September 23, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The joy of baking your own bread: These days, we are long into the age of commercial breadbaking and far-removed from the sight of a field of waving wheat (Timothy Jacobson, September 22, 2023, Spectator)

I have observed in supermarkets today a connection between the flour offerings and social class. In posher grocery stores in fancy zip codes, the sorts of places that offer twenty kinds of salt and have large stocks of organics, the flour offerings will be diverse and include plenty of non-wheat alternatives. In the wheat-flour department, by far the favored brand will be King Arthur, from an employee-owned firm in socialist Vermont. All the nice people and serious bakers I know swear by it, and it is fine flour without a doubt. Here I speculate, though not wildly: that using it, or saying you use it, delivers in addition to good bread and tasty cakes that frisson of moral superiority long associated with driving a Volvo that had been thoughtfully assem- bled by happy, unregimented Swedish workers.

It's America, we're all wealthy: KING ARTHUR FLOUR RISES (KATE TUCKER, JUNE 20, 2020, Business Download)

Founded in Boston in 1790, King Arthur has adopted a different approach to its milling practices  than its competitors, selecting prime wheat, refusing to bleach, or add bromates, tightly controlling the precise protein content of its flours. This premium approach carries a 25 percent price increase over competitors, but since the 19th century, King Arthur has outsold its competitors four to one, and by 2019 its sales hit $150 million. King Arthur's bread flour is now the number one seller in America, with only General Mills' Gold Medal outselling them in all-purpose flour alone. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


American Long-Range Missiles Threaten to Blast Through Putin's 'Red Line' (Daily Beast, September 22, 2023)

The Biden administration is nearing a decision to send long-range munitions to Ukraine known as Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) that could give Ukraine an edge in the fight against Russia's invasion, according to U.S. officials. [...]

ATACMS, which can fire about 190 miles, could provide Ukraine the firepower it needs to reach important logistics, stockpiles, command and control centers, and other Russian targets far inside Russian territory.

The news comes at a pivotal moment for Kyiv, as Ukraine's military has opened up a new line of attack against Crimea, the peninsula which Russia illegally annexed in 2014 and has occupied ever since. Crimea has been serving as a key logistics hub for Russia during the war.

September 22, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 9:22 AM


The second coming of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva  (MICHAEL JACOBS 22 SEPTEMBER 2023, Inside Story)
Students of the art of political rowing-back will have recognised a fine example of the genre earlier this week. Brazil's President Lula declared on Sunday that Vladimir Putin would be welcome at next year's G20 summit in Rio de Janeiro, and wouldn't be arrested as a suspected war criminal as Brazil's membership of the International Criminal Court requires. Indeed, if arresting him was compulsory, Brazil might leave the court. After a domestic and international outcry, on Monday Lula subtly altered his position. Putin would indeed be arrested, he insisted, because Lula took Brazil's commitment to the ICC very seriously.

The episode rather neatly demonstrated the balancing act Lula is trying to perform on the world stage. He has been assiduously positioning Brazil as an independent global power, seeking to act as a mediator in Ukraine rather than condemning Russia as demanded by the United States and Europe, promoting the non-Western BRICS club of major economies (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and flying to Cuba to reiterate Brazil's role as a leader of the G77 grouping of developing countries.

But he has also just signed a joint declaration with the United States proclaiming the G20 group of large economies the principal forum for multilateral diplomacy and declares himself a global champion of democracy, warning of the perils of authoritarian populism promoting racism and civil violence.

Homeboy knows what side his Pao De Queijo is buttered on.

Posted by orrinj at 8:27 AM


New Power Generator Produces Continuous Electricity From Natural Atmospheric Humidity (Tsinghua University,  SEPTEMBER 21, 2023)

Scientists are exploring methods to harness the low-value energy found abundantly in natural environments to produce electricity. A groundbreaking development has emerged: a power generator that leverages natural atmospheric humidity and produces continuous electrical signals. Remarkably, this is the first humidity generator that employs a nano-sized material known as polyoxometalates. The implications of this discovery suggest a promising new avenue of research in the sustainable exploitation of low-value energy.

September 21, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 12:10 PM


Who killed Google Reader?: Ten years after its untimely death, the team that built the much-beloved feed reader reflects on what went wrong and what could have been. (David Pierce, Jun 30, 2023, Verge)

Reader's impending shutdown was announced in March of 2013, and the app went officially offline on July 1st of that year. "While the product has a loyal following, over the years usage has declined," Google SVP Urs Hölzle wrote in a blog post announcing the shutdown.

Google tried its best to bury the announcement: it made it the fifth bullet in a series of otherwise mundane updates and published the blog post on the same day Pope Francis was elected to head the Catholic Church. Internally, says Mihai Parparita, who was one of Reader's last engineers and caretakers, "they were like, 'Okay, the Pope will be the big story of the day. It'll be fine.' But as it turns out, the people who care about Reader don't really care about the Pope." That loyal following Hölzle spoke of was irate over losing their favorite web consumption tool. 

Google's bad reputation for killing and abandoning products started with Reader and has only gotten worse over time. But the real tragedy of Reader was that it had all the signs of being something big, and Google just couldn't see it. Desperate to play catch-up to Facebook and Twitter, the company shut down one of its most prescient projects; you can see in Reader shades of everything from Twitter to the newsletter boom to the rising social web. To executives, Google Reader may have seemed like a humble feed aggregator built on boring technology. But for users, it was a way of organizing the internet, for making sense of the web, for collecting all the things you care about no matter its location or type, and helping you make the most of it.

Posted by orrinj at 12:07 PM


How to Grow a Phantom Finger: Researchers can use illusions to fool your brain about the shape of your limbs. (Joshua Rapp, Sep 19, 2023, Discover)
Did you know it's possible for scientists to trick your brain into thinking you have an additional appendage?

A participant might stand in front of a mirror placing their left hand in such a way that the thumb doesn't show. A researcher then strokes the non-thumb side of the left hand at the same time as stroking the side with the thumb. In the space of a few moments, the participant begins to feel as though they have a second thumb on the wrong side of their hand -- even though they can clearly see this is not the case .

"Your brain immediately jumps to the conclusion that it has an extra body part," says Denise Cadete, a neuroscientist at Birkbeck, University of London. "In seconds, you can feel a body part that has a different shape, consistency [and] length."

And then folks are surprised that thoughts create illnesses?

Posted by orrinj at 8:09 AM


"Biden's Legacy Will Be Apartheid": President Biden has answered Prime Minister Netanyahu's extremist government with only the mildest of rebukes. Critics say he is failing to meet the moment. (Alex Kane, 9/21/23, Jewish Currents)

This two-part dance step--mild criticism of Netanyahu and his coalition followed by walk backs and declarations of friendship--has become the Biden administration's go-to move since the December 2022 ascension of Israel's extremist right-wing government, which has expanded Israeli settlements in the West Bank, elevated far-right politicians to influential ministerial posts, and advanced legislation to gut the power of Israel's judiciary. In response to these blatant contraventions of long-standing US policy and public challenges to the bromide of "shared democratic values," the administration has repeatedly voiced its dis­pleasure--all while continuing to stress the importance of the US-Israel alliance, to send weapons to Israel, and to shield the country from pressure at the United Nations. Aaron David Miller, a veteran former diplomat who spent more than two decades advising six secretaries of state from both parties on Israel/Palestine, said Biden is "trying to create some distance" between the administration and Netanyahu's coalition, but is "simply not willing to impose any sort of cost" for their behavior beyond the "passive-aggressive approach" exemplified by Netanyahu's delayed invitation. Yousef Munayyer, a scholar at the Arab Center Washington DC, pointed to the disastrous effects of this strategy: "The Israelis are committed to doing what they're doing to Palestinians in good part because there haven't been any negative con­sequences for it," he said. "They've only been rewarded for this behavior over time--particularly in Washington."

In trying to save Israel, Joe is helping destroy it.

September 20, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 12:35 PM


Lead poisoning could be killing more people than HIV, malaria, and car accidents combined (Dylan Matthews, Sep 14, 2023, Vox)

Everyone knows lead is bad for you. We've known this for a very long time: In the first century BCE, the Roman architect Vitruvius warned against using lead in pipes, observing the "pallid color" of plumbers forced to work with it. We know leaded gasoline leads to premature death in the elderly, that high lead exposure can substantially reduce IQ, and that there is likely a relationship between lead exposure in children and high rates of crime later on.

Yet lead is still everywhere -- especially in poorer countries. Pure Earth, the largest nonprofit working on lead contamination internationally, recently conducted a massive survey of products in 25 low- and middle-income countries, from Peru to Nigeria to India to the Philippines, to test for lead levels in household goods. In their sample, they found high levels of lead in 52 percent of metal and 45 percent of ceramic foodware (a category including dishes, utensils, pots and pans), as well as 41 percent of house paints and 13 percent of toys.

This has major consequences. A new paper in Lancet Planetary Health, authored by economist Bjorn Larsen and Ernesto Sánchez-Triana, World Bank's global lead for pollution management, tries to quantify the scale of the lead problem globally.

The authors estimate that some 5.5 million people die prematurely due to lead exposure every year, and that the problem as a whole imposes a social cost of $6 trillion a year. That equals 6.9 percent of total world GDP.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Autonomous Vehicles: A Safer Road Ahead  (John Bailey, 9/20/23, AEIdeas)

Recent data analyses underscore a promising trend: autonomous vehicles (AVs) are showcasing remarkable safety records, a development that should warrant policymakers' attention and ease public concern.

A University of Texas study found that AVs have fewer crashes compared to conventional vehicles and less severe ones when they do occur. According to the research, AVs were involved in 195 crashes over 4.62 million miles, which is 2.3 times fewer crashes than conventional vehicles per mile driven.

Not only do AVs crash less often, the crashes are far less severe. The vast majority of AV crashes (87.7%) resulted only in property damage. Meanwhile, 30% of crashes involving human drivers result in injuries and 0.7% result in fatalities. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Are Muslims at Home in America? (National Review, Sep. 14th, 2023)

Zarzour highlighted ISNA's commitment to interfaith dialogue and also its program to train Muslim chaplains for the U.S. military. Although he stressed the organization's role in "adding to the mosaic of this beautiful country of ours," he acknowledged that, "while we're not going to agree with everyone on everything, we will look for what we have in common." More than 20 years after 9/11, many non-Muslims might be surprised by what they now share with their Muslim neighbors, colleagues, and fellow citizens.

After two sessions on topics dealing with faith and family, Friday ended with a late-night comedy show, "Muslim Comedians Stand Up against Gun Violence," featuring five performers, including one non-Muslim man and two Muslim women, one of whom did not wear a hijab, or headscarf. The best line of the evening belonged to the emcee, Preacher Moss, an African American born and raised in Washington, D.C. "I want Trump to be in prison long enough to come out a Black Muslim!" he quipped.

Saturday's program began early, at 5:30 a.m., with the first of Sunni Islam's five daily prayers, which I did not attend -- though I would have been welcome, even as a non-Muslim. I had a hard enough time making it to the first general session, at 10 a.m. -- "Education in the Digital Age: Empowering Minds, Shaping Careers." Arriving with about 30 minutes to spare, I zeroed in on that Starbucks.

The line was long, so I had time to observe three teenage girls who, like thousands of other young people, were attending the conference with their families. Part of the small but visible contingent of females not wearing any kind of head covering, these teenagers were just as smartly (if more modestly) dressed as the students I am used to seeing on my university campus. They were also equally fixated on their phones, texting one another, giggling, scanning the hall, and scrolling through their messages. When they finally reached the head of the line, they had no idea what to order. After much back-and-forth with the patient but harried young barista, they each managed to come up with precise, detailed specifications for their individually crafted hot beverages and food choices. Their presence illustrated the striking diversity of the thousands of Muslims attending this convention. They were a distinct minority, given their uncovered heads, but they did not seem to be the focus of any discernible disapproval.

The overwhelming majority of women at the convention covered their heads. Some were elegantly outfitted in long, flowing dresses (abayas) and loosely wrapped headscarves. Others were more severely outfitted in drab, shift-like garb with snug hijabs. A few were in black niqabs, covering the entire visage except for the eyes. A very few were completely shrouded in burkas that obscured even -- indeed, especially -- their eyes.

So, too, were the men dressed in a variety of styles defying any simple stereotype. Suits and ties as well as more-casual sports jackets and slacks were much in evidence, especially among leaders of the many organizations and businesses represented at the convention. But there were also plenty of men in slacks and sport shirts, just as I was. There were even a couple of young men sporting shorts, which are rarely worn by Muslims. On the other hand, there were many males, young and old, in traditional long-sleeved, ankle-length thobes and brimless kufi caps.

The latter garb was popular with the many African-American men in attendance. Yet they too evidenced a variety of attire and orientation toward Islam. After listening and talking to many of them, I was reminded that the conversion of African Americans to orthodox Sunni Islam -- as opposed to the ersatz, racist concoction propagated by Elijah Muhammad under the banner of the Nation of Islam, now barely surviving under Louis Farrakhan -- has on balance been one of the most heartening and successful paths to social advancement and self-respect undertaken by the legatees of slavery and Jim Crow.

September 19, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 5:24 PM


Lessons from the Ayatollah : When a special class of moral guardians is permitted to be above the rule of law, there is no check on their own corruptibility. (Max J. Prowant, 9/19/23, Law & Liberty)

The most extreme solution is offered by the Catholic integralists who explicitly seek to subvert "temporal power" (i.e., the state/government) to "spiritual power" (i.e., the Catholic Church). Along similar lines, Patrick Deneen proposes "Aristo-populism" to oust corrupt liberal elites. Add to the bunch National Conservatives, new-age Pentecostals, and Reformed Protestants and it seems that all the cool kids are coming up from liberalism. No solution is agreed upon. But all agree that the regime centered on the protection of individual rights must be replaced by some new system with more intrusive powers to direct our lost souls. 

The leaders of this broad coalition are not stupid and, therefore, their arguments should be confronted honestly and given due diligence. But dissuading them from their objectives will require more than pointing out how illiberal, homophobic, or un-democratic they are. Nor will it prove sufficient to point out how unrealistic their aims are in the context of the United States. Movements always begin with foolish hopes. What is needed instead are modern examples of states where similar revolutionary projects have been executed and produced less-than-ideal results. One state fits the bill nicely: the Islamic Republic of Iran. Ayatollah Khomeini's project in Iran was surely more extreme and violent than what most post-liberals would endorse. But given the authoritarian affinities of many post-liberals (consider their muted defenses of Vladimir Putin, East Germany, and the Chinese Communist Party), a comparison to Khomeini's Iran is more than appropriate. Indeed, given the character and aims of Khomeini's Iran, it is necessary.

The example of Khomeinism in Iran is instructive because it illustrates two lessons that classical liberals have long known. First, when a special class of moral guardians is permitted to be above the rule of law, there is no check on their own corruptibility, which all but ensures future abuses of power. And second, using the full powers of the state to enforce religious belief will render both the state and its religion illegitimate in the minds of the people. If post-liberals are serious about reviving moral virtue or shoring up religious faith, they should study the tragic example of Khomeini.

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (1900-1989) is not a figure most think of when discussing American post-liberal intellectuals. After all, he was a Muslim cleric who defended Islamic civilization against Western civilization, the integrity of which post-liberals generally seek to defend. What is more, American conservatives despised the man while leftist intellectuals like Michel Foucault celebrated him as an authentic warrior fighting against the corroding tyranny of bourgeoise values. But there is plenty that connects Khomeini and his political project with today's post-liberals. 

First are the more superficial similarities. Khomeini adamantly opposed liberalism, secularism, and capitalism.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


These habits can cut the risk of depression in half, a new study finds (Allison Aubrey, 9/19/23, NPR)

[A] new study finds that people who maintain a broad range of healthy habits, from good sleep to physical activity to strong social connections, are significantly less likely to experience episodes of depression. 

Who'd have dreamt...

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Israel's Looming Constitutional CrisisDebates over the Supreme Court's role expose deep societal fissures, including between the religious and secular. (Charlotte Lawson, Sep 19, 2023, The Bulwark)

[A]dvocates of safeguarding the court's review power say barring the court from weighing in on Basic Laws would essentially create a majoritarian system. The laws and their amendments have special standing but no special procedure, meaning that they can be passed by a simple majority of lawmakers. Drawing on hypothetical worst-case scenarios, several opponents of hollowing out the court's authority asked the question: What happens if the Knesset pushes through a Basic Law that's blatantly anti-democratic?

Without a written constitution, Israel throughout its history has faced its fair share of tricky legal questions like the ones raised last week. But underpinning the legal disputes are core questions about outcome, and who wields the power in Israeli society. 

In the past, the Supreme Court has challenged or criticized policies pushed by religious political parties in the Knesset. Limiting the court's power, secular Israelis worry, could allow the current ruling coalition to pass laws they view as discriminatory, including enforcing gender segregation in public spaces and giving ultra-Orthodox Israelis greater control over who and how people can worship at Jewish holy sites.

Another major point of contention, military service exemptions for ultra-Orthodox men studying the Torah, has divided Israelis for years. Most Israeli citizens are required to complete a stint in the army, but the ultra-Orthodox are largely excused from service on religious grounds. The ruling coalition has proposed a Basic Law to enshrine that exemption, which in theory would prevent the Supreme Court from striking down a bill to allow ultra-Orthodox men to completely avoid military service. 

It's no wonder, then, that support for limiting the court's power has been largely divided along religious lines, according to a recent study by the Viterbi Family Center for Public Opinion and Policy Research in the Israel Democracy Institute. While 68 percent of secular Israelis had a negative view of the proposed judicial reforms, 66 percent of ultra-Orthodox respondents said they were "very good" or "pretty good." 

Identitarians always oppose the universal application of laws.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


"Heat pumps for everyone:" Octopus unveils new smart, clean home heating system (Joshua S Hill, 9/19/23, One Step Off the Grid)

The system, unveiled last week at the Wired & Octopus Energy Tech Summit in London, consists of a new heat pump, home control system, room sensors - known as "Cosy Pods," and a bespoke smart tariff. [...]

The system is specifically designed for the UK market and is free for homes that don't need any work to fit the system after the Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS).

Homes that do need adjustments - such as new radiators, piping, or a hot water tank - can get the system from around £3,000 after the grant.

The initial 6kW heat pump, designed to suit the average three bedroom house, will be followed by larger models to be unveiled over the next six months.

September 18, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Maggie Haberman Spots Surprise 'Confession' From Trump In New Interview (Ed Mazza, Sep 15, 2023, HuffPo)

She was referring to Trump's response to a question about the impeachment inquiry against President Joe Biden, in which he not only indicated it was in retaliation for his own impeachments, but suggested they were only just getting started.

"I think had they not done it to me ... perhaps you wouldn't have it being done to them," Trump told Kelly, then took it a step further: "And this is gonna happen with indictments, too."

Haberman said some Republicans are worried the admission could hurt the party during next year's election.

"That is something people had been hoping to avoid him saying explicitly around this Biden impeachment inquiry, because it does make it seem as if it is less on the level," she said. 

September 17, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 6:22 PM


Harvard study shows that trigger warnings are pointless and anxiety-inducing (Ross Pomeroy, 9/17/23, Big Think)

Scientists have now had time to examine trigger warnings through controlled experiments, and their findings broadly support critics' points. Last month, a trio of psychologists affiliated with Flinders University and Harvard University published a meta-analysis aggregating all the recent scientific papers on the topic to answer four questions:

"First, do trigger warnings change emotional reactions in response to material? Second, do trigger warnings increase the avoidance of warned-of material? Third, do trigger warnings have any effects on anticipatory emotions before seeing material (e.g., anxiety)? And fourth, do trigger warnings change educational outcomes (i.e., the comprehension of warned-of material)?"

The reviewers turned up 12 studies published since 2018 that attempted to answer those queries. In almost all of them, experimenters exposed subjects to photographs, videos, or written passages. Some participants were given a content warning beforehand, while others were not.

When the studies' results were pooled together, the researchers found that trigger warnings had no effect on subjects' emotional responses to the material, did not make them likelier to avoid it, and had little to no effect on participants' comprehension. They did, however, slightly increase subjects' anxiety prior to being exposed to the material.

Triggers bounce.

September 16, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 7:12 AM


Ban on Muslim Dress in Schools Stokes Culture War in France (Noemie Bisserbe, Sept. 14, 2023, WSJ)

France is expanding the definition of what kinds of clothes are unacceptable under the rules of laïcité, the country's strict separation of religion and state. For nearly two decades, public schools have barred students from wearing a visible Christian cross, a Jewish kippah, a Muslim headscarf or any other religious symbol deemed ostentatious by school officials.

But the abaya--a long, cloak-like covering--was a gray area until recently. The garment doesn't cover the head or face, but Muslim women in parts of North Africa and the Middle East traditionally wear it with a headscarf. In France, female students began wearing the abaya--without a headscarf in the classroom--as an extra layer of clothing because it covers their arms and legs, in compliance with what they say are Muslim teachings.

With the new school year about to start, President Emmanuel Macron's education minister stepped in and banned the abaya, ratcheting up France's long-running culture war over how far the government should go in enforcing laïcité rules in a country that is home to one of Europe's biggest Muslim minorities--estimated to be around 9% of the French population. Muslim leaders said the very definition of what constitutes an abaya is vague, opening the door to discrimination against Muslim students.

Posted by orrinj at 7:04 AM


Remembering Jewish baseball legend Hank Greenberg's 1934 Rosh Hashanah dilemma: With the Detroit Tigers nearly neck-and-neck with the New York Yankees in the pennant race, the future Hall of Fame slugger had a tough choice to make on the Jewish new year (JACOB GURVIS, 9/16/23, Times of Israel)

"I need you out there, but in the end, it's your choice," his coach Mickey Cochrane told him.

The previous day, Greenberg had received an unexpected message of support from the Detroit Free Press. The paper printed a photo of Greenberg on the front page of the sports section, accompanied by a large Hebrew headline with the common Rosh Hashanah greeting along with an English line: "And so to you, Mr. Greenberg, the Tiger fans say, 'L'shana Tova Tikatevu!' which means 'Happy New Year.'"

"In Hebrew letters, front page, it was as if war had been declared. The type was that big," Steve Greenberg, Hank's son, told WBUR in 2017.

American Jewish historian Jonathan Sarna told WBUR it was likely the first and only example of a major US newspaper using a Hebrew headline -- and in 1934, when papers used metal plates for printing.

"I have no idea, to this day, where they got the metal type for this Hebrew," said Aviva Kempner, who directed the 1998 documentary "The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg."

The political context of the day also weighed on Greenberg. Adolf Hitler and the Nazis were rising to power in Germany and antisemitism was rampant in the United States. Detroit in particular was home to two of the 20th century's most infamous antisemites, automobile titan Henry Ford and the radio host Father Charles Coughlin.

In the end, Greenberg played. As the Tigers took the field, Jews in Detroit took their seats for Rosh Hashanah services.

"While the cantor was singing, he would stop for a minute and say, 'How's Hank doing?'" Tigers fan Harold Allen recalled to WBUR. "The whole interest of the city of Detroit was Hank Greenberg." [...]

Nine days later, Greenberg sat out the Tigers' regular season game on Yom Kippur.

A few days after Yom Kippur, the Detroit Free Press printed a poem, titled "Speaking of Greenberg." It read, in part:...

Posted by orrinj at 6:59 AM


Nietzsche the Afflicted: On Ritchie Robertson's "Friedrich Nietzsche" (Kim Solin. 9/14/23, LA Review of Books)

The mystical experience was central to Nietzsche's life, and with it the fundamental idea of the "eternal recurrence." But how should we understand this notion? Robertson suggests that it is a moral test: "If one can accept with joy the prospect of reliving one's life repeatedly, one has shown one's ability to affirm life." And a large part of Nietzsche's philosophy was indeed about learning to affirm life, about dancing and laughter. As a cosmological theory, Robertson notes, the eternal recurrence is hopelessly outdated. It seems to me that what happened to Nietzsche is best described by Kierkegaard's concept "Øieblikket" (i.e., the moment or, literally, "the glance of the eye"), a rare instant in which the temporal and the eternal meet, disclosing our place in both spheres and dissolving the boundary between them. Often a transformative experience, Øieblikket has left many baffled and in want of apt descriptions.

Simone Weil understood that Nietzsche was an afflicted person, not least physically, which for her was a precondition for genuine affliction. In Awaiting God (1951), she writes that affliction means that love and the transcendent are absent:
What is terrible is that in this darkness when there is nothing to love, if the soul ceases to love, the absence of God becomes definitive. The soul must continue to love in the void--or at least want to love--be it even with an infinitesimal part of itself. Then one day God comes to manifest himself to them and reveals the beauty of the world, like God did in the case of Job. But if the soul ceases to love, it falls into something here below that is nearly equivalent to hell.

Nietzsche compensates the affliction with arrogance. He deserves "pity but not esteem and still less admiration," Weil writes to her brother. [...]

But for Nietzsche, this barefoot reality is barren and empty. "There is no transcendent meaning, no providence, no moral absolutes, no absolutes of any kind," Robertson writes. In contrast, for Weil, the beauty of the world makes us love it. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:53 AM


Black Liberty Matters (JACOB T. LEVY, SEPTEMBER 20, 2017, Niskanen Center)

[T]he history of the postwar libertarian movement is rich with moments of flirtation or outright entanglement with the defenders of white supremacy. This is most conspicuous today in the explicit sympathy for the Confederacy in some quarters, a problem I've written about before. There'd be no trouble writing a better book than MacLean's about the dark history of libertarian politics that ran from Murray Rothbard's support for Strom Thurmond's presidential campaign to Lew Rockwell's celebration to the beating of Rodney King to the racism that went out under Ron Paul's name in his newsletters in the 1980s and 90s to the case of then-aide to Rand Paul Jack Hunter. The generalized distrust of institutions that can be part of anti-statism easily falls back on the fantasy of a unified pre-political national people, and that populist nationalism in America is almost definitionally white populist nationalism.

The particular fascination with Abraham Lincoln's (genuine but far from unique) violations of civil liberties, the celebration of secession, the insistence on discussing the Civil Rights Act primarily in terms of freedom of association (as if white supremacy in the Jim Crow south were just a private taste that some people indulged), and an interest in freedom of speech that focuses disproportionately on the freedom to indulge in racially-charged "political incorrectness" could all figure in such a book. Rothbard was a decisive figure in the development of organized libertarianism, and the Pauls are hardly minor characters in libertarian and quasi-libertarian politics. I suspect they were less appealing to MacLean because Buchanan was close to Charles and David Koch for decades after Rothbard and his circle went to ideological war against them, and the Kochs were the exciting target for her to try to implicate.

But there are ways to neglect black liberty that are subtler than the white nationalism of the Confederatistas. Think about the different ways that market liberals and libertarians talk about "welfare" from how they talk about other kinds of government redistribution. There's no talk of the culture of dependence among farmers, although they receive far more government aid per capita than do the urban poor. Libertarians absolutely and clearly oppose corporate welfare, but they don't do so in the paternalistic language that corporate welfare recipients are morally hurt by being on the dole. The white welfare state of the 1930s-60s that channeled government support for, e.g., housing, urban development, and higher education through segregated institutions has a way of disappearing from the historical memory; the degrees earned and homes bought get remembered as hard work contributing to the American dream. But too many libertarians and their market-oriented allies among postwar conservatives treated the more racially inclusive welfare state of the 1960s and 70s as different in kind. White recipients of housing subsidies hadn't been imagined to become dependent, non-autonomous, or unfree. When the FHA was insisting that neighborhoods be segregated in order to be eligible for mortgage or building subsidies, it contributed a great deal to the racial wealth gap that persists to this day. No free-marketeers of the era felt the need to engage in brave, politically incorrect inquiries into the lower intelligence of new white homeowners that might explain their long-term dependence. But once the imagined typical welfare recipient was a black mother, welfare became a matter not just of economic or constitutional concern but of moral panic about parasites, fraud, and the long-term collapse of self-reliance.

Returning for a moment to the overt white nationalists allows us to also think about the other recent dispute about libertarian politics: the embarrassingly large number of people associated with the racist alt-right who once identified as libertarians, or (even worse) still do. Some of this is just the inevitable sociology of the fringe. Those who join smaller political movements tend to come to think that mainstream sources of information and ideology aren't to be trusted. They tend to be unmoored from a society's dominant values and intellectual positions. And so, as they change their mind about things (and most people do, from time to time), they're disproportionately likely to end up attached to other fringe movements. That's just a selection effect about what kind of people join fringe movements, and it doesn't say anything about the content of either movement's ideas.

Posted by orrinj at 6:44 AM


Should Progressives See Sohrab Ahmari as Friend or Foe?: In his new book, the alum of The Wall Street Journal and New York Post editorial and editor of Compact magazine condemns unfettered corporate power and embraces the New Deal. (Anita Jain, September 15, 2023, Washington Monthly)

[A]mari's new devil, as befitting his magazine, is the corporation and unfettered capitalism, and he proposes that the only way to check their power is through the embrace of big government. 

For example, Ahmari rails against what he calls "the class-based inequalities in power and income that are inherent to the workings of unrestrained capitalism." A few pages later, he froths about the "coercive origins" of the Industrial Revolution, which sent peasants from working fields to "prison-style workhouses and factories, their bones and tears forming the working-class sediments that underlay the glories of Victorian capitalism." He yearns for the New Deal era when labor won the countervailing power to keep big business in check, leading to the "productive genius of highly regulated, heavily unionized capitalism in which the government coordinated private economic activity." 

The pundit has frequently been clubbed together with a coterie of so-called post-liberal thinkers, including political theorist Patrick Deneen, conservative writer Rod Dreher, and legal scholar Adrian Vermeule, who are not only at odds with contemporary liberalism but have a beef with Enlightenment mainstays like individual liberty, separation of government and religion and, of course, the free market. They've had kind words for government in the style of Viktor Orban's Hungary, which is to say anti-immigration and anti-abortion, but with an expansive social welfare role for government. Describing himself in Newsweek last month as "ferociously conservative on cultural issues," Ahmari endorses the ideas of his brethren but adds a union-loving twist that frets over the income inequality perverting our social compact. 

Putting aside cultural issues to focus on the economic ones, Ahmari structures Tyranny, Inc. as a catalog of corporate coercion, retelling horror stories likely to be familiar to readers of The Nation, Mother Jones, or Jacobin.

Posted by orrinj at 6:38 AM


INTERVIEW: Russia will stay 'infected with apathy' until Putin is gone  (Darko Janjevic | Andreas Brenner, 9/16/23, Deutsche-Welle)

Anin himself shows no sign of apathy. He moved to Russia as a teenager, studied journalism in Moscow, and in 2006 started working as a sports reporter with the Novaya Gazeta, a paper known for seeing several of its reporters killed under the Putin regime. In 2008, Anin was sent by Novaya Gazeta to cover the brief war between Russia and Georgia, when he joined the outlet's investigative unit.

That position allowed him to work on major stories including tax fraud uncovered by Sergei Magnitsky and corruption surrounding the 2014 Winter Olympics, but also conduct investigations into people at the highest levels of the Putin regime, such as Putin's friend and billionaire cellist Sergey Roldugin and Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin. In a 2016, Anin wrote an article about Sechin's wife owning a yacht worth $100 million (€94 million). Sechin sued the paper for defamation and won.

Anin is aware that many people find it hard to understand the level of graft happening in the Russian elite.

"Russian society simply lives in colossal misery," he told DW's Andreas Brenner in Hamburg. Stories about Putin's castle or his friends' yachts mean little to rural people living "without flushing toilets in 18th century-like conditions."

This disconnect is "nothing to marvel at -- even the war was only a concern for a few people until the mobilization started and they started detaining husbands and brothers, sending them to the front with no training, where they simply got killed," he added.

Ending the Ukraine war would only be the first step in waking up Russian society, according to the reporter. He believes it would take decades of working with the populace to reform the country. And it would happen only after the death of Putin and the "collective Putin" -- the clique gathered around the long-ruling Russian president.

"It's impossible to break this apathy under the Putin regime," says Anin. "All the truth about the war needs to be made public, so that the people would simply become aware what horror was happening during those 30 years, with them witnessing it in silence. And those horrors were committed with the unconditional approval of the people. And maybe after that Russia will have some chance to overcome this apathy and start living in a new way."

Populist Leaders and the Economy (Manuel Funke, Moritz Schularick, Christoph Trebesch, AMERICAN ECONOMIC REVIEW)

We build a new long run cross- country database to study the macroeconomic history of populism. We identify 51 populist presidents and prime ministers from 1900 to 2020 and show that the economic cost of populism is high. After 15 years, GDP per capita is 10% lower compared to a plausible non-populist counterfactual. Economic disintegration, decreasing macroeconomic stability, and the erosion of institutions typically go hand in hand with populist rule.

September 15, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 8:18 AM



The Shenango Coke Works facility -- which produced coke, a coal-derived product, for over 50 years -- shut down in January 2016 following community activism and sizable fines for pollution, per Euronews Green.

Since then, a study from the New York University Grossman School of Medicine published in the journal Environmental Research: Health has found a 42% decrease in average weekly visits to emergency health services for heart-related illnesses, as the media organization NowThis tweeted about.

Furthermore, when looking at data from January 2016 through December 2018, the researchers discovered there were 33 fewer average annual hospitalizations for heart disease compared to the preceding three years of the coal plant's operation, corresponding to a "near-instant drop" in air pollution, as NYU Grossman School of Medicine observed. 

Among that number, the study found there were "13 fewer average yearly hospitalizations for ischemic heart disease (typically heart attack) and 12 fewer average yearly hospitalizations for cerebrovascular events (most often stroke)." 

And that's not even mentioning the impact on the air quality in the local area. As Euronews Green noted, "average daily levels of toxic sulfur dioxide fell by 90 percent at government air-monitoring stations near the plant" following the coal plant's closure. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:04 AM


AI can help screen for cancer--but there's a catch (Cassandra Willyardarchive page, September 15, 2023, MIT Technology Review)

In theory, catching cancers earlier should make them easier to treat, saving lives. But that's not always what the data shows. A study published in late August combed the literature for randomized clinical trials that compared mortality (from any cause, not just cancer) in two groups: people who underwent cancer screening and people who did not. For most common types of cancer screening, they found no significant difference. The exception was sigmoidoscopy, a type of colon cancer screening that involves visualizing only the lower portion of the colon. [...]

There is no question that screening programs have caught cancers that would have killed people had they gone undetected. So why worry about overdiagnosis? Screening can also cause harm. Patients undergoing colonoscopies sometimes end up with a perforated bowel. Biopsies can lead to infection. Treatments like radiation and chemotherapy come with serious risks to people's health, and so does surgery to remove tumors.

So will AI-assisted screening lead to more overdiagnosis? I checked in with Adewole Adamson, a dermatologist and researcher at the Dell School of Medicine at the University of Texas at Austin. "Without reservation I would say 'Yes, it will,'" he says. "People think that the goal is to find more cancer. That's not our goal. Our goal is to find cancers that will ultimately kill people."  

And that's tricky. For the vast majority of cancers, there aren't good ways to separate nonlethal cases from lethal ones. So doctors often treat them all as if they might be deadly.
In a 2019 paper, Adamson explains how these cancer-detecting algorithms learn. The computer is presented with images that are labeled "cancer" or "not cancer." The algorithm then looks for patterns to help it discriminate. "The problem is that there is no single right answer to the question, "What constitutes cancer?" Adamson writes. "Diagnoses of early-stage cancer made using machine-learning algorithms will undoubtedly be more consistent and more replicable than those based on human interpretation. But they won't necessarily be closer to the truth--that is, algorithms may not be any better than humans at determining which tumors are destined to cause symptoms or death."

But there's also a chance AI might help address the problem of overdiagnosis. The Australian researchers I referenced above offer up this example: AI could use the information embedded in medical records to examine the trajectories of different patients' cancers over time. In this scenario, it might be possible to distinguish those who don't benefit from a diagnosis.

Posted by orrinj at 7:46 AM


How to Reduce Your Energy Bills - or Even Pay Nothing At All (Bloomberg, 9/14/23) 

The winter heating season is looming and finances remain strained, but UK homes are getting the chance to cut energy bills -- or even pay nothing at all -- by effectively becoming mini power plants.

Households with solar panels, heat pumps and batteries can store power produced when prices are low and then sell to the grid when they're high. Versions of these flexible tariffs have been around for a while, but suppliers are trying to increase subscribers and major provider Octopus Energy Ltd. is taking that further by rolling out a version guaranteeing zero bills.

Posted by orrinj at 7:29 AM


What Matters Now to Jewish Law Prof. Benny Porat: Common ground as titans clash: A resident of a West Bank settlement city, the Hebrew U prof. is a vocal opponent of the coalition's judicial overhaul. Hear how 2,000 years of Jewish law shapes his thinking (AMANDA BORSCHEL-DAN, 9/15/23, Times of Israel)

We have to remember that all of the mess that we are experiencing now is just because Israel doesn't have a constitution. Once we have a constitution, we won't be in this kind of a mess and debate. And it's not by accident that we don't have a constitution, it's because we couldn't reach agreements about all of these basic principles, and most of them are about the relationship between the three branches, so between the executive branch and the judiciary. So it's not by accident that we don't have a constitution and by the way, some of the supporters of this judicial reform are trying to bring some examples from other states, for example from the US. They say: "Listen, in the US, the president has the authority to nominate judges. So if it's good for the US. Why won't it be good for us?"

So first, it doesn't work like that in the US. But second, more importantly, in the US there is a constitution, and once you have a constitution -- and other mechanisms as well. You have two houses of Congress, and you have separation between the federal level and the state level. All of these mechanisms we don't have here in Israel. First and foremost, we don't have a constitution and therefore the only entity that can limit the government is the Supreme Court. And therefore it's so crucial, this debate.

Let's talk a little bit more about the religious sensitivity of having a secular authority interpret law in general. And you wrote an essay which talks about the concept of "Adam Hashuv," I think you called it "A Dignified Person" in English? First of all, explain what this concept is.

Yes. What I tried to do in my research, with one of my colleagues, about this judicial reform from a Jewish law perspective. Our argument was that the debates that we are experiencing today are not new. The Jewish community during the Middle Ages had the same debates. The Jewish community of course was not a modern state, but it was a political entity that was run by some politicians, which was called the "Seven Good People of the Town." And they, of course, the authorities, wanted power. They wanted to do a lot of things. And there were the rabbinical courts, which was a judiciary, and there were a lot of tensions between these two entities. And we can see how the Jewish legal tradition saw so much importance in the idea that there should be independent judiciaries that put some limitations on the politicians.

So, for example, one of the mechanisms that Jewish law established for that purpose was the doctrine of Adam Hashuv, the dignified person, which is, according to our argument, similar to the Attorney General, which is not part of the court. But before, when enacting enactments in the Jewish community, according to Jewish law sources, the politicians, the leader of the community has to get the approval of this "dignified person," which is the rabbi of this place, or the one who is expert in law. His purpose was to look for two things. First, that the communal enactments are aligned with the law, and the second one, that they are aligned not only with the interest of the majority, but with the interest of the whole community. These two things should be checked before enacting an enactment. Actually today, this is what the legal advisors and the attorney generals, this is their main role -- to see that the actions and decisions of the executive branch are aligned with the law in the general interest of the state. And from this perspective, it was so important for Jewish law that, while we are recognizing the authority of the majority to control the community, we will put some checks and balances, and the dignified person is one of them.

Tell us about other checks and balances throughout Jewish history, on leadership.

So, another very important mechanism which is also very relevant for today. Once the Jewish community enacted an enactment. If someone felt that [the enactment] is unpleasant, that he's being damaged or it has violated his right, he has a right to appeal to the rabbinical court, and the rabbinical court has the authority to overrule the criminal enactment. So even though it was legislated by the majority, the rabbinical court had the authority to overrule this kind of enactment. And by the way, of course the idea of override clause or something like that, that the majority can reenact something that was overruled, of course it was not an option. So once the enactment was recognized as illegitimate, it was annulled. And this is something that also is part of the judicial reform -- to what extent the Supreme Court had the authority to overrule regular legislation, special legislation like Basic Laws. This is something that was also part of yesterday's hearing at the Supreme Court.

As a non-religious person, I shudder inside every time you say that it's a rabbinical authority who had the final say. But, it sounds to me like you're doing a one-to-one ratio with the civil authority that we have today. Is that correct?

Yeah, there is some kind of a jump here, because in the arena of the Jewish traditional communities, the judiciary was a rabbis. There was a rabbinical court, and we are not living here today in an halachic state, this is a secular state or at least non-religious state. So of course now one should ask himself: "Who are the modern Israeli parallels to this 'dignified person' of the rabbinical court?" One can argue that we want a halachic state and we want it to be the rabbis. So, we can debate whether it's good or bad. But this is definitely not the current situation.

So having said that, and if we assume that if we are in a secular state, my argument here is that we, as Israelis, as modern Israelis that want some connection with our Jewish roots, need to think who is a modern translation of this "dignified person?" From my suggestion, this is an attorney general. Who is a parallel to the rabbinical court in the Jewish community? My suggestion is the Supreme Court. I think we should establish our check and balance mechanisms in modern Israel with some conversation with this Jewish past. And I think this is a very important infrastructure from which we can derive a lot of insights, a lot of vocabulary, very interesting terminology and ways of thinking in order to enrich our modern legal discourse.

I will say it even from a different perspective. There are those who try to present the current debate between the Israelis and the Jews. The Jews represent traditional authentic Jewish perspective and the Israelis represent modern, secular, liberal, et cetera, et cetera. From my perspective, this is a very dangerous exposition. And my argument is that also from a Jewish perspective, these checks and balances are very important, but we have to think about the modern secular translation of these Jewish ideas and this is the deep meaning of being a Jewish and democratic state. Being a Jewish and democratic state, from my perspective, it's not only a state of the Jews, but also a state that has some interesting open-minded conversation, which is a Jewish tradition, and mainly with its Jewish legal tradition.

...first, guarantee that all laws are adopted in participatory fashion; and, second, that all laws apply universally.  This is how we safeguard republican liberty.

Posted by orrinj at 7:05 AM


Republicans scramble to avert shutdown (Joseph Zeballos-Roig and Kadia Goba, Sep 14, 2023, Semafor)

One senior Republican said the House GOP conference may be edging closer to tearing itself apart, drawing a comparison to what ultimately happened with the so-called "Five Families" in the Godfather movies.

"The whole family kills each other," the senior GOP lawmaker said. " I think we're close to that right now. We are in maybe the Godfather II stage."

A GOP aide lambasted hardliners from the Freedom Caucus, saying "they are hellbent on losing the majority" for Republicans.

Posted by orrinj at 6:45 AM


Researchers reveal benefits of exercise as an antidepressant (Gudrun Heise, 9/15/23, Deutsche-Welle)

Anti-depression therapy is often combined with sports. Backed up by studies, therapists have long reported that exercise can complement depression therapy. Now, some are asking whether sports alone might be enough for some patients to overcome depression.

If so, patients would no longer have to rely on counseling, which can last for years, and could forgo antidepressants. The advantages are obvious: There would be no side effects -- except perhaps for sports injuries such as sprained ankles and sore muscles.

In collaboration with scholars from Australia, Belgium, Britain, Sweden and Brazil, researchers from Potsdam University's Department of Sport and Health Sciences systematically reviewed 41 studies on the subject of exercise and depression for a meta-analysis published in February in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

The authors conclude that sports can offer "a further evidence-based treatment option for the large amount of untreated individuals with depression, including individuals who refuse or cannot tolerate medication and/or psychotherapy." They add, however, that "given the high heterogeneity and mainly small and selected samples of the included studies, this requires individual decisions involving the treating physician to determine if and which conditions of exercise are the optimal treatment of choice while also recognising the potential synergistic effects of exercise in managing both physical and mental well-being."

It's all in your head.

Posted by orrinj at 6:42 AM


September 14, 2023 (HEATHER COX RICHARDSON, SEP 15, 2023, Letters from an American)

Romney said that "[a]lmost without exception" his Republican colleagues "shared my view of the president," but they refused to speak up out of fear that their voters would turn against them. Coppins recounts a weekly caucus lunch at which Republicans gave Trump a standing ovation, listened as he boasted and rambled through remarks, and then burst into laughter as soon as Trump left.  

That loyalty appears to have been behind leaders' refusal to address rumors of violence on January 6, 2021. According to Coppins, on January 2, 2021, Senator Angus King (I-ME) warned Romney that a high-ranking Pentagon official had told King that right-wing extremists online appeared to be planning to attack the government on January 6 to stop what Trump had told them was the stealing of the 2020 presidential election. They talked of guns and arson and bombs, and they talked of targeting the traitors in Congress, among whom they counted Romney for his vote to convict Trump on one count in his first impeachment trial. King was concerned for Romney's safety.

Romney promptly texted then-Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to recount the conversation. "There are calls to burn down your home, Mitch; to smuggle guns into DC, and to storm the Capitol," Romney wrote. "I hope that sufficient security plans are in place, but I am concerned that the instigator--the President--is the one who commands the reinforcements the DC and Capitol police might require." McConnell never answered. 

When even after the events of January 6, fellow senators continued to execute their plan of objecting to the counting of electoral votes for certain states, Romney called them out on the floor of the Senate for "being complicit in an unprecedented attack against our democracy." 

Romney recalled that some senators refused to convict Trump in the second impeachment trial out of concerns for their safety and that of their families. Romney himself had hired a security detail for his family since the attack on the U.S. Capitol, but at $5,000 a day such security was out of reach for most of his colleagues. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:38 AM


My hands-free drive halfway across the U.S. (Joann Muller, 9/14/23, Axios)

Using a combination of GPS mapping and a forward-facing camera, the system advised when I was on a pre-qualified stretch of road -- a "Blue Zone" -- where hands-free driving was available.

All I had to do was push the cruise control button on the steering wheel.

Blue light cues appeared on both the digital instrument panel and the head-up display on the windshield.

A large blue steering wheel icon indicated it was OK for me to remove my hands.

A driver-facing camera in the instrument panel monitored my eye gaze and head position to ensure that I was looking at the road. (If you do take your eyes off the road, there will be a series of audible and visual alerts, and eventually the car will slow down.)

What I found: I was surprised by how much more relaxed my upper body felt -- plus, I turned on the cooling seat massager, which helped keep me alert while eliminating pressure points.

Turning on the BlueCruise felt seamless and intuitive.

When it was time to regain control, the blue steering wheel icon changed, showing digital "hands" back on the wheel. Again, a seamless transition, with no panic.

September 14, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 8:11 AM


a century of hank williams: The country crooner's haunting ballads and poetic lyrics strike a plangent chord (MATT HANSON, 09/14/2023, Smart Set)

A Calvinistic sense of having fallen in some way, morally or otherwise, pervades his darkest works. When he sings with conviction about "The Angel of Death" he doesn't describe the angel at all but focuses on whether your soul will be ready to meet it, which is a much scarier proposition than any spook. His rendition of "The Great Judgment Morning" is similarly shaken, where he sings as if he's remembering having glimpsed it himself. Hank's clearly most interested in the good book's apocalyptic parts, testing the imagery with the tenor of his voice. For a guy whose closest friends and collaborators admitted to never really knowing him, it sure does seem like Hank wore his morbid heart on his fringed sleeve, though he had to be singing about it to really let it show.  

Loneliness is the other great theme in Hank's songs, a very American theme, with our wide-open spaces and cramped urban ones. It's not just being alone that Hank's singing about, either -- it's an existential solitude that comes from a hopeless romantic's fatal dissatisfaction with a world without love. "The Singing Waterfall" is a lovely Yeatsian meditation on being in love with a ghost, and in "Alone and Forsaken" the loss of his loved one turns his bucolic world into a hellscape with a braying hellhound on his tail. In "Long Gone Lonesome Blues" he can only hang out and watch the fish swim by for so long before he's going to "pay the price" and throw himself into an icy river three times (again with the ice!) and he swears that "I'm only coming up twice." You can almost picture when that cowboy hat will begin to slowly float away.  

And of course, there's his forlorn, bereft masterpiece "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" which no less than Willie Nelson thought the greatest country lyric of all time, specifically citing the haiku-like lines "the silence of a falling star/ lights up a purple sky/ and as I'm wondering where you are/ I'm so lonesome I could cry." Again, that barely restrained lament comes through a tightly bitten lip: he's not saying he will cry, mind you, but he's certainly admitting that he could, which means he might, which means he needs to, with a throb of regret that you can hear in your bones. It's downright cosmic: the moon is weeping, so are the robins, the whippoorwills are barely keeping it together, and all creation has turned its face away in despair. When his tempestuous relationship with his first wife Audrey finally ended, which he'd written so many different songs about, he cursed that he wouldn't live a year without her, which was probably a mix of one part anger, one part passive-aggressiveness, and one part self-pity. In any case, it turned out to be true.

Posted by orrinj at 7:37 AM


Orbán's Tainted Democracy: A new book on Viktor Orbán reminds us that democracy can be peacefully overthrown by those who loudly assert their democratic bona fides. (Arch Puddington, 13 Sep 2023, American Purpose)

The innovation of Orbánism lies in the way it combined American-style self-confidence with a politics of indignation transforming ethnic nationalism into an angst about Civilization; exploiting the narratives of political Christianity in opposition to Christian principles; and renewing the language of populism so that it can be deployed from a position of government. [...]

As he was solidifying Fidesz's rule for the long run, Orbán launched campaigns against a cascading roster of evil forces supposedly arrayed to undermine Hungarian sovereignty. First he targeted multinational corporations, then the International Monetary Fund and the European Union, blaming them for being elites who stymied Hungary's escape from financial crisis. Other targets followed: migrants, George Soros, LGBT activists, liberalism generally.

Posted by orrinj at 7:34 AM



A lighter weight and an environmentally friendly production method that reduces energy consumption are other potential perks listed. The production process, however, is still being developed. The Harvard report cited a project using a "plasma gun" to produce graphene as one option being explored. 

"Science is the easy part. To develop a technology, you should know what products you are aiming at, and this should be coming from the industry," graphene co-discoverer and Nobel Prize laureate Konstantin Novoselov said on the EP's website, which noted bendable smartphones and extremely light planes as other products that could be made with graphene. 

NASA is even exploring batteries made with a special kind of graphene with holes in it, allowing air to pass through. The material is lightweight and highly conductive, according to its experts. The goal is for the batteries to power electric aircraft. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:21 AM


DeSantis and top Fla. health official warn against COVID shots for people under 65 (NATHANIEL WEIXEL, 09/13/23, The Hill)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and the state's surgeon general are advising against the use of updated COVID-19 vaccines for anyone under the age of 65, a move that counters a new recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

September 13, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Cool Pavement Is Living Up to Its Name (Reasons to be Cheerful, 9/12/23)

As another summer of record-breaking heat winds down, some cooler news: Cool pavement -- which has a reflective coating meant to mitigate urban heat, as Michaela Haas wrote about for us in 2021 -- is delivering on its promise in Los Angeles. That's according to preliminary results for the neighborhood of Pacoima, site of the city's first community-wide cool pavement effort.

The first eight months of data show that ambient air temperatures in Pacoima two meters above ground were an average of 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit cooler on sunny days, and up to 3.5 degrees cooler during extreme heat, compared to a neighboring area without cool pavement. The pavement itself averaged 10 degrees cooler on sunny days. 

The anecdotal evidence is solid, too: Residents report that their tires are wearing less quickly, their shoes don't stick to the pavement as much -- and parents say they're more comfortable letting their kids play outside.

September 12, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


PODCAST: Anupam Bapu Jena on Random Acts of Medicine (Russ Roberts, Sep 11 2023, EconTalk)

Do marathons kill people who aren't in the race? Does when you're born make you more likely to get the flu? And what's the difference between a good doctor and a bad one? These are some of the questions Anupam Bapu Jena of Harvard University and EconTalk host Russ Roberts take up as they discuss Jena's book, Random Acts of Medicine.

We perform procedures primarily because they're profitable, not because they're evidence-based.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The US labor market and citizens' views are shifting in favor of immigration (NICK SARGEN,  09/11/23, The Hill)

The case today is even more compelling because of labor shortages related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, net international migration slowed steadily from a peak of 1.2 million in 2016 as a result of measures President Trump took to reduce both legal and illegal immigration. Trump then took further steps to restrict immigration during the onset of the pandemic, including curbing travel to the U.S. and suspending many foreign worker visas and green cards. The administration also invoked the Title 42 public health law to deny asylum on pandemic-related grounds.  

Upon assuming office in January 2021, President Biden overturned many of Trump's immigration policies. As a result, there was a dramatic reversal in the pattern of immigration last year. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that net immigration to the U.S. fully rebounded from its COVID-19 slump, when immigration fell to the lowest levels in decades. The biggest increases were for work visas and humanitarian migrants.   

The timing of the immigration upturn proved fortuitous: It helped to alleviate some of the impact of labor shortages while the overall unemployment rate has been hovering near a 50-year low. Foreign-born workers have a higher labor force participation rate than U.S.-born workers, and they have helped to counter some of the inflationary impact of a tight U.S. labor market.  

With the headline Consumer Price Index inflation rate falling to about 3 percent recently, wages are now growing faster than inflation. Net immigration will have to stay at relatively high levels to have a lasting impact in containing inflation, but this is far from assured. Consequently, the case for permitting more legal immigration now encompasses both economic growth and inflation reduction considerations.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


"Seismic shift:" Energy crisis helped wind and solar stretch cost advantage over fossil fuels (Giles Parkinson 12 September 2023, Renew Economy)

[T]he fall in costs has been spectacular - 95 per cent. According to a new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency, the LCOE of solar PV fell to a global average of US4.9c/kWh in 2022 - making it 29 per cent cheaper than the lowest cost fossil fuel-fuelled option.

In the case of wind energy, the story is much the same. In 2010, the global weighted-average LCOE of onshore wind was US10.7c/kWh, according to IRENA - or nearly double the cost of the cheapest fossil fuel - and it has since fallen 69 per cent to just US3.3c/kWh, or 52 per cent lower than the cheapest fossil fuel option.

September 11, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


India's descent into communal hatred (Joseph D'Souza, 11 September 2023, Christianity Today)

The cracks in our pluralistic society spread from hateful, bigoted language spewed by religious leaders, politicians, and even the mainstream media across India. How will we ever return to the India I once knew, where a diverse nation grew in harmony despite cultural, ideological, and religious differences? Is a majoritarian Hindu nation possible without destroying profoundly complex and varied roots in prominent ethnicities and religions?

Religious, political, and caste leaders have engaged in hate speech and persecution for narrow political ends, or revenge for perceived victimhood. How are Indian Muslims of today responsible for the acts of invading Mughal rulers of the past? With this sort of mindset, the next step for India would be protracted caste warfare for reparations due to oppression and exploitation of the Dalits and tribals by the upper castes for centuries. This would certainly not help India mature to its full potential economically and culturally.

The undoing of widespread hatred for minorities and Dalits will take decades and require wise, patriotic leaders who value peace and pluralism. These leaders must find the strength to struggle for one united India, a nation of equal rights for all citizens where the rule of law always prevails over mob mentality.

When officers of the law -- sworn to protect and defend all Indians -- instead participate in hate speech and violence themselves, citizens are left powerless. As bulldozers raze homes and places of worship for minorities, without legal sanction, our hope in the rule of law is lost.

Violent anger is quickly becoming the common currency in civil society. This is true in India and around the globe, as we recently witnessed in the French riots.

We have watched the fallout from this unfold in Manipur, and if the status quo continues, it will happen elsewhere in India. There are two distinct Manipurs now -- one Kuki and one Meitei. Any social union between the two will take decades of diligent peace-making efforts. The terrible suffering that comes from this religious and ethnic divide cannot be ignored.

The call to violence by prominent religious and political leaders -- the ones we should be able to look to in times of turmoil -- must be dealt with quickly. This issue is so severe that the Supreme Court now insists that individual states craft laws for dealing with hate speech.

These developments are deeply frustrating as they come in the wake of precisely the time when India is poised to become a major global economic and scientific power. But this will only happen with social cohesion.

Identity is a cancer.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM

NORMALCY IS A CHOICE (profanity alert):

The Geology of Misery: What Philip Larkin and Ted Lasso (and Science) Tell Us About TraumaOn Breaking the Cycle of Individual and Collective Dehumanization (Catherine Buni, September 11, 2023, Lit Hub)

[Burke Harris, author of The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-term Effects of Childhood Adversity,] has identified seven granular, research-based strategies that prevent the human-to-human hand-off of misery: sleep, exercise, time in nature, nutrition, mindfulness, mental health care, and healthy relationships. The tool she uses most? "Walk and talk. Exercise combined with talking with someone."

Ideally, she said, everyone has access to the tools for healing. To good doctors who can help them understand how their adverse childhood experiences and family history affect their risk of harm. To food and housing and job security, education and safety. Ideally, everyone who needs and wants it can get into therapy, not to gather up surface praise, but to dig deep for healthier ways to be in relationship with other people and, critically, ourselves. In therapy, Burke Harris said, "you can work together to create a plan for prevention." A plan to stop handing on misery.

Ideally, we all work to shore up policies and institutions that support collaboration and care, places, whether a family, neighborhood, school, or country, where people pull together and do their damndest not to repeat, repeat the harm. "The real work," she said, "is to change societal outcomes."

Unquestionably, it is a good time to pass along the revelations and research of Burke Harris, and others who are pushing back on cynical acceptance and imagining a different trajectory, while also, perhaps, cracking a grim smile alongside Larkin. There's Stephanie Foo, Judith Herman, Resmaa Menakem, Bessel van der Kolk, and others too numerous to list in full here, and, well, yes, says Burke Harris just before we hang up, there is now also "Ted Lasso."

"How has nobody emailed me about this?" Burke Harris recalled wondering as she'd watched. The show's communities are cooperative and inclusive, with characters who step up against bullies and bigots, who do not tolerate abuse and harm, of anybody, regardless of identity or position. There's a men's group that aims to nurture healthy relationships, she observed, the juxtaposition of one dad who is verbally abusive to his son with another dad who lifts his son up, and all sorts of people who decide to try therapy, including Ted. "It feels so different than what we would have seen even ten years ago," Burke Harris said. "It's beautiful."

Hard to know which is more mystifying, that so little is needed to treat ourselves or that we are so unlikely to embrace the (literal) steps.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Haredim slam Netanyahu for 'heresy' against God in Ukraine comment; MK blasts Zionism (MICHAEL BACHNER, 9/11/23, Times of Israel)

Despite travel warnings last year about the dangers of war and other obstacles, over 20,000 pilgrims traveled to celebrate Rosh Hashanah in Uman, the burial site of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, a revered Hasidic rabbi who died in 1810. In recent years worshipers have been undeterred by the coronavirus pandemic or the war in the country, and many are gearing up to visit this year as well.

But Netanyahu's statement -- an obvious reference to the Holocaust and possibly centuries of antisemitism and pogroms -- was swiftly met with intense condemnation and repudiation from ultra-Orthodox politicians and other public figures, with some accusing the prime minister of "heresy" and one MK launching a diatribe against "the idolatry of power, vulgarity and assimilation of the secular regime." [...]

[United Torah Judaism MK Yisrael Eichler] went on to claim that the Zionists had in fact turned their backs on the Jews of Europe, thwarted rescue attempts and disdained "the Jews of the ghettos," while adding that some had collaborated as Judenrat. Eichler said that the once-revered military had been revealed in its "incompetence and contemptibleness" in the Yom Kippur War in 1973, and that former top generals who oppose the current government's judicial overhaul had recently shown themselves to be "rebels" who are "inciting a bloody [civil] war" in the country and giving it a bad name abroad "like the worst of our Islamic enemies."

September 10, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 5:55 PM



Solar power innovators in Europe, Asia, and North America are launching flotillas of solar panels on open water with shocking results. 

In this case, electricity and water are a great combination, sometimes providing new life for forgotten lagoons that were created for past industrial efforts. Bloomberg reported that an old coal pit can be turned into a "green powerhouse" when covered with floating panel systems, and such a project has the potential to replace fossil-fuel generation entirely in certain communities. 

It's part of the effort to expand sun-catching surfaces while limiting the land acreage needed for solar farms. Floating systems can be placed on reservoirs, lakes, or other man-made water bodies, according to the U.S. Energy Department. When deployed, the panels can also help conserve water by reducing evaporation. 

Bloomberg's report detailed projects in Europe that are using floating systems to help meet solar demand with limited land. 

"Most of these former gravel and sand pits aren't used anymore. They're low-hanging fruit," Matthias Taft, CEO of European renewable energy developer Baywa r.e., told the outlet. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:50 PM



Ever since Thomas Paine published Common Sense, many Americans and many American historians have seen and explained the Revolution as Paine had - as a war of national liberation. They claim that over the course of the colonial era, Anglo-American colonists underwent a transformation - a process of Americanization - at the end of which they were no longer conventional Englishmen. They became something different: Americans, a new national group, with uniquely American ideals, values, and sensibilities. The settlers had changed, and they therefore wanted to change their system of government to reflect their current ideas and sensibilities. Thus, the Revolution of 1776 was merely the formal culmination of the "real" revolution - the gradual change in mentality, values and political culture that had taken place in the hearts and minds of Americans during the colonial era.

Other historians - a minority opinion - argue that this was not a war of national liberation. They hold that Americans were not and did not see themselves as distinct from other Englishmen, and that they did not see themselves as connected to one another by a bond of nationhood before 1776. These historians hold that the American Revolution was a conservative revolution, a revolution designed not to change the status quo and create a new social and political arrangement, but to preserve the status quo. Americans were conventional and backward-looking Englishmen who wanted to resist changes that the British government was introducing to the Empire's system of government, such as new trade restrictions and tax measures, strong enforcement of imperial regulations, undercutting the jurisdiction of local courts, and otherwise expanding the reach of the central government at the expense of local autonomy.

The Albany Congress and Ben Franklin's Plan of Union play an important role in both interpretations of the American Revolution. Both groups of historians claim Franklin and the Albany Plan as evidence that supports their own understanding of the Revolution and its purpose. The Albany Congress convened (in Albany) in the summer of 1754, as the western and northern frontiers were warming up before the official outbreak of the French and Indian War (1755-63). It seated delegates from the middle and northern colonies and from as far south as Maryland to discuss matters of common concern - primarily Indian relations and frontier defense. Ben Franklin, who represented Pennsylvania, proposed his famous Albany Plan (supported by this popular propaganda cartoon: see below) which called for the formation of a supreme governing body over the American colonies. This government would be headed by a "President-General of the United Colonies" and a deliberative representative council composed of delegates from the different colonies. This continental government would deal with matters of common concern, like inter-colonial commerce, Indian relations, common defense, westward expansion and the like. Moreover, this government would have the right to tax the colonies to finance its operations.

Historians who argue that English settlers in America were being transformed into Americans during the colonial era see in the Albany Congress evidence that the colonists were already thinking of, and tinkering with, plans for union 20 years before the Revolution. These historians point to the Albany Congress as proof that these colonists were thinking of what connected them with one another - what common interests, concerns, and values they shared. They see in the Ben Franklin's Plan of Union evidence that American settlers were looking beyond their own colonial borders and seeking support from their fellow Americans, seeing their security and prosperity tied to some sort of continental union between their different colonies. To these historians, the Albany Congress was an important middle stage that arose from colonies that were disparate and atomized, and from colonists who were English in their frame of reference, to the Stamp Act Congress and the Continental Congress, and to settlers who saw themselves as Americans.

What is lost in this temptation to see the Albany Plan of Union as a precursor to the United States - specifically, to the US Constitution - is that the Albany Congress was convened not by any of the colonies, but by the Board of Trade in London. It was a British initiative, rather than an American one. Ben Franklin saw his plan as a way to strengthen colonial ties to Britain, and to integrate the colonies into the fabric of the British Empire. Moreover, not one single colony approved Franklin's Plan of Union. The colonies rejected the Albany Plan because they were not interested in an American government coordinating the policies of the different colonies and having jurisdiction over and within these colonies.

The Plan would have been a vastly better solution.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


M.B.A. Students vs. ChatGPT: Who Comes Up With More Innovative Ideas?We put humans and AI to the test. The results weren't even close. (Christian Terwiesch and Karl Ulrich, Sept. 9, 2023, WSJ)

The academic literature on ideation postulates three dimensions of creative performance: the quantity of ideas, the average quality of ideas, and the number of truly exceptional ideas.

First, on the number of ideas per unit of time: Not surprisingly, ChatGPT easily outperforms us humans on that dimension. Generating 200 ideas the old-fashioned way requires days of human work, while ChatGPT can spit out 200 ideas with about an hour of supervision.

Next, to assess the quality of the ideas, we market tested them. Specifically, we took each of the 400 ideas and put them in front of a survey panel of customers in the target market via an online purchase-intent survey. The question we asked was: "How likely would you be to purchase based on this concept if it were available to you?" The possible responses ranged from definitely wouldn't purchase to definitely would purchase.

The responses can be translated into a purchase probability using simple market-research techniques. The average purchase probability of a human-generated idea was 40%, that of vanilla GPT-4 was 47%, and that of GPT-4 seeded with good ideas was 49%. In short, ChatGPT isn't only faster but also on average better at idea generation.

Still, when you're looking for great ideas, averages can be misleading. In innovation, it's the exceptional ideas that matter: Most managers would prefer one idea that is brilliant and nine ideas that are flops over 10 decent ideas, even if the average quality of the latter option might be higher. To capture this perspective, we investigated only the subset of the best ideas in our pool--specifically the top 10%. Of these 40 ideas, five were generated by students and 35 were created by ChatGPT (15 from the vanilla ChatGPT set and 20 from the pretrained ChatGPT set). Once again, ChatGPT came out on top.

We believe that the 35-to-5 victory of the machine in generating exceptional ideas (not to mention the dramatically lower production costs) has substantial implications for how we think about creativity and innovation.

One fondly recalls how intellectuals predicted that average was over because machines could do manual labor but not replace brain work. 

September 9, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


UFO Tales and Witness Credibility Falling Apart After Congressional Hearings (Art Levine, Sep 8, 2023, Washington Spectator)

Among these findings: two of the leading ex-DOD officials, Christopher Mellon and Luis Elizondo, who successfully promoted UFO "disclosure" legislation, face a potential SEC investigation for alleged investor fraud in a UFO-hyping company they helped lead; and none of the military witnesses at the hearing have ever offered verifiable evidence to back their claims.

Equally important, many of the key findings in the ground-breaking 2017 New York Times article on the Pentagon's $22 million secret UFO "research" program that helped launch today's alien mania in Washington have been discredited.

(The three Navy "UFO" videos published by Times starting in 2017 that augmented the UFO frenzy have also been thoroughly debunked by visual expert Mick West, and in large part recently by the Pentagon and a NASA panel for having prosaic explanations, including camera artifacts.)

As documented by several critics, including Greenstreet, that original bombshell Times article notably hid the program's real paranormal agenda from the public. Most of the Pentagon research was actually devoted to chasing down werewolf-type creatures, poltergeists and ghosts on the Skinwalker Ranch in Utah, owned by the Pentagon contractor Robert Bigelow. I spoke in confidence with a congressional aide before the recent hearings who indicated that all this eminently available information was unknown to members of the committee. (Pro tip: add "skeptic" to your google search).

The new hearings were sparked by David Grusch, the former military intelligence officer who came forward in June with startling and increasingly bizarre new claims. He was widely and uncritically publicized after his claims -including stashed alien bodies and their retrieved crafts -- were aired in an obscure pro-UFO publication The Debrief and a third-tier cable news network, NewsNation.

NewsNation, in turn, has been riding UFOs hard since snaring exclusive interviews with Grusch. The ratings boost for NewsNation has been so great it even beat CNN during its special on Grusch, as noted recently by The Washington Post. The broadcast stories on Grusch have been led by Ross Coulthart, a disgraced Australian journalist. Along with hyping other repudiated stories, Coulthart once relied on discredited witnesses to make bogus pedophile accusations against members of the UK parliament, leading to a fruitless $4 million police investigation. So, despite that questionable background, he remains a leading UFO conspiracist.

Still, in the weeks since the hearings, Grusch's credibility has eroded on several fronts -- even as most media outlets and members of Congress have paid little attention to the details undermining his shocking tales. As The Washington Spectator recapped last month, he has asserted that the government has been hiding a secret alien crash retrieval program; the Pope tipped off the United States to a UFO retrieved by Mussolini (a long discredited hoax); alien corpses have been recovered by U.S. officials; and humans have been killed by aliens.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


If Anxiety Is In My Brain, Why Is My Heart Pounding? A Psychiatrist Explains The Neuroscience And Physiology Of Fear (Arash Javanbakht, 9/07/23, Discover)

If your brain decides that a fear response is justified in a particular situation, it activates a cascade of neuronal and hormonal pathways to prepare you for immediate action. Some of the fight-or-flight response - like heightened attention and threat detection - takes place in the brain. But the body is where most of the action happens.

Several pathways prepare different body systems for intense physical action. The motor cortex of the brain sends rapid signals to your muscles to prepare them for quick and forceful movements. These include muscles in the chest and stomach that help protect vital organs in those areas. That might contribute to a feeling of tightness in your chest and stomach in stressful conditions.

The sympathetic nervous system is the gas pedal that speeds up the systems involved in fight or flight. Sympathetic neurons are spread throughout the body and are especially dense in places like the heart, lungs and intestines. These neurons trigger the adrenal gland to release hormones like adrenaline that travel through the blood to reach those organs and increase the rate at which they undergo the fear response.

To assure sufficient blood supply to your muscles when they're in high demand, signals from the sympathetic nervous system increase the rate your heart beats and the force with which it contracts. You feel both increased heart rate and contraction force in your chest, which is why you may connect the feeling of intense emotions to your heart.

In your lungs, signals from the sympathetic nervous system dilate airways and often increase your breathing rate and depth. Sometimes this results in a feeling of shortness of breath.

As digestion is the last priority during a fight-or-flight situation, sympathetic activation slows down your gut and reduces blood flow to your stomach to save oxygen and nutrients for more vital organs like the heart and the brain. These changes to your gastrointestinal system can be perceived as the discomfort linked to fear and anxiety.

All bodily sensations, including those visceral feelings from your chest and stomach, are relayed back to the brain through the pathways via the spinal cord. Your already anxious and highly alert brain then processes these signals at both conscious and unconscious levels.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Brazilians in Nashua celebrate their homeland as they look forward to upcoming American elections (Gabriela Lozada,  September 8, 2023, NHPR)

Members of New Hampshire's Brazilian community celebrated that country's independence Thursday at Nashua City Hall. Mayor Jim Dochness offered a proclamation noting Brazilians' fierceness in breaking free from Portuguese colonialism. He highlighted the country's cuisine, businesses, and the popular Brazilian Fest, which gathers hundreds of people at Greeley Park every summer.

The Brazilian flag has an inscription that reads "Ordem and Progresso, which comes from French philosopher Auguste Compte's motto of positivism, "Love as a principle and order as the basis."

For Bruno Barreto, love is indeed a force that guides him. He is a Christian and a mortgage broker who talks passionately about his purpose of helping people find a home. He has lived in the U.S for 23 years and sees the Brazilian flag raised at City Hall as a stepping stone to building multicultural inclusion.

First realized this community existed at a youth soccer tournament, where 8 year olds were whipping in crosses like Beckham. At half-time the dads and brothers took the field and mesmerized.

September 8, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 10:41 AM


A League of Their Own (BRENDAN RUBERRY, SEP 8, 2023, Persuasion)

With a median age of around 30, Saudi Arabia has a young, highly literate population: a demographic which reflects its 38-year-old crown prince, prime minister, and absolute monarch Mohammad bin Salman (MBS). Often perceived as acting against the wishes of the ossified, corrupt elite, the crown prince is thought to be dragging the country into modernity--at swordpoint, if need be. At the core of his signature Saudi Vision 2030 plan is the aspiration for his country to be a premier power leading from the position of prominence that he feels its wealth ought to accord it.

There's just one problem. Saudi Arabia's human rights record is abysmal. The kingdom still regards beheading by sword as the proper Islamic method of execution. Last year, 81 people were executed in a single day, many belonging to the country's Shia minority and convicted of vague offenses like "monitoring and targeting officials and expatriates." Women are intensely surveilled and restricted, and extraordinary privilege is wielded by a sheltered, out-of-touch few. From an international perspective, one episode in particular stands out--the grisly, squalid, and allegedly MBS-directed 2018 assassination of Washington Post columnist (and member of the Saudi elite) Jamal Khashoggi, from which the kingdom's relations with the West remain seriously damaged.

MBS knows that if Saudi Arabia is to have a hope of leading on the global stage, he desperately needs to change its reputation. So he has launched a world-wide, multi-billion-dollar charm offensive aimed at doing exactly that. His kingdom has courted intimate relationships with many of the world's biggest sport stars, celebrities, companies and financial institutions, who are flown out and feted at its pop-up awards shows, EDM festivals, professional conventions and tradeshows, as well as athletics competitions that are streamed to audiences of many millions around the world. Lacking the dynamic civil society required to spontaneously generate the vibrant collisions of talent, will, and perspective necessary to organically dominate in these spheres, Saudi is instead flexing its staggering petro-wealth.

Imagine that you ask someone in the West what they think of when they think about Saudi Arabia. The resulting word cloud would likely include "rich," "deadly," and "totalitarian." Soft power of the sort MBS is trying to wield, when deployed in the right way, is one of the tools states have to change this. Saudi Arabia's chief objective in pouring billions of dollars into buying the world's best athletes consists in moving "soccer," in large-type font, to the center of that word cloud--along with "racing," "golf," "cycling," and, just maybe, "the future." The hope is that a historically unprecedented array of bread and circuses, paid for dearly, might one day come to completely occlude words like "bonesaw," "dismemberment," or "decapitation."

MBS figures that the kingdom's only hope to lead is to spend--and Saudi Arabia has been on a glitz-krieg.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Nearly every presidential center calls for protecting democracy (Mariana Alfaro, September 7, 2023, Washington Post)

Foundations representing nearly every former president from Herbert Hoover to Barack Obama released a joint letter on Thursday calling on Americans to engage in civil political discourse, and to remember that tolerance and respect are key to peaceful coexistence.

The effort, which was organized by the George W. Bush Presidential Center, marks the first time presidential foundations and centers have come together to deliver a statement to the American public. [...]

In the past few years, several lawmakers across the country have openly tried to discredit governmental institutions and systems -- from elections, to the justice system to federal agencies -- sowing distrust among the American public. Among them is Trump, who has spent the better part of the past three years falsely claiming that the 2020 election was fraudulently stolen from him.

In the letter, the presidential institutions urged American lawmakers to actively fight distrust in government.

"Our elected officials must lead by example and govern effectively in ways that deliver for the American people," the letter reads. "This, in turn, will help to restore trust in public service. The rest of us must engage in civil dialogue; respect democratic institutions and rights; uphold safe, secure, and accessible elections; and contribute to local, state, or national improvement."

Still think W and the UR should go out on tour together to amicably discuss a variety of issues.

September 7, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump found liable in E. Jean Carroll defamation suit (DNUYZ, September 6, 2023)

Former US President Donald Trump on Wednesday was found liable for defamatory remarks he made against  when he denied her rape accusations in 2019.

US District Judge Lewis Kaplan wrote in the decision that the jury found "Mr. Trump's 2019 statements were made with actual malice." 

Kaplan said that jurors at a separate but found that Trump sexually abused Carroll in a department store in Manhattan in the mid-1990s.

September 6, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


CNN Exclusive: Special counsel election probe continues with focus on fundraising, voting equipment breaches (Zachary Cohen and Paula Reid, 9/05/23, CNN)

Special counsel Jack Smith is still pursuing his investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election a month after indicting Donald Trump for orchestrating a broad conspiracy to remain in power, a widening of the probe that raises the possibility others could still face legal peril.

Questions asked of two recent witnesses indicate Smith is focusing on how money raised off baseless claims of voter fraud was used to fund attempts to breach voting equipment in several states won by Joe Biden, according to multiple sources familiar with the ongoing investigation.
In both interviews, prosecutors have focused their questions on the role of former Trump lawyer Sidney Powell.

According to invoices obtained by CNN, Powell's non-profit, Defending the Republic, hired forensics firms that ultimately accessed voting equipment in four swing states won by Biden: Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Arizona.

Powell faces criminal charges in Georgia after she was indicted last month by Atlanta-area district attorney Fani Willis, who alleges that Powell helped coordinate and fund a multi-state plot to illegally access voting systems after the 2020 election.

September 5, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Enduring, Long-Distance Legacy of the Postal Service's 'Give Up' (Grant Sharples  Sep 5, 2023, The Ringer)

In the early aughts, indie music seemed full of possibilities. It was undergoing multiple regional renaissances: NYC's post-punk revival, the PNW's rainy sensitivity, Canadian "collectives" that were approaching double-digit member counts. Meanwhile, something else in indie music was brewing that would flout geography entirely.

Tamborello was working on his third album, 2001's Life Is Full of Possibilities, as Dntel, the alias he used to make electronic music. He was a fan of Gibbard's work with Death Cab for Cutie, so he asked a roommate of his, Pedro Benito of the Jealous Sound, to put him in touch with the singer to see if he'd want to collaborate. Gibbard was interested: He flew from his home in Seattle to Los Angeles to record some vocals, got along remarkably well with Tamborello, and hung out with him for a couple of days. And the Gibbard song that would make it onto Life Is Full of Possibilities, "(This Is) the Dream of Evan and Chan," is the first Postal Service tune in everything but name. It's got all the vital signifiers: jittery drum-machine beats; airy synthesizers; wistful, emotive vocals and lyrics. At some point, over the course of those few days in Los Angeles, Gibbard asked Tamborello a nonchalant yet imperative question:

"I turned to Jimmy and said, 'Would you want to do an EP of this? It's kind of fun,'" Gibbard says. "With Jimmy and his very understated way, he was like, 'Yeah, that sounds good. I can do that.'" They were planning on just a couple of songs, but when Kiewel caught wind of the project, he wanted Gibbard and Tamborello to take it a step further.

Kiewel, who was then an A&R rep for Sub Pop, was also a roommate of Tamborello's alongside Benito, so he was both personally and professionally involved. He brought "(This Is) the Dream of Evan and Chan" into a meeting and asked a question that would alter the landscape of indie music: If Gibbard and Tamborello were to make an entire album like this, would Sub Pop have any interest in putting it out? "Going into it, I could not have been more invested," Kiewel says. "We felt confident and excited about it because we're coming out of nowhere with this project."

Although Sub Pop was interested in a nonexistent record from these two musicians, they themselves thought little of it. That's not to say they regarded it as a trivial time-waster; it's more so that the album's low stakes contributed to an enjoyable, creative environment. Sub Pop didn't give them a deadline to submit it, so Gibbard and Tamborello were able to make music at their own pace, blissfully ignorant of the impact it would later have. Pressure was completely absent, as Gibbard and Tamborello repeatedly say.

"There wasn't a lot of thought that went into it or worry when we were making stuff, even though I didn't know [Gibbard] that well at the time," Tamborello recalls. "It was pretty easy just to send him instrumentals and see what he'd come up with. We established a working routine really quickly. Everything was really easygoing, and there were almost no rejected songs."

Though because Gibbard and Tamborello were living hundreds of miles apart, they had to experiment with unconventional songwriting techniques: Gibbard would receive a CD from Tamborello through UPS, and he'd walk around Seattle listening to what he'd just received, "dreaming up ideas for the song," he says. Once he'd gotten an idea of what he wanted to write, he'd head back to his attic studio and churn something out.

"It was a rare, creative collaboration where everything worked," Gibbard remembers. "I have never collaborated like that where someone else was providing me the music. In my own songwriting, for all intents and purposes, I'm writing all the music and then also writing the narrative, writing the lyrics, writing the melody. Half the work was being done by Jimmy, so I was able to daydream and let his musical bed dictate what the lyrics would be about."

The physical distance between the pair and the songwriting process are two reasons why Give Up continues to captivate fans. But no matter how quaint or rote the idea of mailing unfinished tracks back and forth reads in 2023, it was a novelty two decades ago, when the standard was for a bunch of musicians to hang out in a studio together. Although they have plenty of remote-working descendants, like the Foreign Exchange, Superorganism, and 100 gecs, the Postal Service were among the first of their kind. Every time Gibbard got a CD in the mail from Tamborello, it would say "PS" on the cover alongside a one-word adjective, like "wobbly," so Gibbard knew what to expect before diving in. It wasn't until it came time for mixing that in-person collaboration became a necessity.

"Near the end, when we were making final mixes, it was hard to do that long-distance because we weren't even sending audio over email or anything; it was all through the mail," Tamborello says. "It took a long time to get approval for mixes, and I could only mix one song at a time. I had to leave the board all set up for the specific song. I couldn't work on anything else until we said 'yes' or 'no' to a certain mix. I'd have to mail Ben a version. Then he'd say, 'Turn the snare up,' and then I'd turn it up and mail another version." To smooth things out, Gibbard flew back to Los Angeles, but, this time, another now-high-profile indie rocker was also on board.

Jenny Lewis was the frontwoman for Rilo Kiley at the time. She says she had been a big Death Cab for Cutie fan and, in a way, tried to follow in their footsteps. After Rilo Kiley finished recording their full-length debut, Take Offs and Landings, Lewis was trying to find labels that would put out the record. "At the time, I was obsessed with Modest Mouse, Death Cab, and all Pacific Northwestern indie rock, and I was a subscriber to the Sub Pop 7-inch singles club," Lewis says. In 2001, after looking at the back of a Death Cab CD and seeing the address for Death Cab's original label, Barsuk Records, Lewis immediately knew where to send Rilo Kiley's first album. The label flew some of its reps down to Los Angeles for a Rilo Kiley show, and two days later, she received a call from Josh Rosenfeld, who ran Barsuk. At that point, Rosenfeld delivered three pieces of big news:

1. He wanted to put out Take Offs and Landings.

2. He and Lewis were cousins.

3. Gibbard wanted her to sing for this new project he had.

Lewis, stunned by all the information that her cousin (!) just delivered, immediately agreed to work with Gibbard. Rosenfeld told her that she'd get a call from Gibbard soon. It wasn't until the band was in Nebraska working on their second record, The Execution of All Things, in March 2002 that she got the fateful phone call. Once they wrapped up the Execution recording sessions, it was time for Lewis to make the trek out west. "I had picked Ben up at the Burbank Airport in the Rilo Kiley van, this giant, 15-passenger red van," Lewis says. "He had asked me to pick him up from the airport, but I didn't know what he looked like." To work around this issue, Lewis requested that he hold up a sign with his own name on it. Ever since that moment, they've been great friends.

She recorded her vocals in Jimmy's bedroom, and Gibbard had already written the parts she would sing. She contributed to six of the 10 songs, including "Clark Gable," "Brand New Colony," and "The District Sleeps Alone Tonight," adding breezy vocals that gracefully fused with Tamborello's spacious compositions. Over a few days, the three musicians recorded, bonded, and grew closer; it's a time of Lewis's life that she looks back on fondly. "Forget about just my musical life, which has all these other things happening simultaneously, but it's such a wonderful reminder of the simplicity of that moment and the chemistry between Ben and Jimmy and the ease [with] which that music made it out into the world," she explains. "It's like it existed before it existed."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump's co-defendants are already starting to turn against him (JOSH GERSTEIN and KYLE CHENEY, 09/05/2023, Politico)

In late August, an information technology aide at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort dramatically changed his story about alleged efforts to erase surveillance video and agreed to cooperate with special counsel Jack Smith, who has charged Trump with hoarding classified documents. The aide, Yuscil Taveras, was not charged in the case, but his flip may help him dodge a possible perjury charge prosecutors were floating -- and it is likely to bolster Smith's obstruction-of-justice case against Trump and two other aides.

Then, three GOP activists who were indicted alongside Trump in Georgia for trying to interfere with the certification of President Joe Biden's win in the state asserted that their actions were all taken at Trump's behest.

And last week, Trump's former White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows -- also charged in the Georgia case -- signaled that his defense is likely to include blaming the former president as the primary driver of the effort.

It's not uncommon for co-defendants facing serious prison time to point fingers at each other to make themselves look less culpable to an eventual jury. But rarely has it played out in such an extraordinary fashion, where the alleged ringleader is a former president.

During a hearing in Atlanta, a defense attorney for Meadows called attention to Trump's prominent role in what is certain to be a crucial element of prosecutors' case there: the infamous Jan. 2, 2021, phone call in which Trump demanded that Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, "find" enough votes to declare Trump the winner.

Meadows arranged that pivotal call. But after prosecutors played audio of the call in the courtroom, an attorney for Meadows emphasized that his client's part in the actual discussion was both more minor and less provocative than Trump's.

"There's a lot of statements by Mr. Trump. Mr. Meadows' speaking roles were quite limited," Meadows' lawyer, Michael Francisco, observed as he cross-examined Raffensperger, who was called to testify by prosecutors.

"He didn't make a request that you change the vote totals -- Mr. Meadows, himself?" Francisco continued.

"Correct," Raffensperger replied.

Although Francisco made the point delicately, one could almost hear the screech of the bus tires. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Tom Seaver's vineyard still carries on his legacy: 'I see him in the grapes' (Tim Britton, Sep 5, 2023, The Athletic)

CALISTOGA, Calif. -- The walk takes about 20 minutes, clockwise, uphill then down, and it induces a healthy amount of sweat when the temperature cracks 90, as it does on this late September afternoon last year.

"This is what he did every day," Anne Seaver says, accompanied by three black labradors. "He walked the vineyard with his three dogs. So what I do, every day, is I walk the vineyard with my three dogs."

The walk offers exercise, a remarkable view atop Calistoga's Diamond Mountain and communion with the past. When Tom Seaver made this walk each morning, he chatted along the way with his late mother or his older brother, Charles, who'd died from cancer decades ago.

A little more than three years ago, Seaver passed away from Lewy body dementia and complications from COVID-19. Now, for his younger daughter Anne, that same walk is a chance to reconnect with Tom.

"All the little things I took for granted about Dad, now I appreciate so much more," she says. "I can hear his laugh in my head, especially up here.

"I feel almost closer to him now than when he was alive."

As we walk past the rows of grapevines that constitute Seaver Vineyards on a still and cloudless day, the crunch of the ground under our feet the only noise, Anne leans down to pick up a feather.

"Since he's passed," she says, "I've been finding all these feathers." He loved birds, she explains, enough to coo at them when he came across them in the wild, enough to put a quail on the front gate at the vineyard. His favorite poem, the one written by Charles that hangs in the barn at the vineyard, is about watching the geese:

Oh I wish you could have been here on that day
to share the feelings that we felt
to see them fly away.

"The feathers are the symbols," Anne says. "He leaves the feathers."

September 4, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 12:29 PM


Driverless cars may already be safer than human drivers (TIMOTHY B LEE, AUG 31, 2023, Understanding AI)

But we actually do know a fair amount about the safety of driverless taxis. Waymo and Cruise have driven a combined total of 8 million driverless miles, including more than 4 million in San Francisco since the start of 2023.1 And because California law requires self-driving companies to report every significant crash, we know a lot about how they've performed.

For this story, I read through every crash report Waymo and Cruise filed in California this year, as well as reports each company filed about the performance of their driverless vehicles (with no safety drivers) prior to 2023. In total, the two companies reported 102 crashes involving driverless vehicles. That may sound like a lot, but they happened over roughly 6 million miles of driving. That works out to one crash for every 60,000 miles, which is about five years of driving for a typical human motorist.

These were overwhelmingly low-speed collisions that did not pose a serious safety risk. A large majority appeared to be the fault of the other driver. This was particularly true for Waymo, whose biggest driving errors included side-swiping an abandoned shopping cart and clipping a parked car's bumper while pulling over to the curb.

Cruise's record is not impressive as Waymo's, but there's still reason to think its technology is on par with--and perhaps better than--a human driver.

Human beings drive close to 100 million miles between fatal crashes, so it's going to take hundreds of millions of driverless miles for 100 percent certainty on this question. But the evidence for better-than-human performance is starting to pile up, especially for Waymo. And so it's important for policymakers to allow this experiment to continue. Because at scale, safer-than-human driving technology would save a lot of lives.

Posted by orrinj at 11:13 AM


Russia's massive brain drain is ravaging the economy - these stunning figures show why it will soon be smaller than Indonesia's (Business Insider, September 3, 2023)

Since Vladimir Putin launched the invasion in February 2022, emigration out of Russia has exploded, with some estimates putting the exodus at 1 million people. A recent analysis from the policy platform Re: Russia narrowed the number to 817,000-922,000.

That's contributed to a record labor shortage, with 42% of industrial firms unable to find enough workers in July, up from 35% in April. 

The composition of Russia's exodus also points to the best and brightest fleeing the country. While a barrage of Western sanctions incentivized many to leave for economic reasons, others fled to avoid military service, skewing the numbers toward younger Russians.

Workers under the age of 35 now account for less than 30% of the labor force, the lowest on record going back 20 years.

And according to a report from the French Institute of International Relations, 86% of those who have left Russia are under the age of 45, and 80% have a college education. At least 100,000 IT professionals moved out of Russia in 2022, a Kremlin official estimated last year. 

Why would anyone with a brain stay.

September 3, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


UK Pulled Ahead of Germany in Economic Recovery From Covid (Bloomberg, 9/03/23)

The UK economy appears to have pulled ahead of Germany's in its recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, with updated figures suggesting gross domestic product rose more quickly than thought.

GDP jumped 8.7% in 2021 as the economy bounced back from lockdowns, instead of the 7.6% previously estimated, the Office for National Statistics said Friday.  [...]

Assuming no change to growth rates since then, it implies the economy was 1.5% above pre-pandemic levels in the second quarter of this year, instead of 0.2% below. 

September 2, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


We can use the free market to lower energy costs (DAVE JENKINS, 09/01/23, The Hill)

Patterned after the successful Reagan-Bush acid rain program, RGGI uses the same tools of free market competition that control prices and increase efficiency to accelerate energy diversification and modernization of monopoly utilities, which are unfortunately insulated from normal free market forces. [...]

The huge spikes last year in the price of both oil and natural gas due to the war in Ukraine demonstrated just how vulnerable globally traded fossil fuels, even those produced here, are to events halfway around the world.

Although the governor and the General Assembly recently took a long-overdue baby step toward utility accountability, passing a bill that requires Dominion to do away with extra charges known as "riders" from electric bills, far more is needed to protect Virginia ratepayers.

Only RGGI's market pressure can reliably lower costs in the long run, as it encourages diversification with cheaper energy sources that are not influenced by international conflicts or overseas demand. Solar and wind energy makes good economic sense because the fuel is free, unlike natural gas and coal. Electricity from coal and gas typically costs between $45 and $80 per megawatt hour, while new solar electricity with battery storage for nighttime generation costs under $20 per megawatt hour.

It's not just lower, more stable electricity prices that Youngkin is ignoring, it's the massive economic impact. Clean energy is expected to be a $23 trillion market by the end of this decade. Major companies in Virginia, like Mars, Nestle and Unilever, have voiced their support for RGGI because it provides market certainty and lower overhead costs.

September 1, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 3:00 PM


Bombshell: New Study on Long COVID in kids and young adults FAILS to link COVID to Long COVID (VINAY PRASAD, MAR 31, 2023, Observations and Thoughts

A new paper out now from the Norwegians on Long COVID in kids and young adolescents takes a sledgehammer to the media narrative of the condition.

TL:DR - Long covid has no link to prior COVID19, instead, initial symptom severity (of whatever virus you get), loneliness and poor physical activity are linked to the "post covid conditions"

Posted by orrinj at 7:03 AM


Liberalism's sin was born in the Cold War: Himmelfarb disabused the Right of naive progressivism (Samuel Moyn, August 29, 2023, UnHerd)

Like many other Cold War liberals, Himmelfarb had a particular (and mistaken) diagnosis of how liberalism could easily self-destruct. If liberals called for too much emancipation and progress, she thought, they would connive with evil forces to bring them about. They would, in other words, easily fall for the communist promise to achieve good things through immoral means. And if they neglected Christianity's insight into the endurance of original sin, liberals would treat the state as a workable device of liberation and progress, rather than regarding it as a malignant expression of eternal depravity. The consequences, she warned, would be devastating, giving people who are tarnished by original sin the capacity to use state power to kill millions.

Though a Jew concerned about the abuse of minorities, Himmelfarb laid extraordinary emphasis on this point, in turn making Christianity integral to Cold War liberalism. While liberals had spent the prior century often viewing religious forces as an enemy, she called for a new liberalism based on Acton's Christian vision of sin. Acton, who had rejected "integralist" forms of Christian Right-wing politics that longed for a return to medieval theocracy, was principally important for reforming secular liberals who sought to secure freedom against secular totalitarianisms such as Nazi and Soviet tyranny. He recognised, Himmelfarb wrote, "the presence of eternal and absolute" morality, in contrast to liberals who "had no sense of the religious sanctity of those principles" and compromised away freedom.

Indeed, it was liberal Christianity, Himmelfarb wrote, that might turn out to be essential in a Cold War world that knew the threat of religious authoritarianism even as secular revolution could bring even worse oppression. "Clerics are not alone in carrying the banner of religion," she wrote. "They have been joined by a multitude of those who, in Acton's own time, would almost certainly have been in the camp of the opposition." Liberals needed to get over their anticlericalism, was the message, and use religion to save themselves.

It had to be the right kind of Christianity, of course. Acton was an Augustinian, and his vision of sin forbade excessive optimism. Humanity couldn't save itself; man's fallen nature made power a permanent threat. Instead, the Christianity useful for Cold War liberals saw God as the external judge on history, where the notion of secular progress supposedly leading to human emancipation was little more than an alibi for crime. For Acton, Himmelfarb explained, "history did not have a meaning or purpose in itself; it acquired meaning only by comparison with a fixed moral standard outside it, and purpose by fulfilling a moral end imposed upon it".

This Augustinian core of Cold War liberalism is often conveniently forgotten. In an otherwise excellent recent book, for example, Louis Menand paints a portrait of Cold War liberalism as a utopia of innovative modernism, rather than one rooted in the religiosity that suffused the Forties and Fifties.

Among the many gifts of Liberalism, few are more important than the understanding that the ideology of the Left/Right--their belief that they can use state power to impose Utopia--is at odds with immutable human nature.

Posted by orrinj at 6:31 AM


PODCAST: The century-long war for American conservatism, with Matthew Continetti (Niskanen Center, AUGUST 29, 2023)

In this podcast discussion, Continetti talks about the principal themes of The Right, including the proliferation of different varieties of politics that have appeared in right-wing intellectual and activist circles over the past century, the ongoing struggle for influence between the libertarian and traditionalist factions of conservatism, and the tensions between populist outsiders and governing-minded insiders. He analyzes the present political moment and the intellectual attempt to "reverse-engineer" Donald Trump's impulses and instincts into a coherent ideology through institutions like the Claremont Institute and Hillsdale College as well as the National Conservative movement. Continetti also describes the reasoning behind his decision to begin his account with the 1920s, the end of the Cold War's impact on the conservative movement, and the reasons why he thinks the political center-right and its institutions are following the same pattern of decline that the center-left underwent a decade ago.   [...]

Geoff Kabaservice: It seemed to me in reading your book that there was maybe a refinement on that last binary of more establishment conservatives versus populists. And that was that the "establishment" conservatives, if you can call them that -- that's a loaded term -- were interested in governing. That meant putting forward coherent policies. It meant building up national majorities to approve of their programs, and it meant some level of intellectual respectability as well. And those were not concerns of the opposing populist side, who tended to be anti-establishment, anti-authoritarian, maybe even nihilist in their desire for a complete break with the past and a fresh start. Does that sound more or less accurate?

Matthew Continetti: I think another way to characterize it would be to say that the conservative intellectuals were interested in basically playing by the rules of twentieth-century American politics and media, and so they did care about respectability. They did care about being able to go toe-to-toe with the best minds on the Left. They did care about persuasion of the middle that has decided elections in the United States in order to reinforce their governing majorities.

Whereas the outsiders, the populists, they were much more interested always in changing the rules or even substituting a new set of rules for the ones that we have had over the last hundred years. And so that gave them a radical touch that was missing from many of the intellectuals.

Given the hostility of the Deep State (AKA: the American citizenry, our system, and our institutions), it is natural for the Right/Left to be nihilist.  

Posted by orrinj at 5:57 AM


Chart: Renewables are on track to keep getting cheaper and cheaper (Alison F. Takemura, 9/01/23, Canary Media)

By 2030, technology improvements could slash today's prices by a quarter for wind and by half for solar, according to the authors of a recent report from clean energy think tank RMI. (Canary Media is an independent affiliate of RMI.)

These remarkable and ongoing cost declines have made clean energy so attractive that it now outcompetes fossil fuels for new investment: 62 percent of global energy investment is expected to flow to clean energy technologies this year.

That cash is helping push renewables to new heights. According to estimates from the International Energy Agency, global clean energy capacity is expected to jump a jaw-dropping 107 gigawatts to more than 440 gigawatts this year -- its largest increase ever.

What we're living in ​"is an energy technology revolution," said report co-author Kingsmill Bond, an energy strategist at RMI. It's obvious from the data, yet the point is often lost in ​"a consistent drumbeat of counternarratives" about how difficult it is, and will be, to leave fossil fuels behind, he added.

"U.S. fossil-fuel demand peaked 15 years ago," Bond said. ​"This is happening; people have just missed it."

It's the economics, MAGA.  [Emphasizing the need for energy independence could change the views of climate deniers, study says [University of Exeter, 8/30/2023)]