May 28, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 11:10 AM


We Are Measuring Inflation All Wrong: Non-Housing Inflation is Very Low (Alan Reynolds, May 28, 2023, AIER)

A long data lag makes these overweighted housing inflation estimates so misleading the Fed Chairman Powell has warned against measuring inflation services without first removing housing. If we look at "CPI less shelter," the average annual rate of inflation over the past ten months was 0.6 percent. And the producer price index (PPI) - which also excludes housing - rose at a similar 0.9 percent rate.

The Fed and media define inflation as each month's increase from a year earlier. But that 12-month average remains exaggerated because annualized inflation rates in May and June of 2022 were 11-14 percent, partly due to the Russia-Ukraine invasion. Once we drop those oldest and most extreme months out of the 12-month year-to-year average, CPI inflation falls to 3.3 percent for the past ten months rather than 4.9 percent for twelve. 

Before that, from April 2021 to June 2022, CPI inflation averaged 8.6 percent. Getting inflation down from 8.6 percent to 3.3 percent belies the cliche about inflation being sticky or stubbornly high. Yet that 3.3 percent figure drops much further - to 0.6 percent - if we exclude shelter. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Is the Moral Panic Over Critical Race Theory Justified? A Conversation with Sam Hoadley-Brill (AARON ROSS POWELL, MAY 27, 2023, reimagining Liberty)

Aaron Ross Powell: Before we get to the current moral panic about critical race theory, let's start by clearing up for people just what it is and I think just as importantly, what it isn't--because like Marxism and postmodernism, a lot of right-wingers are against it without, it often seems, having much of a sense of what it actually is. To the extent that we can briefly summarize an entire academic sub-discipline, what is critical race theory?

Sam Hoadley-Brill: The term "critical race theory" was coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw. She is a law professor and executive director of the African American Policy Forum, which I currently work at. When she coined the term critical race theory or CRT as it's often referred to, that referred to a very niche at the time, intellectual movement in the legal academy in law schools and in works in law journals. It has since become influential in many other disciplines outside of law, disciplines in the humanities and social sciences like philosophy, education, sociology, and so on.

For a brief definition, I would say that critical race theory is a practice of examining the role of race and racism in society, the social construction of race and institutionalized racism, and how race intersects with identity, systems, and policies. Now, that seems like a very concise definition. Ironically, that definition actually comes from a proposed bill written by a Republican in Minnesota, to actually ban public schools from having any instruction required that related to critical race theory on that definition.

That proposal would've banned schools from requiring any instruction that examines the role of race and racism in society, the social construction of race, institutionalized racism, or how race intersects with identity, systems, and policies. Now, usually the people who are opposed to critical race theory aren't so accurate when defining it. That is a bit of an outlier in terms of the right-wing legislation proposed to ban critical race theory. The people who oppose CRT will usually define it by demonizing it, as you said, a lot like the right-wing proposed definitions of post-modernism and caricatures of Marxism.

May 27, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump workers moved Mar-a-Lago boxes a day before FBI came for documents ( Devlin Barrett, Josh Dawsey, Spencer S. Hsu and Perry Stein, May 25, 2023, Washington Post)

Two of Donald Trump's employees moved boxes of papers the day before an early June visit by FBI agents and a prosecutor to the former president's Florida home to retrieve classified documents in response to a subpoena -- timing that investigators have come to view as suspicious and an indication of possible obstruction, according to people familiar with the matter.

Trump and his aides also allegedly carried out a "dress rehearsal" for moving sensitive papers even before his office received the May 2022 subpoena, according to the people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe a sensitive ongoing investigation.

Prosecutors in addition have gathered evidence indicating that Trump at times kept classified documents in his office in a place where they were visible and sometimes showed them to others, these people said.

So helpful of Donald to demonstrate exactly the intent required to make this criminal. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Freud save AmericaPsychoanalysis is back in vogue with the American left. But is that rejuvenation symbolic of the latter's failure? (Nick Burns, 5/27/23, New Statesman)

Links between psychoanalysis and the US left are not new. After his arrival in the US in 1939, Wilhelm Reich, an early pioneer of radical left psychoanalysis, agitator for sexual liberation and inventor of the "orgone energy accumulator", drew the close attention of writers like Saul Bellow and Norman Mailer. But it was theorists such as the Frankfurt School émigré Herbert Marcuse who helped make Freud one of the lodestars of the American New Left by the 1960s, as a wide array of social movements propelled the left away from an earlier, more exclusive attachment to Marx and historical materialism. [...]

The timing of the recent psychoanalytic turn on the US left is not incidental. The American left is turning to psychoanalysis as it navigates changing conditions on three levels: political, cultural and personal.

In political terms, the position of the American left is an ambivalent one. Even as a huge state-spending drive promises to address climate change, and the Joe Biden administration has stirred exuberant talk of "the death of neoliberalism", a sense of defeat predominates in many circles. At the local level, progressive gains have proved durable, defying predictions to the contrary. Waves of investment by the US government in green energy and infrastructure have kindled hopes for a Green New Deal. But not all see in these developments a recipe for real progress - some see only the temporary, political reallocation of winners in a losing economic game.

The organised left is still reeling from the demise of its national electoral ambitions in the shape of the 2020 Bernie Sanders campaign, followed by a lockdown that scattered the array of left forces accumulated during the previous decade. Recouping strength has proved difficult. A moment of hope for the left during the "hot summer" of 2020 turned to ash as reaction against its "defund the police" slogan reversed the movement's gains.

"As an empirical matter, the left is much more powerful," says Adler-Bell. "But the double gut-punch of Bernie losing the primary and moments later the lockdowns setting in is at the core of this sense of disappointment."

In that disappointment is borne a reflection that seeks explanations beyond the material. Perhaps psychoanalysis is becoming attractive for the same reasons it did in the 1920s and 1930s: a desire to explain why an apparently propitious moment (then, the First World War) did not lead to revolution.

Many of the protagonists in the US left's return to Freud, too, are part of a millennial generation whose young adulthood coincided with the 2010s, a decade that began with Occupy Wall Street and ended with the pandemic. Freud's tragic sensibility seems a match for a generation ageing out of youthful voluntarism and entering middle age - and which has struggled at times to distinguish political from lifestyle concerns.

"Being on the left was something that provided a lot of identity for people in my generation, [the sense] that doing politics was something that feels really good and whatever you do that feels good must be useful and correct," says Adler-Bell. "I think a lot of that is wrong and has been proven so - and thinking with psychoanalysis is helpful for understanding why that might be the case."

Thankfully, our anti-Intellectualism inoculated Americans against Darwin, Marx and Freud

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM



In a statement, the University of Massachusetts Amherst announced that electrical engineer Jun Yao and his team had built upon prior research in a new paper in the journal Advanced Materials into what they call the "Air-gen effect." The basic idea? Growing conducive nanofilms out of bacteria that can pull small amounts of electricity from the water vapor in the air.

"The air contains an enormous amount of electricity," Yao said in the school's statement. "Think of a cloud, which is nothing more than a mass of water droplets. Each of those droplets contains a charge, and when conditions are right, the cloud can produce a lightning bolt--but we don't know how to reliably capture electricity from lightning. What we've done is to create a human-built, small-scale cloud that produces electricity for us predictably and continuously so that we can harvest it."

Because of its bacterial foundation, the material's initial discovery in 2020 was heralded as an intriguing new avenue for green energy tech. Yao and his team have continued to explore the concept, and he says they've found the concept is more generalizable than previously believed.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Prosecutors in Trump's criminal case say they have recording of Trump and a witness (GRAHAM KATES, MAY 26, 2023 / 5:15 PM / CBS NEWS)

Prosecutors in former President Donald Trump's Manhattan criminal case have released to his attorneys a recording of Trump and a witness, whose identity was not disclosed, according to a document the office made public Friday.

The document, called an automatic discovery form, describes the nature of the charges against a defendant and a broad overview of the evidence that prosecutors will present at Trump's preliminary hearing or at trial. Trump's attorneys and media organizations, including CBS News, had repeatedly requested that such a form be made public in the weeks since Trump's arrest on April 4.

Trump is the first former president in American history to face criminal charges. 

May 26, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Has Science Evolved into Technology? (Marco Andreacchio, 5/26/23, Voegelin View)

Has science evolved into technology? This question deserves unpacking.  "Science" here refers to a modern variant of rationalism, the "autonomous" one that Edmund Husserl bashed as a farce.[1] Now, at first it would seem that science and technology are two distinct enterprises.  Science provides an epistemological grounding for technological praxis.  Yet, science, as Werner Heisenberg discovered speaking of "today's physics' picture of nature," is about our relationship with nature, rather than nature in and of itself.[2] What this means is that science can no longer be merely Cartesian: it cannot be "merely theoretical."  In fact, modern science never was.  But now we have a popular confirmation of what science really is, namely a process by which theory as formal method becomes eminently practical, or as Hegel would put it, "concrete." 

Being hostile to Intellectualism while embracing the practical has been a massive boon. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Path From The Tea Party Through Jan. 6 To Today (David Kurtz, May 25, 2023, TPM)

Rhodes incorporated the Oath Keepers in 2009 (gee, who became president that year?), and you can't divorce its creation from the then-emerging Tea Party movement.

The first mention of the Oath Keepers at TPM came in January 2010 in a story by Zachary Roth headlined: "Former Marine With Ties To Right-Wing Movements Charged With Child Rape, Possessing Grenade Launcher." A lot going on there, no? Here's an excerpt:

It's not clear what Dyer might want with a grenade launcher. But he has declared himself a proud member of Oath Keepers, an organization that aims to enlist ex-military and law enforcement personnel, and has stoked fears that the federal government may try to seize Americans' guns and round people up into concentration camps.

In this video, Dyer appears at a Tea Party event to promote the Oath Keepers and to rail against what the group -- perhaps uniquely -- sees as the federal government's overzealous response to Hurricane Katrina.

A month later, in February 2010, Stewart Rhodes made his first appearance at TPM in a story by Eric Kleefeld about a Tea Party candidate for Texas governor in the GOP primary against incumbent Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison:

Debra Medina, the Tea Party activist and candidate in the Texas Republican gubernatorial primary who has attracted attention for her favorable comments about 9/11 Truthers and Birthers, is also involved with another extreme ideological movement: The Oath Keepers.

Will Bunch at the Philadelphia Daily News points out that Medina will appear this Sunday at an event in San Antonio, called "Taking Back Texas." The other two top-billed speakers are Stewart Rhodes, founder of the Oath Keepers movement, and Oather activist Richard Mack, a former sheriff of Graham County, Arizona.

You can see in each of those initial stories the adjacency, to put it charitably, of the Oath Keepers and the Tea Party, with a little birtherism and 9/11 trutherism thrown in for good measure.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Texas lawmakers issue 20 articles of impeachment against state Attorney General Ken Paxton (Jake Bleiberg and Acacia Coronado, 5/26/23, AP)

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton teetered on the brink of impeachment Thursday after years of scandal, criminal charges and corruption accusations that the state's Republican majority had largely met with silence until now.

In an unanimous decision, a Republican-led House investigative committee that spent months quietly looking into Paxton recommended impeaching the state's top lawyer on 20 articles, including bribery, unfitness for office and abuse of public trust. The House could vote on the recommendation as soon as Friday. If it impeaches Paxton, he would be forced to leave office immediately.

The move sets up what could be a remarkably sudden downfall for one of the GOP's most prominent legal combatants, who in 2020 asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn President Joe Biden's victory. Only two officials in Texas' nearly 200-year history have been impeached.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Succession is a Christian psychodrama (Ed Prideaux, 5/25/23, UnHerd)
The story of Abraham and Isaac has always been one of the more confounding parts of the Hebrew Bible. Even millennia later, one can scarcely imagine the doom of Isaac's revelation, as Abraham brought the knife to his throat: "The fire and the wood are here, but where's the lamb for the burnt offering?" The sudden appearance of a ram and the merciful angel that spared Isaac's life, may have provided short shrift. One imagines Isaac shattered and dissociative, wracked with questions as they walked back to Beersheba.

Many great thinkers have sought to make sense of Abraham's deranged vision - Kierkegaard, Kafka, Derrida -- and the sort of God that could have sanctioned it. For Kierkegaard, the absurdity of a father trying to kill his own son can only be grasped in its own terms. By some flavour of supreme logic, in the terrible clarity of God's command, Kierkegaard surmised, Abraham must have expected a deliverance: if not the return of his son, at least a "substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen". By trusting in the absurd, his faith was commended.

Only philosophers and theologians could make such a hash of such a straightforward tale: Isaac represents Abraham's test of whether God is worthy of Man. Had He demanded the sacrifice be carried out we would not worship Him. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Fusion Race (Packy McCormick x Rahul Rana, 5/22/23, Not Boring)

Imagine a bizarro relay marathon in which one runner carries the baton for the first 26.0 miles, opens up a backpack full of batons, and hands them out liberally to a waiting horde of sprinters to dash all-out for the final 0.2 miles. That's the best analogy we can come up with for this moment in the Fusion Race. 

Global governments are the marathon runner. From the race to develop thermonuclear weapons after World War II, to the $22 billion, 50+ year cooperative ITER reactor currently being built in France, to the National Ignition Facility's ignition achievement in December 2022, governments have led fusion research efforts for the better part of eight decades. 

The world's governments have run a well-paced marathon, producing something akin to a Moore's Law in fusion for half a century. The triple product - of density, temperature, and time - is the figure-of-merit in fusion, and it doubled every 1.8 years from the late 1950s through the early 2000s, as one type of reactor - tokamaks, a form of magnetic confinement fusion (MCF) - got larger and more powerful. 

In December, scientists at the government-funded National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore made headlines when they achieved fusion ignition, or scientific energy breakeven, for the first time in a controlled environment That is, they got more energy out of the fusion reaction than they spent on the laser energy used to drive it. The NIF used a different approach: inertial confinement fusion (ICF). 

The world rejoiced - fusion energy is possible! - and then sobered up - it was like a AA battery's worth of energy and, experts pointed out, commercial-scale fusion power might not arrive for decades. 

That's the joke in fusion, that fusion power is "always 30 years away." Funny joke, to be sure, but it may no longer be true. 

We're at the handoff point, from private to public, thanks to improving compute and machine learning, better magnets and materials, the diverse range of technical approaches that are finally becoming feasible, and dramatically increased capital availability for startups. 

Companies like Helion, Commonwealth Fusion Systems, TAE Technologies, General Fusion, and Zap Energy are the sprinters. Armed with $5 billion in funding, most of which has come in just the past two years, and decades worth of research made feasible by new tools, fusion startups are locked in a mad dash to the finish in what might be called Fusion Race 2.0. At the end stands commercial fusion and a healthy chunk of the $15 trillion global energy market. 

May 25, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 2:16 PM


Oath Keepers founder sentenced to 18 years in Jan. 6 seditious conspiracy case (Ryan J. Reilly, Daniel Barnes and Gary Grumbach, 5/25/23, NBC News)

The founder of the far-right Oath Keepers has been sentenced to 18 years in federal prison in connection with the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol following his conviction on seditious conspiracy.

The sentence for Stewart Rhodes is the longest imposed on a Jan. 6 defendant to date. In a politically-charged speech in the courtroom just before his sentencing, Rhodes called himself a "political prisoner" and said that when he talked about "regime change" in a phone call with supporters earlier this week, he meant he hopes that former President Donald Trump will win in 2024.

The judge disagreed that Rhodes had been locked up for politics, saying it was his actions that led to his criminal convictions.

"You, sir, present an ongoing threat and a peril to this country and to the republic and to the very fabric of this democracy," Judge Amit Mehta said before handing down the sentence.

Posted by orrinj at 1:55 PM


DNA Suggests Modern Humans Emerged From Several Groups in Africa, Not One (Will Sullivan, May 25, 2023, Smithsonian)

The paper relies on modeling using the genomes of 290 living people from southern, eastern and western Africa. The findings suggest that modern humans descended from at least two groups of ancient humans that were closely related and mixed genes on occasion, writes Live Science's Charles Q. Choi.

"There is no single birthplace," Eleanor Scerri, an evolutionary archaeologist at the Max Planck Institute for Geoanthropology in Germany who did not contribute to the study, tells the New York Times' Carl Zimmer. "It really puts a nail in the coffin of that idea."

Rather than envisioning human evolution as a tree--with a single stem that splits into disconnected branches--the researchers describe ancestral human populations as intertwining stems, writes Nature News' Jude Coleman.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


5 "what ifs" that would have changed cosmic history (Ethan Siegel, 5/25/23, Big Think)

13.8 billion years ago, what we know today as our Universe began with the hot Big Bang. Filled with matter, antimatter and radiation in an almost uniform fashion, it expanded and gravitated in nearly perfect balance. As the Universe cooled, the matter and antimatter annihilated away, leaving a tiny, minuscule, but significant amount of matter behind. After 9.2 billion years, what would become our Solar System gradually began to form from a collapsing cloud of molecular gas, and after another 4.55 billion years or so, humanity first arose on planet Earth.

When we look out at the Universe from our perspective here and now, we only get a snapshot of existence, defined by the properties of the light, particles, and gravitational waves that we observe at the moment of their arrival. Based on all that we've seen, combined with our theories, frameworks, and models that reflect the fusion of those observations with the underlying laws of physics, we've come to understand the cosmos around us. But if things had been only a tiny bit different, our Universe would have been dramatically different. Here are five things that could have happened to change the course of our shared cosmic history.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Truths Unlooked ForGuardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is a return to the good action/adventure/sci-fi romp, with excellent story and spectacle and no wokeness. More surprisingly, it's also profound thanks to its shocking religious themes. (Jared Johnson, 5/24/23, Crisis)

Rocket was created as a throwaway experiment, but he manifests a unique consciousness and free will absent in the Evolutionary's other creations. The supervillain spends the film in a manic search to find Rocket and study his inexplicable mind. Rocket winds up grievously wounded in the High Evolutionary's first attempt, and so the Guardians race to save their friend and confront the past. 

The source of Rocket's intelligence turns out to be, of all things, divine Providence. Thanks to his materialism, the High Evolutionary is blind to this. It is by contrasting the Guardians and the Evolutionary that Gunn explores two responses to the problem of evil: hope in Providence, and despair. The High Evolutionary embodies the latter. 

His utopian ambitions reveal a desperate refusal to deny the fallenness of creation, and he believes he must weed it out himself. In real life, this despair is at the heart of every totalitarian ideology out there, from Machiavelli to Marx. All of them insist that the world is awful, there is no higher power to fix it, and so we must order the world ourselves. When his quest for Rocket devolves into madness, one henchman begs him to stop "for the love of God." He bellows: "There is no God! That's why I stepped in!" 

The context ensures that this is not a movie in which the filmmaker subtly speaks his worldview through the villain; rather, the heroic Guardians embody hope in Providence, posited as the correct answer. As he lies dying, Rocket's soul stands at the literal Pearly Gates. There he speaks to another experiment, a dear friend, murdered by the High Evolutionary. He reveals his grief over the monstrousness of his creation. He wants a purpose, but he has despaired of ever finding one. 

His friend tells him that "there are the hands that made us, and there are the hands that guide the hands." That is to say: we are shaped by our suffering, but that suffering is a tool for the good. I don't know any way to read that except as Christian Providence. You can't even render it a vague New Ageism like "the universe"; in saying the "hands that guide," Providence is implied to be personal, intentional, and benevolent. By the end of the film, each Guardian comes to a similar conclusion; and by embracing the mystery of Providence, they can fly off, free and joyful, to discover their true callings. 

The conceit that one could do better than God is hardly surprising to find in a comic book villain, but it is especially explicit here. And Anglospheric culture is so deeply premised on Man's Fallen nature and the impossibility of Rational utopianism that this theme too is unsurprising.  Still, it's nice to see hundreds of millions of dollars spent to remind the masses of it at a time when liberalism is under attack from the Left/Right.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Texas mall shooting suspect's alleged extremism part of growing trend in US: DHS bulletin (Luke Barr, May 24, 2023, ABC News)

The updated National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) bulletin says the coming months could be dangerous.

"Factors that could mobilize individuals to commit violence include their perceptions of the 2024 general election cycle and legislative or judicial decisions pertaining to sociopolitical issues. Likely targets of potential violence include US critical infrastructure, faith-based institutions, individuals or events associated with the LGBTQIA+ community, schools, racial and ethnic minorities, and government facilities and personnel, including law enforcement," it said.

In particular, officials said that a candidate who casts doubt on the election system "would contribute to the potential of violent acts."

Other incidents that were mentioned in the bulletin are the Nashville Christan school, plots against power substations and foreign terrorists who "continue to use media to call for lone offender attacks in the West, condemn US foreign policy, and attempt to expand their reach and grow global support networks."

May 24, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 3:27 PM


The Media Has Got Ron DeSantis Nailed (JACK SHAFER, 05/24/2023, Politico)

Not to mock the governor, but he exudes more coldness than coolness. He gives every appearance of not particularly liking people, and that feeling has been reciprocated in the recent national polls as his numbers have peaked and tumbled down.

Then there's the physical straitjacket he dons when he takes the podium or mingles with voters or walks through crowds protected by his ultra-protective retinue. Dead-eyed and dour, DeSantis speaks a body language that always seems to be looking for an exit. If no exit exists, he calms his demons by sparking some new senseless fight with the Disney corporation. If he becomes president, will the House of Mouse rank above or below China in his Axis of Evil?

Noting both his rigid demeanor and his deliberate avoidance of the nonpartisan press, the reporters covering DeSantis have gathered these behavioral cues to sew the candidate a straitjacketed image, portraying him as a locked up, frozen and vengeful character whose veins pump bile, not blood. He's now in a box -- likely for his entire 2024 campaign -- that will be difficult to break out of, even for the most talented escape artist.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Fearing indictment is imminent in classified docs probe, Trump team requests meeting with DOJ (Katherine Faulders and Alexander Mallin, May 23, 2023, Washington Post)

The letter asks Garland for a meeting at his earliest convenience to discuss what the attorneys describe as the "ongoing injustice that is being perpetrated" by special counsel Jack Smith and says that no president has been "baselessly investigated" in such an "unlawful fashion."

The one-page letter was signed by Trump lawyers John Rowley and James Trusty, and does not outline any specific allegations of wrongdoing by Smith and his team.

The request does not specifically detail what Trump's legal team wants to discuss with the attorney general.

The noose tightens.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


House Ethics Committee closes Swalwell investigation with no further action (Mariana Alfaro, May 23, 2023, Washington Post)

Per Axios, U.S. officials don't think Fang got classified information as she cozied up to politicians, including from Swalwell, and he was not accused of any wrongdoing. After U.S. intelligence officials briefed him in 2015 on their concerns about Fang, he cut ties with her. Swalwell said in a statement to Axios then that he provided information to the FBI about her and that he hasn't interacted with her in six years. Fang has since left the country.

May 23, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 4:30 PM


Donald Trump's Legal Team Is in Utter Turmoil (ROBERT KATZBERG, MAY 23, 2023, Slate)

Parlatore's departure follows that of Evan Corcoran, a Trump lawyer who resigned from the Mar-a-Lago investigation after being compelled to testify in the grand jury against his client in the classified documents matter. Despite resigning from the Mar-a-Lago investigation, Corcoran will remain counsel to the former president in other investigations. While Parlatore was also compelled to testify in the grand jury, he apparently saw no ethical or practical bar to his continuing to work for Trump until Epshteyn annoyed him sufficiently to trigger his exit. Both Parlatore and Corcoran have it wrong.

As a white-collar criminal defense attorney for four decades, I cannot fathom how any attorney who has testified in a grand jury investigation of a client can remain that client's lawyer. Justice Department attorneys did not subpoena Parlatore and Corcoran after randomly pulling their names from the phone book. They were subpoenaed because the DOJ must have had substantial evidence involving them in the criminal conduct of their client. Otherwise there would be no way to successfully litigate the matter over many months to break the attorney-client privilege under the "crime fraud" exception. 

Gonna need a bigger cell...

Posted by orrinj at 4:19 PM


Joe Biden and Walter Russell Mead Deserve an "F" on India (SALIL TRIPATHI, MAY 23, 2023, The UnPopulist)

Mead betrays no hint that he is aware that as chief minister of Gujarat in 2002, Modi presided over one of the worst episodes of anti-Muslim bloodletting since India's independence. Hindu militants--some tied to the BJP--massacred thousands of Muslims in a few days. Muslim women were beaten, gang raped and murdered. One survivor is Bilkis Bano, a pregnant woman whose toddler's head was bashed in front of her before she was raped by 11 neighbors and left for dead. After 17 long years, her tormentors were finally convicted--only to be released last year by the Gujarat government, which Modi or his party have ruled uninterrupted for just over a quarter century, due to "good behavior" in prison. Worse, Gujarat did so after obtaining a green light from Amit Shah, Modi's Home Minister and right-hand man. When the rapists got out, BJP leaders and activists greeted them with garlands. A BBC documentary earlier this year examining Modi's role in the Gujarat pogrom was effectively banned from the country. (To their credit, some Australian politicians and human rights activists have arranged to screen that documentary in the Australian parliament during Modi's visit.)

During Modi's first term from 2015 to 2018, Human Rights Watch found that Hindu "cow protection" vigilantes lynched 44 people--36 of whom were Muslim.

The BJP is targeting Muslims not just with violence but also abusive laws. Modi's notorious Citizenship Amendment Act, which has generated massive protests around the country, could potentially strip millions of Muslims of their citizenship unless they meet complicated conditions to prove they are Indians. Mosques that have allegedly breached municipal laws are being razed, and Muslims are increasingly facing restrictions over praying in public. Muslim girls and women are not allowed to wear the headscarf in academic institutions in one state. Muslim tenants are increasingly finding it hard to get rental property and many Muslims find their job applications go unanswered.

BJP activists take every opportunity to vilify Muslims. When the pandemic took off in India, they blamed Tablighi Muslims, who had gathered for a religious event, as super spreaders while initially ignoring large electoral rallies that Modi was addressing; the rallies were later canceled. Modi has repeatedly dog-whistled that you can tell who is violent by how they dress--a not-so-subtle effort to demonize observant Muslims. It is not surprising then that the BJP no longer has a single Muslim member of parliament even though nearly 14% of India's population is Muslim, not even a token one as had been the case in the previous BJP government.

But except for gesturing against BJP's efforts to pass anti-conversion laws, Mead maintains a stoic silence about the BJP's concerted and in-your-face, anti-Muslim crusade. Not even the BJP's efforts to make inter-faith marriages exceedingly hard to solve the entirely imaginary problem of "love jihad"--Muslim men seducing Hindu girls into marrying them--gets a mention.

An apartheid India can not be a US ally. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Why Inflation Erupted: Two Top Economists Have the Answer: Former Fed chair, IMF chief economist say it wasn't pandemic or stimulus; it was the pandemic, then the stimulus (Greg Ip, May 23, 2023 WSJ)

Inflation did shoot up, hitting 7% that December, 5.5% excluding food and energy. "The critics' forecasts of higher inflation would prove to be correct--indeed, even too optimistic--but, in substantial part, the sources of the inflation would prove to be different from those they warned about," Blanchard, one of those critics, and Bernanke write in their study.

To tease out the sources of inflation, Bernanke and Blanchard build a relatively conventional model in which inflation is a function of, among other things, the gap between the supply and demand for labor, the public's expectations of inflation, and idiosyncratic shocks. They include a variable for supply-chain disruptions derived from Google searches for "shortage."

Usually economists judge labor market tightness from how far unemployment is above or below its natural rate. But this time the labor market heated up before unemployment got that low. So instead, Bernanke and Blanchard use the ratio of job vacancies to unemployed workers. Finally, their model lets all these factors interact, with varying lags.

If stimulus caused the initial surge in inflation, it should have shown up in an overheated labor market, i.e., an unusually high ratio of vacancies to unemployed. In fact, labor market conditions put downward pressure on inflation through the third quarter of 2021, the authors concluded. Instead, the inflation that year was driven almost entirely by shortages and energy prices.

Demand shifted abruptly from services to goods in the early months of the pandemic. The overall effect should have been a wash as prices rose for goods and fell for services. It wasn't, because goods producers faced supply constraints, which caused costs and prices to spike, while costs to service producers didn't decline much. "These sectoral mismatches between demand and supply proved more intractable and longer-lasting than many had expected," the authors note.

These supply effects did eventually subside. Why didn't inflation then fall? The reason, the authors conclude, is that by this point demand was so strong, reflecting the legacy of low interest rates and fiscal largess, the labor market was significantly overheated with the ratio of vacancies to unemployed up dramatically. Moreover, the initial surge of inflation had an echo: It lifted workers' expectations of short-term inflation, which then partly found its way into their wages.

If anything, the study might understate the effect of pandemic disruptions. The labor market didn't just overheat because of excess demand, but reduced supply, as well. The rising ratio of vacancies to unemployed, which the model equates with a tighter labor market, reflects employers struggling to fill vacancies. The authors note much of that struggle was because of the pandemic: Firms that had laid off employees had to find new ones, while some workers left the labor force because of family obligations, illness or work-life balance priorities.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Massive Sails Power Ships Like Never Before (JACOPO PRISCO, May 23, 2023, Wired)

The Oceanbird Wing 560 isn't a wing, but it isn't a sail either. When it's first assembled a few months from now in a shipyard just north of Malmö, Sweden, it'll be 40 meters high with a 560-square-meter surface and will weigh around 200 metric tons. Its creators call it a wingsail, and they think it's the future of sea travel.

"It's more like an airplane wing that you put on top of a ship rather than a normal sail, that's why we call it a wingsail," says Niclas Dhal, managing director of Oceanbird.

The wingsail consists of two parts: a rigid main core and a flap that draws air onto the core in a system inspired by high-performance racing yachts, which can travel faster than the speed of the wind. The core is made of steel, surrounded by glass fiber and recycled PET, and the whole thing can contract to less than half of its total length and tilt down to lie flat over the deck. This summer, its prototype will be tested on land, and next year it will be fitted to a 14-year-old cargo ship, the car carrier Wallenius Tirranna.

Making the sail work on a vessel that's already in service is critical for a company that wants to help decarbonize the shipping industry, which is responsible for just under 3 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Building more fuel-efficient ships is the long-term mission, Dhal says, "but if you really want to change the world, you need to address all the existing vessels."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Chinese citizens sue Florida over law barring them from owning houses (ANDRES PICON, 05/22/2023, Politico)

The plaintiffs allege that the law, SB 264, is discriminatory and that it stokes racial biases against Chinese Americans and undermines their financial freedom. Gov. Ron DeSantis signed it into law and it is set to go into effect on July 1.

It's a proud racist tradition

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Republican witness faces questions over whether he lied under oath to key panel (David Smith, 22 May 2023, The Guardian)

At one point, O'Boyle was asked by Democrat Dan Goldman whether Kash Patel, who held multiple roles in the Trump administration, is helping finance O'Boyle's legal counsel. The witness replied: "Not that I'm aware of."

The answer has raised eyebrows because, during a previous interview with the House of Representatives' weaponisation subcommittee in February, O'Boyle disclosed that his legal fees are being paid by a nonprofit organisation called Fight With Kash, also known as the Kash Foundation and run by Kash Patel.

Furthermore, a Democratic staff report published in March notes that Patel arranged for Jesse Binnall, who served as Trump's top "election fraud" lawyer in 2020, to serve as counsel for O'Boyle. Binnall sits on the Kash Foundation's board of directors and has acknowledged working on past lawsuits funded by the foundation.

In light of these details, Democrats are concerned that O'Boyle was not fully truthful before the committee chaired by Republican Jim Jordan, a staunch Trump backer. Lying to Congress carries a penalty of up to five years' imprisonment.

On the other hand, at least they could find this "whistleblower" so he could lie to Congress.
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The future of Dutch aerospace? Meet Fokker Next Gen's hydrogen plane (Next Web,  May 23, 2023)

With €25 million in funding from the Dutch government, and an additional EU Clean Aviation grant of undisclosed amount, Fokker is aiming at a 2035 entry into service of a clean-sheet aircraft design operating on liquid hydrogen. The plane's intended range is 2,500 km, meaning it could fly across Europe from London to Kyiv - without generating any CO₂ emissions.

May 22, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 7:43 PM


The liberal complacency of Martin Amis: His exquisite style hid a squalid sense of morality (TERRY EAGLETON, 5/22/23, UnHerd)

Hitchens's spiritual twin, Martin Amis, easily matched him for mordant wit. He was the great poet of the postmodern metropolis, his finger unerringly on the pulse of its hardboiled, streetwise, sexually libidinous inhabitants. His sensibility belonged as exactly to its time and place as that of Dickens or Faulkner. We are ushered into a depthless, deregulated world of appetite, self-interest, and purely vacuous freedom in which anything goes, held together only by the rigour of literary style. Style in Amis is what rises triumphantly above the squalor of his material. Its shapeliness, equipoise and finesse constitute an implicit critique of contemporary culture, which saved him from anything as uncool as having to pass explicit moral judgements on it. He once remarked that he would sell his grandmother for a finely turned phrase, and if I were his grandmother I would have taken this comment seriously enough to go into hiding. In a literary milieu in which style is sometimes considered "elitist", few modern writers can handle a sentence so superbly.

Posted by orrinj at 5:50 PM


Along the highways, Indian restaurants serve America's truckers: The roadside stops, called dhabas, run by Punjabi immigrants are sprouting up to serve a growing trucker population a slice of home (Meena Venkataramanan, May 20, 2023, Washington Post)

Long before dawn on a frosty February morning in Dallas, Palwinder Singh rises from the mattress in his sleeper cab and prepares to haul his cargo cross-country. After five hours of driving north along U.S. 287, and then west on Interstate 40, it's lunchtime.

Singh, 30, pulls his semi off Exit 36 into Vega, a quiet town in the Texas Panhandle along the historic Route 66. For lunch, he bypasses the typical long-haul trucker menu of convenience-store snacks and heat-lamp hot dogs at the large Pilot Travel Center and instead rolls into the parking lot of a modest white building across the street. A sign on the building's red roof spells out the words "Punjabi Dhaba" in the Punjabi language's Gurmukhi script, with the English translation below it.

The Vega Truck Stop and Indian Kitchen, as it's officially known, attracts truckers like Singh originally from Punjab, a region spanning northwest India and eastern Pakistan. The store is filled with Punjabi snacks, sweets, truck decorations and a restaurant, known as a dhaba, that serves fresh meals including paratha and butter chicken -- a slice of South Asia in the middle of rural Texas.

That afternoon, Singh parked his truck, decorated with colorful fabrics and ornaments called jhalars and parandas. He was promptly greeted in Punjabi by another trucker, Amandeep Singh, of Fresno, Calif., who had also stopped for lunch. As they each poured a cup of steaming chai indoors, the truckers chatted about their drives.

The Vega eatery is among an estimated 40 dhabas, and likely many more, that have popped up along American highways across the country in response to the growing number of Punjabi truckers, who have dominated the Indian trucking industry for decades. Punjabis now make up almost 20 percent of the U.S. trucking industry, according to Raman Dhillon, chief executive of the North American Punjabi Trucking Association. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Beyond Bakhmut's Destruction, The News From Ukraine Is Mostly Good (Lucian K. Truscott IV, May 22 | 2023, National Memo)

As Zelensky indicated in Japan at the G-7, what they are fighting over when it comes to Bakhmut is a town that has been completely destroyed. That Russia has been willing to spend the lives of so many of its troops - as many as 100,000 either killed or wounded since last December - is either proof of Putin's hubris, Prigohzin's hubris, or both. Sources inside Russia have indicated to Western reporters that the battle for Bakhmut is as much about a war going on between Putin and his erstwhile "friend" Prigohzin as it is about anything else.

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