when you realise how microsopically he has built tension over an hourlong span until catharsis in the Resurrection chorus offers organic rebirth.

Posted by orrinj at 8:20 AM


Only in America: My father's American journey speaks to the greatness of our country (David Masci, June 29, 2023, Discourse)

For about 30 years, I've been conducting a very informal and very unscientific sociological experiment. Whenever I get into a cab or (now) an Uber, I ask the driver, who is inevitably an immigrant, a series of questions such as: Where are you from, and how long have you been here? My last question is always the same: Do you like it here?

As you might imagine, the answers to my initial queries vary widely. The drivers come from many different countries and have been here for various lengths of time, from less than six months to more than 40 years. However, the answer to the last question is always roughly the same: They love America, feel extraordinarily blessed to be here and have no desire to permanently return to the country of their birth. What's more, they love Americans, who have been very welcoming to them. "You would not be as welcome in my home country," some add.

Whenever I have one of these fascinating conversations, I think of my father, who came here from Italy more than 60 years ago. Like these cab drivers, my father deeply loves America, feels extraordinarily lucky to have been able to come and put down roots here and thinks of Americans as the most open and tolerant people on earth. His story and the stories of so many other immigrants speak to the greatness of our country.

Posted by orrinj at 8:14 AM


Bach Was No Liberal Humanist: a review of Bach Against Modernity by Michael Marissen (Valerie Stivers, June 29, 2023, Compact)

Marissen's title chapter identifies "the 'modern' in 'modernity'" to mean "exalting reason above revelation," "exalting human autonomy and achievement," "exalting religious tolerance," "exalting cosmopolitanism," and "exalting social and political progressiveness." The scholar takes these points one by one and dismantles them, via careful consideration of original sources. In the harsh world of eighteenth-century Lutheranism, human beings were believed to have been entirely corrupted by the fall. Without the grace of God, we are hopeless and irredeemable; our accomplishments, accordingly, are all by God's grace. Bach, Marissen argues, showed every sign of being a conservative Lutheran who sincerely adhered to this world view, both personally and in his music. Few creeds could be more antithetical to the tenets of contemporary humanism.

Bach served as the director of church music in Leipzig from 1723 until his death, a position from which he composed religious music for the exhortation and edification of parishioners. He was aware of Enlightenment-style thinking that elevated reason, and railed against it in his vocal compositions. Marissen makes a survey of all appearances of the word "reason" in Bach's texts, and quotes them, including "reason--the blind leader--seduces," "reason does not help; only God's spirit can teach us through his word" and the wonderful, "Shut up, just shut up, tottery reason!" Marissen dryly notes "I do not see or hear anything in Bach's musical settings to suggest that these vocal compositions subvert their anti-Enlightenment messages at the same time as they enunciate them." There is also, he says, no sign that Bach privately disagreed with the material. One of the primary sources of insight into the composer's private reflections comes from notations and small corrections he made on his personal study Bible. Marissen analyzes these in some detail to demonstrate the pre-modern, anti-Enlightenment trend of Bach's thought.

Another aspect of the debate comes in a distinction Marissen believes is false between Bach's "sacred" and "secular" music, beloved of academics trying to prove that religion wasn't terribly important to Bach. Marissen contends that while the composer wrote liturgical music, called sacred (for use in church), and non-liturgical music, called secular (for use elsewhere), the distinction as we make it wouldn't have occurred to him. People of his time would have understood all "serious-minded" music as intended to honor God. Marissen analyzes the composer's practice of noting "J.J." ("Jesu Juva," or "Jesus help!") And "S.D.G." ("Soli deo gloria," "To God Alone Be Glory!") on his compositions, including the "secular" ones, to indicate that this was so. In Chapter 10, he offers a detailed analysis of the "secular" Brandenburg Concertos, demonstrating that their musical ideas were based in Christian scripture and that they contained theological content that would have been apparent to audiences of the time.

The idea that Bach was like us, Marissen believes, can be attributed to a kind of wishful thinking found in scholars and laypeople alike: a belief that "Bach's music is so staggeringly great" that it must have a greatness of meaning--in our own terms. The academic work that supports these conclusions, he argues, is full of oversight and error. One scholar dismisses the contents of Bach's personal library as "quasi-shelf-warmers," presumably because the books were religious and thus uninteresting. Marissen counters that they were popular books of the time and there is every reason to suppose Bach read them. Other scholars have focused on proving that Bach understood time in a linear (modern) fashion as opposed to a cyclical (pre-modern one). A look at Bach's (boring!) library, Marissen notes, would unearth a 2,000-page volume on time and eternity (your average pre-modern reader apparently had a leg up on us), penned by the Lutheran theologian Martin Geier, demonstrating that "linear notions of passing time, often held now to be 'modern,' also run deeply through premodern, biblically based thought." Many scholars also, in Marissen's account, appear to be unfamiliar with the basic religious concepts present in Bach's music or underlying his thought, and thus apt to misinterpret Bach's notations in his Bible.

Many of today's Bach aficionados have, Marissen admits, chosen to disregard the religious elements of his work, taking what they can "use," be it sheer aesthetic appreciation or the feelings of comfort, joy, and hope that prevail for religious and non-religious listeners alike. (He adds that the phenomenon of why the composer continues to be so beloved despite this misunderstanding is worthy of special study but goes beyond the scope of his work.) Marissen writes that his decades of experience in Bach studies "have led me to conclude that a great many music lovers do not, strictly speaking, value Bach for the things he may, strictly speaking, be about."

It was the rejection of the Enlightenment/Age of Reason that saved us from Modernity. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:01 AM


July 2, 2023 (HEATHER COX RICHARDSON, JUL 3, 2023, Letters from an American)

To guard against another expensive war between colonists and Indigenous Americans, the king's ministers and Parliament prohibited colonists from crossing the Appalachians. Then, to replenish the treasury after the last war, they passed a number of revenue laws. In 1765 they enacted the Stamp Act, which placed a tax on printed material in the colonies, everything from legal documents and newspapers to playing cards. 

The Stamp Act shocked colonists, who saw in it a central political struggle that had been going on in England for more than a century: could the king be checked by the people? Colonists were not directly represented in Parliament and believed they were losing their fundamental liberty as Englishmen to have a say in their government. They responded to the Stamp Act with widespread protests. 

In 1766, Parliament repealed the Stamp Act but linked that repeal to the Declaratory Act, which claimed for Parliament "full power and authority to make laws and statutes...to bind the colonies and people of America...in all cases whatsoever." This act echoed the 1719 Irish Declaratory Act, which asserted that Ireland was subordinate to the British king and Parliament. It also imposed new taxes.

As soon as news of the Declaratory Act and the new taxes reached Boston in 1767, the Massachusetts legislature circulated a letter to the other colonies standing firm on the right to equality in the British empire. Local groups boycotted taxed goods and broke into warehouses whose owners they thought were breaking the boycott. In 1768, British officials sent troops to Boston to restore order. 

Instead, King George should have offered us our own Parliament with the Crown as head of state.

July 2, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 6:10 PM


Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson's bold debut and independent streak (Ann E. Marimow, July 2, 2023, Washington Post)

[J]ackson also demonstrated a willingness to part ways with her liberal colleagues, even when they were on the same side of an issue, to express her own vision of the law. She authored more solo dissenting opinions -- three -- than any of the three most recent justices to join the court did as newbies.

The big conservative wins, and mixed messages, of this Supreme Court term

And Jackson surprised some observers by teaming up several times with conservative Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, typically in cases involving a conflict between government power and the rights of individuals.

"She was not going to sit on the sidelines. She dove in and made her presence known," said New York University law professor Melissa Murray, who also was among the attorneys Biden considered nominating to fulfill his promise to name the first Black female justice to succeed Stephen G. Breyer.

Biden "may have been looking for a Black woman, but she wasn't just any Black woman," Murray said. "She was excellent and prepared and made a critical difference in a number of cases."

Posted by orrinj at 2:41 PM


Posted by orrinj at 11:45 AM


Half the Police Force Quit. Crime Dropped. (Radley Balko, 7/02/23, NY Times)

When New York's officers engaged in an announced slowdown in policing in late 2014 and early 2015, civilian complaints of major crime in the city dropped. And despite significant staffing shortages at law enforcement agencies around the country, if trends continue, 2023 will have the largest percentage drop in homicides in U.S. history. It's true that such a drop would come after a two-year surge, but the fact that it would also occur after a significant reduction in law enforcement personnel suggests the surge may have been due more to the pandemic and its effects than depolicing.

At the very least, the steady stream of Justice Department reports depicting rampant police abuse ought to temper the claim that policing shortages are fueling crime. It's no coincidence that the cities we most associate with violence also have long and documented histories of police abuse. When people don't trust law enforcement, they stop cooperating and resolve disputes in other ways. Instead of fighting to retain police officers who feel threatened by accountability and perpetuate that distrust, cities might consider just letting them leave.

"The police are not here to create disorder, they're here to preserve disorder."
Posted by orrinj at 7:34 AM


DeSantis's stalling campaign: how to lose friends and alienate people (Richard Luscombe, 2 Jul 2023, The Guardian)

By almost every measure, the rightwinger has had another lackluster week on the campaign trail, with "clumsy" missteps in New Hampshire, Texas, California and New York. Now, barely one month after his glitch-ridden launch on Twitter, DeSantis finds himself sinking in the polls, closer to the large field of optimists below him than the twice-indicted, twice-impeached former president who retains a stranglehold over the Republican party.

"The more voters learn about him, the less they can stomach the idea of him running the country," the online magazine Jezebel concluded.

There are competing theories over the reasons for DeSantis's decline. Analysts caution that with seven months still until primary season, and with Trump mired in legal troubles, it's far too soon to write him off.

"Primary elections are volatile and unpredictable. Don't believe anyone who says they know how this is going to turn out," said Stephen Craig, professor of political science and campaign expert at the University of Florida.

But it is clear that many of DeSantis's wounds are self-inflicted. In New Hampshire on Tuesday, he angered grassroots Republican women by scheduling a campaign event clashing with Trump's appearance at their flagship lunch, a "stupid" and "rookie" mistake in the eyes of Republican strategists.

In a similar breach of protocol in New York, he vexed local Republicans by arranging a fundraising event without the courtesy of a heads-up that he was in town, Politico reported.

Another dollar-raising trip, to California, with whose Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom, he is openly feuding over his controversial migrant flights to Sacramento, also provided an opportunity for mockery. After DeSantis railed against homelessness, and claimed in a campaign ad to have witnessed people "defecating in the streets" during a "comically short" 20-minute trip to San Francisco, pictures of squalor in large Florida cities began appearing on Twitter.

And in perhaps the highest-profile "miss" of the week, DeSantis's big immigration policy reveal, made during a visit to the Texas-Mexico border on Monday, fell largely flat. Aggressive proposals such as deadly force against drug traffickers, separating migrant families, building a border wall and pledging to end birthright citizenship, enraged immigration advocates and failed to offer more to the Republican base than Trump's own agenda.

"I used to characterize DeSantis as an awful lot like Trump, but smarter, and I'm not sure that applies any more," Craig, the UF professor, said. "He just seems to be doing things that are not all that smart, his war with Disney for example, and some of the other things he does show a clumsiness that wasn't so much apparent before he began being a national figure.

You can't lose friends if you've never had one.

Posted by orrinj at 7:29 AM


Rightwingers say 'pink-haired liberals' are killing New York pizza. Here's what's really happening (Wilfred Chan, 29 Jun 2023, The Guardian)

Woke bureaucrats want to destroy the last of New York City's beloved coal- and wood-fired pizzerias in a crazed climate crusade.

That's the lie fueling the latest rightwing outrage cycle, in a distorted account of a commonsense air quality rule passed in New York City seven years ago. In reality, the rule, which soon takes effect, requires a handful of pizzerias to reduce the exhaust fumes that could harm neighbors, using a small air filter like those required at other New York City restaurants, which have been used by pizza shops in Italy for decades.

...given their daily hysterics.

Posted by orrinj at 7:22 AM


Reagan as Peacemaking Cold Warrior: a review of The Peacemaker: Ronald Reagan, the Cold War, and the World on the Brink by William Inboden (Jason C. Phillips, Jul 2, 2023, University Bookman)

The Peacemaker begins with Reagan's June 8, 1982, Westminster Speech in London--the famous "ash-heap of history" speech. As Reagan took the stage, his popularity was low due to continued economic turmoil and a lack of foreign policy success. Yet, as Inboden noted of the speech, "his words begin to echo not just through the hall but into the coming decades . . . To those with ears to hear, he distills what the next six and a half years of his foreign policy will entail."

The Westminster Speech is still quite stirring. One of its more memorable lines comes from Reagan's description of the Berlin Wall: "Well, from here I will go to Bonn and then Berlin, where there stands a grim symbol of power untamed. The Berlin Wall, that dreadful gray gash across the city, is in its third decade. It is a fitting signature of the regime that built it." It is apt that the Berlin Wall, against which Reagan's anti-communism would become synonymous, should lend itself to one of the Westminster Speech's greatest lines. Other key episodes from Reagan's handling of the Cold War find their way into the speech, including multiple mentions of El Salvador, arms reduction, and the eventual triumph of democracy over tyranny. Reagan noted of the moment, 

We're approaching the end of a bloody century plagued by a terrible political invention--totalitarianism. Optimism comes less easily today, not because democracy is less vigorous, but because democracy's enemies have refined their instruments of repression. Yet optimism is in order, because day by day democracy is proving itself to be a not-at-all-fragile flower . . . the regimes planted by totalitarianism have had more than 30 years to establish their legitimacy. But none--not one regime--has yet been able to risk free elections. Regimes planted by bayonets do not take root."

This contrast between freedom and totalitarianism would guide not only Reagan's Westminster Speech, but also his larger view of the Cold War. As Reagan further illustrated, "the march of freedom and democracy which will leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash-heap of history as it has left other tyrannies which stifle the freedom and muzzle the self-expression of the people." Inboden's take on the Westminster Speech is fairly straightforward: "[Reagan's] Westminster oration unveils a new offensive that in seven short years will bring the Cold War to a victorious, peaceful end." Over the course of nearly 500 pages, Inboden explains in painstaking detail how Reagan's Cold War strategy was formulated, implemented, and laid the foundation for the end of the Cold War.

...when we finally elected a president who understood how feeble the USSR was.   Once Yuri Andropov, who knew the same, became their leader, the rest was easy.

Posted by orrinj at 7:19 AM


Why scientists haven't cracked consciousness: The science of consciousness still has no theory. (Oshan Jarow, Jun 30, 2023, Vox)

In 1998, at the conference of the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness (ASSC), the neuroscientist Christof Koch made a bet with the philosopher David Chalmers: by 2023, science would be able to explain how the brain's tangle of neurons gives rise to the phenomenon we call consciousness. The winner would get a case of wine.

Koch was a professor of cognitive biology who helped pioneer the mechanistic study of the "neural correlates of consciousness," which maps the relationship between brain activity and subjective experiences. He believed that consciousness was fundamentally measurable and that it was only a matter of time before science identified how it arose in the brain.

Posted by orrinj at 7:11 AM


"Crazy world" of EU power - negative prices across western Europe, all day in Germany (Giles Parkinson 2 July 2023, Renew Economy)

Wholesale electricity prices went into negative territory across much of western Europe over the weekend, and for the entire day in Germany, according to energy analysts.

Energy analyst and commentator Gerard Reid noted the negative pricing and posted a screen shot on LinkedIn of prices quoted on the epexspot exchange.

"Free electricity across all of Europe today ... any takers?" Reid wrote on his LinkedIn post, before adding: "PS: It will be the same every weekend in summer!"

It's impossible to overstate deflationary pressures.

Posted by orrinj at 7:07 AM


Steam made by heat pumps can help clean up industry and manufacturing (Jeff St. John, 6/27/23, Canary Media)

On Tuesday, AtmosZero unstealthed with a heat-pump boiler meant to fill this niche in the industrial decarbonization landscape. The Fort Collins, Colorado-based startup, backed by $7.5 million from investors led by Energy Impact Partners and $500,000 from the Department of Energy's ARPA-E program, also announced its first pilot project: a 650-kilowatt boiler being installed at the Fort Collins headquarters of New Belgium Brewing in partnership with heating and cooling engineering giant Danfoss.

It's a novel application of a technology that's rarely been used for industrial process heat. Most people think of heat pumps as tools for warming air and water inside buildings, not generating steam at 150 degrees Celsius and at pressures needed for industrial applications, as AtmosZero's systems are designed to do.

But ​"the only reason heat pumps have not delivered boiled water before is that no one has built heat pumps to boil water before," Stark said. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:44 AM


The remarkable upsurge in US clean energy manufacturing, in charts (DAN MCCARTHY, MARIA VIRGINIA OLANO, Canary Media)

"What has taken place as a result of and since the Inflation Reduction Act can simply not be overstated," said Aaron Brickman, senior principal in the U.S. program of clean energy think tank RMI. ​"The United States is effectively now the most attractive destination for global capital in clean energy and cleantech." (Canary Media is an independent affiliate of RMI.)

Nearly 100 new clean energy manufacturing facilities or factory expansions were announced in the U.S. between last August when President Biden signed the law and the end of May, totaling more than $70 billion in new investment, according to Canary Media analysis. And more are being announced every week.

Posted by orrinj at 6:33 AM


Ukraine war 'corrosive' for Putin, CIA 'opportunity': spy chief  (AFP, July 1, 2023)

"The impact of those words and those actions will play out for some time, a vivid reminder of the corrosive effect of Putin's war on his own society and his own regime," Burns said.

He called the war a "strategic failure" for Moscow that has exposed military weaknesses, hurt the economy and spurred a bigger and stronger NATO.

"Disaffection with the war will continue to gnaw away at the Russian leadership ... That disaffection creates a once-in-a-generation opportunity for us at CIA," he said.

"We're not letting it go to waste," he added, noting the CIA recently posted on Telegram to let Russians know how to reach the CIA via the dark web. 

"We had 2.5 million views in the first week, and we're very much open for business."

July 1, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 3:11 PM


Republicans claim Democrats can't keep us safe - crime data disagrees (Chris Stein, 30 Jun 2023, The Guardian)

[T]hird Way, a center-left thinktank, has found that states which voted for Trump in the 2020 election had overall higher murder rates than those which supported Joe Biden. This trend, called the "red state murder gap", has been consistent for 20 years. The pattern remains the same even if the most populous county in each red state is excluded - undercutting an argument common on the right that large cities, which tend to be led by Democrats, are to blame for homicides.

"There's a narrative out there that the crime problem is a blue states, blue city crime problem," said Jim Kessler, Third Way's executive vice-president for policy and an author of the study. "We thought, 'OK, let's challenge that, let's see if it's true.' And it's not."