March 31, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 5:51 PM


Mitch McConnell blames delayed coronavirus response by President Trump on impeachment (IGOR DERYSH, MARCH 31, 2020, Salon)\

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., blamed the Trump administration's delayed response to the coronavirus outbreak on impeachment, even though the president ignored numerous early warning signs and sought to downplay the crisis long after he was acquitted in a trial. 

80% of the American people would agree with him that our response would have been far more effective had he replaced Donald with a President Pence.

Posted by orrinj at 11:06 AM


Charge a Car Battery in 5 Minutes? That's the Plan (DANIEL OBERHAUS, 03.30.2020, wired)

Anna Tomaszewska, a chemical engineer at Imperial College London who recently coauthored a review paper on fast-charging lithium-ion batteries, says one possible solution to lithium plating is to add silicon to the anode. Silicon is cheap, abundant, and can change the anode's crystal structure in such a way that makes lithium plating less likely. "Silicon has been particularly popular with the manufacturers because it can also improve the energy capacity of the battery," adds Tomaszewska.

Indeed, many companies, including Tesla, have added silicon or silicon oxide to graphite anodes to squeeze some more energy from their lithium-ion cells. But Enevate, an energy storage company based in Southern California, wants to take graphite out of the picture. For the last 15 years, the company has been perfecting an XFC, or extremely fast charging lithium-ion battery with a pure silicon anode.

Earlier this year, the company's researchers announced that their latest generation of batteries could be charged to 75 percent in just five minutes--without sacrificing energy density. "We can have a fast charge without losing out on energy density because we're using an inexpensive, pure-silicon approach," says Ben Park, Enevate's founder and chief technology officer.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Gantz chooses Netanyahu's incitement over Arab-Jewish partnership (Haggai Matar, March 26, 2020, +972)

Benny Gantz had three choices before him. He could have betrayed his voters by reneging on his central campaign promise of being an alternative to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Alternatively, he could have betrayed his second campaign promise to not rely on the Joint List to form a minority government. Or lastly, he could have taken Israel to a fourth election.

Ultimately, Gantz was left to decide between rubber stamping Netanyahu's corruption, his annexationist policies, and his attacks on Israel's democratic institutions, or to back Jewish-Arab partnership with the representatives of the majority of Israel's Palestinian citizens. On Thursday, despite polls showing that an overwhelming majority of his voters supported the latter option -- and despite threatening to pass legislation that prevent Netanyahu from serving as he faces trial -- Gantz opted for the former.

By entering into a unity government, half of Blue and White -- a political alliance made up of three anti-Netanyahu factions -- ditched Gantz and went to the opposition. The new government will be far-right, religious, and corrupt, just like the last one. 

Israel is decreasingly Western.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Ian Bremmer breaks down Trump's response to the coronavirus crisis -- where he has been a profound failure and where he has been among the best in the world (Sara Silverstein, 3/31/20, Business Insider)

Silverstein: Two separate questions. How do you rate Trump's response to the coronavirus pandemic? And then also, the fiscal and monetary stimulus that the government has put out?

Bremmer: Well, I don't know that you can really decouple those things. I mean, Trump's response is both the media response, his communications response. It's his healthcare response. It's his travel response. Right?

Let me tell you what I think about Trump on all of this. If you want to criticize Trump, the two things that you should criticize him for is that he has been a communications disaster and has provided a lot of false hope that probably led to a later response, particularly in red states in social distancing, than we need. And people are going to die because of that. That's a profound negligent leadership point. Right? Trump constantly in sales mode, "This is going to go away. It's going to be a miracle. It's not going to be a big deal." Obviously, something that hurt the country.

Secondarily, under his watch, the United States did not accept the World Health Organization tests. Our tests did not work. We were unable to get them in the hands of enough people fast. As a consequence, we did not have knowledge of the extent of the spread of this virus across metropolitan areas in many states in the United States. Also, putting us on the back foot. So in those two ways, Trump has been a profound failure.

He's also been a failure in terms of the lack of international leadership. Right? That outside of the United States, what the hell have we done? Right? I mean, the Europeans condemned the fact that Trump put travel restrictions in place without telling them first. They found out on CNN. We should never have in this kind of crisis, a response from our allies like that. It should never happen. Our aid on average, $4 million to a country. Right? We're doing virtually nothing. The Chinese are doing vastly more. A lot of their masks don't even work. They're responsible for the damn crisis to begin with, by covering it up. And yet, they're doing better with a lot of our allies, because we're not there internationally.

So those are the three ways that we've really failed, and Trump has really done a bad job. Now, how has Trump done a good job? Well, number one, Trump did shut down travel to China early, and he did it despite the fact that the Chinese were really unhappy about that. And that was really important to do because you had millions of Chinese coming to the United States, and they were infected. Right? A lot of them were vectors, and we didn't have any information on that. We needed to shut that down, so good for us.

Also, the fiscal response and the monetary response that Trump signed... and Mnuchin, his administration worked with Nancy Pelosi. Massive. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


How the Right Went Far-Right: The media once quarantined neofascists. Not anymore. (PAUL STARR, MARCH 31, 2020, The American Prospect)

The relationship between right-wing extremism and online media is at the heart of Antisocial, Andrew Marantz's new book about what he calls "the hijacking of the American conversation." A reporter for The New Yorker, Marantz began delving into two worlds in 2014 and 2015. He followed the online world of neofascists, attended events they organized, and interviewed those who were willing to talk with him. Meanwhile, he also reported on the "techno-utopians" of Silicon Valley whose companies were simultaneously undermining professional journalism and providing a platform for the circulation of conspiracy theories, disinformation, hate speech, and nihilism. The online extremists, Marantz argues, have brought about a shift in Americans' "moral vocabulary," a term he borrows from the philosopher Richard Rorty. "To change how we talk is to change who we are," Marantz writes, summing up the thesis of his book.

Antisocial weaves back and forth between the netherworld of the right and the dreamworld of the techno-utopians in the years leading up to and immediately following the 2016 U.S. election. The strongest chapters profile the demi-celebrities of the "alt-right." As a Jewish reporter from a liberal magazine, Marantz is not an obvious candidate to gain the confidence of neofascists. But he has an impressive talent for drawing them out, and his portraits attend to the complexities of their life stories and the nuances of their opinions. Marantz leaves no doubt, however, about his own view of the alt-right and the responsibilities of journalists: "The plain fact was the alt-right was a racist movement full of creeps and liars. If a newspaper's house style didn't allow its reporters to say so, at least by implication, then the house style was preventing its reporters from telling the truth."

As Marantz describes them, the white nationalists, masculinists, and other elements of the alt-right were "metamedia insurgents" interested chiefly in catalyzing conflict. "They took for granted that the old institutions ought to be burned to the ground, and they used the tools at their disposal--new media, especially social media--to light as many matches as possible." As they expanded their online presence, they tailored their memes to the medium. On Facebook, they posted "countersignal" memes "to shock normies out of their complacency." On Twitter, they trolled mainstream journalists, hoping to capture wider attention. On sites such as Reddit, 4chan, and 8chan, they felt free to be "more overtly vile" and "started calling themselves 'fashy' or 'fash-ist,'" sometimes baiting "normies" by claiming that "Hitler did nothing wrong."

The online alt-right, together with the presidential candidate they decided to champion, Donald Trump, played a key role in making white nationalist ideas part of the national conversation. Until 2016, the two major parties and national media reflected a broad consensus--at least in rhetoric, if not in actual policy--that America was a nation where immigrants were welcome and people of all races and religions were equal. When Republicans played the "race card," they did so obliquely in deference to the consensus. Under George W. Bush, the Republican establishment was still pushing immigration reform, while the party was increasingly in opposition to legislation and succeeded in blocking it.

But a few on the far right called for Republicans to go further. They assailed "the Narrative," their term for the dominant liberal ideas about racial and gender equality. Marantz highlights the role of Steve Sailer, an opinion writer who had been arguing since the early 2000s that Republicans should openly cast themselves as a white-identity party, enact pro-white policies, and take aggressive action against immigration, including the repeal of birthright citizenship. Others on the right called this the "Sailer strategy." Social media gave Sailer and like-minded heretics--"many of whom Buckley had banished to the fringes of the movement years earlier"--new ways of disseminating their views that were more powerful than what was appearing in a print magazine like National Review. [...]

The normalization of white nationalism on the right and the growth of online media helped prepare the way for Trump's election. With his disregard for the truth and incendiary use of social media both as a candidate and as president, Trump has been the pivotal and emblematic figure in this political transformation. Repeatedly over the previous decades, as far back as 1987, he failed to get any traction when he floated the idea of running for president. The mainstream news media did not take him seriously, and his views and even his party affiliation weren't clear. In 1999, he mentioned Oprah Winfrey as a possible running mate when he suggested he might run for president the next year.

In 2011, Trump again tried to stir up support for a presidential campaign, but as Marantz points out, he initially had "nothing to command people's attention--no news hook, no controversy, no meme with momentum." Then he turned to two far-right figures, Joseph Farah and Jerome Corsi from World Net Daily, a right-wing online site that had played a central role in promoting the lie that Obama came from Kenya and his Hawaiian birth certificate was a forgery. Seizing on the myth about Obama's birth, Trump generated the political attention he had always craved...

National Review is edited by Rich Lowry, runs VDH, Peter Kirsanow and Mark Krikorian among others and took an official editorial position against DACA (a 10-90% question).  Of course, WFB himself had a spotty record on civil rights and immigration...

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


China's service activity bounces back in March (MarketWatch, 3/30/20)

An official gauge of business activity beyond Chinese factory floors rebounded sharply in March, as the country's crucial service sector showed signs of recovery from the coronavirus outbreak, though construction activity showed signs of recovery from the coronavirus outbreak.

China's official nonmanufacturing purchasing managers index climbed to 52.3 in March from a record-low reading of 29.6 in February, the National Bureau of Statistics said Tuesday. March's reading shows expansion, coming in above the 50 level.

The subindex measuring business activity in the service sector jumped to 51.8 from 30.1 in February, while the subindex measuring construction activity was 28.5 in March from 55.1. The new-orders subindex for the entire nonmanufacturing sector, a measure of demand, increased to 49.2 from 26.5 in February. A subindex measuring employment rose to 47.7 from 37.9.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Behind the scenes: Why Trump changed his mind about Easter (Jonathan Swan, 3/30/20, Axios)

Scenes out of New York, including bleak hospital images played on Fox News, struck a nerve with President Trump and caused him to drop his aspiration of reopening America by Easter, senior administration officials tell Axios.

Bill Gates tried to explain.

March 30, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 3:19 PM


Posted by orrinj at 1:04 PM


The Trumpian French Doctor Behind the Chloroquine Hype (ROBERT ZARETSKY, MARCH 30, 2020, Slate)

Not surprisingly, Raoult's rapid rise raised as many eyebrows as huzzahs. While his fans applaud the 3,000 scientific articles Raoult has co-signed, his critics argue that these staggering numbers do not add up. Do the math, they remark, and it turns out the Marseillais researcher publishes more papers in a month than most productive researchers publish in a career. Raoult's method, according to one critic, is to task a young researcher at IHU with an experiment, then co-sign the piece before it is submitted to publication. "Raoult is thus able to reach this absolutely insane number of publications every year," according to one anonymous source quoted by the site Mediapart. More disturbingly, the critic added, "it is simply impossible for Raoult to verify all of these papers."

Indeed, the question of verification hovers over Raoult's clinical trial on the effects of hydroxychloroquine on the novel coronavirus. Combining a regimen of Plaquenil--the commercial name of hydroxychloroquine--and an antibiotic, Raoult treated 24 patients at IHU in early March who had tested positive for COVID-19. After six days, the virus had vacated the bodies of three-quarters of those same patients. On March 16, Raoult announced the results not in a scientific journal but in a YouTube video, in which he declared the jig was up for the virus. Predictably, his self-proclaimed victory then ignited the hysteria that has since swept the world and reached as far as the Oval Office. [...]

Critics argue that not only were there too few subjects in the chloroquine study, but that some of them dropped out during the trial, potentially skewing the results. In addition, Raoult has not released the raw data from the trial, which, remarkably, was not double-blinded. According to Dominique Costagliola, chief epidemiologist at the Pasteur Institute, the trial was so slapdash that "it is impossible to interpret the described result as being attributable to the hydroxychloroquine treatment."

If this sounds depressingly familiar, it should. There are several disquieting parallels between the stable genius who claims to "understand that whole scientific world" and the reputed genius who claims to have defeated COVID-19. Like Trump, Raoult has made himself a brand: the outsider who defies a sclerotic and corrupt establishment. Like Trump, Raoult is not just a climate skeptic--in 2013, he declared that climate predictions are "absurd"--but a pandemic skeptic. "Three people in China die from a virus, and that sparks a global alert," he observed in an IHU video. "This is crazy." The video was posted on Jan. 21, just one day before Trump reassured Americans that he had the virus "totally under control."

Posted by orrinj at 12:59 PM


Time to 'revenge shop': China's virus hot spot reopens (NG HAN GUAN and JOE McDONALD, 3/30/20, AP) 

The city at the center of China's virus outbreak was reopening for business Monday after authorities lifted more of the controls that locked downs tens of millions of people for two months. "I want to revenge shop," one excited customer declared as she traversed one of Wuhan's major shopping streets,

Customers were still scarce, though, as those who did venture out were greeted by shop employees who wore masks and carried signs that told them to "keep a safe distance."

Among them was this teacher, who was visiting her family when most access to the city of 11 million was suspended Jan. 23 to stem the coronavirus spread.

"I'm so excited, I want to cry," said the woman, who gave only her English name Kat as she eyed the wares in the Chuhe Hanjie pedestrian mall.

"After two months trapped at home, I want to jump," she added, jumping up and down excitedly.

There must be some geographic name for where the virus was first defeated, right?
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


New Polls And New Candidates Are Giving Democrats Some Hope Of Flipping The Senate (Nathaniel Rakich, 3/30/20, 538)

Republicans started the cycle with the advantage, but Democrats have had reason for optimism of late. New polls have shown Democratic challengers ahead of GOP incumbents, the party is recruiting strong candidates, and, perhaps most importantly given the tight correlation between presidential and Senate voting, former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democrat who has polled the best against President Trump, has become the party's likely presidential nominee.

The most likely outcome is still that Republicans maintain control of the Senate, though perhaps with a reduced majority: The status quo favors them, and most of the states where the Senate will be decided lean red. (As a refresher, Republicans currently have 53 Senate seats to Democrats' 47,1 meaning Democrats need to flip four seats, on net, to take control -- or three if they also win the vice presidency.) But Democrats have expanded the map to the point where they have a lot more pick-up opportunities than Republicans do, so they have a lot of upside.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Federalist's Dangerous Coronavirus TrutherismWTF happened? The publication's reactionary turn and the hollowing out of conservatism (ROBERT TRACINSKI  MARCH 30, 2020, The Bulwark)

Ben Domenech, publisher of The Federalist, recently took to Twitter to explain epidemiology to the epidemiologists, proclaiming that "The 3.3 million unemployment claims today are a direct result of everyone from Morning Joe to Tucker Carlson repeating the baseless predictions of the Imperial College as fact." He is referring to recent testimony from Neil Ferguson, lead author of an influential academic report on the virus, which had warned of 500,000 deaths in Britain and millions in the United States unless we took strong measures to stop the spread of the virus. More recently, Ferguson testified that he now thinks fewer than 20,000 Britons might die. As Domenech sneers, "2 million people will die vs 20k people will die is a BIG DIFFERENCE NEIL. I mean, how do you even explain that? I accidentally held down the zero button?"

Take that, experts! You have been refuted with Twitter snark. [...]

The Federalist was not the only outlet to badly mangle this story. So did The Daily Wire and the Washington Examiner. (The Daily Wire piece has since changed to a less inflammatory headline and noted the correction. The Washington Examiner piece's opening paragraphs were stealth-changed, without any indication of an update or correction.) What these articles all have in common is a cheapo, smash-and-grab, clickbait-driven style of journalism that hires young and inexperienced writers to recycle Twitter chatter in a way that reinforces the partisan prejudices of their audience.

But The Federalist has been leaning into Coronavirus Trutherism harder than most, publishing a retired dermatologist's extravagantly harebrained scheme to have millions of young people deliberately infect themselves to acquire immunity to the disease. Among the many things wrong with this idea--it is still unknown, for example, how long immunity to the coronavirus lasts--this is a proposal for the hospitalization and gruesome death of many thousands of young people. As Ann Coulter inadvertently reminded us, the virus may be less deadly for the young than the old--but even for them, it is many times deadlier than the flu.

As for whether the people running the show are pushing this line because they really believe it or out of pure cynicism, I'll just point out that Ben Domenech's wife has rather publicly announced that she is self-quarantining to protect their unborn child. Good for them--but this sure looks like a case of one message for the rubes, and another message for yourself.

The Right has so much invested in Donald that they have to deny reality when it threatens him, which is always.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Stefon Harris -- Vibraphonist, Educator, Thinker -- Teaches Empathy From The Bandstand (John Burnett, March 30, 2020, Morning Edition)

Harris showed an early aptitude for music. He played around on a beat-up piano someone left in an empty apartment. Between a community center and his public school, he tried out two dozen instruments, including bassoon and trombone.

"Trumpet, or small mouthpiece instruments, I was terrible at. I just couldn't get the hang of that," he remembers.

Then he discovered a marimba in the seventh grade music room. He picked up the mallets and started playing scales. That eventually led to the vibraphone, with its physicality and lush vibrato. He was convinced he wanted to be a classical musician until one day he discovered jazz through the genius of Charlie Parker.

Being captain of the wrestling team taught him to train and to work hard, and to perform when he played.

"It's almost like you're painting visual images for people who are in the audience. So you're utilizing sound, they're watching your body language, they're watching the mallets dance," he says.

Harris is about to step down as Director of Jazz Arts at the Manhattan School of Music and join the music faculty at Rutgers later this year. He will continue to teach what he believes about how to be a jazz musician and how to be an empathetic person.

"I want my audience to feel the connection between human beings -- five brothers who are on the stage who've known each other for a long time, who've had ups and downs but who love each other. Who are vulnerable, who are willing to take chances in the moment to discover beauty."

He concludes with a smile, "The bandstand is a sacred space."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Why the progessive movement is suddenly torn over AOC (ALEX THOMPSON and HOLLY OTTERBEIN, 03/30/2020, Politico)

After her victory in 2018, Ocasio-Cortez encouraged progressives to follow in her footsteps and run for Congress with the backing of the left-wing group Justice Democrats, even if it meant taking on powerful incumbents. Sixteen months later, the Missouri primary isn't the only one Ocasio-Cortez is steering clear of.

Of the half-dozen incumbent primary challengers Justice Democrats is backing this cycle, Ocasio-Cortez has endorsed just two. Neither was a particularly risky move: Both candidates -- Jessica Cisneros in Texas and Marie Newman in Illinois -- were taking on conservative Democrats who oppose abortion rights and later earned the support of several prominent national Democrats.

Ocasio-Cortez's reluctance marks a break with the outsider tactics of the activist left, represented by groups like Justice Democrats. This election cycle, the organization is trying to boot not just conservative Democrats but also some liberal Democrats and to replace them with members who are more left-wing. In other words, to replicate what it pulled off against Rep. Joe Crowley in 2018 by recruiting Ocasio-Cortez.

Ocasio-Cortez's shift coincides with turnover among top aides in her congressional office -- replacing some outspoken radicals with more traditional political professionals -- along with a broader reckoning on the left on how to expand Sanders' coalition after his failure to significantly do so in the presidential primary. Some progressives have questioned whether Sanders should have softened his anti-establishment rhetoric and tried to build bridges with mainstream Democrats who voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 rather than betting big on turning out disaffected and first-time voters.

Ocasio-Cortez's endorsement moves are not a fluke but part of a larger change over the past several months. After her disruptive, burn-it-down early months in Congress, Ocasio-Cortez, who colleagues say is often conflict-averse in person, has increasingly been trying to work more within the system. She is building coalitions with fellow Democratic members and picking her fights more selectively.

Nancy just moves from win to win.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Forget Washington -- corporate America is focused on governors right now (SAM SUTTON, 03/30/2020, Politico)

When Goldman Sachs directed more than 12,000 employees in the New York City metro area to work from home two weeks ago, bank President John Waldron didn't need to check with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin -- he got on the phone with New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy.

It's one of many calls corporate executives have had to do with state and local officials over the last month as states from California to New Jersey shuttered their economies to prevent the spread of the virus. With the Trump administration taking a backseat to state leaders on coronavirus mitigation, companies and trade associations that traditionally rely on relationships with Washington power brokers are instead being forced to reckon with newly emboldened statehouse executives to deal with a fast-evolving commercial crisis.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Oil demand could decline by 20 million barrels a day in April, says oil expert Dan Yergin (Abigail Ng, 3/30/20, CNBC)

"Cars not on the road, airplanes not in the air, factories not working, people not going to work," Yergin said. "We see, in this month of April that's coming, what could be a 20 million barrel a day decline in oil demand."

"It's unprecedented. That's six times larger than the biggest downturn during the financial crisis period (in 2008)," he added.

World oil demand in 2019 stood at around 99.67 million barrels a day, according to OPEC's estimate.

While demand is set to fall, major producers such as Saudi Arabia and Russia have announced they will increase supply in April after the OPEC+ agreement expires at the end of March.

"This is what people are now looking at ... where are you going to put all of the oil?" he asked. When oil storage runs out, prices could fall further, he added. "I think the prices that we're seeing, that you're talking about today are really precursors ... April is going to be a very difficult month."

It's a golden opportunity to speed the end of oil and the Oil Curse.

March 29, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 9:39 PM


Posted by orrinj at 9:32 PM


Angela Merkel rises to the coronavirus leadership challenge (David Rising and Geir Moulson, 3/29/20,  Associated Press)

In her first address to the nation on the coronavirus pandemic, German Chancellor Angela Merkel calmly appealed to citizens' reason and discipline to slow the spread of the virus, acknowledging as a woman who grew up in communist East Germany how difficult it is to give up freedoms, yet as a trained scientist emphasizing that the facts don't lie.

Then, wearing the same blue pantsuit from the televised address, the 65-year-old popped into her local supermarket to pick up food, wine and toilet paper to take back to her Berlin apartment. For her, it was a regular shopping stop, but photos snapped by someone at the grocery store were shared worldwide as a reassuring sign of calm leadership amid a global crisis.

With the coronavirus outbreak, Merkel is reasserting her traditional strengths and putting her stamp firmly on domestic policy after two years in which her star seemed to be fading, with attention focused on constant bickering in her governing coalition and her own party's troubled efforts to find a successor.

Someone has to lead the Free World in America's absence.

Posted by orrinj at 2:51 PM


Enigmatic, devotional, restless ... a guide to Krzysztof Penderecki's music (Philip Clark,  29 Mar 2020, The Guardian)

Penderecki, whose death at the age of 86 was announced today, was born in Dębica, in south-east Poland in 1933. He emerged as a force in Polish modern composition alongside such figures as Witold Lutosławski, Tadeusz Baird, Andrzej Dobrowolski and Henryk Mikołaj Górecki who, during the late 1950s, were all constructing pieces using clusters of notes jam-packed together, often requiring players to explore terrain that pushed beyond the conventions of their instrument.

In 1960, the young composer wrote a piece for 52 string instruments that he called 8'37" (a nod towards John Cage's 4'33") in which sounds collided like swarms of bees; instruments were slapped and hit, and bows were employed to make violins et al squeak and squeal rather than sing. The piece made an immediate impression and when Penderecki, struck by the emotional turmoil of the apocalyptic sounds he had unleashed, retitled it Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima, he found himself with an unexpected hit.

His First Symphony, which was completed in 1973, drew this period of sonic exploration to a close. By the time Penderecki started his Second Symphony in 1979, subtitled "Christmas", he had re-engaged with a Romanticism that recalled Wagner, Bruckner, Mahler and Schumann, and obviously relished doing so; the symphony took its title from references to Silent Night that he had woven through the texture. Traditionally perspectives on Penderecki divide sharply at this point: admirers of the Threnody and First Symphony pour scorn on the Christmas Symphony and everything that followed in its wake, while those who like the Romantic version of Penderecki thank their lucky stars that he had moved on from the avant garde.

In reality, though, neither point of view really gets Penderecki right. Threnody - and similar works such as Fluorescences and De natura sonoris I - were undoubtedly impressive, but perhaps lacked the careful ear of Ligeti's works using the orchestra as a sound mass, written during the same period. And if the project of latter-day Penderecki was about creating a sequence of symphonies, concertos and sacred works that could tap into that apparently unquenchable enthusiasm that audiences have for big Romantic statements like those made by the likes of Mahler and Shostakovich, those mass audiences never quite came.

Posted by orrinj at 2:46 PM


Pollsters asked Americans to name a Jew. The most common answer was Jesus. (Aiden Pink, 3/29/20, The Forward)

As part of a survey about how Americans think about religion, the Pew Research Center asked respondents last month to answer the question, "Who is the first person who comes to mind when you think of Judaism?"

The most common answer, according to Pew, was Jesus.

Some 21% of respondents named Jesus as the first Jew that came to mind. According to the Christian Bible, Jesus was born a Jew and lived in ancient Judea, though Jews do not accept his divinity as Christians do.

The next most commonly named people were also biblical: Moses, at 13%, followed by Abraham at eight percent. Around five percent named non-famous Jewish individuals that they knew personally, while seven percent named various historic figures or celebrities, including Anne Frank, Albert Einstein and Jerry Seinfeld.

The survey also asked people to name Catholics, Buddhists, Muslims, Evangelical Christians and atheists. Jesus was actually less frequently listed as a Catholic or evangelical than he was as a Jew. Only 12% of people picked Jesus when asked to name a Catholic (47% said the Pope), while five percent named Jesus when asked to pick an evangelical (the most frequently named person was Rev. Billy Graham).

...when folks treat the fact as their big reveal.

Posted by orrinj at 12:19 PM


We Can Safely Restart the Economy in June. Here's How.: Get tough now. Test widely to isolate those infected, and slowly revive businesses with workers and customers who have developed immunity. (Ezekiel J. Emanuel, March 28, 2020, NY Times)

I've helped make the case before that a strong, fast, federal effort to speed the distribution of testing, protective gear, intensive care equipment and training, and to coordinate a national response, could sharply limit the spread of Covid-19.

The federal government has done little, but if it acts now a similarly strong national response may allow America to open up sooner -- in June, not by Easter -- and do it more safely. Here's how:

Stop the virus. A nationwide shelter-in-place or quarantine should take place for the next eight to 10 weeks. According to Chinese data, this would mean the number of Covid-19 cases would peak in four weeks or so and then decline over the next four to six weeks. So, as hard as it would be, everybody but essential workers would have to remain inside until roughly June 1st.

Make reasonable exceptions. In counties with few cases of Covid-19 and the ability to test and trace infected people's contacts, normal life could go on as long as people believed to be infected are quarantined and those who are known to be infected are rapidly isolated.

Mobilize public health resources. During the eight weeks of shelter-in-place, the federal government needs to produce and distribute enough tests so state and local health officials can check as many people as possible, even those without symptoms, and determine the true extent of infections. We should also push the Food and Drug Administration for rapid approval of blood tests to determine who has antibodies to coronavirus, and is thus immune, and then distribute millions of them.

State and local health department then need to deploy thousands of teams to trace contacts of all new Covid-19 cases using cellphone data, social media data, and data from thermometer tests and the like. We also need to get infected people to inform their own contacts. It would be easier to lift the national quarantine if we isolate new cases, find and test all their contacts, and isolate any of them who may be infected.

The national quarantine would give hospitals time to stock up on supplies and equipment, find more beds and room to treat people, get better organized and give clinical staff a respite to recuperate for the next onslaught of Covid-19 care. Without these measures, any Covid-19 resurgence would be far harsher, and economically damaging.

Begin a mass education program. While many Americans have been more careful about washing their hands, keeping six feet away from other people, and staying indoors as much as possible, these new behaviors have not been adopted in every part of the country. We need a stronger campaign to educate Americans about these habits so that the average number of people any infected person might spread the virus to would drop below one, from about 2.4 today.

Create a Covid-19 certification system. States should use blood tests to certify people who have had Covid-19, are immune and are no longer contagious. These people could then work in hospitals or other areas where being risk-free would be a benefit.

Slowly open the economy and social activities. If these steps are taken, we should slowly open up parts of the economy in June, while requiring those 70 and older, or others at high risk, to continue to shelter in place, perhaps in isolation. Lifting restrictions could start with children and young adults, who are far less likely to get seriously ill and die. We might open up summer school, on a voluntary basis, and camps. Parents should be allowed to assess the risk that their children could become infected with the coronavirus and bring it home. Teachers and administrators would also have to be able to opt in, knowing they could acquire Covid-19. Colleges and universities might open up for summer sessions, with faculty and staff opting in, or not, with knowledge of the risks they are taking. Following South Korea and Taiwan, America should deploy testing and contact tracing aggressively during this opening to limit any potential outbreak.

Open the economy more fully. If the initial opening works, we should allow people in offices to go back to work in places where Covid-19 infections have died down. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:11 PM


Mnuchin: Virus task force unanimously shunned Trump's quarantine idea (KAMRAN RAHMAN, 03/29/2020, Politico)

The White House Coronavirus Task Force unanimously shunned President Donald Trump's suggestion of a quarantine in the New York City area, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Sunday.

The president "did very seriously consider" the idea of locking down the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, Mnuchin said on "Fox News Sunday." But Trump was dissuaded after a meeting with the task force led by Vice President Mike Pence.

as so often in his presidency, it is left to the institutions to limit the damage done by his rhetoric.

Trump's Coronavirus Disinformation Campaign Isn't Working: Poll (Sam Stein, Mar. 28, 2020, Daily Beast)

A new survey conducted by Ipsos exclusively for The Daily Beast provides some of the clearest evidence to date that the president's attempts to paint a rosy picture about the coronavirus' spread throughout the country are not resonating beyond a small segment of the populace with a small exception for those who say they're getting their information from Fox News. 

A full 73 percent of respondents, including 75 percent of Republicans, said that it was not true that "anyone who wants to get tested [for the virus] can get tested." Just 17 percent said it was true.

Only 20 percent of the public, and just 25 percent of Republicans, said that they believed a vaccine will be available soon. Forty-two percent said that was false and 38 percent said they did not know.

Fifty-one percent of respondents, including a plurality or Republicans (46 percent), said it was false that the virus would go away on its own in warm weather, while just 13 percent said that was true.

And 61 percent of respondents said that they believed COVID-19 was more deadly than the flu; with 22 percent saying it was about the same and 11 percent saying they believed it was less deadly.

Someone needs to name a band, Lou Dobbs Death Cult
Posted by orrinj at 10:10 AM


How Coronavirus Is Shaking Up the Moral Universe: The pandemic is putting profound philosophical questions to the test. (John Authers, March 29, 2020, Bloomberg)

Rawls's monumental 1971 book, "A Theory of Justice," is now regarded as the clearest moral and intellectual justification for modern center-left mixed economies. But the idea comes from somewhere deeper. Rawls was not religious, but his philosophy is essentially in line with the golden rule handed down by the Old Testament prophets and by Jesus, that we should do as we would want to be done by. Some religious leaders have approached the awful dilemmas presented by the coronavirus just as Rawls would, by taking treatment of the worst off as the criterion for social action.

"I hope the lessons we take from our country's experience with Covid-19 aren't about food or avoiding the spread of germs," wrote Russell Moore, the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention in the New York Times, "but about how we treat the most vulnerable among us. A pandemic is no time to turn our eyes away from the sanctity of human life."

Pope Francis also invoked sympathy for the most afflicted as he addressed a prayer to an empty St. Peter's Square. "We have realized that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other," he said.

Perhaps because of their religious resonance, Rawlsian ideas have guided the approach to the pandemic chosen by authorities in the western world.

...Rawls tried to restate Christian morality, but stripped of its moral foundations so that it would appeal to the Left, yet now when we rely on morality we are being Rawlsian?  Someone seems confused.

Posted by orrinj at 10:06 AM


Hey, President Trump: Her name is Gretchen Whitmer (Mitch Albom, 3/29/20, Detroit Free Press)

First of all, she has a name. Gretchen Whitmer. She is not "the woman" or "all she does is sit there" or "you know who I'm talking about" -- all phrases President Donald Trump has used besides saying the actual name of the person Michigan voters elected to govern us.

It's "Gretchen Whitmer." Show some respect. At a time when Americans must adjust to a world without hugs, kisses or handshakes, the least a president of the United States can do is call our governor by her name.

And stop complaining about her "complaining." Gretchen Whitmer hasn't done anything that every Michigander doesn't want her to do -- ask the federal government for masks, ventilators, test kits and other aid to fight the COVID-19 virus that is infecting and killing us.

She's not speaking for herself. She's speaking for the people.

The strength of the Incel component on the Right is notable, even for old white guys who've seen the world pass them by.

Posted by orrinj at 9:55 AM


How China Made The Coronavirus Worse: The first mistake was shooting the messenger. (Patrick Mendis Joey Wang, 3/29/20, National Interest)

Setting the stage for the perfect storm, the city of Wuhan had been preparing its annual mass banquet. To celebrate the twentieth anniversary, local organizers had attempted "to break a world record for the largest number of dishes served." The significance of this event cannot be overstated. For at least three weeks prior to the banquet on January 18, 2020, Wuhan authorities had been informed of the virus spreading in the city.

The SARS experience and common sense would have dictated taking immediate measures to protect public health. Instead, Wuhan authorities did the unthinkable: issuing orders to suppress the news and covering-up the gravity of the outbreak. Even after the World Health Organization (WHO) had declared a global health emergency on January 30, media outlets such as Xinhua were instructed to give the news of the coronavirus a positive spin and avoid mentioning the WHO declaration. By this time, the pathogen had already spread well beyond China.

One reason for the suppression of the news--as reported by the Financial Times--was that the mayor of Wuhan had declined the advice of health experts out of concern that measures to contain the disease "may hurt the local economy and social stability." This decision would have two escalatory effects. First, it accelerated the virulence of the virus, given the sheer number of people in close proximity. Second, it facilitated the spread of the virus around the world. The conclusion of the banquet ended with an exodus of some five million people from the city, which helped to transport the virus beyond Hebei province and Chinese national borders.

By January 29, the number of cases of the coronavirus had already risen to 7,700 cases worldwide and 170 deaths in China. The figures were likely very conservative, given the shortage of medical test kits at that time. On the same day, China's Supreme Court finally recognized that the Wuhan police should have been more "tolerant" of those sounding the alarm than accusing them of rumor-mongering. This was a lame gesture to the clear recognition of the facts on the ground. This points to the third mistake.

With the cover-up having now failed, China is slowly and begrudgingly admitting to the inadequacies of its critical response. The advance team from the WHO has only able to enter China as recently as February 10, and it is still unclear when the full WHO mission will deploy, or the latitude they will have to investigate the origins of this infection. The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC)--one of the world's most respected organizations and the most experienced first responders--has not even been invited to assist in the investigation.

To this degree of restriction and censorship, not to mention the potential threats to public health beyond the national borders, there has been a massive outcry not only over the silencing of Li Wenliang, but the government's mishandling of the entire crisis. In this context, one can only tremble at the thought of the estimated one million Chinese Uyghurs in the so-called "vocational training centers" or internment camps in the Xinjiang province. The exiled World Uyghur Congress had sounded the alarm over the risk of spreading the virus inside the camps. According to the Chinese official media, there are only 55 cases reported in Xinjiang.

Secrecy is always harmful.

Posted by orrinj at 9:15 AM


The Sparta Fetish Is a Cultural Cancer: The myth of the mighty warrior-state has enchanted societies for thousands of years. Now it fuels a global fascist movement. (MYKE COLE, August 1, 2019, New Republic)

A bit has been written in these pages recently about the current "tacticool" craze: the lionization of U.S. Navy SEALs and other special operators in imitative street wear that, like laconophilia, speaks to a deep-seated sense of inadequacy. The wildly popular military apparel companies Grunt Style and 5.11 Tactical have huge followings among civilians who have never and will never serve in the military, sporting tactical gear or T-shirts invoking military catchphrases (frequently praising the Spartans), replete with magazine pouches that will never hold ammunition, and FFI (Friend-Foe-Identifier) patches designed to prevent military friendly-fire incidents. 

The ancient Athenians had their own "tacticool" phase, it seems. Xenophon reported the famous Athenian philosopher Socrates wearing only a single, filthy, thin cloak, aping Spartan fashion. A bronze from Pompeii depicts Socrates and the philosopher Diotima, showing Socrates in what some scholars identify as the thin cloak of the Spartans--the triboun--and leaning on what could be a bakteurion--the T-shaped staff carried by Spartan leaders and officials. The Athenian orator Demosthenes criticized "men who by day put on sour expressions and pretend to play the Spartan, wearing short cloaks and single-soled shoes, but when they get together and alone leave no kind of wickedness or indecency untried." Even the famous Aristotle, more critical of Sparta, admitted that its constitution produced virtuous citizens obedient to law. In Aristophanes's The Birds, the comic playwright notes men "were mad for Sparta; they wore their hair long and honored fasting, they went filthy as Socrates and carried staves." 

The historian Polybius was an Achaean, bound to the Roman alliance that dominated Sparta, which had long been in decline before he wrote in the later Hellenistic Age. Yet even he wrote that if safety and security were what you wanted, "there is not now nor has there ever been government better than Sparta's." After its complete fall from power, Sparta remained a tourist attraction for the ancients. The Roman senator Cicero described visiting Sparta to witness the diamastigôsis, the ancient ritual where Spartan boys were flogged bloody, and sometimes to death, before the altar of Artemis Orthia. In the days of Thermopylae, the ritual had been part of Sparta's famed agōgē, but many scholars believe that in Cicero's time it was made even more brutal to satisfy the crowds of tourists. In the third century, the Spartans added an amphitheater to better accommodate the crowds who came to watch. Throughout this Roman-dominated period, the purportedly wealth-hating and xenophobic Spartans engaged in the usual methods that tourist economies employ to attract foreigners and separate them from their money: hosting fairs and creating tax-exemptions to attract merchants, encouraging commerce however they could. 

Laconophilia marched on throughout Western arts and letters, and always on the same theme--praising the Spartans' legendary selflessness, restraint, and devotion to duty. The third-century Egyptian Christian apologist Origen Adamantius compared Leonidas' self-sacrifice at Thermopylae to Christ's passion. Synesius of Cyrene, a fifth-century Christian bishop, proudly (and falsely) traced his lineage to the Spartan royal houses. In the Renaissance, even Machiavelli got in on the act, praising Sparta in his Discourses on Livy: "That republic, indeed, may be called happy, whose lot has been to have a founder so prudent as to provide for it laws under which it can continue to live securely, without need to amend them; as we find Sparta preserving hers for eight hundred years, without deterioration and without any dangerous disturbance." (Sparta achieved nothing of the sort, but in Machiavelli's massaging of anecdotes, the ends justify the means.) John Alymer, the bishop of London just after Machiavelli's time, called Sparta "the noblest and best city governed that ever was."

Perhaps the greatest summary of Renaissance attitudes toward Sparta is captured in Michel de Montaigne's Of Cannibals, which performs the astonishing mental gymnastics necessary to hold the decimation at Thermopylae higher than the successful battles that actually pushed the Persians out of Greece: "There are defeats more triumphant than victories. Never could those four sister victories, the fairest the sun ever beheld, of Salamis, Plataea, Mycale, and Sicily, venture to oppose all their united glories, to the single glory of the defeat of King Leonidas and his men, at the pass of Thermopylae."

American founding father Samuel Adams lamented that his native Boston would never be the "Christian Sparta" he had hoped for. Fellow founding father John Dickinson considered the Spartans to be "as brave and free a people as ever existed." Adams's contemporary, the legendary Jean-Jacques Rousseau, practically drooled over Sparta's myth, praising "that city as famous for its happy ignorance as for the wisdom of its laws, whose virtues seemed so much greater than those of men that it was a Republic of demi-gods rather than of men." This just skims the surface, miles wide and fathoms deep, of the legions of historical thinkers and writers in love with the Spartan mirage, distant and wavering.

For much of this time, laconophilia was a relatively benign ahistorical myth, but Spartan admiration unmistakably turned malignant in the late-nineteenth century with the advent of scientific racism. German scholar Karl Müller included in his influential Geschichten hellenischen Stämme und Städte a history of the Dorian race responsible for founding classical Sparta. Müller's work lionized the invaders' Northern origins, which dovetailed into the early evolution of Nordicism, the pseudo-anthropological notion of a Nordic master race that would become a cornerstone of Nazi ideology. Müller was hardly alone, and European thinking about inherent inequality and Nordic superiority was already maturing in the fevered minds of thinkers like the French aristocrat Joseph Arthur de Gobineau, whose writings influenced the famous composer and German nationalist icon Richard Wagner. It is not surprising that Adolf Hitler saw in Sparta "the first völkisch state" and gushed about the ancient city-state's legendary eugenics: "The exposure of the sick, weak, deformed children, in short, their destruction, was more decent and in truth a thousand times more human than the wretched insanity of our day which preserves the most pathological subject."

Companies like Grunt Style might symbolize today's molon labe culture, but the phrase has long captured the imagination of would-be warriors holding what they believed were hopeless positions. We cannot be certain that revolutionary Colonel John McIntosh was channeling Leonidas when the British demanded he surrender Fort Morris to them in 1778, but we do know his famous reply: "Come and take it!" The same cry was uttered by Texian settlers 57 years later in response to the Mexican army's demand that they return a borrowed cannon. The words were emblazoned beneath an image of the cannon on a battle flag flown at the Battle of Gonzales where Mexican dragoons skirmished unsuccessfully with the Texian rebels to decide the matter. As University of Iowa classics professor Sarah E. Bond points out in her own recent critique of Sparta mythmaking, in all these instances, "the phrase stays true to the ancient context within which it was allegedly first spoken."

That same cannon and phrase are today emblazoned above crossed meat cleavers on the flag of the American Guard--a hard-right white-supremacist group that evolved from the Indiana chapter of Soldiers of Odin USA, an extreme anti-immigrant and anti-refugee group that originated in Finland in 2015. Senator Ted Cruz has repeatedly invoked the same phrase. 

Molon labe is the motto of multiple military units, most notably the United States Special Operations Command Central. But the phrase has special currency with the National Rifle Association and the gun-advocacy community in the United States, where it is a warning growl of the willingness to use violence to uphold the right to bear arms against government infringement. A quick search on social media will reveal the words in both English and Greek--almost always blazoned beneath the stylized Corinthian helmet--inlaid into gun handles, tattooed on skin, and pressed on T-shirts, key chains, pens, bumper stickers, and patch after patch after patch, usually velcroed onto tactical packs carried by military and civilian alike. Molon labe is so synonymous with right-wing gun-fetishism that political opponents have coined a mocking term, "moron label," to counter those under its thrall.

But this twisted veneration of the Spartan myth looms larger than just Leonidas's single quote. Thermopylae imagery was rife among supporters of Trump's presidential bid. A still-public 2016 YouTube video posted by a user under the handle "Aryan Wisdom" depicted then-candidate Trump as Leonidas, holding back a Persian army that included Soros and Obama. At the time of this writing, the video has been viewed over five million times. The far-right white nationalist Identitarian movement's symbol, blazoned in gold against a black background, is the circle of an aspis, the round shield that was a Spartan warrior's principal piece of equipment. It is divided by the upside-down V of the Greek lambda, the sigil falsely believed to have been painted on Spartan shields at Thermopylae. "Generation Identity," a fast-growing European Identitarian party, explains the significance of adopting the Spartan shield for its movement by way of relating the 300 myth: "Both ancient and modern writers have used the Battle of Thermopylae as an example of the power of a patriotic army defending its native soil." This appears on the site's "frequently asked questions" page, just above a section titled "What does the term 'Great Replacement' mean and who is responsible for it?"

Posted by orrinj at 9:09 AM


Why physicists still don't know what reality is (JED BRODY, MARCH 28, 2020, Salon)

Quantum mechanics accurately predicts the outcomes of measurements, but we don't know what to say about particles when we're not looking at them; all we know for sure is that our common sense gets it wrong. So, the interpretation of quantum mechanics remains a topic of speculation, controversy, equivocation, or indifference.

Some physicists argue that unobserved particles are simply none of our business; the business of physics is predicting observations. Let philosophers handle the unobserved particles. Physicists thus divest themselves of awkward questions and focus on what they do best. This viewpoint is admirably humble in its acknowledgment of the limitations of physics. Or is it just lazy?

Some physicists argue that every possible measurement outcome occurs simultaneously in parallel universes. Impassioned arguments are made for and against this "many worlds interpretation" . In its favor, the many worlds interpretation avoids the distinction between abrupt measurements and smooth evolution of probabilities. The laws of quantum mechanics provide probabilities of different outcomes. What, ultimately, determines which outcomes occur, and which don't? The many worlds interpretation circumvents this question entirely because all outcomes occur. The arguments against the many worlds interpretation are plentiful, and include the fact that we simply have no evidence of parallel universes.

Perhaps, instead, the error in our common sense is the belief in free will. Perhaps we are preprogrammed automatons, or the particles under observation diabolically influence our decisions. This possibility, though unpalatable and strange, is duly considered by physicists and philosophers.

Or, perhaps our error is the assumption that the measurement of one particle can't affect a distant particle. Quantum entanglement is a subtle connection undiminished by distance. Can we assert that the connection isn't so subtle, but that the measurement of one particle physically alters the distant particle? I believe this claim can be neither proven nor disproven. If we say that the measurement of one particle affects the other, we really mean that the first measurement, of either particle, affects both; subsequent results are determined by this first measurement.

The point of Schrodinger's Cat is that there is no cat until it's observed (or Observed).

Posted by orrinj at 8:39 AM


Brazil's Bolsonaro makes life-or-death gamble on coronavirus (DAVID BILLER, 3/29/20, Times of Israel)

"The Brazilian needs to be studied. He doesn't catch anything. You see a guy jumping into sewage, diving in, right? Nothing happens to him. I think a lot of people were already infected in Brazil, weeks or months ago, and they already have the antibodies that help it not proliferate," Bolsonaro said. "I'm hopeful that's really a reality."


With President Jair Bolsonaro dismissing the pandemic as "sniffles" and criticizing regional lockdown measures, the country's drug gangs and paramilitary groups have stepped in to enforce social distancing to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

"Whoever is caught on the street will learn how to respect the measure. We want the best for the population. If the government is unable to manage, organized crime resolves," read one message sent to residents of a Rio de Janeiro slum.

Another message, delivered to residents of a different slum, read: "We are on the streets taking risks so that you can sleep in peace. We leave our families to protect yours, so, then respect the order we have given." It warned that for anyone caught on the street after 10 p.m., "it will be bad!"

The involvement of criminal organizations more commonly associated with bloodshed and violence than disease mitigation strategies underscores the severity of the situation facing Brazil's slums, home to more than 11 million people who typically live in cramped makeshift dwellings, often with limited access to clean water.

The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Brazil rose to 2,985 and 77 deaths on Friday -- a greater than tenfold increase from the previous week. Experts fear that an explosion in coronavirus infections could contribute to social unrest in communities long neglected by the state.

Posted by orrinj at 8:32 AM

IF NOTHING ELSE... (profanity alert):

American Animals Joe Exotic bred lions, tigers, and ligers at his roadside zoo. He was a modern Barnum who found an equally extraordinary nemesis. (Robert Moor, 3/03/19, New York)

Jeff Lowe had eyes the color of snowmelt and a neatly trimmed gray goatee. He wore leather jackets, fancy jeans, and a black do-rag wrapped around his balding head. He once worked as Robbie Knievel's manager and now ran a liquidation business. He drove a red Ferrari and a white Hummer. He was once arrested for assaulting his wife. Another time, he was arrested for, and later pleaded guilty to, falsely posing as an employee of Citizens Opposed to Domestic Abuse so he could receive donated goods, which he then resold.

Lowe owned 12 big cats, which he kept in a warehouse in his hometown of Beaufort. He had tried to open a cub-petting operation in a flea market but was shut down by county officials. He believed Carole had been a catalyst behind the protests against him. He referred to her as "the devil incarnate."

Joe and Jeff had made an agreement: Joe would effectively sign ownership of the zoo over to Jeff, and Jeff would help pay to fight Carole. To raise more funds, Jeff moved to Vegas. He began sneaking tiger cubs, hidden inside a Louis Vuitton dog carrier, into hotel rooms along the Strip and charging high rollers $2,000 to pet them.

Meanwhile, back at the zoo, Joe was going through yet another, Pokémonic evolution. Inspired by the unlikely ascension of Donald Trump, Joe launched his own campaign for the presidency in 2015 and then for governor in 2018; he was planning to run for president again, this time on the Libertarian ticket. (This despite the fact that Joe was not a libertarian, nor did he even seem to know what the word meant. He was more of an idiosyncratic populist; one of his campaign pledges was to bring back spanking in schools. Josh Dial, who ran Joe's campaign, likened him to "Donald Trump on meth.") Joe printed his name on the side of a stretch limo and on hundreds of yard signs. His staff was baffled by the amount of money he was wasting on these doomed campaigns, but Joe insisted they were not merely vanity projects. He often asked, rhetorically, "How do a normal person like me ever get heard in this country?"'s a glimpse at how Donald stayed at 42% for so long.

March 28, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 5:56 PM


Downtown Charleston restaurant new to delivery accused of charging $18 for $2 frozen pizza (Hanna Raskin, Mar 25, 2020, Post & Courier)

Coquin, a 5-month-old wine bar on Spring Street, is being accused of misleading customers by selling frozen pizzas as "gourmet Roman-style thin crust pizza, with house made marinara sauce and whole milk mozzarella."

Amid an unprecedented financial crisis for the hospitality sector, which has inspired many Charleston-area eaters to shower cash on independent restaurants, and many food-and-beverage workers to safeguard their money, concerned diners who spend time in the neighborhood claim chef-owner Chip Grimalda is selling mass-market pizza marked up 700 percent.

Coquin last weekend launched its pizza program, promoting the new pies on its website and via Instagram ads. According to Grimalda, the restaurant has since sold about 20 pizzas a day, priced at $18 for cheese or $20 for a pizza topped with meat or vegetables.

Posted by orrinj at 1:42 PM


Ebola Should Have Immunized the United States to the Coronavirus: What Washington Failed to Learn From the National Security Council's Ebola Report (Christopher Kirchhoff March 28, 2020, Foreign Affairs)

Even before the Ebola epidemic ended, the U.S. government began pursuing a three-pronged strategy to contain a more dangerous outbreak. First, it doubled down on the Global Health Security Agenda, an initiative the Obama administration launched before the Ebola crisis to expand capabilities around the world to prevent, detect, and rapidly respond to infectious disease threats. Through this initiative, the United States forged partnerships with over 60 countries around the world and used $1 billion of the Ebola Response Supplemental passed by Congress in December 2014 to establish dozens of specialty labs around the world to detect novel outbreaks and to organize country-by-country programs to deepen preparedness.

The strategy's second prong was to further build out the network of hospitals and testing centers in the United States designated to treat Ebola and to increase the size of the national medical stockpile with more of the personal protective equipment and materials needed to fight highly lethal pathogens.  

The third prong was to designate a health emergency response coordinator and create a new Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense within the National Security Council. It would be the job of this White House office to monitor biological threats and coordinate future responses. Crucially, this office would lead post-Ebola reforms, using its perch in the White House to ensure structural changes within agencies and departments.

Between 2017 and 2019, each prong of this strategy fell away like wheels off a bus.
Because combating a dangerous pathogen requires the close cooperation of parts of the government that don't ordinarily work together, increasing U.S. capacity would necessitate a willingness to direct changes that might go against the culture of federal departments, agencies, and the U.S. military. It would require cajoling Congress to increase budgets, add mandates, and adjust missions. And given the magnitude of the changes, it would require the personal leadership of the president. The seriousness of the threat of an infectious disease led the outgoing Obama national security team to include an influenza pandemic scenario in a joint exercise held with the incoming Trump team. To ensure that the new Global Health Security and Biodefense Directorate's mission would survive into the new administration intact, the outgoing White House team selected a career civil servant--a respected Pentagon biodefense expert named Elizabeth Cameron--to lead it, providing continuity from one administration to the next.

As 2017 turned to 2018 and 2018 turned to 2019, each prong of this strategy fell away like wheels off a bus. When the money provided by the Ebola Response Supplemental ran out, the new administration continued to fund the Global Health Security Agenda. But the overall budget for the Centers for Disease Control was cut, and no robust, new investments were made in greater deployable capability in the United States or other countries. At home, the envisioned expansion of the original 35-hospital Ebola Treatment Network did not take place; the $259 million appropriated for the network in 2014 was not followed by meaningful infusions of funds, setting it on track to expire in May 2020 and leading the Department of Health and Human Services to warn in November 2017 that "the current capacity of this system is not likely to be sufficient for many types of infectious disease outbreaks (e.g., pandemic influenza and other respiratory pathogens)." Nor was the national medical stockpile significantly bolstered. Congressional leaders passed budgets that had none of the vision or scale of the $5.4 billion Ebola Response Supplemental.

The third prong of the strategy was the last to go. In his first month as National Security Adviser, John Bolton shuttered the new NSC Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense. Its leader departed the NSC staff just one day after the WHO declared a new outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo that to date has killed over 5,000 people.

Historians looking back at the period between the Ebola and COVID-19 outbreaks will note a haunting sequence to events.

Posted by orrinj at 1:32 PM


Experts Say The Coronavirus Outlook Has Worsened, But The Trajectory Is Still Unclear (Jay Boice, 3/26/20, 538)

The latest survey, taken on March 23 and 24, shows that experts have not become more certain or increasingly optimistic over the last week. According to the most recent survey, experts think 9 percent of all COVID-19 cases in the U.S. were known at the time of the survey. As a group, they think hospitalizations won't peak for several more weeks or months, and they expect around 246,000 deaths related to COVID-19 in 2020.

"The situation this week is no more clear due to the diversity of responses across states, and uncertainty about the impact of those responses," said Justin Lessler, one of the respondents and an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University.

But, he added, if we "adhere to guidance around social distancing, take all symptoms seriously, and self-isolate at the first sign of potential infection," it's possible the outcome will fall closer to the best-case scenario.

Posted by orrinj at 1:23 PM


The Other Woman: Could Michelle Obama be persuaded to accept the role? If anyone can change her mind, a bended-knee visit by Joe Biden should do the trick. (Alton Frye, March 25, 2020, The Globalist)

There is another woman with distinctive qualifications to be Biden's running mate and potential successor as president.

She has demonstrated at the highest levels of government unusual ability to attract personal support across a broad range of political constituencies. She has become an eloquent, indeed unique, voice for causes appealing not only to Democrats -- but to independents and Republicans as well. In her public as well as in her private life, she has proven a role model for young and old alike.

True, this woman has not served in elective office, but she has shown an outstanding talent for political campaigns, at both the U.S. state and federal levels. Her record of policy and political counsel, though largely confidential, is recognized by knowledgeable observers as unusually wise.

Rather than running for office herself, she has chosen instead to exert her impressive leadership skills as a private citizen. Writing and speaking extensively, she has addressed many critical issues confronting the nation.

Her life story, told in a bestselling book and occasional media appearances, is moving testimony to her formidable intelligence and dedication.

Posted by orrinj at 10:53 AM


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Six former wrestlers say Rep. Jim Jordan knew about abusive OSU doctor (Curt Devine, Drew Griffin and Majlie de Puy Kamp,  March 6, 2020, CNN)

Tito Vazquez says he still remembers the day three decades ago when, as a wrestler at Ohio State University, the doctor he'd gone to see about a bloody nose insisted on examining his genitals. He also recalls how one of his coaches dismissed his immediate complaint.

"'I have nothing to do with this,'" Vazquez quoted the assistant coach saying, as he effectively ended the conversation and went on with wrestling practice.

That coach, Vazquez says, was Jim Jordan, now an Ohio congressman and an influential voice in Republican politics, perhaps best known for his pugnacious defense of President Donald Trump during the recent impeachment proceedings.
Vazquez is one of six former OSU wrestlers who told CNN in recent interviews that they were present when Jordan heard or responded to sexual misconduct complaints about team doctor Richard Strauss. Eight others say Strauss' inappropriate behavior was an open secret in the athletic department and that Jordan, among others, must have known about it.

Posted by orrinj at 9:21 AM


Posted by orrinj at 9:00 AM


Over 800 attacks on Muslims in Germany in 2019: media (Deutsche Welle, 3/28/20)

Last year, a total of 871 attacks aimed at Muslims or their institutions took place in Germany, German media reported Saturday.

The German regional daily Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung reported the information, citing the German government's response to an inquiry that had been submitted by a member of the opposition socialist Left party.

Ulla Jelpke, the Left's spokesperson on domestic affairs, who sent the inquiry, said that based on experience, she expected up to another 90 cases to be added on.

Posted by orrinj at 8:58 AM


A lottery for ventilators? Hospitals prepare for ethical conundrums (JOANNE KENEN, 03/27/2020, Politico)

When a group of doctors, ethicists and religious leaders got together to write New York's 2015 ethical guidelines for allocating ventilators in a pandemic, they coalesced around a clear principle: Scarce resources should go to the person most likely to be saved. But they had to contemplate another, tougher, situation: What if a number of patients were equally likely to benefit?

In that case, they decided, a lottery might be the fairest option.

The specter of such extreme rationing - a large number of critically ill patients confronting a finite supply of life-saving machinery - was grim but theoretical when debated by the philosophically minded panel. Now, as New York and other states gird for the possibility of a shortage of ventilators, that ethics roadmap could come actually into practice.

Even scarier is the prospect confronting many other states which could also see coronavirus overwhelm their hospitals: No guidelines at all.

"We haven't had a national conversation about how we are going to prioritize," said Ezekiel Emanuel, a physician-ethicist now at the University of Pennsylvania who was a health adviser to President Barack Obama. "We are not prepared for triage."

Posted by orrinj at 8:41 AM


3 Ways the Coronavirus Has Changed Your Workplace for the Better (Suzanne Lucas, 3/28/20, Inc)

Reduced Regulations 

The Department of Homeland Security temporarily lifted its restrictions for I 9 forms--those are the forms you fill out when you start a new job. You're required to show your identification, in person. Because so many people are working from home, the government is waiving the in-person requirement and allowing verification "over video link, fax, or email, etc." This is set in place temporarily until May 20, 2020, but hopefully, it will stay that way.

Telemedicine opened up when the government decided to allow state-regulated insurance companies to pay for such visits. You want to keep people from catching Coronavirus (or anything else) when visiting a doctor's office, and this can help. But, this also lowers costs and increases flexibility. 

Imagine a future where, instead of sitting in a doctor's office waiting room for two hours, you stay at work, and the receptionist calls you and says, "the doctor will see you now." (Of course, this won't work open office environments.) Businesses and individuals look for ways to save money, and this could be one of them.

One city in New Jersey suspended the need for permits for "minor" repair work, saying that notification is enough, and they'll inspect later. This red-tape cutting can help small businesses prosper in times when many are laying people off.

Greater Flexibility

The global pandemic made Google busier than usual--so it dropped its company-wide performance reviews--for the time being. The goal is for Google employees to focus their time on "pressing, mission critical issues amid the coronavirus pandemic."

Many alcohol producers have started making hand sanitizer. That requires retraining and retooling. And yet, businesses are doing it on the fly. Talk about agility! 

And car manufacturers switched their production lines to make ventilators and masks. Again, think of what you need to do to accomplish that. Companies are working with more flexibility than ever before. These skills will help companies be successful in the future.

Posted by orrinj at 8:39 AM


Doubts surround China's claim to have beaten corona (Deutsche-Welle, 3/28/20)

So far, there have been 2,500 coronavirus deaths in the megalopolis where the epidemic started. But in the past week, only one new infection was reported in Wuhan. On Wednesday, 63 days after the lockdown, all 171 bus lines were back in operation. From Saturday, March 28, onward, six of seven subway lines will be running according to the normal timetable.

Train travel to Wuhan is soon to be up and running as well. So migrant workers who were with their families elsewhere when the lockdown was announced will be able to come back to their jobs.

China has introduced a national health code system, which assesses individuals according to basic health information and travel history. Many Chinese citizens have been issued QR codes, which store information about their identity and their phone number as well as basic health information and travel history. Before taking public transport, people now have to scan their codes.

Despite these precautionary measures, many Chinese are skeptical. "Even the generation of retirees who were once so loyal to the party don't believe this nonsense," said one Wuhan blogger. "China is trying to prove to the West that it now has zero infections. But it is no more than a slogan."

The US-based Chinese blogger and biochemist Fang Zhouzi has also slammed the official data from Beijing. He said on Twitter that "nobody should believe the local authorities, who are lying about the statistics for the sake of the economy." He said that only when the postponed National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference took place again would he believe that the epidemic had really come to an end. For, he said, "the life of the people is not as valuable as that of those who represent the people."

Posted by orrinj at 8:34 AM


4 disease experts reveal how they'd address the coronavirus pandemic in the US if they could wave a magic wand (Rhea Mahbubani, 3/28/20, Business Insider)

They all agreed that strict, nationwide social distancing is necessary. Because the virus spreads person to person when in close contact, the best way to stymie it is to keep people apart. 

"Pretend that everyone -- 100% of people everywhere -- would stay at home, not go out, and not get near anyone else," Roberts said. "There would be no new infections. Infections are caused by the actual infectivity of the virus, the number of contacts, and the length of contacts. Social distancing decreases the last two components of that."

An infectious-disease epidemiologist from Washington, DC -- whose identity is known to Business Insider but is being kept anonymous because her employer has prohibited her from commenting publicly on the coronavirus -- said she would immediately issue "a full, nationwide stay-at-home order for a minimum of two weeks but ideally four weeks." 

That's necessary, she said, because the US's response is now "behind the virus' spread." Officials did not mobilize the use of public-health tools like testing and contact tracing quickly enough, she added -- if they had, "perhaps strict stay-at-home orders wouldn't be needed." 

A person with coronavirus infects two to two-and-a-half other people, on average. Since it's so new, people have not yet developed immunity, which means it can spread easily.

"Exponential growth is actually a very normal pattern for pathogens that a population has never seen before," Meghan May, a professor of infectious disease at the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine, told Business Insider. "If no one has any onboard immunity to prevent them from becoming infected, every infected person has the potential to infect many others, who each have the potential to infect many others."

In that sense, she said, the coronavirus is "not necessarily acting in an unusual way -- we are just having an unusual experience because so much spread had already occurred in the United States by the time we were able to routinely test for it."

The US has lagged behind other countries when it comes to coronavirus testing. The CDC at first developed its own test, which proved faulty, and the subsequent test-kit shortage has prevented officials from understanding the severity of the epidemic in a timely manner.

More than a month after the US's first coronavirus case was detected, fewer than 500 tests had been done, according to the COVID Tracking Project. As of Friday, 626,000 tests had been completed.

The missing six weeks: how Trump failed the biggest test of his life (Ed Pilkington and Tom McCarthy,  28 Mar 2020, The Guardian)

Within a week of its first confirmed case, South Korea's disease control agency had summoned 20 private companies to the medical equivalent of a war-planning summit and told them to develop a test for the virus at lightning speed. A week after that, the first diagnostic test was approved and went into battle, identifying infected individuals who could then be quarantined to halt the advance of the disease.

Some 357,896 tests later, the country has more or less won the coronavirus war. On Friday only 91 new cases were reported in a country of more than 50 million.

The US response tells a different story. Two days after the first diagnosis in Washington state, Donald Trump went on air on CNBC and bragged: "We have it totally under control. It's one person coming from China. It's going to be just fine."

A week after that, the Wall Street Journal published an opinion article by two former top health policy officials within the Trump administration under the headline Act Now to Prevent an American Epidemic. Luciana Borio and Scott Gottlieb laid out a menu of what had to be done instantly to avert a massive health disaster.

Top of their to-do list: work with private industry to develop an "easy-to-use, rapid diagnostic test" - in other words, just what South Korea was doing.

It was not until 29 February, more than a month after the Journal article and almost six weeks after the first case of coronavirus was confirmed in the country that the Trump administration put that advice into practice. Laboratories and hospitals would finally be allowed to conduct their own Covid-19 tests to speed up the process.

Those missing four to six weeks are likely to go down in the definitive history as a cautionary tale of the potentially devastating consequences of failed political leadership. Today, 86,012 cases have been confirmed across the US, pushing the nation to the top of the world's coronavirus league table - above even China.

More than a quarter of those cases are in New York City, now a global center of the coronavirus pandemic, with New Orleans also raising alarm. Nationally, 1,301 people have died.

Most worryingly, the curve of cases continues to rise precipitously, with no sign of the plateau that has spared South Korea.

Posted by orrinj at 8:31 AM


Rush Limbaugh says Trump's coronavirus task force is part of the "Deep State," can't be trusted (ALEX HENDERSON, MARCH 28, 2020, AlterNet.

Far-right talk radio host Rush Limbaugh, like President Donald Trump, has been a frequent source of nonsense during the coronavirus crisis: on his February 24 show, he equated COVID-19 with "the common cold." And on Friday, the 69-year-old Limbaugh argued that health officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) cannot be trusted because they are part of "the Deep State" and have an anti-Trump agenda.

Posted by orrinj at 8:23 AM


Dour Moscow mayor сomes to fore as 'PM for coronavirus' (ANNA MALPAS, 3/27/20, AFP)

At a televised meeting with Vladimir Putin, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin flatly told the President that official figures on COVID-19 cases were far from the reality.

That's because people are staying home sick and because there has not been enough testing, he said Tuesday, so "no one knows the real picture".

After that reality check, the official narrative changed swiftly: Putin, who had called the situation "under control", on Wednesday gave a grim-faced address to the nation.

"Putin signed up to Sobyanin's position," opposition politician Vladimir Ryzhkov said on the popular Echo of Moscow radio station.

Maybe Carter Page can get word from Vlad to Donald.

Posted by orrinj at 8:15 AM


"I don't think I've ever seen anything like this": what it's like to be working on a Covid-19 vaccine (Kate Young / March 24, 2020, The Prospect)

Dad, you've been working with vaccines for 44 years now; in what ways does this feel different?

I've had a fairly wide-ranging career in many aspects of virology, but all of it has been at my own pace. What's different this time is that we have a challenge: a challenge that presents a real and present threat to the global population.

We've been working towards this for almost eight years now, trialling versions of this specific vaccine delivery system [the molecular clamp technology] with a number of different virus systems and groups, looking at how effectively we might be able to develop a generic approach to vaccine design.

What's different now is that we have an endpoint we have to get to in what will turn out to be a record time for a vaccine.

A lot of the tangents we used to go down--the rabbit holes of discovery research that are typical of a laboratory--are not the ones we're taking. We're incredibly focused, with that singular goal in mind.

Everything is changing incredibly quickly at the moment, and it's difficult to predict what the next year looks like. But in a best-case scenario, what do you hope for?

I am a great believer in flattening the curve--that's really important. The reasoning is very simple: through appropriate public health measures, you're minimizing the rapid spread of the virus through the community.

If you do that, you will prevent a huge load of individuals presenting to a medical infrastructure that just doesn't have the capacity to deal with those numbers.

At the very earliest, I don't see vaccines, even under very accelerated conditions, being available within twelve months. And so, a vaccine may not impact this first wave. 

Where it probably will have an impact is in a second wave. All the pandemics we've seen in the past, which includes the Spanish Flu of 1918-19, have seen a second and even third wave of infection. We may ultimately see this virus establishing itself as one of the many respiratory infections we all encounter each winter season. [...]

For people trying to avoid the clickbait/social media news cycle at the moment, what do you recommend they start reading?

What I read are colleagues who I trust. I think they give good information in a digestible form but, like me, they're scientists, and might be a bit difficult to access.

The best information in terms of disease reports and advice, is probably the CDC (Centre for Disease Control) website in the US. It's always had a reputation for being very sensible and down to earth, because it's meant to be for public consumption. That and the WHO (World Health Organisation) site, of course. 

March 27, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 8:46 PM


Fox News Poll: Biden leads Trump, wins high marks for female VP pledge (Dana Blanton, 3/27/20,  Fox News)

Former Vice President Joe Biden bests President Donald Trump by nine points in a 2020 ballot test, in the first Fox News Poll since Biden became the de facto Democratic nominee.

In a head-to-head presidential matchup, Biden is up by 49-40 percent over Trump, a lead that is outside the poll's margin of sampling error.

Posted by orrinj at 11:42 AM


Presumably we're all consuming mass amounts of media.  Got any suggestions?


Tiger King on Netflix is bat scat crazy, but compelling viewing

and it's a great time to do the Morse, Lewis, Endeavour rotation.


The Goblin Emperor has all the politics of Game of Thrones without the naughty bits

and S.C. Gwynne's Hymns of the Republic offers a tremendous corrective for those who romanticize the Civil War.


The Remnant with Jonah Goldberg is always good, this recent one in particular

and The Rewatchables, from the Ringer, is entertaining (though profane)


they recently did The Edge of Tomorrow and even The Wife and Daughter enjoyed viewing the film. But the best movie I've seen in years was Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.


Becky Buller is a terrific Bluegrass artist;

Posted by orrinj at 8:47 AM

60-40 NATION:

Poll: Majority approve of Trump's coronavirus response, but more Americans say he was too slow to act (QUINT FORGEY, 03/27/2020, Politico)

[58] percent of Americans said Trump was initially "too slow to take action to address the problem," while 38 percent said he "acted with the right amount of speed" and 4 percent had no opinion on the issue.

The impulse to rally around the flag is entirely natural, and then the crisis passes, as GHWB and Jimmy Carter learned.

Posted by orrinj at 8:45 AM


Anti-Chinese Hate Speech Online Has Skyrocketed Since the Coronavirus Crisis Began: "Toxic tweets are using explicit language to accuse Asians of carrying the coronavirus and blaming people of Asian origin as a collective for spreading the virus." (David Gilbert, Mar 27 2020, Vice)

The report comes from Israeli artificial intelligence startup L1ght, which used its technology to search the internet for increases in hate speech, cyberbullying, and general online toxicity.

"According to our data, racist abuse is being targeted most explicitly against Asians, including Asian Americans," the report says. "Toxic tweets are using explicit language to accuse Asians of carrying the coronavirus and blaming people of Asian origin as a collective for spreading the virus."

Twitter did not immediately respond to questions about the report.

L1ght'a AI-powered system is designed to be used by websites, social networks and other platforms to protect children from hate speech, cyberbullying and other toxic content online. Its technology is already being used by governments and law enforcement agencies, including a number of police forces in the U.S.

The 900% increase is a staggering figure, and mirrors a huge spike in offline attacks on Asians during the coronavirus crisis, a spike that has been at least in part fueled by President Donald Trump's insistence on calling the outbreak the "Chinese virus."

That was the entire point of making it racial.

Posted by orrinj at 8:42 AM


The Media Rang the Coronavirus Alarm But No One Listened: Journalists have been telling the public about the coronavirus. (Jacob L. Nelson, 3/27/20, National Interest)

Since the COVID-19 outbreak began in Wuhan, China, journalists at the biggest U.S. news organizations have diligently reported on the many dangers posed by its rapid spread.

Yet even as entire states - like California and New York - shut down, many Americans still don't believe that the coronavirus is as big a deal as the news media has made it out to be. A poll conducted in mid-March found that only 56% of Americans consider the coronavirus a "real threat," and that 38% believe that it has been "blown out of proportion." A more recent poll similarly found that only 57% of U.S. residents see the coronavirus as "the biggest concern facing your family right now."

It's true that there has been a lot of coverage. The New York Times has consistently documented the spread of the virus across the globe, making it clear just how infectious the disease is.

More recently, the Washington Post published a compelling series of visuals demonstrating the importance of "flattening the curve" so that the effect of coronavirus in the U.S. would be less severe.

The coronavirus has been the main story on television news, too, and the social distancing related to the virus has affected the way television news gets produced.

People aren't missing the coverage, either: Online news consumption has gone up drastically since the beginning of March.

Still, a significant portion of the American people are unprepared and uninformed about the pandemic journalists have warned about for months, which is now upon us all. Why is that? As someone who researches the relationship between journalism and the public, I have observed a growing consensus within journalism scholarship around a possible answer: People simply don't trust what they're reading and hearing.

One of the greatest disservices the Left/Right do their acolytes is to make them distrust our institutions.

Posted by orrinj at 8:24 AM


China's Lies, and Ours (Mona Charen, March 27, 2020, RCP)

From the first reported case, on Dec. 1, 2019, until Jan. 5, 2020, the Chinese government engaged in a cover-up. As National Review's Jim Geraghty recounted, in early January, China's National Health Commission forbade reporting on the new disease. On Dec. 30, Dr. Li Wenliang sent a message to other physicians warning that a SARS-like illness was spreading. He was arrested (along with six others) and obliged to apologize for "spreading rumors." (Dr. Li Wenliang died of COVID-19 on Feb. 7.)

Throughout early January, as cases mounted, the Chinese government issued soothing statements suggesting that the new pneumonia was not transmitted from person to person. As late as Jan. 15, after Thailand and Japan had reported their first cases, official government sources were denying that human-to-human transmission had been proven, saying the risk was "low."

Only on Jan. 23, six weeks after the first case, did China announce a quarantine of Wuhan. By that time, millions had come and gone from the city during the busy holiday season, and cases had been reported in Vietnam, Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea.

USA. President Donald Trump engaged in a series of soothing statements himself. On Jan. 22, after the first U.S. case was reported, he said, "We have it totally under control." On Feb. 2, he boasted that "we pretty much shut it down coming in from China." Twice in February, the president promised that "when we get into April, in the warmer weather -- that has a very negative effect on that, and that type of a virus." On Feb. 26, when cases topped 60, Trump claimed, "We're going very substantially down, not up." In South Carolina, on Feb. 28, Trump likened criticism of his handling of the pandemic to impeachment, saying that "this is their new hoax." On March 6, he continued this theme. Facing criticism for his false statement that "anyone who wants a test can get a test," Trump tried to string together a "fake news"/Ukraine theme. He said the tests were "beautiful," adding, "The tests are all perfect, like the letter was perfect, the transcription was perfect, right?" Asked whether he was concerned about the virus's spread on March 7, the president said, "No, we've done a great job."

Throughout the first 10 weeks of the pandemic, Trump praised China effusively, as The Bulwark's Jim Swift chronicled. On Feb. 7, for example, Trump said: "Great discipline is taking place in China, as President Xi strongly leads what will be a very successful operation. We are working closely with China to help!" A few days later, he shared with Fox News his view that "China is very, you know, professionally run, in the sense that they have everything under control. I really believe they are going to have it under control fairly soon."

To be fair, between his ignorance and his lunacy Donald may never actually be lying.

Posted by orrinj at 8:21 AM


Are many more people infected than we think? (Tyler Cowen, March 27, 2020, Marginal Revolution)

 Icelandic data -- they are trying to sample a significant percentage of their population -- suggest an asymptomatic rate of about 50 percent.  To be clear, none of those results are conclusive and they all might be wrong.  (And we should work much harder on producing better data.)  But so far there is no particular reason to think those estimates are wrong, other than general uncertainty.  You would have to argue that the asymptomatic cases usually test as negative, and while that is possible again there is no particular reason to expect that.  It should not be your default view.

Marc Lipitsch put it bluntly:

The idea that covid is less severe than seasonal flu is inconsistent with data and with the fact that an epidemic just gathering steam can overwhelm ICU capacity in a rich country like Italy or China.

So I give this scenario of a very low fatality rate some chance of being true, but again you ought not to believe it. 

A South Korean Covid-19 Czar Has Some Advice for Trump (Wired, 3/27/20)

AS AMERICA'S FIRST week of social distancing drew to a close, I called Dr. Min Pok-kee, who heads up the Covid-19 response in Daegu, the South Korean city hit hardest by the epidemic. Though Min usually works as a dermatologist, he has spent the past six weeks as a volunteer civil servant, commanding an aggressive public health strategy that is now seen as a national model for slowing transmission of the coronavirus. In fact, on Tuesday, President Trump called his South Korean counterpart, Moon Jae-in, to request medical equipment and support.

Min has been following the situation in the United States, where his daughter attends college. But he seemed surprised, and alarmed, by what I told him--especially about the shortage of diagnostic tests and hospital beds. We spoke in Korean; his account has been translated, edited, and condensed. [...]

The United States is very late to this. And the president and the officials working on it seem to think they aren't late. This has both national and global repercussions. It isn't enough for Korea alone to survive. In the US, Trump is talking about taking care of his own, but the entire world has to respond in sync.

The key to keeping mortality low is very quickly differentiating between mild and severe forms of the virus. Those who are young or have no underlying disease should be separated from those who are older or have an underlying disease, and this latter group must be tested and given a chest x-ray as a matter of course. There is one category of young people, in their 40s or younger, who are asymptomatic but lose their sense of smell or taste. They should be examined for the coronavirus.

Trump has spoken dismissively about testing because of his ego. As we scientists see it, he's motivated by pride. The doctors in the US all know that this sort of testing is appropriate.

How are existing facilities in the US going to handle all the infected patients? They can't. So then it's inevitable that you become like Italy. Korea also could have become like Italy, but we assessed the situation very quickly. What should the United States do? For now, social distancing must be instituted comprehensively, and field hospitals must be built.

The UK offers a cautionary tale. Its first response was to say that people would develop herd immunity, though it switched course a few days later. I'd already been concerned about the capacity of the British system, and this made me very worried. Herd immunity only works if you have a vaccine and 85 to 90 percent of the population is inoculated. Right now, in the face of an infectious disease with such a high mortality rate, for the UK to resist acknowledging the reality of the virus could translate into tens of thousands of deaths. It was unthinkable for a government to put out such nonsense. We in Korea were thinking, "Are these people in their right mind?"

Posted by orrinj at 8:15 AM


Big Oil is cheap: Should the government take it over? (ADELE PETERS, 3/27/20, fast Company) 

When the price of oil cratered because of the coronavirus crisis and a price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia, the Trump administration proposed spending $3 billion to fill up the U.S.'s strategic oil reserve and save the oil industry--a line item that didn't make it in the Senate's final stimulus bill, but that the administration plans to continue to pursue. Some environmentalists have a different suggestion: With the price of oil so low, the value of fossil fuel companies has also cratered, so the government could just take ownership of the reeling fossil fuel industry, dismantle it in a way that's fair to workers and states, and help speed the necessary transition to a zero-carbon economy.

"The most effective course of action right now would be a public takeover of the major fossil fuel companies, with a plan to wind down their operations and create new ventures that would create millions of good green jobs and help combat the climate crisis," Mitch Jones, the policy director of the nonprofit Food & Water Action, wrote in a statement on Wednesday.

Rather than subsidizing oil, tax it enough to make up for the decline in prices...then some.

Posted by orrinj at 8:12 AM


Corporate America must learn to innovate frugally to get through the coronavirus crisis (NAVI RADJOU, 3/27//20, Co.Exist)

Frugal innovation is the need of the hour in the U.S., with the economy decimated by coronavirus. U.S. firms need a frugal and agile mind-set to not only survive during the current health crisis but also to innovate for success in the recessionary post-coronavirus word. A drastically new world where cost-conscious customers will seek more value for less.

Sadly, corporate America is ill-equipped to innovate frugally and flexibly. Indeed, frugal innovation, which emphasizes speed, agility, and affordability, is the antithesis of how corporate America innovates, instead relying on insular R&D labs, big budgets, and rigid go-to-market processes. [...]


Rather than reinvent the wheel, companies must reuse and repurpose widely available resources (technologies, data, assets) to generate more value. For example, when GE Healthcare engineers developed a low-cost portable ECG device, the MAC 400, that is sturdy enough for use in rural India, they didn't create a new printer from scratch. Instead, they adapted a printer used in buses to print tickets and integrated it into the MAC 400.

Likewise, the Delaware-incorporated startup AlgoSurg uses a patented AI-technology to quickly convert 2D X-ray images into 3D images without requiring an expensive CT scanner or MRI machine. AlgoSurg's cloud-based software enables orthopedic surgeons to virtually simulate bone surgeries very precisely so they can do their operations faster, better, and cost-effectively.

Consumption taxes punish the lack of frugality, increasing wealth at lower costs.

Posted by orrinj at 8:08 AM


"No Wealth But Life": Moral Reasoning in a Pandemic (Brad Littlejohn, March 27, 2020, Mere Orthodoxy)

As Rod Dreher noted, it is embarrassing that Andrew Cuomo of all people has succeeded in positioning himself as more pro-life than Rusty Reno. The current crisis, in fact, affords Christians an unprecedented opportunity to persuasively articulate our defense of life to a culture that might at last be ready to listen. For the first time in decades, our materialistic society has been put on pause, and people are looking around and asking themselves, "What is this all for? What is the value of human life? Am I willing to sacrifice my freedom to protect my neighbor? Can I sacrifice some comfort to protect life?" As Christians, we can use this opportunity to seize the megaphone and remind those around us of the transcendent value of human life and the frivolity of the kind of "freedom" that our culture so values. Or, we can squander this moment and go down in history as those who stood callously by and said that a few hundred thousand more American deaths is a small price to pay for maintaining our standard of living.

Now, at this moment, a chorus of objections will be raised.

Some will protest that there won't be hundreds of thousands of deaths, and anyone who says so is a fear-monger. My hope too is that the death toll will be relatively low, but if so, it will only be because we listened to the so-called "fear-mongers" or because we got incredibly lucky. The vast majority of the epidemiological data points to a grim scenario in the absence of dramatic intervention. To be sure, models are sometimes wrong and experts are not omniscient, but we rarely hesitate to cut our beach vacations short when a major hurricane--something far less predictable than an epidemic curve--is on its way, so it's hard to see the rational ground for blithely ignoring the threats of this other force of nature--infinitesimally smaller, perhaps, but far more deadly.

More substantively, perhaps, many will protest that it is unfair to characterize this as a tradeoff between economics and human life--even if that is exactly the way that many have carelessly articulated it, not least our own President. After all, economics is all about the preservation and flourishing of human life, or at least it's supposed to be. It has no plausible justification except to promote life, health, and well-being; as John Ruskin argued powerfully in Unto This Last?, in the last assessment, there is "no wealth but life," and our political economy must be ordered accordingly.

So what does this mean for our situation? If people lose jobs, they lose their livelihood. If they lose their livelihoods, they are much more likely to get sick and die--perhaps at some point far in the future, but still, why should we save 500,000 people now if it means losing five million newly-impoverished Americans to drugs, despair, or starvation in the next ten years. Can we knowingly sacrifice some lives now in order to protect other goods, including perhaps more lives later?

This is, I fear, something of an academic question at the current juncture--if public health experts are to be believed, this is not really a question of whether we lose jobs or lose lives, but whether we lose lots of jobs and few lives, or lots of jobs and lots of lives. It is difficult to believe that the economy would continue to properly function in the scenario of unmitigated spread toward which so many contrarians like Reno are goading us.

People are not going to casually ride subways and go out for dinner if hospitals are overflowing and people are dying in the streets. If proactive government action (which oddly now counts as "panic" in the eyes of many) didn't shut down the businesses, real, society-wide panic would likely do so soon enough, and in considerably more disorderly fashion. Still, it has been long since we as a society have stared the prospect of mass death in the face, and many, understandably, cannot imagine or believe that we could find ourselves in that position in a few weeks time. So let us ask the question: if we could choose between losing lots of lives now and losing lots of jobs now, how should we choose? It is an important and serious moral question, one that should not be lightly dismissed. How might we begin to answer it?

The first thing we must do is get clear on what question exactly is being asked of us. Reno seeks to frame the issue in terms of the Christian duty to be fearless in the face of death, but this, I think, rather misses the point. The call to social distancing is an appeal first and foremost not to self-love, but to love of neighbor. Even if you are young and healthy and more than happy to endanger your life by going about your daily routine, that does not give you a right to endanger others, which is precisely what an invisible, often asymptomatic virus may cause you to do. Christians are called to faith and hope, to be sure, but also to love. Traditionally, Christians have taught that the sixth commandment imposes on us not merely an obligation not to kill but to do whatever we reasonably can to preserve life: "The duties required in the sixth commandment are, all careful studies, and lawful endeavors, to preserve the life of ourselves and others..." (Westminster Larger Catechism, Q. 135). So the proper framing of this question is: "is it more loving to our neighbor to increase the number of people who will get sick and die in the near term, or to decrease our economic well-being in the near-term (thus, presumably, increasing sickness and death in the long run)?"

Posted by orrinj at 8:04 AM


How Nancy Pelosi became the most powerful female member of Congress ever (Chris Cillizza, March 26, 2020, CNN)

On her 80th birthday, Pelosi finds herself in a now-familiar position: Shepherding a critical piece of legislation -- in this case the $2 trillion stimulus package aimed at keeping the economy running during the coronavirus pandemic -- to passage under a tight deadline. [...]

Pelosi, who described herself in a recent interview with The Washington Post's Karen Tumulty as "a troublemaker with a gavel," counts the Affordable Care Act, Dodd-Frank financial reform, repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act as just some of the major legislative accomplishments during her time as speaker.

And that's not even counting her decision to (eventually) spearhead the effort that led to the impeachment of President Donald Trump, only the third time in American history a president has been impeached by the House. (Like Andrew Jackson and Bill Clinton before him, Trump was not convicted and removed from office by the Senate.)

How you interpret that legislative legacy very likely depends on which side of the partisan political aisle you call home. Republicans have long villainized Pelosi as an out-of-touch San Francisco liberal who believes more government and higher taxes are the answer to every problem facing the country. And even some Democrats -- especially younger liberals over the last few years -- have criticized Pelosi for her allegedly too-politically-calculating approach to legislating and running the House.

But what no one -- from Pelosi's most ardent supporters to her most vitriolic critics -- can deny is the power that she wields. "Total assassin. She's an assassin," former Trump White House political adviser Steve Bannon allegedly remarked while watching an early back-and-forth between the speaker and the President.

What Bannon grasped -- and what many Republicans, not to mention many of Pelosi's one-time challengers within her own party, have failed to -- is that the California Democrat is an unapologetic and unflinching political genius.

Posted by orrinj at 8:02 AM


The mayor of coronavirus-plagued New Orleans took a shot at Trump (Ashley Collman, 3/27/20, Business Insider)

In a Thursday interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, Mayor LaToya Cantrell explained that the city's Mardi Gras planning happens year-round and in close coordination with the federal government. This year's Mardi Gras celebrations took place on February 25.

She was given "no red flags" about a public health threat at any point, so they decided to continue with business as usual.

"When it's not taken seriously on the federal level, it's very difficult to transcend down to the local level in making these decisions," Cantrell said. "But when the experts told me that social gatherings would be an issue, I moved forward with canceling them."

When Blitzer asked if it's correct to say that federal officials made no suggestion that the event should be canceled, Cantrell responded: "That's absolutely correct, and it was backed up by the response of our national leader." 

"Allowing science to lead us, it does matter," Cantrell went on to say. "Leaders on the ground, we rely on the facts to make decisions for the people that we serve. Given no red flags, we moved forward. In hindsight, if we were given clear direction, we would not have had Mardi Gras, and I would have been the leader to cancel it."

Posted by orrinj at 7:57 AM


Coronavirus test kits pour off South Korean production line (KANG JIN-KYU, 3/27/20, AFP)

Every few seconds, a batch of white plastic cases shoots along a conveyor belt in a South Korean factory -- coronavirus test kits destined for export around the world as the global pandemic sends demand soaring.

SD Biosensor is one of five South Korean companies whose COVID-19 diagnostic tests are being used in the country, where a huge "trace, test and treat" effort appears to have brought the epidemic under control. [...]

"Treatment for the virus begins with accurate diagnosis," company vice president Park June told AFP.

"I have been in the diagnostic industry for 35 years and never I have felt such a strong spotlight on our work," he added.

The company is already exporting to eight countries including Germany, Iran, India and Italy, and is in discussions with around 60 more, led by the United States -- which has now confirmed more cases than anywhere else in the world.

Controversy has swirled around the Trump administration's response to the outbreak, with accusations of insufficient preparations, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in said this week that his US counterpart had asked for test kits, although the White House has not confirmed the request.

Park anticipates Washington's Food and Drug Administration will grant his firm an emergency use authorisation next week, and expects the US will become its "biggest export market".

Posted by orrinj at 7:49 AM


In Just 10 Days, Dyson Designed a Completely New Ventilator Specifically for Covid-19 Patients: The company famous for vacuums and hand dryers is moving remarkably fast to help fight the current pandemic. (Jason Aten, 3/27/20, Inc)

According to a letter from the company's founder to its employees, James Dyson says the company's goal was "to design and build an entirely new ventilator, The CoVent. This new device can be manufactured quickly, efficiently and at volume. It is designed to address the specific clinical needs of Covid-19 patients, and it is suited to a variety of clinical settings."

Working with The Technology Partnership, the company says it is working on how to quickly produce the ventilators once they are approved by the UK government. Dyson also says it will donate an additional 5,000 units to different countries. Those ventilators will come in handy in places that are quickly running out of beds. It's not an exaggeration to say that this is a life and death effort, as hospitals have become crowded with Covid-19 patients. 

Yes, Dyson is in the business of making things. It also happens to have a history of inventing new ways to build common devices that we use every day. More important, however, is the company's willingness to move quickly towards solving a massive problem. 

Right now, life seems like it's at a standstill as communities literally shut down. People are either working from home or out of work entirely. All of that waiting can make it seem like we're living in slow motion. Except, we don't have time to waste. 

In fact, that's a valuable lesson for every entrepreneur and small business owner right now--that we can solve big problems and do hard things when we move quickly in the right direction. Even if your company isn't building ventilators or donating masks, there's a good chance that there's something you can do right now for your team, your company, or your customers. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:31 AM


Average home is more spacious now than ever - here's why that's a problem for the environment (Katherine Ellsworth-Krebs, 3/27/20, tHE cONVERSATION)

Around the world, more people are living with more space at home than at any other time in history.

This may be surprising - cramped, dingy rooms are as familiar in Shanghai as they are in London. But on average, the space per person in Chinese homes has increased by nearly 30 square metres in 40 years, and by four square metres in the UK over the past 15 years.

Meanwhile, the percent of income claimed by mortgage payments for these bigger/better homes continues to plummet.

Posted by orrinj at 7:16 AM


Learning the Wrong Lessons from Reform Conservatism (TANNER GREER, March 17, 2020, National Review)

The phrase "reform conservatives" is most closely associated with the people who staffed or wrote for the Conservative Reform Network (also called the YG Network) in the early 2010s, which includes both Ponnuru and Levin. In this piece I will also lump outsiders who shared the general vision of this Beltway clique but had no formal ties to it (for example, Michael Lotus and James Bennett's America 3.0 remains the most compelling statement of the basic reformocon vision I have read, though neither author ever adopted the title "reformocon") in with them. The movement was first and foremost a response to the victories of Barack Obama and the failures of the Bush presidency. The central tenet of the reformocons was that the then-existing conservative consensus was three decades behind the times. A conservatism fit to 21st-century conditions demanded more than rewarmed platitudes from the Reagan era. There was an implicit generational lens to this critique: Almost all of the reformocons hailed from Generation X, and many explicitly portrayed their ideas an attempt to seize intellectual terrain from fogey old Boomers frozen in a past forever gone. Their job was to take the energy that Republican defeats and the Tea Party revolt had poured into conservative politics and channel it into a more coherent, practical, and forward-looking framework of ideas and policies.

This framework began with the recognition that American political elites generally, and Republican elites in particular, had become economically and socially isolated from the mass of the American people. This isolation caused the GOP's governing class to miss the obvious: Married couples, not corporate suits and financiers, are the natural constituency of any conservative movement, and the actual backbone of Republican electoral success. Policy should strengthen families and encourage family formation. The disintegration of family life among the working classes was the greatest disaster to befall post-war America. This disaster was matched in scale by two other challenges, each of which threatened to unwind the fabric of American society. The first was the deteriorating economic security of middle-class families, who were forced to take on enormous debt and then defer marriage, children, and other joyous things to have any hope of holding place in America's meritocratic hunger games. The second was the slow death of American civic society. This collapse in social capital left the American people isolated, atomized, and lonely. Such a people lack resilience. As the reaching social and economic policies of the Obama presidency vividly demonstrated, such a people will also inevitably turn to the federal government as the first solution to their ills.

To renew American society, then, Republicans needed to empower normal Americans to solve their own problems without interference from or reliance on federal power. The reformocons favored what some of them called "decentralization" and others termed "subsidiarity": Whenever possible, problems that the federal government managed should be handled instead by state governments (or in Lotus and Bennet's more interesting formulation, compacts of states). Many things that state governments do would in turn be handed over to cities or to civic organizations and private enterprise. This would effectively end many national culture-war controversies. Tribe blue would be free do its thing in blue territory, and tribe red the same in its. Items of concern that could not be pushed downward would be evaluated according to two standards: Will this help or will this hinder middle- and working-class families? Will this help or will this hinder a renaissance in American civic life?

This last question is important. In the reformocon worldview, decentralizing meant not just devolving the federal government downward but building local communities upward. As Levin wrote for National Review in 2014:

The premise of conservatism has always been . . . that what matters most about society happens in the space between the individual and the state -- the space occupied by families, communities, civic and religious institutions, and the private economy. . . . Creating, sustaining, and protecting that space and helping all Americans take part in what happens there are among the foremost purposes of government.

That was the reformocon vision for making America good again. It was a glorious vision -- a glorious vision rendered inert.

It is not that the vision is inert, but that as it is increasingly embraced by those who are not of the right, negative partisanship makes conservatives leary of espousing their own ideas.  Of course, even at their height, they were reluctant to accept that the greatest tool for decentralization is to be found in the central government's capacity to distribute wealth.

Beyond the crisis, there's a strong case for a Universal Basic income (Alan Lockey, 3/27/20, CapX)

This is not the time to prosecute the case against austerity again, but one upshot of a high employment recession was how the injustice and inadequacy of our welfare settlement was largely shielded from wider political attention. Suffice to say, the Coronvirus recession will not follow that path - data published yesterday on the US economy showed the largest rise in unemployment registrations in American history and by a huge margin too. That is but one straw in the wind of course and our economic response is certainly more advanced. Nevertheless, a lot of British workers have already lost jobs and despite the Chancellor's efforts, that trend that will surely continue. Ignoring systemic welfare reform, even in the medium-term, will not be an option this time.

You could hear the faintest acknowledgement of this in Rishi Sunak's suggestion yesterday that the self-employed and employee tax regimes need better harmonisation. But if we are to look again at the tax side of this equation we must also acknowledge how the self-employed lack the same pension, sickness and family leave entitlements as employees. 'Portable benefit' options that integrate these entitlements with workers who lack an employer to distribute them do exist, with trade unions often providing the intermediary infrastructure. But the truth is even these solutions would work better in a world where we all enjoyed a minimum entitlement to fall back upon in times of crisis.

Welfare universalism is not a new idea. Nor, to be blunt, is it a cheap one. Yet in a swoop, it does away with the punitive conditionality and pettifogging bureaucracy that have ruled roughshod over poorer people's lives this past decade and which curtail the Chancellor's responsiveness now. It also, as we reminded ourselves when clapping for the NHS last night, speaks to an "all in it together" solidarity that healthy societies need, both in crisis and beyond.

When we finally get through this, the Government should embrace it and explore a universal basic income.

Defining the project: The Third Way is easy to poke fun at, but without some ideological framework politics will degenerate into faction and fixing (Tony Wright, October 20, 1998, The Prospect)

Like Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair is not much interested in ideas. But, like her also, he knows that ideas matter in politics. They chart a course, provide a narrative and rally the troops. So Blair wants some. He encourages those who trade in them. Intellectuals are summoned to Downing Street. Potential themes are market-tested. Friendly thinkers are nourished. The project is to define the Project-in a way which has some chance of becoming public currency.

Enter the Third Way, today's candidate for this role. [...]

As Giddens whisks us briskly through the issues, each one is given the Third Way synthesis. Mix individualism and collectivism, market and state, private and public, right and left. Forget about the old antagonisms. The new politics is pick-n'-mix. The question is whether this provides the basis for a modern progressivism of the centre left.

Giddens is persuasive that it does, although all the issues he touches on-from globalisation to welfare, environment and the family-are offered as no more than trailers for work still to be done. It really is open season for the think-tankers, and even political theorists. The challenge is to synthesise without being synthetic.

The Third Way is necessarily radical, although as Giddens points out "the equation between being on the left and being radical no longer stands up, if it ever did." It is about finding ways to harness a capitalist market economy-to which there is no alternative-to a politics of individual "emancipation" as Giddens describes it. This means an active role for a clever state enabling individuals to cope with social change, but more through new kinds of partnership than through a traditional collectivism.

Likewise, the fact that Tony Blair, Bill Clinton and Barrack Obama were just heirs to Margaret Thatcher and Augusto Pinochet is why the Left can not embrace it's own policy goals if they are cast as making the citizenry independent via the central state.

Posted by orrinj at 7:07 AM


Origin pulls plug on gas exploration in Northern Territory. Who's next? (Bruce Robertson, 27 March 2020, Renew Economy)

The price of producing renewable energy globally has been continually falling, and it's getting harder and harder for fossil fuels to compete.

In Australia, renewable energy already supplies 23% of the national electricity market (NEM).

Globally, renewable energy is the cheapest source of power generation. Increasingly, it will be more so. It is a matter of time. In China, this will happen as soon as 2027. In Australia it's already the case. Wind and solar are already cheaper, even unsubsidised.

Inside the industry, gas executives see very little demand for their product beyond 30 years from now. The proposed Burrup project in Western Australia has a 50 year life. The Northern Territory fracking projects have a minimum 30 year life. But for both, it's unlikely they will see their 30 year life out.

Prior to covid-19, the gas industry saw increasing demand for their product, even if only within the 30-year projected life span. It will take a long while for all of us to crawl out of the economic effects this virus will heave. It will last for years.

Then there is another issue: there's an oversupply of gas. The global gas glut will not resolve now until about 2030. It was previously projected to resolve by 2025. So why would any gas company look to build new gas now?

The largest cost of renewable energy is the financing. Running a solar plant, for instance, costs very little. In our current climate, financing costs are declining for renewables as interest rates fall, while financing costs for fossil fuels are going up. This is because the debt markets have lost patience. They are downgrading the debt of oil and gas companies.

Currently, the U.S. fracking industry is experiencing a flood of bankruptcies, and soon, some US$86 billion dollars of debt will be due. This will be very difficult for the industry to manage. When enough fracking companies go broke in the U.S., this will force prices back up, at which point gas will become uneconomic to produce.

Whether prices are low or high, it is not good for the fracking industry. Too low and they can't make money, and too high and they lose market share to renewables.

The main problem with Nancy's Coronavirus rescue was its lack of ambition.  There's entirely too little money going to taxpayers (who are focus should be on saving during the pandemic), too much going to industry (which we should be euthanizing) and more complication of government taxes and regulation.  A better package would have retained the strictly medical expenditures, transferred more cash to individuals and replaced income and corporate taxes with consumption taxes, starting with an extortionate one on gasoline. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:54 AM


IDF, cops condemn settler attack on troops as 'serious terror attack' (JUDAH ARI GROSS and JACOB MAGID, 3/27/20, Times of Israel)

Senior Israeli officials on Friday denounced the firebombing of a Border Police jeep outside the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar earlier that morning, with IDF generals referring to the incident as a "serious terror attack," while government ministers refrained from such a designation, condemning it instead as an "act of violence."

Interim Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu referred to the attack -- in which three firebombs were thrown at the vehicle -- as a "double crime" as the police are involved in the country's efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

Posted by orrinj at 6:43 AM


Freud: the last great Enlightenment thinker: Sigmund Freud is out of fashion. The reason? His heroic refusal to flatter humankind (John Gray / December 14, 2011, The Prospect)

From one point of view, Freud's work was an attempt to transplant the idea of the unconscious mind posited in Schopenhauer's philosophy into the domain of science. When Freud originated psychoanalysis, he wanted it to be a science. One reason was because achieving scientific standing for his ideas would enable them to overcome the opposition of moralising critics who objected to the central place of sexuality in psychoanalysis. Another was that, for most of his life, Freud never doubted that science was the only true repository of human knowledge. Here he revealed the influence of Ernst Mach (1838-1916), an Austrian physicist and philosopher whose ideas were pervasive in Freud's Vienna. For Mach, science was not a mirror of nature but a method for ordering human sensations, continuing and refining the picture of the world that has been evolved in the human organism. If we perceived things as they are we would see chaos, since much of the order we perceive in the world is projected into it by the human mind.

Here Mach--like Schopenhauer--was developing the philosophy of Kant, who believed that the world we perceive is shaped by human categories. As is generally recognised, Kant is one of the greatest philosophers of the Enlightenment, who saw his task as rescuing human knowledge from the near-destruction that it had suffered under the assaults of David Hume, an Enlightenment philosopher of equal stature. What is less commonly understood is that Kant's impact was to reinforce the scepticism he aimed to resist. Taking his point of departure from Kant, Schopenhauer came to the view that the world as understood by science was an illusion, while for Mach it was a human construction. It was against this background that Freud took for granted that science was the only source of knowledge, while at the same time accepting that science could not reveal the nature of things.

It is a paradoxical position, as the development of Freud's thought illustrates. If science is a system of human constructions, useful for practical purposes but not a literal account of reality, what makes it superior to other modes of thinking? If science is also a sort of mythology--as Freud suggested in his correspondence with Einstein--what becomes of the Enlightenment project of dispelling myth through scientific inquiry?

Hume saved the English-speaking world from the continental delusion that science (Reason) has more stable foundations than the rest of our myths when subjected to scientific (rational) inquiry.

March 26, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 9:11 PM


Lack of COVID-19 tests causes a cascade of problem at nursing homes (DAVID BROOKS, 3/26/20, Concord Monitor)

NEW LONDON -- The mail is taking a day or two longer to get to residents at Woodcrest Village these days, but it's not the fault of the Postal Service.

"We keep all mail and packages quarantined outside for 48 hours because we don't have the cleaning products to wipe them down. We're running out of cloth wipes, and I think we're down to two cans of Lysol," said Bethany Brenner, executive director of the 44-unit facility, which was started by her mother in 1989.

That's the least of their worries, however. The facility is running out of protective gear like gowns and masks that the staff needs when dealing with residents who have symptoms of COVID-19 -- including the 11 residents who live in the memory care unit and can't always understand what is happening.

"We were having a meeting discussing this. The health services director said the gowns have to be a moisture barrier, so you can't just use paper. ... But we just received a bunch of paper tablecloths that have a plastic barrier; I said, 'Maybe if we start duct-taping them, we can use them as gowns,' " Brenner said Wednesday. "We've resorted to eBay, wherever we can get anything. We went online to order welder face shields."

At the heart of their problem is the lack of tests to know who actually has COVID-19 and who has only an unrelated cough and fever. Without that knowledge, they have to assume that every person with symptoms is "a positive" -- infected with coronavirus -- and act accordingly.

Posted by orrinj at 9:05 PM


No, a COVID Scientist Didn't Walk Back His Prediction (ROBERT VERBRUGGEN, March 26, 2020, National Review)

A narrative rocketed around social media earlier today: An Imperial College study said that COVID-19 could kill 500,000 Brits, but in recent testimony, Neil Ferguson, the head of the group behind the study, put the number below 20,000. Clearly the lying alarmist was walking back his ridiculous predictions!

Posted by orrinj at 8:41 PM


Democrats Took a Terrible Coronavirus Bill and Made It Pretty Damn Good (Kevin Drum, 3/26/20, Mo Jo)

Vastly expanded unemployment benefits through June for anyone who's lost income due to COVID-19.
$100 billion for hospitals.
A change in the "checks for everyone" program to insure that low-income workers get the full $1,200.
Removal of a provision that would have excluded nonprofits that receive Medicaid funding from the small-business grants.
A ban on the Trump family getting aid.
Oversight on the corporate lending facility.
$150 billion for state and local governments.
$25 billion for food stamps.
$30 billion for schools.

Love 'em or hate 'em, this is good work from the Democratic Party. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:36 PM



Although conspiratorial claims by Wiles often target foreigners and LGBTQ people, he rarely misses an opportunity to include Jews. On February 14 he claimed that the transgender rights movement was "a Zionist plot" involving "putting specific things in food, in drink" in order to "make all of humanity androgynous."

Wiles is also an avid supporter of President Donald Trump and once insisted that impeachment proceedings against the president were part of a "Jew coup," warning that the actions would lead to a "civil war."

TruNews received press credentials during Trump's January visit to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland and have claimed several other invitations from the White House.

Trumpist, not conservative.

Posted by orrinj at 8:29 PM


Trump to review options to 'open the country up' as US coronavirus cases pass China, Italy (Christina Wilkie & Kevin Breuninger, 3/26/20, CNBC)

President Donald Trump will hear recommendations from the White House coronavirus task force this weekend on plans to "open the country up" as the economy continues to strain under the pandemic.

The new guidance on how to kickstart the economy will come days after the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. surpasses China or Italy, making it the country with the largest outbreak in the world.

Posted by orrinj at 4:15 PM


Joe Scarborough: Democrats "look more pro-life" than Republicans amid calls to "euthanize" elderly (MATTHEW ROZSA, MARCH 26, 2020, Salon)

"Right now, these conservatives are making Democrats, who are pro-choice, actually look more pro-life," Scarborough said Thursday morning. "Because they are only worried about the unborn. It is the born -- it is the weakest among us, it is senior citizens -- who they are ready to euthanize, because they want Boeing's corporate earnings to not dip too low."

Posted by orrinj at 1:34 PM


The US is well on the way to having a coronavirus outbreak worse than China, or even Italy (Tom Porter , 3/26/200, Business Insider)

The World Health Organization on Wednesday warned that the US could become the new epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic -- a prediction that every day looks closer to coming true. The US is only 6,219 infections behind China's total number of infections. China had 81,285 infections; the US has 75,066.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump team failed to follow NSC's pandemic playbook (DAN DIAMOND and NAHAL TOOSI, 03/25/2020, Politico)

[A]ccording to a previously unrevealed White House playbook, the government should've begun a federal-wide effort to procure that personal protective equipment at least two months ago.

"Is there sufficient personal protective equipment for healthcare workers who are providing medical care?" the playbook instructs its readers, as one early decision that officials should address when facing a potential pandemic. "If YES: What are the triggers to signal exhaustion of supplies? Are additional supplies available? If NO: Should the Strategic National Stockpile release PPE to states?"

The strategies are among hundreds of tactics and key policy decisions laid out in a 69-page National Security Council playbook on fighting pandemics, which POLITICO is detailing for the first time. Other recommendations include that the government move swiftly to fully detect potential outbreaks, secure supplemental funding and consider invoking the Defense Production Act -- all steps in which the Trump administration lagged behind the timeline laid out in the playbook.

"Each section of this playbook includes specific questions that should be asked and decisions that should be made at multiple levels" within the national security apparatus, the playbook urges, repeatedly advising officials to question the numbers on viral spread, ensure appropriate diagnostic capacity and check on the U.S. stockpile of emergency resources.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump charges media wants businesses closed to defeat him (BRETT SAMUELS, 03/25/20, The Hill)

"The LameStream Media is the dominant force in trying to get me to keep our Country closed as long as possible..."

No one thinks he would be acting at all responsibly if left to his own devices.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


As ventilators run short, health chief 'not optimistic' there'll be enough (STUART WINER, 3/26/20, Times of Israel)

The director general of the Health Ministry on Thursday said he was "not optimistic" that the healthcare system would be able to deal for much longer with the scope of the coronavirus pandemic.

"I cannot say I'm optimistic about the ability to treat everyone who needs it," Moshe Bar Siman-Tov told Army Radio. "The number could be huge. That is why we are pressuring for the implementation of drastic steps."

Bar Siman-Tov noted that the total number of patients in the country was doubling every three days, and that much is still unknown in dealing with the COVID-19 disease.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The 'Let the Elderly Die' ChorusSome conservatives--including supposed 'pro-lifers'--say we should quit social distancing. Is it the economy they want to help? Or the president? (JIM SWIFT,  MARCH 26, 2020, The Bulwark)

Especially troubling is that some of the people who are making the case that we should intentionally concede lives to the coronavirus--especially the lives of the elderly, the disabled, the vulnerable, the infirm--are prominent figures in the pro-life movement. Even floating as a trial balloon the idea of giving up on the elderly will do damage to the credibility of the pro-life cause. Is that what pro-life leaders and pundits want?

To put it another way, COVID-19 has served as a helpful barometer of who is capable of logical thought and who has allowed their brains to be broken by President Trump. Because a number of people who have built their careers on being pro-life have abandoned that, converting to prosperity gospel by way of Bishop Trump.

Consider the argument posed by Rusty Reno in the pages of the magazine he edits, the largely conservative Catholic First Things. Reno criticizes New York governor Andrew Cuomo for saying "I did everything we could do. And if everything we do saves just one life, I'll be happy." To Reno, Cuomo's statement represents a "disastrous sentimentalism" because "there are many things more precious than life."

Yes, there are causes worth laying down one's life for. But to think of today's social-isolation practices in those terms is a bizarre and extreme misjudgment. In his topsy-turvy interpretation, Reno believes the temporary stay-at-home measures that New York has put in place to protect lives are actually allowing a fear of death to displace other things we should care about. Claiming that the news media and public-health officials are "conspir[ing] to heighten the atmosphere of crisis," Reno says that Satan would approve and that "the mass shutdown of society to fight the spread of COVID-19 creates a perverse, even demonic atmosphere."

Asking people to stay at home during a time of crisis is demonic?

This is the same First Things that was once one of the leading magazines for pro-life intellectual writing?

The same First Things whose writers railed against the "death panels" in Obamacare?

The same First Things that not long ago pushed a manifesto whose signatories said, "We stand with the American citizen. We reject attempts to compromise on human dignity."

What happened?

Responding to Reno's article, Erick Erickson writes:

It is sad to see a religious publication try to cast the extraordinary effort of stopping a global pandemic [as] "demonic." But that is what it does. It cheapens the effort to save lives as sentimental and essentially advances a materialistic approach of wanting to make money and let people die because people are always going to die. Now, of course, the writer knows he is doing this so he chooses to denounce materialism while essentially advocating for it.

And in the liberal Catholic magazine Commonweal, Jared Lucky powerfully rebuts Reno's argument, pointing out that "today's quarantine restrictions complement centuries of Christian response to epidemics." His whole article--especially his devastating rejection of Reno's invocation of Solzhenitsyn--is worth reading, but here's just a taste from the conclusion:

Few Christians would ask for this cup, but we must drink it--to serve God by serving our neighbors, and to grow closer to God through the contemplation of death. . . . Quarantine is . . . a costly act of service that meets the urgent human needs of our neighbors. That service may involve going to work--at a hospital or a testing center--or staying home. But make no mistake: these sacrifices are not a surrender to death. They are a sacrifice to the God who gives life.

While some of the criticism of social distancing from Republicans and conservative commentators surely is motivated by real fears about the economy, you need not be a cynic to wonder whether it is mostly driven by a desire to protect the president.

Donald is anti-Life so they are too.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Turnout in the 2020 Democratic Primary: Some Clues for the Fall (J. Miles Coleman,  March 26, 2020, Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball)

-- With very few exceptions, statewide turnout in the 2020 Democratic primary has been higher than 2016.

-- Suburban areas have seen some of the sharpest turnout increases -- though these areas tend to have higher population growth, they've also trended blue in general elections, perhaps a positive indicator for Democrats looking to the fall.

-- Meanwhile, some rural areas that have been trending away from Democrats in places like North Carolina and Oklahoma saw turnout lag behind 2016.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'You don't make the timeline, the virus makes the timeline,' says Dr. Anthony Fauci (Mike Murphy, 3/25/20, Market Watch)

America's top infectious disease expert had a stark response Wednesday when asked about a timeline for when the coronavirus outbreak can be considered contained enough so that some semblance of normal life can be resumed.

"You don't make the timeline, the virus makes the timeline."
That's what Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN's Chris Cuomo during an interview Wednesday night.

"You've got to be realistic," Fauci said. "If you keep seeing this acceleration, it doesn't matter what you say. One week, two weeks, three weeks -- you've got to go with what the situation on the ground is."

The number of new cases in New York jumped 20% on Wednesday, to 30,811, with nearly 300 deaths. Nationwide, COVID-19 has infected 55,243 people and caused at least 802 deaths.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM



Ventilators have become a limited commodity in Louisiana as the number of coronavirus patients who require the machinery practically doubled between Tuesday and Wednesday. According to the Louisiana Department of Health, 94 coronavirus patients required ventilators on Tuesday. On Wednesday, that number shot up to 163 patients.

"If our growth continues, we could potentially run out of vents in the New Orleans area in the first week of April," Edwards said during a Wednesday press conference. "This is a very very difficult item to find because everyone is looking for them all at the same time."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


A puritan but not a fanatic: a review of Providence Lost: The Rise and Fall of Cromwell's Protectorate by Paul Lay (Simon Heffer, April 2020, The Critic)

In his delegation as Lord Protector he was not always wise; the rule of the Major-Generals in the middle of the Protectorate allowed some of the most serious fanatics in the Kingdom to exercise power; sometimes Cromwell would call time on their activities, but on other occasions their fanaticism was allowed to run its full course. Lay's account of the trial and punishment of the self-advertising Quaker James Nayler -- who called himself the "Prince of Peace" and of whom Lay says "humility was not prominent in his make-up" -- reminds us of the savagery of the period, and how Cromwell's belief in freedom of conscience was not shared by many who acted in his name, nor enforced by him.

When, in the summer of 1653, Cromwell dismissed the Rump, telling them (in one of his nest jokes) that "ye have no more religion than my horse" and, anticipating modern times, that they were "sordid prostitutes", he considered Providence had given him that power; Lay says he might just as easily have said "convenience". Certainly England had to be governed, and in the vacuum that exist- ed after the end of the monarchy and, now, after the end of the Rump, a Protector was perhaps the easiest way to do it. [...]

Great questions remain, which seem beyond the scope of Lay's book to answer. By the standards of the time, was the regicide that was essential to the conception of the Protectorate justified? Many thought not; but Charles Stuart's behaviour throughout his reign, and his determination even when worsted in the First Civil War to turn the tables on his opponents made it hard to keep him alive. As it was, after his death there was a non-stop succession of conspiracies to bring the Protector down and put Charles II back in power.

Was Cromwell a good leader? He had his faults, and Lay denominates them; but the mess in which England found itself was of Charles I's making, and whoever had to clear it up had an unenviable job. Cromwell, thanks to his natural authority, and whatever the shortcomings in his natural ability, was undoubtedly the right choice at the time.

And, as would be seen within 30 years of the Stuarts returning to the throne, they were just in- capable of behaving themselves. Perhaps the finest legacy of the regicides and the Protectorate was that the Glorious Revolution proceeded without a King being decapitated (even though James II and VII probably asked for it far more than his errant father had), and -- the minor irritations of 1715 and 1745 notwithstanding -- at last settled the question of the English Reformation that had started in 1534.

The growth of British power and prosperity in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was in great measure built on those secure foundations. Cromwell's part in leading the great change of culture was absolutely fundamental to that.

The bigger question was well underway by 1215, though the answer--that the sovereign had to take counsel from those he taxed--had to be provided periodically.

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US Senate passes coronavirus rescue package with unanimous vote (ANDREW TAYLOR, 3/26/20, AP)

The drive by leaders to speed the bill through the Senate was slowed as four conservative Republican senators from states who economies are dominated by low-wage jobs demanded changes, saying the legislation as written might give workers like store clerks incentives to stay on unemployment instead of returning to their jobs since they may earn more money if they're laid off than if they're working. They settled for a failed vote to modify the provision. [...]

Democrats said the package would help replace the salaries of furloughed workers for four months, rather than the three months first proposed. Furloughed workers would get whatever amount a state usually provides for unemployment, plus a $600 per week add-on, with gig workers like Uber drivers covered for the first time.

Businesses controlled by members of Congress and top administration officials -- including Trump and his immediate family members -- would be ineligible for the bill's business assistance.

Schumer boasted of negotiating wins for transit systems, hospitals and cash-hungry state governments that were cemented after Democrats blocked the measure in votes held Sunday and Monday.

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How the far-right is exploiting coronavirus to peddle race hate (Rakib Ehsan, 3/26/20, CapX)

In the UK, the British National Socialist Movement has disseminated a poster on messenger app Telegram titled "What To Do If You Get Covid-19". The advice it proffers is about as far from socially beneficial as you could imagine, encouraging those infected to visit local mosques and synagogues, as well as spending time in 'diverse neighbourhoods' and on public transport. Anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim sentiments interwoven with the intended exploitation of a national health crisis.

Blaming migrants for the virus has also been a feature of this crisis. The British alt-right figure Paul Joseph Watson, for instance, authored an article stating that the coronavirus 'patient zero' in Italy was a Pakistani migrant who refused to self-isolate after testing positive for COVID-19. However, there is no solid scientific evidence to support this claim, with the authorities continuing to encounter difficulties in tracing an identifiable 'patient zero' in Italy, which now has a COVID-19 death toll of 7,503.

In the United States, far-right actors are capitalising on the coronavirus outbreak to peddle a variety of divisive and unfounded conspiracies. American neo-Nazis on social media platforms such as Telegram - including 'accelerationists' who seek to bring an end to liberal democratic society and the establishment of a white ethno-state - are deep in discussion over how to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic in order to recruit young people to their cause.

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March 25, 2020

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Retired Supreme Court Justice Joins Opinion Shooting Down Trump's Attack on Sanctuary Cities (MARK JOSEPH STERN, MARCH 25, 2020, Slate)

Trump's Department of Justice has long sought to punish "sanctuary" jurisdictions, those hundreds of cities, counties, and states that refuse to enforce federal immigration laws. Most sanctuary jurisdictions prohibit local law enforcement from asking about immigration status, arresting people because of their immigration status, or informing the federal government when it detains a person who happens to be undocumented. These jurisdictions also forbid jails from extending the detention of unauthorized immigrants so federal agents can take them into custody.

The DOJ has no constitutional authority to simply commandeer local police into enforcing immigration law. So, instead, the agency sought to cut off sanctuary jurisdictions from the leading source of federal funding to local law enforcement, the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program, if they did not explicitly agree to cooperate with immigration enforcement. This move would deprive these jurisdictions of millions of dollars in federal funding each year, potentially coercing them into abandoning their sanctuary policies.

Before Tuesday, the 3rd, 7th, and 9th U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals had already found that the Justice Department has no authority to slash funding for sanctuary cities and states. Only the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the DOJ rule in a frightening decision that suggested the federal government can require local cops to serve as immigrant enforcers. The 1st Circuit rejected that logic, siding against the DOJ rule in an opinion by Judge Bruce Selya (a Ronald Reagan appointee) joined by Judge David Barron (a Barack Obama appointee) and Souter. (Justices can sit on federal courts of appeals after they retire from the Supreme Court.)

The fundamental problem with the Justice Department's attack on sanctuary jurisdictions, Selya explained, is that it's totally unauthorized. Federal agencies don't have the power to impose new conditions on funding to the states. Rather, Congress must authorize those conditions, within constitutional limits that bar the "commandeering" of state officials. 

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Fox News' Brit Hume: "Entirely reasonable" for elderly to risk getting coronavirus to save economy (MATTHEW ROZSA, MARCH 25, 2020, Salon)

Brit Hume told his Fox News colleague Tucker Carlson that it was "an entirely reasonable viewpoint" to propose that older Americans risk their lives in order to save the economy. And the network's senior political analyst suggested that anyone who disagrees does so because they dislike President Donald Trump. 

After all, they're just a bunch of cells...
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Its coronavirus response provides more evidence of Israel's racism (Motasem A Dalloul, March 25, 2020, MEMO)

[O]n 20 March, the Times of Israel reported that Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan had decided to release 500 Israeli prisoners into house arrest in an effort to reduce the risk of a coronavirus outbreak in the country's prisons. Erdan apparently accepted the recommendation of acting Israel Prison Service chief Asher Vaknin. Not a single one of the 5,000 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel -- including 180 children, 43 women and 430 detained with neither charge nor trial --is being released, though, not even those with critical health conditions.

Posted by orrinj at 6:04 PM


Republicans Seem to Think They Can Decide Who Dies (DAHLIA LITHWICK, MARCH 24, 2020, Slate)

Republicans who once decried the Affordable Care Act as a harbinger of "death panels" are now toying with cutting out the middleman and sentencing the country's oldest to death without bothering with any panels at all. Yes, the same Republicans who once soberly asserted things like "there is a provision in [Obamacare] that anyone over the age of 74 has to go before what is effectively a death panel" are now cheerfully suggesting that a few dead elderly people would be a small price to pay to protect the U.S. economy in the coming weeks.

Having abandoned Christ in favor of Donald it's a short step to embracing Mammon and Moloch.

Posted by orrinj at 6:00 PM


New York City hospitals are running out of room in their morgues (Dave Mosher, 3/25/20, Business Insider)

New York City is running out of room to store the bodies of those who've died from COVID-19, a respiratory disease caused by a novel coronavirus that emerged less than 3 months ago.

The city has become an epicenter for the spread of the novel coronavirus due its role as a global hub of travel, tourism, and commerce.

On Wednesday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said during a press conference that the state has more than 30,000 confirmed cases -- in part due to dramatically expanded testing -- of which about 17,000 are from NYC.

"We're not slowing it, and it is accelerating on its own," Cuomo previously said, in another press conference on Tuesday. He added that the state's projection for hospital beds it will need at the peak of the outbreak will be around 140,000 -- though it currently has only 53,000.

The last shred of dignity left to the Trumpbots was an ostensible claim to care about life.

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Ben Sasse: Coronavirus Bill Would Promote Unemployment Over Full Paychecks (JOHN MCCORMACK, March 25, 2020, National Review)

Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer has hailed the unemployment-benefits provision in the coronavirus economic relief bill as paying furloughed and unemployed workers their full salaries for four months, but several GOP senators are sounding the alarm that in some cases unemployment benefits would exceed full salaries of workers and therefore encourage unemployment.

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Thousands of Liberty University students expected to return to campus amid coronavirus outbreak (Richard Chumney, Mar 23, 2020 , News Advance)

In an interview Sunday night, Falwell said somewhere between several hundred to more than 5,000 students are expected to live in campus dorms, where they will continue coursework online rather than in classrooms.

Meanwhile, hundreds of professors and instructors without a valid health exemption will come to campus to hold office hours.

"I think we have a responsibility to our students -- who paid to be here, who want to be here, who love it here -- to give them the ability to be with their friends, to continue their studies, enjoy the room and board they've already paid for and to not interrupt their college life," Falwell said.

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Trump to New York: You've Been Mean to Me, Drop Dead (Asawin Suebsaeng, Erin Banco, Sam Stein,  Mar. 25, 2020 , Daily Beast)

The latest evidence of the delicate, sometimes impossible, line that these governors have been forced to walk came on Tuesday, when the president took swipes at New York Governor Andrew Cuomo during a televised town-hall-style program with Fox News.

"I watched Gov. Cuomo [today] and he was very nice," the president said of the man steering the state hardest hit by the virus. Cuomo had, moments earlier, conducted a press conference in which he scoffed at how insufficient the administration's help in procuring ventilators had been. 

"He had a choice... He refused to order 15,000 ventilators," Trump said, referencing a recent column by Betsy McCaughey, a hardened Trump supporter and longtime health-care policy crusader on the right. "It says that he didn't buy the ventilators in 2015 for a pandemic, established death panels and lotteries instead." 

Trump would go on to insist he was not blaming Cuomo. But the magnanimity was short lived. "It's a two-way street," Trump said of having the feds help states with a coronavirus response policy. "They have to treat us well, too." 

Under normal circumstances, such a screed would be cast aside as a classic bit of Trumpian shit-talking and thin-skinness. But these aren't normal times. And Trump's comment resonated not only for how callous it seemed but also for how manufactured the evidence was that he was citing.  

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White House, Senate reach deal on $2 trillion stimulus package (ALEXANDER BOLTON AND JORDAIN CARNEY, 03/25/20, The Hill)

Senate Republicans on Tuesday were characterizing the direct assistance as "snap loans" instead of grants, to avoid the stigma of the proposal being called a bailout, but it has yet to be determined how the government would be compensated.

The bill bans stock buybacks for any corporation that accepts government loans during the term of their assistance plus one year.

Schumer added a provision to ban businesses owned by the president, vice president, members of Congress and the heads of federal executive departments from receiving loans or investments through the corporate liquidity program. The prohibition also applies to their children, spouses and in-laws.

The legislation creates an inspector general and oversight committee for the corporate assistance program, similar to what was done for the Troubled Asset Relief Program of a decade ago, according to the senior administration official. [...]

Republicans were furious when the negotiations dragged past McConnell's stated goal of passing a bill on Monday and Democrats twice blocked procedural motions to move on to a largely GOP-drafted stimulus plan. Democrats temporarily blocked Republicans from speaking on the Senate floor, a tactic Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) could be overheard calling "bull----."

"Are you kidding me?" a visibly enraged McConnell asked from the Senate floor. [...]

The Fed loan program, which Democrats bashed as a corporate bailout program and Mnuchin's "slush fund," was one of the biggest sticking points during the late rounds of the negotiations. 

Republicans argued the Treasury Department needed $500 billion to help the Fed inject enough liquidity into the economy, while Democrats were enraged over a provision they said would let Mnuchin provide loans and guarantees and then wait six months before disclosing who got the assistance. Schumer noted in a letter to his caucus on Wednesday morning that they were able to get that provision removed. 

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) touted that Democrats were able to get "better oversight," including that "you can't just ... go ahead and give all your corporate executives, based on the back of the taxpayers, free carte blanche."

March 24, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 5:51 PM


The Fox News moment that revealed a dangerously confused president (Aaron Rupar, Mar 24, 2020, Vox)

One moment during President Donald Trump's Fox News appearance on Tuesday served as the starkest example yet of how much he does not understand the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic: He urged Americans to flock to churches on Easter Sunday, just 19 days away.

Trump told Fox News anchor Bill Hemmer he selected Easter as the day he wants businesses to reopen, saying he'd like to see "packed churches all over our country" -- the exact type of large gatherings that the CDC, the WHO, and Trump's top health advisers have all urged suspended to help stop the spread of the virus.

"I would love to have it opened by Easter," Trump said, speaking about when he sees the country returning to normal life.

"That would be a great American resurrection," Hemmer replied.

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Pelosi says there is 'real optimism' Congress can reach a stimulus deal in the next few hours (Jacob Pramuk, 3/24/20, CNBC)

Democrats had taken particular issue with the potential conditions imposed on ailing corporations that receive aid from a pool of $500 billion in taxpayer money. On Tuesday, Pelosi said "things like a $500 billion slush fund are really insulting." 

The speaker said she was encouraged by the Trump administration agreeing to add more oversight to the funding pool, which she called a "big change." 

"We think the bill has move sufficiently to the side of workers," she said.

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Rand Paul Exposed Many In Capitol To Coronavirus After Test (Dan Desai Martin, March 24, 2020, National Memo)

On March 5, Paul was the only senator to vote against the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, the first congressional response to the coronavirus outbreak. That bill contained $8.3 billion for a variety of responses, including funding dedicated to research and development of vaccines and $2 billion for federal, state, and local governments to prepare for and respond to the growing outbreak.

On Wednesday, Paul made headlines when he attacked immigrants as "non-people" when discussing an amendment to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

"My amendment says that if you want to apply for money from the government through the child tax credit program -- this is money that the government gives to people -- that you have to be a legitimate person, you have to have a Social Security number," Paul said on the Senate floor.

"We've been talking about this reform for a decade now and we never seem to be able to get it passed. It has nothing to do with not liking immigrants, it has to do with saying taxpayer money shouldn't go to non-people," Paul added.

While Paul was waiting for his test results to come back, he worked out at the Senate gym and attended a meeting with other senators. After Paul's positive test, both Republican senators from Utah -- Mitt Romney and Mike Lee -- placed themselves in quarantine due to their recent proximity to Paul.

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Eleven States Now Letting Uninsured Sign Up for Obamacare (Margot Sanger-Katz and Reed Abelson, March 23, 2020, NY Times)

Eleven states and the District of Columbia have opened enrollment under the Affordable Care Act to allow laid-off workers to get subsidized health insurance, and the Trump administration, which has been gunning to repeal the law, is considering opening the federal exchange to new customers. [...]

There are also an estimated 17 million people already uninsured but eligible for marketplace coverage, according to a recent study from the Kaiser Family Foundation. That study found that more than a quarter of those people were eligible for a bronze plan that would cost them nothing in premiums after federal subsidies were applied (they would still have a high deductible). A broad special enrollment period could protect that group from big bills, too, if they contract the disease known as Covid-19.

"If open enrollment were more broad, and there were fewer barriers, that could make it easier for people to sign up," said Cynthia Cox, a vice president at Kaiser and a co-author of the study.

People in so-called short-term, limited-duration health plans -- those offering skimpier coverage that doesn't meet all the requirements of an A.C.A. plan -- could also sign up. Although the administration has encouraged the availability of alternatives, many may now want more comprehensive coverage.

Washington State, which has been enrolling people since March 10, has had 2,9730 residents indicate they plan to sign up as of last Thursday. About 500 have actually done so. In New York, during the first four days of the enrollment period, 150 people signed up, according to state officials.

In Rhode Island, which has had open enrollment since March 14, "we've had a really strong response," Ms. Lang said. As of Friday, 233 people had enrolled, with a further 150 or so in the process of doing so.

For Americans whose income has dipped low enough to qualify them for Medicaid, that program accepts applications all year long. In the 36 states that expanded their Medicaid programs under the Affordable Care Act, that means anyone now earning less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level -- about $17,000 for a single person and $35,500 for a family of four, annually -- can qualify for coverage right away. Eligibility rules vary in the other states. Many people who have lost their jobs and have very low incomes are now likely to qualify.

Marketplace coverage is more complicated: In addition to the need for an enrollment period, enrollees typically qualify for financial assistance with their premiums based on their income declared on their last tax return. Individuals can use a different estimated annual income but may have to provide documentation that their circumstances have changed, Ms. Cox said.

Anyone who already has marketplace coverage but has had an income change can return to the marketplace to apply for an increased subsidy. This is true even in states that have not yet established a special enrollment period.

Initially hesitant to reopen the federal marketplaces, health insurers recently began pushing for a special enrollment period to insure people who suddenly find themselves without a job. 

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 It seems that the pandemic is already leading to huge reductions in air pollution in those regions that have been significantly affected by COVID-19--such as China and Italy--as industry, aviation and other forms of transport grind to a halt.

"Air pollution levels as observed by satellite are showing drastic improvements in many areas that have been undergoing restrictive quarantines due to COVID-19," Peter DeCarlo, an Associate Professor of Environmental Health Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, told Newsweek.

"Both China and Italy industrial areas are showing strong drops in nitrogen dioxide (NO2) corresponding to reductions in industrial activity and vehicular traffic. This isn't surprising given that vehicles and industry are the main source of NO2 and when these sources are essentially turned off, the atmosphere will clear up relatively quickly," he said. [...]

[R]eductions in electricity consumption can potentially have a significant impact on emissions.

"It partly depends on where the drops occur and the energy mix in those areas, or the types of fuels used to generate that electricity," Christie Klimas, an environmental scientist at DePaul University in Chicago, told Newsweek.

"If the mix is predominantly coal, that will have a bigger pollution reduction impact than a more renewable mix of wind, solar, hydropower and nuclear, where pollution is already low," she said. "So reducing emissions from coal-fired power plants will have the most pollution reduction. And the energy mix is high in coal in areas like West Virginia." [...]

"In the long term, there are lots of folks talking about how the COVID-19 pandemic holds lessons and opportunities for environmental action," Davis told Newsweek. "For example, we will have a new baseline of what's possible to do online: telecommute, educate, shop, etcetera. And to the extent our government, institutions, and social networks succeed by coming together, we may feel more empowered to take on daunting issues like climate change and a transition to sustainable energy sources.

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China to lift lockdown on Wuhan city, the epicenter of its coronavirus outbreak (Evelyn Cheng, 3/24/20, CNBC)

Hubei province said Tuesday that travel restrictions on the capital city of Wuhan will be removed starting Apr. 8, which would end a lockdown that began on Jan. 23. 

The virus first emerged in the city in late December, and has since killed more than 2,500 people there. That means Wuhan alone accounted for nearly 80% of the country's total deaths of more than 3,200. [...]
New confirmed virus cases in China have dwindled in the last several days, with all or the majority now attributed to travelers returning from overseas. 

Travel restrictions for the rest of Hubei province will be lifted starting Wednesday, while schools will remain closed until further notice, according to an online announcement.

In another sign that the virus appears to be under control in China, Shanghai announced Monday that beginning Tuesday, the city's emergency response level to the coronavirus will be lowered by a notch -- down from the most severe level. Zhejiang, the third-largest province by exports, also lowered its emergency response level on Tuesday by one notch.

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People are dying after self-medicating with unproven COVID-19 drug promoted by Trump (The Week, 3/23/20)

President Trump has touted the decades-old anti-malaria drug chloroquine and its less-toxic cousin hydroxychloroquine as promising treatments for the COVID-19 coronavirus in press briefings and on Twitter, despite warnings from top federal health officials that the drugs aren't approved to fight COVID-19 and could have harmful side effects. The publicity has led to a run on the drugs, leaving people who use it to treat lupus and arthritis unable to fill their prescriptions. There have also been deaths.

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Trump aides say he's starting to lose his patience with Dr. Anthony Fauci (The Week, 3/24/'20)

He also admitted that when Trump says something that's not true, "I can't jump in front of the microphone and push him down. Okay, he said it. Let's try and get it corrected for the next time."

Multiple people close to Trump told the Times' Maggie Haberman that they consider such remarks as digs against Trump, and they don't know how Fauci has enough time to even sit down for an interview. Although he may be getting under Trump's skin, the president is aware that a vast majority of the public trusts Fauci, and the benefits of having him in his orbit outweigh the negatives, the Times reports.

Fauci was absent at Monday evening's coronavirus briefing...

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2020 Hyundai Nexo Review (Autotrader, 3/23/20)

Dimensions-wise, the Nexo is on the generous side of compact, with seating for five. Maximum range is 380 miles, and Hyundai says a full replenishment of the Nexo's 3-hydrogen tanks takes just five minutes. [...]

The Nexo, however, definitely feels like a vehicle of the future. It's extremely rich with technology, especially in the driver-assistance department. Even the "base" Blue version has active blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control with stop/go, lane-following assistance and a forward-collision warning system with automatic emergency braking. There's also a digital driver information display, retracting door handles and driver attention monitoring. The Limited trim has a self-parking feature and a 360-degree camera system.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM

The Ballad of Fred Hersch from Swell Cinema on Vimeo.

I hope everybody is safe and healthy and will remain that way. This is an unprecedented challenge to everyone on the planet and we all need resilience and resourcefulness going forward. Starting this Sunday, every day at 1pm EST,10am PST, 7pm in Europe I will do a live mini concert of piano music from my home. You can see and hear the concert here: You don't have to "be" on Facebook or sign in to anything to access the concert. Just click the image below. And if you "like" the page you will be notified each day. Wishing you all strength and much love, Fred
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The real lesson of the Great Depression (Tim Worstall , 3/23/20, CapX)

Here's the thing. The Depression was over in the UK by 1934. The country was, already by then, back to 1929/30 levels of output.As we know the American disaster toiled on rather longer.

So, what were the big differences?

Firstly, the Americans took the decision to allow the banking system to go bust. As Milton Friedman and Anna Schwartz showed in A Monetary History of the United States, this was the single most disastrous decision of the time. There seems little chance contemporary politicians would let the same thing happen now, and more fool them if they did.

While America was expanding the reach of government, the UK cut state spending and put the budget into surplus. At the same time it devalued the pound. This is known as "expansionary austerity" - and it worked pretty well. [...]

As to our current problems. The cause is entirely different, it is not economic in nature in the slightest. In technical terms it is "exogenous", from entirely outside the economy and nothing to do with any economic structure or policy we have been following. It is not, therefore, a crisis of capitalism any more than it's a crisis, or endorsement, of socialism or any other -ism. It simply is and is something to be dealt with. The only useful question is, well, what is to be done?

Useful answers including not making the mistakes of the past. Don't allow the financial system to fall over. Don't try to fix or raise wages artificially, don't start to plan and enforce cartels, even if they're of labour not producers. And yes, once the crisis passes, we will need to cut government spending if only because of all the debt we have accrued dealing with the cursed virus.

Reasoning from a price change caused the Great Depression (Scott Sumner, 5/31/17, Econ Library)

The Great Depression had two primary causes: an excessively tight monetary policy caused NGDP to drop in half between 1929 and early 1933, and then a set of New Deal policies such as the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) slowed what would have been an extremely fast recovery after the dollar was devalued in 1933.

I've already talked about how reasoning from a price change contributed to the tight money policy of 1929-33. Most pundits and policymakers looked at the rapidly falling level of nominal interest rates and assumed that money was easy. In fact, rates were falling because of a decline in demand for credit, caused by the Depression itself. Money was actually very tight.

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Likud says right-wing bloc will boycott 'stolen, undemocratic' Knesset (MICHAEL BACHNER and TOI STAFF, 3/24/20, Times of Israel)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fumed Tuesday morning after the High Court ruled that the Knesset must be convened to choose a new speaker and after the Blue and White-led bloc, used its 61-strong majority to form parliamentary oversight committees.

After gaining control over the Arrangements Committee, which determines which parliamentary committees will be formed and who will sit on them during a transitional government, the center-left bloc late Monday pushed ahead with the formation of six special parliamentary committees, including one to oversee Israel's handling of the coronavirus crisis. Likud's bloc boycotted all the votes.

"Blue and White together with [Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor] Liberman and the [mostly Arab] Joint List decided to steal the Knesset from 2.5 million right-wing voters," Likud said in a statement.

Fun to joke about Donald refusing to leave office in January until you realize what these people are actually like.

March 23, 2020

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Why Nancy Pelosi proposed her own $2.5 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill (Ella Nilsen, Mar 23, 2020, Vox)

The bigger picture here is Pelosi signaling to Republicans that if they don't like what Schumer is proposing, they will still have to deal with her down the line when the House takes up the Senate bill. Pelosi's bill reads like a mission statement for how Democrats might govern in this crisis if they weren't constrained by a Republican Senate and president. It calls for coronavirus treatment to be free for patients, further bolstering unemployment insurance, directing $40 billion to states to help stabilize schools and universities, student loan forgiveness, funding for the homeless, and helping boost states' vote-by-mail capacity.

"Because of the Senate Democrats, progress has been made. We urge the Senate to move closer to the values in the Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act," Pelosi said in a statement ahead of her press conference.

Thye Trumpbots can be forgiven for having no idea how deal-making works.

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Poll: Americans want corporations to promise no layoffs in exchange for bailouts (Emily Stewart, Mar 23, 2020, Vox)

Nearly three-quarters of voters say companies receiving bailout money should commit to no layoffs, while just 11 percent oppose that requirement, according to the Data for Progress polling. And it's an area where, at least among voters, there is agreement across the political spectrum: 82 percent of Democrats, 61 percent of independents, and 70 percent of Republicans agree on no layoffs.

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Exclusive: U.S. axed CDC expert job in China months before virus outbreak (Marisa Taylor, 3/23/20, Reuters) 

Several months before the coronavirus pandemic began, the Trump administration eliminated a key American public health position in Beijing intended to help detect disease outbreaks in China, Reuters has learned.

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Gas prices could soon drop to 99 cents a gallon in parts of the Midwest (Silvia Ascarelli, 3/23/20, MarketWatch)

Even as many Americans are increasingly seeing gas prices at the pump under $2 a gallon, the drop could soon steepen. That's particularly true in the Great Lakes region, where prices could soon be 99 cents a gallon at hundreds of gas stations.

Here's how Patrick De Haan, the head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, figures that: The Chicago spot price, the reference point for prices in surrounding states, has plummeted to 34 cents a gallon. It's a nickel to a dime higher in other regions and 52 cents on the West Coast. Add on gas taxes, he says, and you're getting close to where retail prices could soon be.

Besides all the usual good reasons to punish gas consumption, we have the added one of discouraging mobility in a pandemic.

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As coronavirus forces millions to work remotely, the US economy may have reached a 'tipping point' in favor of working from home (Lindsey Jacobson, 3/23/20, CNBC)

With the U.S. government declaring a state of emergency due to the coronavirus, companies are enabling work-from-home structures to keep business running and help employees follow social distancing guidelines. However, working remotely has been on the rise for a while.

"The coronavirus is going to be a tipping point. We plodded along at about 10% growth a year for the last 10 years, but I foresee that this is going to really accelerate the trend," Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics, told CNBC.

Gallup's State of the American Workplace 2017 study found that 43% of employees work remotely with some frequency. Research indicates that in a five-day workweek, working remotely for two to three days is the most productive. That gives the employee two to three days of meetings, collaboration and interaction, with the opportunity to just focus on the work for the other half of the week.

Gotta preserve those unproductive non-working days...

Posted by orrinj at 5:13 PM


Trump Won't Order Vital Coronavirus Supplies Because Corporate CEOs Asked Him Not To (BESS LEVIN, MARCH 23, 2020, Vanity Fair)

One of the most mind-boggling aspects of the coronavirus crisis in America is the fact that one of the wealthiest countries in the world doesn't have the basic medical supplies necessary to deal with the situation. In addition to a lack of beds, hospitals across the nation have nowhere near the number of ventilators and masks doctors require to both do their jobs and protect themselves. While governors have pleaded with Donald Trump to help them obtain such equipment, he's literally told them they're on their own, seemingly forgetting the fact that he's the one with the power here. For instance, Andrew Cuomo can't invoke the Defense Production Act, which allows the federal government to take some control of the private sector to ensure production of materials relevant to national defense, but Trump can. And yet he's chosen not to. Why? Because corporate CEOs don't like the idea, and the president is more concerned with keeping big business happy than keeping Americans alive.

And they wonder that Democrats won't trust him with $500 billion for personal use?

Posted by orrinj at 2:23 PM


House Democrats to introduce a coronavirus stimulus plan Monday as Senate bill stalls (Jacob Pramuk, 3/23/20, CNBC)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said her caucus would unveil legislation Monday "that takes responsibility for the health, wages and well-being of America's workers." It would include, according to a statement from the California Democrat: 

Requirements that corporations getting bailout money shield workers' wages and benefits, and limits on CEO compensation, stock buybacks and layoffs. 

Direct payments to Americans, along with expanded paid family and medical leave.

Grants and loans to small businesses. 

Strengthened unemployment insurance. 

Increased funding for hospitals and tougher safety standards for health-care workers. 

Language urging President Donald Trump to invoke the Defense Production Act to manufacture more health-care supplies. 

$40 billion in funding for schools and universities along with student debt relief. 

More funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and other food assistance programs. 

State election grants and a national requirement for 15 days of early voting and no-excuse absentee voting as fears grow about coronavirus spreading at crowded polling sites.

Posted by orrinj at 2:19 PM


Here's why Senate Democrats want to give Social Security beneficiaries an extra $200 per month amid coronavirus scare (Lorie Konish, 3/23/20, CNBC)

Several Democratic senators have teamed up to propose giving Social Security beneficiaries an extra $200 per month in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and the economic devastation it is causing.

The plan was put forward last week by Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.; Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.; and Ron Wyden, D-Ore.

The extra income would apply to all Social Security, Veterans and Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, beneficiaries.

The bonus money would continue through the end of 2021, adding up to an extra $4,000 over the next two years.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Pelosi says House will draft its own coronavirus funding bill (MIKE LILLIS, 03/22/20, The Hill)

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said on Sunday that House Democrats would draft their own coronavirus stimulus bill after all sides failed to reach a deal on a massive proposal being negotiated in the Senate. [...]

Her comments came just after Pelosi left a meeting with the lead negotiators scrambling to piece together Congress's third relief package in response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has tanked markets, led to mass layoffs and encroached on virtually every facet of American life.

The meeting in McConnell's office also featured Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and White House Legislative Affairs Director Eric Ueland. It marked the first time that Pelosi had met face-to-face with McConnell and the other Republicans, who negotiated with Schumer and Senate Democrats while the House was in recess last week.

Pelosi and Schumer, however, have been working hand in glove throughout the process. And Pelosi has vowed all along that House Democrats would craft their own alternative to the Republicans' initial $1 trillion proposal, if only to promote their own stimulus vision as the talks evolved.

Because someone has to lead the countty.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


...the beauty of the Anglosphere's resolution of the problem is that republican liberty optimally balances the two.
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Coronavirus Rescue Bill Fails Its First Vote (Kevin Drum, 3/23/20, MoJo)

Republicans mostly caved in on the Democratic demands, but their price was an increase from $200 billion to $500 billion in the loans for big corporations. You might wonder why there was a price for this stuff. Why did Republicans have to be talked into it in the first place? There was some muttering about not trusting the states to disburse the unemployment insurance money, but in the end it was just because they're Republicans. Putting corporations first is in their DNA or something.

Oh, and the $500 billion loan pool would be under the control of the Secretary of the Treasury and would have virtually no strings attached. It's just a giant slush fund that the Trump administration can do anything with. Does anyone think for a second that Trump wouldn't use this as leverage to help his friends and punish his enemies? Of course he would.

This was the straw that broke the camel's back. Democrats were willing to vote for the loan pool, but they weren't willing to make it a Trump slush fund. Even West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who's conservative enough that he could pass for a Republican most of the time, was apoplectic: "They're throwing caution to the wind for average workers and people on Main Street and going balls to the wall for people on Wall Street," he said.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Essential Science: Coronavirus was not genetically engineered (TIM SANDLE, 3/23/20, Digital Journal)

A study conducted by the Scripps Research Institute conclusively demonstrates that the virus causing the global pandemic: SARS-CoV-2 and the disease called COVID-19 is of natural origin. [...]

Unfortunately, senior figures based in both China and the U.S. have been posting 'fake news' about either the origins of the coronavirus or inferring that the virus is some kind of biological warfare weapon.

Take, for example, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian has repeatedly claimed that the U.S. military brought coronavirus to Wuhan, albeit without providing any evidence (as ABC News has reported). In addition to this, China's ambassador to South Africa has tweeted that the virus was not necessarily "made in China". Again, no scientific evidence has been provided to support this assertion.

In the U.S., many far-right political movements have attempted to use the coronavirus pandemic as a means to propagate various theories relating to societal collapse, biblical rapture, or even the beginning of a race war (The Guardian presents a round-up of these movements and the ideas they are professing).

March 22, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 8:03 PM



Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul's father, former Texas Congressman Ron Paul, penned an article titled "The Coronavirus Hoax," just six days before his son became the first U.S. senator to test positive for COVID-19.

Posted by orrinj at 10:32 AM


The Spanish Flu, Polish Disease, and now 'Chinese Virus': The Dark History of Naming Diseases (James Hamilton, Mar 22 2020, Vice)

The World Health Organization intentionally avoids any possible nicknames and advises people to the same because of the possible stigma. Even the Trump-appointed director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Robert Redfield, told the House in a hearing that using location-specific labels for the virus is "absolutely wrong and inappropriate."

There's a long, inglorious history of naming diseases after disdained groups. In 1495, Russians called a syphilis outbreak the Polish Disease, the Polish called it the German Disease, and the French and Italians named it after each other.

The 1918 flu pandemic that infected over a quarter of the world's population is still referred to as "the Spanish Flu," even though there's no consensus on where that outbreak originated. Spain just happened to have the most reliable reporting at the time, as other countries censored their press to boost morale during World War I.

Posted by orrinj at 8:43 AM


New nuclear fusion reactor design may be a breakthrough: Using permanent magnets may help to make nuclear fusion reactors simpler and more affordable. (STEPHEN JOHNSON, 20 March, 2020, Big Think)

[R]esearcher Michael Zarnstorff in New Jersey may have recently made a significant breakthrough while helping his son with a science project. In a new paper, Zarnstorff, a chief scientist at the Max Planck Princeton Research Center for Plasma Physics in New Jersey, and his colleagues describe a simpler design for a stellarator, one of the most promising types of nuclear fusion reactors.

Fusion reactors generate power by smashing together, or fusing, two atomic nuclei to produce one or more heavier nuclei. This process can unleash vast amounts of energy. But achieving fusion is difficult. It requires heating hydrogen plasma to over 100,000,000°C, until the hydrogen nuclei fuse and generate energy. Unsurprisingly, this super-hot plasma is hard to work with, and it can damage and corrode the expensive hardware of the reactor.

Stellarators are devices that use external magnets to control and evenly distribute the hot plasma by "twisting" its flow in specific ways. To do this, stellarators are outfitted with a complex series of electromagnetic coils that create an optimal magnetic field within the device.

"The twisted coils are the most expensive and complicated part of the stellarator and have to be manufactured to very great precision in a very complicated form," physicist Per Helander, head of the Stellarator Theory Division at Max Planck and lead author of the new paper, told Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory News.

The new design offers a simpler approach by instead using permanent magnets, whose magnetic field is generated by the internal structure of the material itself. As described in an article published by Nature, Zarnstorff realized that neodymium-boron permanent magnets--which behave like refrigerator magnets, only stronger--had become powerful enough to potentially help control the plasma in stellarators.

Posted by orrinj at 8:39 AM


This Is How 19 Russia Aircraft Were Shot Down In Syria In 4 Years: That's a lot of aircraft against an unsophisticated enemy. (Sebastien Roblin, 3/22/20, National Interest)

[T]he air campaign has cost the Russian military at least nineteen manned aircraft (eleven helicopters and eight airplanes) between 2015-2018, leading to the deaths of twenty-three crew and thirty-seven passengers.

For comparison, between 2014 and 2020, the U.S. military lost two aircraft in anti-ISIS operations in Syria: an F-16 jet in 2014 due to an accident shortly after takeoff and a V-22 tilt-rotor in a hard landing in 2017.

Luring Vlad into the quagmire would have been genius had it been intentional.

Posted by orrinj at 8:34 AM


Federal law enforcement document reveals white supremacists discussed using coronavirus as a bioweapon (Hunter Walker and Jana Winter, 3/21/20, Yahoo News)

White supremacists discussed plans to weaponize coronavirus via "saliva," a "spray bottle" or "laced items," according to a weekly intelligence brief distributed by a federal law enforcement division on Feb. 17. 

Federal investigators appeared to be monitoring the white nationalists' communications on Telegram, an encrypted messaging app that has become popular with neo-Nazis. In the conversations, the white supremacists suggested targeting law enforcement agents and "nonwhite" people with attacks designed to infect them with the coronavirus. 

"Violent extremists continue to make bioterrorism a popular topic among themselves," reads the intelligence brief written by the Federal Protective Service, which covered the week of Feb. 17-24. "White Racially Motivated Violent Extremists have recently commented on the coronavirus stating that it is an 'OBLIGATION' to spread it should any of them contract the virus."

Posted by orrinj at 8:10 AM



The United States now has the third-highest number of coronavirus cases in the world, following behind only Italy and China, new data shows.

In recent weeks, the spread of COVID-19 has continued to expand across the country, with the U.S. seeing a total of 26,747 confirmed cases as of Sunday morning, according to an online tracker maintained by the Johns Hopkins University. At least 340 of those cases have resulted in death, with New York and Washington state sharing the brunt of those deaths from the new coronavirus, with 94 and 76, respectively.

Asking for a friend who thinks it's just about geography, not ethnicity....

Posted by orrinj at 8:06 AM


Coronavirus, Courage, and the Second Temptation of Christ: Discerning the difference between courage, cowardice, and recklessness. (David French, 3/22/20, The Dispatch)

There exists within Christianity a temptation to performative acts that masquerade as fearlessness. In reality, this recklessness represents--as the early church father John Chrysostom called it--"display and vainglory." Look how fearless we are, we declare, as we court risks that rational people should shun. In the context of a global pandemic followers of Christ can actually become a danger to their fellow citizens, rather than a source of help and hope.

Or, put another way, reckless Christians can transform themselves from angels of mercy to angels of death, and the rest of the world would be right to fear their presence.

But just as Christ rejected performative displays, he also rejected cowardice. He demands sacrifice even unto death. Yet taking up one's cross in imitation of Christ means engaging in purposeful sacrifice. This is the risk of the doctor or the nurse who possesses the courage to continually expose himself or herself to deadly disease to care for the sick and dying. This is the risk of the faithful believer who sheds personal protection to care for the least of these so that they are not alone.

And this person does not then walk into church or to church events--or even surround herself with her own family--to prove God's divine protection. Were the men and women who were infected at a church event in Nashville not faithful Christians who were fearlessly serving the Lord? Yet one man's infection still became their infection, and now dozens of people are paying a steep price.  

I know doctors who are separating themselves from their families. They're treating this moment of crisis in much the same way that a soldier treats a deployment. The normal comforts of home are just not available. That's not fear. In fact, they are fearless in their service. It's prudence. They will not impute their personal risk to the men, women, and children in their family and community.

Veterans are instinctively familiar with the distinction between cowardice, courage, and recklessness. A combat operation requires a soldier to expose himself to extreme danger. The coward shuns his duty. The courageous man embraces the mission, yet he also wears body armor, often fights from armored vehicles, uses cover when he has it, and avails himself of as much air support and artillery support as he can. No one would call that "giving in to fear." Instead, his caution is wise. It maximizes the combat power of the individual and helps retain the cohesion of the team.

There was a moment in my deployment when an officer violated every rule of safety and caution. In an ostentatious display of reckless physical risk, he ordered a subordinate to ride with him in an unarmored pickup truck down an "uncleared" road (an uncleared road was a road that hadn't been swept clean of mines or improvised explosive devices). No one applauded his vainglory. They were livid at his carelessness. And he was instantly repentant. He knew what he had done. In spiritual terms, he had climbed to the top of the temple and cast himself off the edge. 

And what is our mission in this time? Shun performative recklessness. Do not presume that our faith makes us immune to the laws of biology and viral transmission. At the same time, believers should not shrink from purposeful and sacrificial personal risk. There may come a time when you must care for those who are sick. Do so without reservation, but do so prudently with the knowledge that you should not impute your risks to others. 

It's entirely natural for a certain set of folks to feel that the religion is solely performative or that they have to perform to remove doubts about their genuine faith.  

Posted by orrinj at 8:00 AM


Jerry Falwell Jr. just unmasked social conservatism (JOHN STOEHR, MARCH 22, 2020, Salon)

Here's some context, courtesy of the Christian Science Monitor (my italics):

"As in many states, residents in parts of rural, conservative Virginia say they seem to inhabit an increasingly different daily reality than that of urban and suburban districts. That feeling of separation was compounded by last November's Democratic sweep of the state's elected offices. Now residents in Frederick County are mulling a radical proposal: seceding from Virginia and joining neighboring West Virginia."

Apparently Falwell is part of the effort. He's the head of something called "Vaxit," according to Fox & Friends. Whether that's a real organization I have no idea, but that's not what I'm most interested in. I'm most interested in expressing gratitude to the good reverend for admitting that "states' rights" have nothing to do with conservatism.

Think about it.

If the principle of "states' rights" meant what conservatives have said it meant to them, not one of them, not Jerry Falwell Jr. nor anyone calling him or herself a "principled conservative," would dare suggest that a county secede from a state. If states are sovereign, as conservatives have alleged since Strom Thurmond ran as a Dixiecrat in 1948, calling for a county to secede from a state is traitorous. If "states' rights" are as sacred as conservatives have said they are, the idea of secession is an abomination.

In saying counties should leave the state as casually as ordering unsweet tea with his burger and fries, the Rev. Falwell told us without knowing he was telling us that conservatism in theory is authoritarianism in practice. It cannot and will not tolerate democratic change, despite change coming with the blessing of the majority. If the majority rules, Falwell and his confederates will abandon commitments to democracy.

Once you abandon democracy--once you open the door to treason--there's no end in sight. Once it seceded, "the Confederacy began to deny states' rights," wrote James W. Loewen in Lies My Teacher Told Me. "Jefferson Davis denounced states' rights as destructive to the Confederacy. The mountainous counties in western Virginia bolted to the Union. Confederate troops had to occupy east Tennessee to keep it from emulating West Virginia. Winn Parish, Louisiana, refused to secede from the Union. Winston County, Alabama, declared itself the Free State of Winston. Unionist farmers and woodsmen in Jones County, Mississippi, declared the Free State of Jones."

By February 1864, Davis despaired: "Public meetings of treasonable character, in the name of state sovereignty, are being held." Thus states' rights as an ideology was contradictory and could not mobilize the white South for the long haul.

What mobilized the white South was the defense of slavery.

Jerry's kids don't want to be governed by blacks.
Posted by orrinj at 7:56 AM

Posted by orrinj at 7:48 AM


Enjoyable at a distance, holiday lights brighten dark times in NH and across the country (HOLLY RAMER, 3/21/20, Associated Press)

 At a time of great uncertainty, even the seasons seem scrambled. Christmas lights in springtime?

Hung high over Main Street in a New Hampshire town, wrapped around a tree trunk in Colorado and fashioned into a heart in Alabama, holiday lights are going back up. As the coronavirus spreads, the displays are providing a bit of emotional and actual brightness. And they're especially easy to enjoy from a safe social distance.

"We live out in the country, but I know you can see them from the highway," said Julie Check, who turned on the white lights that trace the roof line of her home in Eastman, Wis., on Wednesday night. "Anything I can do to make people happy right now, I'm going to try to do."

In Farmington, N.H., a roughly five-block stretch of downtown has been re-illuminated with holiday lights that swoop and zigzag between tall wooden posts. So cherished is the town's 80-year decorating tradition that taxpayers approved spending $11,500 six years ago to erect the posts after the electric company said lights could no longer be affixed to its poles.

"It's a small town; we don't have a lot of traditions. That was one of them, and we just didn't want it to go away," said Lee Warburton, president of the Farmington Preservation and Improvement Organization, which maintains and installs the lights. At his suggestion, the 27 strands totaling 2,000-plus bulbs were tested and turned back on Thursday night.

"It's tough for everybody right now. Everyone is on edge," he said. "We just thought it would be nice to give the folks in town something to smile about."

Police Chief John Drury was all for the idea. He remembers how pretty the lights looked when he first visited the town for a job interview on a December day 20 years ago.

"It was one of the things that actually drew me to this community when I was first looking to be a police officer," he said. "By bringing the lights back, hopefully it gives people the sense of hope that we're all in this together. We'll get through it."

Posted by orrinj at 7:22 AM


'I walk a fine line': Dr. Fauci reveals he has to force Trump to accept facts and that correcting his mistakes in public is a 'risky business'  (HANNAH SKELLERN FOR DAILYMAIL.COM and ANDREW COURT FOR DAILYMAIL.COM, 3/22/20)

Dr. Anthony Fauci has admitted he has been 'walking a fine line' by publicly contradicting President Donald Trump as he leads the team fighting the coronavirus pandemic amid rumors of tension between the pair. 

Telling Trump 'things he doesn't want to hear' was a 'risky business,' the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said in an interview with the New York Times. 

The respected immunologist was caught smirking at President Donald Trump during a coronavirus press conference on Friday afternoon 

He was also forced to publicly row back on the president's claims that the anti-malarial drug cloroquine offered a potential cure for coronavirus in the latest of a series of public rebukes.

Fauci said that he tried not to 'embarrass Trump' and said that he attempts to deal with the president by 'continually' talking about scientific facts.

How many extra deaths is it worth to disguise Donald's ignorance and incompetence?

March 21, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 7:19 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:55 PM


Lou Dobbs Said Media Hyped Coronavirus. Now He's in Quarantine. (Matt Wilstein, 3/20/20, ,The Daily Beast)

Less than two weeks ago, even as he reported that the virus had infected 113,000 people in 111 countries and territories around the world, Dobbs was accusing the "national left-wing media" of "playing up fears of the coronavirus" in order to drive down the stock market. 

More recently, he had taken to echoing Trump by referring to COVID-19 as the "Wuhan virus" and lauding the president for causing a brief market increase with his national emergency declaration a week ago. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:38 PM


Posted by orrinj at 9:02 AM

THE SPECTER OF LEONARD (self-reference alert):

To enter out into that silence that was the city at eight o'clock of a misty evening in November, to put your feet upon that buckling concrete walk, to step over grassy seams and make your way, hands in pockets, through the silences, that was what Mr. Leonard Mead most dearly loved to do.
    The Pedestrian

Eller says the story was inspired in part by a very odd story by one David H. Keller, "The Revolt of the Pedestrians," published in 1928, but was triggered by two incidents over a span of years in which, while walking late at night with a friend in Los Angeles (with one friend in Pershing Square in 1940; with another on Wilshire Boulevard in 1949), Bradbury was hassled by the LAPD. "Through these experiences," Eller writes, in his charmingly orotund style, "he had come to see the pedestrian as a threshold or indicator species among urban dwellers--if the rights of the pedestrian were threatened, this would represent an early indicator that basic freedoms would soon be at risk."
    -Ray Bradbury, the Pedestrian (John Wilson, 7 . 13 . 12, First Things)
I'm writing this in the midst of the Trump-Xi flu pandemic of 2020, just as things have started to get truly weird. Up to now, we've not been greatly disrupted personally. The Wife and I are both still working at least, though my staff has been cut in half and our delivery stops drop every day. The two younger kids did have school canceled, but supposedly the High School will start tele-learning on Monday. When the Daughter flew home from her internship in DC she was going to be the only passenger on her first flight, so they bumped her to one where she was with ten people. I got to Logan in an hour and forty five minutes and you could race through Boston, there was so little traffic. But all was at least semi-normal. Now the past few days there are governors ordering entire states quarantined and today comes word that Donald is considering a national lockdown and business closure. Amid it all, the one thing that never changes is that I take our two dogs--a twelve year old labradoodle and a one year old sheepadoodle (apparently the former wasn't degrading enough)--for a five to 9 mile walk every day.

Despite our regularity, this has gotten odd too. For one thing, when we do the longer walk we go across the Dartmouth campus, which is now nearly devoid of people. Students were told not to come back from Spring Break and professors and staff told to work from home. Typically, students who miss their own dogs like to say hi to the puppy, but even those you do see just hurry past. Then we go around Occam Pond, past the elementary school, and down a long residential road, all of which are popular running routes. For a few days the number of folks you'd see out swelled--the combination of nice weather (40s in NH in March) and boredom driving them outside. On Wednesday there were tons of little kids on the playground, riding bikes, etc. Then, yesterday, it seems like the numbers dropped and we shifted to lock down mode. There were fewer runners and walkers out than even on a typical Spring day.

Then a police car drove by....

Mind you, I'm not saying I expected him to stop and order us back inside, let alone arrest us, but it did remind me of this spooky Bradbury tale. Set in some kind of post-Apocalyptic 2053, it features Mr. Leanard Mead, the pedestrian of the title, who defies convention by going shank's mare through an abandoned landscape until the day the police arrest him:
"What are you doing out?"
"Walking," said Leonard Mead.
"Just walking," he said simply, but his face felt cold.
"Walking, just walking, walking?"
"Yes, sir."
"Walking where? For what?"
"Walking for air. Walking to see."
There are other elements involved but this idea--of walking for pleasure--is so transgressive in the prevailing social climate--"In ten years of walking by night or day, for thousands of miles, he had never met another person walking, not one in all that time"--that Mead is sent to the "Psychiatric Center for Research on Regressive Tendencies." Bradbury's story is quite spare and does not really give us any context for why authorities would be so alarmed about someone being out of doors, beyond the fact that no one else is--everyone else seems to be just watching tv. So it is the individualism alone that appears the threat here, or, if you want, Leonard's rejection of the technology that everyone else is content consuming. Of course, there's an immense irony in that 1951 was the year (according to IMDB) that Bradbury began a prolific screenwriting career, including The Pedestrian on his own Ray Bradbury Theater(!), and tv is one of the saving graces of our current crisis...

I actually did experience a not wholly dissimilar encounter when we were really little kids (excuse any false memories that follow). The Other Brother and I were playing in the front yard in East Orange, NJ when a strange looking black and white went by. The driver banged a u-turn and pulled up, at which point we could see that the windshield was odd because bullet-proof glass was bolted over it. The officer told us to go inside and stay and if our parents turned on the radio they'd tell us why. As it turned out, neighboring Newark had exploded in riots.

Nowadays, in the wake of 9-11 and Black Lives Matter, and with a cop in the family, I make sure to wave every time a police car rolls by us--which happens frequently as the walk takes us past the station. And after a period of perplexity, it's gotten to the point where all the local police wave back. So even if our national situations deteriorates further over the next couple weeks, I'm sure they'd be polite and just tell us our walks were done for awhile, not pack me off to a psych ward. But the specter of Leonard does haunt...

    -WIKIPEDIA: Ray Bradbury
    -FILMOGRAPHY: Ray Bradbury (
    -BIO: Ray Bradbury (
    -BIO: Ray Bradbury American writer (Erik Gregersen, Encyclopaedia Britannica)
    -WIKIPEDIA: The Pedestrian
    -ETEXT: The Pedestrian (Ray Bradbury, 8/07/1951, The Reporter)
    -AUDIO TEXT: The Pedestrian
    -AUDIO: The Pedestrian (YouTube)
    -VIDEO: The Pedestrian from Ray Bradbury Theater (Amazon Prime)
    -STUDY GUIDE: Ray Bradbury: Short Stories Summary and Analysis of "The Pedestrian,/a> (Grade Saver)
-STUDY GUIDE: Ray Bradbury's The Pedestrian: Summary, Analysis & Theme (
    -STUDY GUIDE: The Pedestrian (eNotes)
    -EPISODE GUIDE: the Pedestrian on Ray Bradbury Theater (IMDB)
    -OBIT: Ray Bradbury, Who Brought Mars to Earth With a Lyrical Mastery, Dies at 91 (Gerald Jonas, June 6, 2012, NY Times)
    -OBIT: Ray Bradbury dies at 91; author lifted fantasy to literary heights: Ray Bradbury's more than 27 novels and 600 short stories helped give stylistic heft to fantasy and science fiction. In 'The Martian Chronicles' and other works, the L.A.-based Bradbury mixed small-town familiarity with otherworldly settings. (Lynell George, 6/06/12, LA Times)
-OBIT: American science fiction author Ray Bradbury dies age 91 (NICK CLARK, 06 JUNE 2012, Independent)
    -OBIT: Ray Bradbury dies aged 91 (The Telegraph, 6/06/12)
    -OBIT: Author Ray Bradbury, who fused sci-fi with morality, dies at age 91 (Agence France-Presse, Jun 7, 2012)
    -TRIBUTE: Ray Bradbury Believed That Stories Could Change Lives,/a>: The author, who died this week at 91, wrote novels and short stories that highlighted the transformative power of a good narrative. (Joe Fassler, June 7, 2012, The Atlantic)
-REMEMBRANCE: LOVING RAY BRADBURY (Junot Díaz, 6/06/12, New Yorker)
    -OBIT: Ray Bradbury, a passionate sci-fi writer with the gifts of a painter: Ray Bradbury wrote his more than 500 stories, novels, plays, and poems on a typewriter, creating imagery that helped bring sci-fi and fantasy into the mainstream of American popular culture. (Gloria Goodale, June 6, 2012, CS Monitor)
    -REMEMBRANCE: Ray Bradbury vs. Political Correctness: The science-fiction author, who died Wednesday, was a fierce critic of thought-control. (SOHRAB AHMARI, 6/06/12, WSJ)
    -REMEMBRANCE: Ray Bradbury, Pulp God: The fabulist of the Space Age was half doomsday prophet, half man-child. (Bryan Curtis, June 6, 2012, Slate)
    -REMEMBRANCE: Remembering Ray: A visionary science-fiction writer, and a dispenser of good advice. (Ted Elrick, 6/06/12, National Review)
    -REMEMBRANCE: Ray Bradbury, Dead at 91, Taught Generations of Readers How to Dream: The fantasy writer Ray Bradbury scorned the label of "science-fiction writer" and taught generations of readers the benefits of letting their imaginations run wild, writes Malcolm Jones, 6/06/12, Daily Beast)
    -REMEMBRANCE: Ray Bradbury: Finding Our Reflections Where We Didn't Expect Them (PETER SAGAL, 6/06/12, NPR)
    -INTERVIEW: Ray Bradbury, The Art of Fiction No. 203 (Interviewed by Sam Weller, Issue 192, Spring 2010, Paris Review)
    -INTERVIEW: Rocket Man: In conversational orbit with Ray Bradbury (Steven Mikulan, 6/26/04, LA Weekly)
    -ESSAY: The Truth of Ray Bradbury's Prophetic Vision Michael Moorcock: Why Fahrenheit 451 Endures (Michael Moorcock, May 18, 2018, LitHub)
    -ESSAY: Relevance of Ray Bradbury's 'Fahrenheit 451' stressed in HBO film (Mark Dawidziak, 5/12/18, The Plain Dealer )
    -ESSAY: How Runners Are Getting Creative During the Pandemic: With every race canceled, runners face logistical and ethical dilemmas. Some have turned to unusual solutions. (Martin Fritz Huber, Mar 20, 2020, Outside)
    -ESSAY: Outdoor Meccas Are Not a Social Distancing Hack: As wilderness hubs like Bishop and Moab shutter their gates to visitors, what's an outdoor lover to do during a pandemic? We're here to help. (Christopher Solomon, Mar 20, 2020, Outside)
    -ARCHIVES: bradbury (The Atlantic)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: Walking to See: Ray Bradbury's "The Pedestrian" (Robert M. Woods, August 17th, 2012, Imaginative Conservative)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: Ray Bradbury, the Pedestrian (John Wilson, 7 . 13 . 12, First Things)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: Ray Bradbury's Vision of the Dystopian City (Tyler Falk, June 6, 2012, City Lab)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: Ray Bradbury Hates Technology: Analyzing "The Pedestrian" (literature Essay Samples)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: Has Mankind Really Made Progress? A Critical Analysis of the Characterization,Theme, and Imagery of "The Pedestrian" (lone Star College)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: Revisiting Ray Bradbury: "The Pedestrian" (Pat Shand, February 25, 2016, Blastoff)
    -REVIEW ESSAY: Stumbling in the dark: Ray Bradbury's Pedestrian and the politics of the night (Matthew Beaumont, 07 December 2015, Critical Quarterly)
    -REVIEW: of The Pedestrian (Emily Babb, Dystopic)
    -REVIEW: of The Pedestrian (Superkick Writes)
    -REVIEW: of The Pedestrian (Howard Allen, Owlcation)
    -REVIEW: of The Pedestrian (Weekend Notes)
    -REVIEW: of The Pedestrian (Swinfiction) Men with Lit Matches: a review of Fahrenheit 451, The Fiftieth Anniversary Edition by Ray Bradbury (A. W. R. HAWKINS, The University Bookman)
    -REVIEW: of Fahrenheit 451 By Ray Bradbury (Alexander Zaitchik, NY Press)
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Kenny Rogers, country music star, dies aged 81 (The Guardian, 21 Mar 2020)

Rogers was raised in public housing in Houston Heights with seven siblings. As a 20-year-old, he had a gold single called That Crazy Feeling, under the name Kenneth Rogers, but when that early success stalled, he joined a jazz group, the Bobby Doyle Trio, as a standup bass player.

But his breakthrough came when he was asked to join the New Christy Minstrels, a folk group, in 1966. The band reformed as First Edition and scored a pop hit with the psychedelic song, Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In).

Rogers and First Edition mixed country-rock and folk on songs like Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town, a story of a Vietnam veteran begging his girlfriend to stay.

After the group broke up in 1974, Rogers started his solo career and found a big hit with the country ballad Lucille, in 1977, which crossed over to the pop charts and earned Rogers his first Grammy.

Rogers invested his time and money in a variety of endeavours over the course of his career, including a passion for photography that led to several books, as well as an autobiography, Making It With Music. He had a chain of restaurants called Kenny Rogers Roasters, and was a partner behind a riverboat in Branson, Missouri.

In 2007 The Gambler became the unofficial anthem of the England World Cup rugby team, catapulting Rogers back into the spotlight.

It was, of course, his "Quick-Pickin' 'n Fun-Strummin'" home guitar course ads that made him famous, back in the day when we only had 4 to 8 tv stations and syndication ruled the air waves.

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President Trump ignored CIA warnings about coronavirus pandemic for MONTHS (ANDREW COURT FOR DAILYMAIL.COM)

'Donald Trump may not have been expecting this, but a lot of other people in the government were -- they just couldn't get him to do anything about it,' one official stated, adding: 'The system was blinking red.'

Officials were first alerted to reports about cases of COVID-19 in Wuhan, China on January 3, after a director at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spoke with Chinese colleagues. 

'Ominous, classified warnings' purportedly put together by the CIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence began to increase over the course of the month. 

'There was obviously a lot of chatter in January,' one of the officials told The Post. 

Despite this, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar had trouble contacting Trump until January 18. 

Two officials told The Post that when Azar finally got a hold of Trump over the phone and attempted to discuss the coronavirus, 'the President interjected to ask about vaping and when flavored vaping products would be back on the market'.  

Meanwhile, the intelligence reports also warned that 'Chinese officials appeared to be minimizing the severity of the outbreak'. 

But on January 24, Trump took to Twitter to praise China for its 'transparency' about COVID-19 infections.  

'China has been working hard to contain the coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency. It will all work out well. In Particular, on behalf of the American people, I want to thank President Xi,' he wrote. 

March 20, 2020

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Not Even the Head of a National Asian American GOP Group Is Okay With Trump Saying "Chinese Virus" (Dan Friedman, 3/20/20, MoJo)

A better question might be whether any Asian-Americans support Trump's use of the phrase. I asked Cliff Li, a Chinese American businessman who heads the National Committee of Asian American Republicans, what he thinks. The group, which supported Trump in 2016 and is likely, Li said, to do so again this year, boasts 10 chapters around the country and has helped the campaigns of GOP candidates, in particular in Florida. [....]

[E]ven Li would not say he agrees with Trump's words. "I wish he didn't say that, because it could cause some racists in the country to misread it," Li said, echoing the concern raised by Alcindor. "I disagree with that if [that is] the result."

Li said he is bothered by some Americans tendency to confuse "Chinese-American" with "Chinese" and is concerned that Trump's words won't help.

Posted by orrinj at 3:29 PM


The company that found a cure for Ebola is working on a treatment for coronavirus (DRIA ROLAND, March 20, 2020, Fortune)

At its best, business can solve very big problems. Arguably the biggest problem today, worldwide, is the onset and rapid spread of COVID-19. Some executives see an opportunity for innovation to lead the way amid these precarious times. 

George Yancopoulos, president and chief scientific officer of biotech company Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, is one such leader. His company announced this week it has developed a promising drug to fight coronavirus, and will begin human trials by early summer. Regeneron has an excellent track record: It created a treatment that drastically reduced the mortality rate in the Ebola virus outbreak that scared the world just a few short years ago. [...]

At around the 22-minute mark Yancopoulos speaks passionately about the collective need across business, industry, health care, and politics to work together for a cure: "We need to encourage the brightest minds to devote their greatest efforts to innovate and invent the solutions to the existential threats facing humanity. ... We are fighting for our very survival. Innovation has saved us before, and that's what we've got to focus on again."

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Why the world's happiest countries are up north (KATI POHJANPALO AND BLOOMBERG, March 20, 2020)

Finland was once again crowned as the world's happiest country, extending its lead over Denmark and Switzerland, according to a United Nations-affiliated research network.

Finnish contentment stems from high levels of trust, which also underpins solid rankings across the rest of the Nordic region, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network said in the World Happiness Report on Friday.

Reliable and extensive welfare benefits, low corruption, and well-functioning democracy and state institutions are also key, as are a high sense of autonomy and freedom reported by their citizens.

Posted by orrinj at 8:56 AM


The 2021 Hyundai Elantra is here with sharp new looks and a hybrid option for the first time ever (Tim Levin, 3/20/20, Business Insider)

As an increasing number of carmakers cut sedan offerings in favor of market-dominating trucks and SUVs, some, like Hyundai, aren't just keeping sedans around -- they're fully making them over. 

Hyundai debuted the 2021 Elantra on Tuesday, along with a first-ever hybrid option and new looks that are far edgier than its price point. They're in line with those of the new Sonata, which debuted last year with styling so unlike most of the cars in its class, it almost looked strange sporting a Hyundai badge.

The abundance of tech features is similar, too: Just like in the new Sonata, forward-collision avoidance, lane-keep assist, high-beam assist, and driver-attention warnings all come standard. 

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March 19, 2020

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Israel is engaged In systematic self-destruction (Alon Ben-Meir, 20 March 2020, Online Opinion)

It is the Likud party that has enabled him over the years to chip away brick-by-brick at Israel's democracy, undermine the judiciary, discriminate against Israeli Arabs as well as Jews of color, alienate the American Jewish community, and torpedo any prospect of a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. To be sure, the Likud party has long since lost its conscience as it continues to support its leader, whose manipulative skills are surpassed only by his deviousness and ever-insatiable thirst to stay as prime minister to his dying day - to hell with Israel's future.

And what about the other political parties? Why is it that after three elections, there is still no consensus to form a government? Had the business of the state assumed priority and consensus emerged in developing a cohesive strategy on how to deal with the difficult issues the country must grapple with and set aside personal ambition, a government could have been formed following the first election.

But that was not the case. Not a single party has advanced specific policies to address the rampant poverty that affects nearly two million Israelis (representing 23 percent of the Israeli population), half of whom are children, in a country that has, in relative terms, one of the strongest economies in the world.

Not a single party has a comprehensive plan as to how to fix the broken healthcare system in a country that has some of the most advanced scientific and technological research in medicine worldwide.

Not a single party is paying any attention to the continuing discrimination against some Sephardic Jewish communities and especially against Israeli Arabs, who constitute 20 percent of the population. They are accused of being disloyal and their representatives are shunned away from participating in the political affairs of the state; but then they are expected to support the government's treatment of the Palestinians in the territories as the perpetual enemy to justify their draconian policies.

Not a single party is addressing the growing emigration of disillusioned Israelis who are fed up with government's paralysis and corruption and have lost faith in the country's future. The number of those leaving Israel is greater than the number of immigrants into the country that was supposed to be the promised land for the Jews.

Not a single party is trying to remedy the destructively escalating social and political polarization between the secular and the orthodox, between Arab and Jews, between the haves and have-nots in a country that faces mortal enemies in a region awash with instability, violence, wars, and deadly rivalries for regional hegemony.

And above all, not a single party has come up with a realistic plan to end the seven decades old Israeli-Palestinian conflict that has and continues to consume the Israelis from within, having still no end in sight. Not a single leader of any of the parties can say where Israel will be in 10 or 15 years if there is no solution to the conflict with the Palestinians.

Posted by orrinj at 5:15 PM


Helping Hands: Iranians Unite To Help Those Suffering From Coronavirus (Golnaz Esfandiari, 3/19/20, Radio Liberty)

Facing one of the world's worst outbreaks of coronavirus, Iranians in local communities are coming together to help those affected as the country battles a disease that has claimed the lives of nearly 1,300 people and infected more than 18,000 across the country, according to official figures on March 19.

Doctors, nurses, celebrities, and others have been posting videos and online messages telling citizens to remain home while volunteers have sown masks, sanitized public places, and made care packages that include medicinal alcohol and masks for poorer families.

The private sector is also pitching in with a coalition of private businesses opening a clinic in the capital, Tehran, and donating protective gear to severely strained hospitals facing shortages of materiel due to the outbreak that has claimed the lives of many health-care workers.

A Tehran-based businessman involved with such efforts told RFE/RL that many feel they have to take matters into their own hands because "the government has no money due to [U.S.-led economic] sanctions, no power, and [poor judgement]."

Posted by orrinj at 5:09 PM


Charting the Spread of "Wuhan Virus": The name. Not the virus. (Frank Bednarz, 3/19/20, Arc Digital)

I scrapped Twitter for uses of "Wuhan virus" and related terms to figure out how this began. Among verified Twitter accounts, some used geography-based terms in January, but by early February they had all but disappeared.

This is unsurprising. After the World Health Organization (WHO) officially named COVID-19 on February 11, other terms faded, especially misleading terms like "Wuhan flu." As a result, "Wuhan virus" went virtually out of circulation for 45 days of the disease's brief existence.

So what changed on March 9? First, Republican Congressman Paul Gosar announced he was under self-quarantine after interacting with a "Wuhan Virus" patient at the CPAC convention. (Tweet times are in UTC, so Rep. Gosar's Sunday evening tweet is March 9 in these graphs.)

In response, MSNBC's Chris Hayes called the expression "incredibly gross," and he was quickly joined by David Gura and Molly Jong Fast, both of whom called it flatly "racist," each garnering tens of thousands of likes.

The racism proposition turned out to be a powerful "scissors statement." Many on the left found the racism of "Wuhan virus" self-evident, while many on the right found it just as obviously not racist. This culture war skirmish can be seen in the chart below, which plots how many tweets with the geographic terms for COVID-19 also include words like "racist," "bigot," "xenophobic," and "stigmatizing." The orange-coded tweets are talking about the geographic terms, asserting or denying that they're racist, and do not appear in significant numbers until March 9.

Verified users who tweeted "Wuhan virus," "Chinese virus" and similar terms most frequently over the next week include the conservative blog RedState (151 tweets) and Pizzagate conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec (46). RedState's Twitter account had never used one of these terms prior to March 9, and Posobiec had not since February 3.

Usage spiked again after Donald Trump further popularized the term "Chinese virus," tweeting it for the first time on March 16. Trump's tweet has the most likes (325,000) and retweets (72,000) of any tweet to use "Chinese virus" or similar terms. The only tweet even close to this influence is Trump's encore on March 17.

Whether or not anyone saying "Chinese virus" intends it as racist, the term is now used almost exclusively by conservatives who don't mind arguing against commentary that it harms racial minorities.

It is precisely the racial nature that they find attractive. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:12 PM


Tulsi Gabbard's presidential campaign is officially over (Zack Beauchamp, Mar 19, 2020,  Vox)

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Arab-Israeli parties just recommended Benny Gantz to be prime minister. Here's why that's historic. (RON KAMPEAS, MARCH 18, 2020, JTA) 

Buried in the development is a history-making nugget: The Joint List of Arab-dominated parties was among those that recommended Gantz to President Reuven Rivlin as the man they wanted to form a coalition. Its 15 votes provided the necessary majority of 61.

It makes obvious sense: The Arab parties want to oust Netanyahu, whose ministers have reviled their lawmakers as traitors. But the referral heralded a breakthrough of integration that has vexed Jews and Arabs since before the state was established more than seven decades ago.  [...]

It's actually not the first time that Arab-dominated parties have supported an Israeli government. However, it doesn't take anything away from this political moment because Israeli politics have undergone tectonic shifts over the past few decades. 

Hadash and another Arab-dominated party, the Arab Democratic Party, backed the government led by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and then, after his assassination, Shimon Peres, from 1992 to 1996.

Their five members were critical ino keeping Rabin from being ousted after he launched the Oslo Accords. The peace deal with the Palestinians spurred the haredi Orthodox Shas party to leave the government in 1993, reducing Rabin's Knesset majority to the bare minimum of 61.

The two Arab parties reaped benefits for their support. Those four years included rollbacks of discriminatory laws and major investment in infrastructure in the Arab sector. 

But Netanyahu's election in 1996, his policy of marginalizing Arab-dominated parties and the second intifada of Arab violence launched in 2000 made those four years of influence for Arab legislators an anomalous blip.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


No new coronavirus cases in Wuhan, China, where global pandemic began (Rebecca Falconer, 3/19/20, Axios)

There were no cases of the novel coronavirus in the past 24 hours in Hubei Province, China, including the city of Wuhan, China, where COVID-19 was first discovered, per a post on the local health department's website Wednesday. [...]

Health officials are still trying to trace the source of the outbreak of the new strain of the coronavirus. But the first known case to have been reported appeared in Wuhan on Dec. 1, 2019, according to a study published in the peer-reviewed medical journal The Lancet last month.

March 18, 2020

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The Leader of the Free World Gives a Speech, and She Nails It (Justin Davidson, 3/18/20, New York)

Angela Merkel doesn't do drama and she doesn't give speeches on TV. So the mere fact that the German chancellor faced the camera across a desk and spoke to the nation Wednesday evening made the gravity of the situation clear. "Es ist ernst," she said--"This is serious"-- and those three bland words had more power than a hellfire sermon. Then she pivoted from statement to plea: "Take it seriously." Quickly, she moved on to historical context, the reason for her unprecedented impromptu appearance: "Since German unification--no, since the Second World War--no challenge to our nation has ever demanded such a degree of common and united action."

Merkel made no specific announcements and called for no nationwide curfews or additional closures. Yet what gave her address its force was her tone, which was direct, honest, and searingly empathic. She laid bare not just the test we all face but also the solace that leadership can provide. Without accusations, boasts, hedges, obfuscations, dubious claims, or apocalyptic metaphors she did what a leader is supposed to do: explain the gravity of the situation and promise that the government's help would flow to everyone who needed it. She gave full-throated thanks to front-line medical workers, assured Germans that there is no need to hoard, and paused to offer gratitude to a group of workers who rarely get recognized by heads of state on national TV: "Those who sit at supermarket cash registers or restock shelves are doing one of the hardest jobs there is right now."

This is a war without a human enemy, and Merkel lay no blame. She asked for the sacrifice of discipline, for heroic acts of kindness. She acknowledged the paradox in calling for solidarity and apartness at the same time. She understood how painful it is that just when people desperately want to come together, families and friends have to endure separation. To Americans, Merkel's appeals to democracy, and her sadness at having to use the full weight of her authority, come as a welcome shock.

Having had to rebuild after losing three world wars must add some perspective.

Posted by orrinj at 6:27 PM


What does 'Jew down' mean, and why do people find it offensive? (MARCY OSTER, SEPTEMBER 25, 2019, JTA)

What does the term actually mean, and why is there such a gap in the understanding of it?

It comes from an anti-Semitic trope.

The term to "Jew down" was born out of stereotypes formed during medieval times about Jews being cheap or prone to hoard money. Often they were forced into financial occupations and thus were best known as money lenders, leaving them vulnerable to anti-Semitic misrepresentations. Think of portrayals such as Shylock, the villainous lender in Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice."

The term itself means to haggle or bargain for a lower price than originally agreed upon. The Oxford English Dictionary notes the earliest usage of the term came in 1825 and that it was used in 1870 on the floor of the U.S. Congress to describe a bill setting salaries in the military. The legislation supposedly prompted someone to say that Congress is "ready to Jew down the pay of its generals."

The comparable term "gyp" also was born out of a negative stereotype, in this case about Roma -- often derogatorily referred to as "gypsies" and stereotyped as cheap. To gyp someone out of something is essentially to steal it away.

Same deal with the term "Welsh" -- a verb substituted for swindle or cheat -- derived from a stereotype about Welsh people.

But is it always anti-Semitic?

Trenton's Muschal is correct -- the expression probably has been used a million times. Are all the users anti-Semites if they don't know its history?

Historian Deborah Lipstadt's latest book, "Anti-Semitism: Here and Now," includes a chapter on what she calls the "clueless anti-Semite," which is, she told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, "the person who engages in anti-Semitism but doesn't even know it."

"Anti-Semitism has gone so deep into the roots of society that people don't recognize that they are engaging in it when they engage in it," said Lipstadt, the Dorot pro­fes­sor of Mod­ern Jew­ish His­to­ry and Holo­caust Stud­ies at Emory Uni­ver­si­ty. This, she hastens to add, does not excuse such behavior.

She calls clueless anti-Semites just as dangerous as extremist anti-Semites, who know exactly what they are saying when they say it. Expressions of anti-Semitism from both "feeds into the society's perception of Jews."

"It is not meant to be made light of," Lipstadt said.

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Oil plummets 26% to 18-year low as global price war escalates (Carmen Reinicke, Mar. 18, 2020, Markets Insider)

Oil prices plunged yet again on Wednesday, shedding as much as 26% and falling to an 18-year low. The losses came as the resource battles a coronavirus-driven demand slowdown, as well as the continued escalation of a global price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia.

West Texas Intermediate crude fell as much as 26%, to $20.06 per barrel. 

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Saudi Arabia suffers from plummeting oil prices, as US Republicans chafe MbS over production gamble (New Arab, 18 March, 2020)

Saudi Arabia is bracing for a coronavirus-led economic dip on top of possible austerity measures as crude prices go into free fall, as Republican Senators sent a letter to Mohammed bin Salman over his decision to increase oil production. 

Huge losses are expected after the Arab world's biggest economy shut down cinemas, malls and restaurants, halted flights, suspended the year-round umrah pilgrimage and locked down the eastern Qatif region - home to around 500,000 - in a bid to contain the deadly virus.

The top crude exporter also faces plummeting oil prices, which slipped below $30 a barrel this week for the first time in four years, on the back of sagging demand and a price war with Russia.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


What is Neoliberalism, Anyway? (Galen Watts, 3/18/20, Areo)

In the age of neoliberalism, all competing social spheres are being  gradually colonized by the market mentality.

And this serves to explain neoliberalism at the policy level. Neoliberal thinkers believe that the market mentality--which receives its most sophisticated treatment in the language of economics--should reign supreme. Thus, they talk of a political market, a marriage market and a religious market, for, in their view, these sites of social life are fundamentally identical, insofar as they all feature individuals operating as rational maximizers and espousing the market mentality. [...]

This cultural definition of neoliberalism--as the colonization of the market mentality--serves to highlight both why the left is correct to worry about neoliberalism and why the term is so often applied haphazardly.

If we accept that what makes neoliberalism distinct is less its content--the market mentality has been a staple of capitalism since its inception--than the degree to which it expands the scope of the cultural logic of capitalism, then identifying precisely what is and isn't neoliberal can never be an exact science. Yet this should not disguise the fact that sweeping change is already underway.

Signs of neoliberal policy are evident across liberal democracies and have been for some time. But the real transformation is taking place at the level of consciousness. Unless we become aware of and reverse the trend, we will soon wake up to find that the sole language we have to describe our relationships, our dreams and the world around us is that of economics. And, I don't know about you, but to me that sounds like a nightmare.

The application of market ideals (capitalism) came to economics last, after politics (democracy) and religion (protestantism).  

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A Christian Response to Racism in the Year of CoronavirusFear and emotions can also be drivers for unhelpful behaviors, such as panic and self-destruction. (ALLEN YEH, MARCH 2020, Christianity Today)

One unfortunate side-effect of this global pandemic is racism. Rather than something like this bringing the world together to unite against a common enemy, it is easy to make some people the scapegoat; in this case, people of Asian descent.

True, the coronavirus originated in Wuhan, China, but the virus is not a discriminator of persons. Anyone could have it and anyone can transmit it. There have been documented cases (even captured on video and photos) of people spraying Febreeze on Asians in a New York subway to "disinfect" them; people posting memes (this even happened at my university) on social media of people making disgusted faces at Asians when they sneeze or cough; people avoiding Asian-owned businesses or restaurants; Dutch students wearing Chinese clothes and conical hats and pulling up the corners of their eyes, posing for a Instagram photo with a sign that read "Corona Time"; and the hashtag #kungflu trending; among many others.

"But for many people, having someone specific to blame, or an action specific to do, helps them make sense of this world or give them a sense of control, even if the fear is unwarranted or irrational.  [...]

Third, recognize the humanity of everyone.

Asians are just as scared of coronavirus as everyone else, just as many Muslims are fleeing the terrorism of ISIS. And Asians, like other people, need to be respected. We often hear of just the "big three"--blacks, women, and LGBTQ--and too often it feels like those get the most press while other groups don't get nearly the amount of representation or defenders. In fact, groups which do not historically stand up for themselves are needing more recognition. Everyone is made in the imago Dei.

Finally, learn history: all this is not new.

Remember the "yellow peril" meme in the late 1800's, which charged Asians of being unsanitary and spreading disease (or SARS in 2003)? We've seen this thing before. "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat its mistakes," said Spanish philosopher George Santayana. Racism does not protect anyone from disease, but does perpetuate disinformation. This not only harms People of Color, it actually can spread the disease further by focusing on the wrong thing.

We as Christians can do better. We are commanded to do better. 1 John 4:20 says, "Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen."

God help us--as we need his perspective in this world to minister to people not just physically and spiritually, but also emotionally and socially.

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Immigration judges, ICE attorneys, and experts are calling on the Trump administration to close the courts to stop the novel coronavirus from spreading (Charles Davis, 3/18/20, Business Insider)

An Atlanta attorney who was in immigration court on Monday just self-reported a positive test of COVID-19, and an immigration judge in Denver is out sick with symptoms of the novel coronavirus. But the Trump administration -- and, namely, the Executive Office for Immigration Review, which oversees the United States' 68 immigration courts -- is thus far resisting demands to shutter the courtrooms.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


De Blasio was 'furious' as library heads planned to close for coronavirus (SALLY GOLDENBERG and DANA RUBINSTEIN, 03/17/2020, Politico)

Mayor Bill de Blasio was so intent on keeping city libraries open during the coronavirus outbreak that he went as far as making veiled threats about cutting their funding if they closed, according to multiple people familiar with the conversations.


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Joe Biden romps over Bernie Sanders in Florida, Illinois and Arizona in Tuesday balloting (Michael Scherer, Annie Linskey and Sean Sullivan, March 17, 2020, Washington Post)

Former vice president Joe Biden swept to decisive wins in Florida, Illinois and Arizona on Tuesday, extending his run of victories on a primary election day in which the growing national response to the coronavirus pandemic complicated voting as it threatened to disrupt future contests.

The emphatic wins raised further questions about the viability of the campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). 

Between the Democrats nominating the candidate with the strongest appeal nationally and Donald's own inept and racist response to the coronavirus, they can see the end in sight and have accomplished none of their dreams.  We can understand--if not excuse--their increasing hysteria. Imagine how John Wilkes Booth felt.

March 17, 2020

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LIFE IN THE BUBBLE (profanity alert):

Inside the Pro-Trump Facebook Group Where First Responders Call Coronavirus a Hoax (Isaac Arnsdorf March 17, 2020, ProPublica)

In a 27,000-member private Facebook group for first responders who support President Donald Trump, firefighters and paramedics have posted thousands of comments in recent weeks downplaying the coronavirus pandemic that they are responsible for helping to handle.

Posts in the group, which is called IAFF Union Firefighters for Trump and has been endorsed by Trump, scoffed at the seriousness of the virus, echoing false assertions by Trump and his allies comparing it to the seasonal flu. "Every election year has a disease," read one meme, purporting to be written on a doctor's office whiteboard. "This is a viral-pneumonia being hyped as The Black Plague before an election." [...]

Posts containing factual information or firsthand experiences with the virus were met with more accusations of plots to harm Trump's reelection. When a Florida firefighter said action was required now to prevent a crisis like is currently underway in Italy, where 27,980 have been infected and 2,158 have died, because the virus spreads at an exponential rate, the first reply was poop emojis and "Trump2020."

Some comments promoted a baseless conspiracy theory that the virus is a biological weapon developed by the Chinese in collaboration with Democrats.

"By the Chinese to stop the riots in Hong Kong," one member wrote.

"[Y]ou are absolutely correct," another replied. "I said that in the beginning. Democrats saw an opportunity to use it against Trump and get rid of older people which they have been trying to do for a while." 

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A new study pins down the source of the 'rapid spread' of the coronavirus in China -- people with little or no symptoms (Diane Peters, 3/17/20, Business Insider)

In China, an estimated 86% of COVID-19 infections went undiagnosed before the country's travel ban was enacted on January 23, according to a new study published in Science on Monday. 

Because there were so many undocumented cases of infection in China at that time, it was these people with undiagnosed COVID-19 coronavirus who spread it the most, leading to the "rapid spread of the virus throughout Chinam," the researchers report. 

Using mathematical models to simulate the spread of the virus, the researchers calculated the contagiousness of people who were reported to have the COVID-19 virus and the estimated number of undocumented cases.

The researchers found that undocumented cases transmitted the new coronavirus about half as often as documented cases. But there were a lot more of undocumented cases. As a result, people who had not been diagnosed were the source of about eight out of every 10 infected cases in China prior to January 23. 

Posted by orrinj at 11:37 AM


Why had we never heard of Wuhan?: Few of us had heard of Wuhan before the coronavirus, yet it is among a number of Chinese megacities shaping our world. Knowing about Beijing and Shanghai isn't enough (PETER FRANKLIN, 3/17/20, UnHerd)

China is almost the same size as the United States of America. In fact, there's a debate as to which one is bigger -- it depends on precise territorial definitions. In any case, China is big.

It also occupies much the same latitudes as the contiguous United States, although the southernmost parts of China are at Mexican latitudes and the northernmost at Canadian latitudes. So China ranges from the bitterly cold to the steaming hot.

But while America stretches from "sea to shining sea", China stretches from the Pacific Ocean to Central Asia. In fact, the most inland place on the planet is in the far north-west of China.

There's something called the Heihe-Tengchong line that bisects China from the Russian border in the far north-east to the Burmese border in the south. Remarkably, just 4% of the country's population lives west of the line. So, when you look at China on a map, remember that almost everything is going on in the eastern half of the country.

Here's another really important line: the line of latitude that lies thirty degrees north of the equator. It's on or near this parallel that all four of the world's oldest civilisations -- ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley civilisation and ancient China -- got their start. Later civilisations arose further north or further south, but the earliest ones were all at this crucial latitude.

River valleys were another essential ingredient. Whereas in ancient Egypt it was the Nile, in ancient China it was the Yangzi (or Yangtse), the third longest river in the world. Unlike the Nile, however, it runs east-west along the 30th parallel, allowing civilisation to spread and stay connected over a wide area sharing the same sort of climate. Furthermore, not too far to the north is another great river -- the Huang He (a.k.a. the Yellow River). Even better, the land through which both rivers flow is fertile not arid. Tributary rivers (and, later, canals) helped to link up the Lower Yangzi Plain and the North China Plain into a vast and cohesive Chinese heartland.

It was there that Chinese civilisation developed over the millennia and from there that it spread out in all directions.

1. Wuhan -- the crossroads of China

Which bring me back to Wuhan. The city is known as the cross-roads of China for a very good reason.

It sits on the Yangzi about a thousand kilometres inland; a thousand kilometres to the north is Beijing; a thousand to the east (i.e. downstream) is Shanghai; a thousand to the south is the Pearl River delta, which includes Guangdong and Hong Kong; and a thousand to the west (i.e. upstream) are the mighty Sichuanese cities of Chongqing and Chengdu.

Wuhan is also where the Han river flows into the Yangzi -- the Han being the birthplace of the Han dynasty, which in turn gave its name to the Han people i.e. China's majority ethnic group.

Wuhan, therefore, is the most central city in the most populous country on the planet. There couldn't have been a worse place for the coronavirus to take hold. 

Posted by orrinj at 11:12 AM


Trump won't stop using racist terms for coronavirus (Emily Singer -March 17, 2020, American Independent)

Public health experts, including the CDC, have called out for an end to the use of stigmatizing terms amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Donald Trump is ignoring calls from public health experts not to use racist terms for the novel coronavirus that contribute to stigmatizing Asians and Asian Americans amid the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The World Health Organization has warned against using geographic locations to name viruses, saying doing so "has had unintended negative impacts by stigmatizing certain communities or economic sectors."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines stigma as "discrimination against an identifiable group of people, a place, or a nation," and warns that contributing to stigma during the current virus outbreak "hurts everyone by creating more fear or anger towards ordinary people instead of the disease that is causing the problem."

Yet Trump has used a racist name for the virus at least twice in the last 24 hours.

And only group defending him.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Why Are Conservatives Obsessed With Revenge on China for the Coronavirus? (Jonathan Chait, 3/13/20, New York)

Focusing on China allows conservatives to sidestep the question of whether the coronavirus poses a serious health risk at all. That question becomes a sideshow to the primary objective of blaming China. Right-wing organs like the Federalist have mounted a campaign to brand the disease the "Wuhan Virus," scolding anybody who fails to use their lingo as China appeasers. Breitbart's coverage of Joe Biden's coronavirus plan zeroes in on its failure to blame Beijing. "Not once in the detailed plan does Biden mention China or Wuhan -- the origin city of the coronavirus," it reports, accurately, "Instead, the Biden plan repeatedly focuses on fighting 'global' public health threats and refers to the coronavirus in its technical term of COVID-19."

This is a completely bizarre passage to those of us who have read mainstream news. It credits Biden with outlining a "detailed plan," but brushes aside this fact to complain that he describes the virus as a "global threat," which it demonstrably is.

What's so strange about the right's China obsession is that it lacks any policy implications. Cotton has warned, "We will hold accountable those who inflicted it on the world," but what actions could he be threatening? Create a pandemic virus of our own in the United States? There is no prospective course of action that follows from blaming China. It is a global pandemic.

And the reason the mainstream media and liberal elite are using the standard terms for the virus rather than the conservative movement's preferred labels isn't some delicacy about offending China. It's that we don't actually care at this point where it started. Biden focused his speech on ways to prevent Americans from suffering and dying, instead of on ways to blame China, because that seems more important, not because he's secretly in hoc to the Chinese Communist Party (which Cotton, naturally, has also insinuated).

I pay close attention to conservative thought, and try to understand the ideological roots of various strands of right-wing argument. Explaining the China obsession in philosophical terms, though, seems to give its adherents too much credit. It's as if they are unable to grasp the concept of a positive-sum global problem, and lacking the proper capacity to analyze this category of problem, are using the parts of their brains that process external threats. Their lizard brains have transformed a crisis in which every country has a joint interest in mitigation into an act of war demanding retaliation.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Axios|SurveyMonkey poll: coronavirus and trust (Laura Wronski, 3/16/18, Survey Monkey)

A majority of Americans trust the major health agencies and organizations to protect the country from a major outbreak of coronavirus, according to a new Axios|SurveyMonkey poll. The CDC is the most trusted (75%), with the NIH (68%), state health departments (68%), local offices of emergency management (67%), and the WHO (66%) not far behind. 

Many fewer people--just 42% overall--say they trust President Trump to protect Americans from a major outbreak. 

The only question remaining for 2020 is how much lower than 42% he can drive his vote in November and how many Republicans he takes with him.

March 16, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 7:19 PM


"There's No Boogeyman He Can Attack" (GABRIEL SHERMAN, MARCH 16, 2020, Vanity Fair)

For Donald and his ilk it's just an opportunity to gin up racial hygiene hysteria.

Posted by orrinj at 7:15 PM


Against the Infernalists: a review of That All Shall Be Saved by David Bentley Hart ( Karen Kilby, March 16, 2020, Commonweal)

We are so used to assuming that eternal damnation is part of the Christian package, he suggests, that we dramatically misread the New Testament texts. Not only do we dismiss or interpret away all those passages that seem clearly to point to universal salvation (Hart lines up twenty-three of them at one stage in his argument), but we also fail to notice the kind of language Jesus used in relation to judgment. "I am quite sure," he writes, "that, had Jesus wished to impart a precise and literal picture of the Age to come, he could have done so. But in fact the more closely one looks at the wild mélange of images he employed...the more the picture dissolves into evocation, atmosphere, and poetry." Hart points readers to his own recently published translation of the New Testament, which in its unusual literal fidelity to the Greek restores the original ambiguities of some key texts.

We are so used to assuming that eternal damnation is part of the Christian package that we dramatically misread the New Testament texts.
The most intellectually dense strand of the book--and the most difficult for non-specialists to follow--is Hart's argument against the idea that any rational being might permanently choose evil. The density here comes from the fact that Hart is working within a philosophical and theological paradigm that was once mainstream for the Christian tradition but is now unfamiliar to most Christians, even the well-educated, unless they have formal theological training. If one accepts this paradigm, with its assumptions about the relation of intellect and will, about the fundamental ordering of all creatures towards God, and about the nature of evil as privation, then one should find it simply inconceivable, Hart insists, that any human or angel could continue forever to choose against God. The idea is simply incoherent. This is a genuine challenge that needs to be taken up and wrestled with by Thomists and others who work within this classic theological paradigm.

Hart believes that people have not noticed this and other forms of incoherence because "infernalist" belief has darkened the minds of those who hold it, encouraging them to appeal to analogy, mystery, and paradox to cover over nonsense and contradiction. His biggest theme, however, is not intellectual incoherence so much as moral repugnance. It is to this that he turns again and again. The majority view is manifestly "odious" and the acceptance of it morally indefensible. The attempt to believe in eternal damnation has corrupted the moral imagination of Christians, causing it to "bend and lacerate and twist itself" in all kinds of terrible ways.

One explanation for the polemical tone of That All Shall Be Saved lies here: Hart is writing a book that, as he sees it, should not need to be written. The impossibility of a loving God damning anyone to an eternity of torment is so clear to a properly functioning moral instinct that it should not be necessary to go into complex biblical interpretation or philosophical analysis to settle the question. And Hart is constantly trying to remind his readers of this, to break through the resistance to the morally obvious.

And when He returns--this time in His glory, instead of as a mortal--who will say Him nay?

Posted by orrinj at 7:13 PM


Trump Is Talking About Pardoning Michael Flynn Based on a Made-Up Claim: There is no evidence the FBI "lost" any records. (Dan Friedman, 3/16/20, MoJo)

In his guilty plea, Flynn admitted he had lied to agents in that interview by claiming he did not discuss US sanctions on Russia with that country's ambassador during the presidential transition period.

If the FBI lost records of this interview, it would be a big deal. But neither the FBI nor the Justice Department says this happened. Instead, they say they turned over more than sufficient evidence to Flynn, including the original notes of agents who interviewed Flynn as well as the 302 report summarizing the interview. (You can read a redacted version they filed in court here.)

Powell claims there is a missing "original 302" of the January 24 interview. She has implied the FBI may have destroyed this document and altered evidence to hide evidence of Flynn innocence. (Powell here is pushing a version of a popular theory among right wing pundits that a failure by FBI agent Peter Strozk and other FBI officials to immediately find that Flynn was lying in the January 24 interview suggests he was telling the truth. An alternative understanding is that Strozk's initial impression showed Flynn had lied convincingly.)

Prosecutors, in an October 2019 filing, do indicate that is possible that they no longer have an "earlier draft of the interview report," but they argue that doesn't matter. "[E]ven if an earlier draft of the interview report once existed," the filing reads, "there is no reason to believe it would materially differ from the interviewing agents' handwritten notes or the other drafts--all of which state that the defendant made the specific false statements to which the defendant admitted guilt."

This argument prevailed in court. In a blistering December 16 ruling, US District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan, who is known for pushing federal prosecutors turn over any arguably exculpatory evidence to defendants, excoriated Powell's arguments. Sullivan even accused Powell of plagiarism. 

Sullivan found that "there were no material changes in the interview reports, and that those reports track the interviewing FBI agents' notes." He said the material prosecutors turned over is "both consistent and clear that Mr. Flynn made false statements to the FBI." In other words, the judge found that the Justice Department not only turned over adequate records of the interview to Flynn's lawyers, but those records show that Flynn is guilty of the crime to which he pleaded guilty.

That was in December.

Posted by orrinj at 5:56 PM


Trump admits it: The governors are in charge (Jennifer Rubin, March 16, 2020, washington Post)

In public, President Trump emits meaningless happy talk and misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic. In conversation with the nation's governors, however, he essentially admitted he has nothing to offer them. They -- and by extension the rest of us -- are on our own.

The New York Times reports:

"Respirators, ventilators, all of the equipment -- try getting it yourselves," Mr. Trump told the governors during the conference call, a recording of which was shared with The New York Times. "We will be backing you, but try getting it yourselves. Point of sales, much better, much more direct if you can get it yourself." . . .

Governors Jay Inslee of Washington, whose state is at the epicenter of the domestic outbreak, and Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico both reacted angrily to the administration's slow response to the crisis.
Good for them. (Take note, former vice president Joe Biden: Lujan Grisham should be on any short list for your pick for your No. 2.) The notion that the federal government is so ill-prepared and still incapable of helping locate and distribute life-saving equipment is an admission of Trump's utter incompetence and negligence. It is also counterproductive, as Lujan Grisham pointed out: "If one state doesn't get the resources and materials they need, the entire nation continues to be at risk." It is stunning that the president does not grasp this.

We're four years in; why expect better?

Posted by orrinj at 1:27 PM


McConnell pushing coronavirus vote to later in week over GOP opposition to House bill: report (David Edwards, 3/16/20, Raw Story)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is not expected to schedule a vote on a coronavirus relief bill until later in the week after initially calling the legislation "urgent."

Opposing relief worked so well in 2008....

Posted by orrinj at 1:20 PM


Coronavirus gives Vice President Pence his presidential moment (SEBASTIAN SMITH, 3/16/20, AFP) 

As the coronavirus crisis sweeps the US government, the nation has come to rely on a voice of calm from the White House -- only it's not Donald Trump's.

Caricatured as a meek and loyal yes man, Vice President Mike Pence is surprising even some of his critics with an authoritative performance in the role of coronavirus tsar. [...]

Heading the coronavirus task force has to be one of the hardest jobs in US politics today.

Pence not only has to coordinate the response to the pandemic. He has to clean up after his erratic boss -- and please him at the same time.

For weeks, Trump dismissed coronavirus as something that didn't have to be taken seriously. He also repeatedly accused his Democratic opponents and the media of hyping the crisis in a bid to weaken his reelection chances.

"His aides are literally scrambling around to try to make something more sane that's absolutely insane, which happens to be the president," Anthony Scaramucci, who briefly served as Trump's communications director, said in a scathing assessment on Sunday.

And Pence is the one scrambling the most.

He regularly has to massage or clarify the president's statements, all while framing his own comments as support.

But sometimes, the divergence in approaches by the two men cannot be masked over.

While Pence seeks to reassure, Trump, facing an increasingly difficult November reelection, sees conflict everywhere.

So when Pence praised the Democratic governor of Washington state, Jay Inslee, for his response to one of the worst local coronavirus outbreaks in the country, Trump brutally smacked him down.

"I told Mike not to be complimentary," Trump said. "That governor is a snake."

Pence doesn't bite back.

Still, when asked on NBC about the president's Twitter attacks against Democrats during the coronavirus crisis, Pence did issue what was interpreted as a rare rebuke, citing the "irresponsible rhetoric."

It's a vision of what America could be like if Republican Senators had done their duty.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Michael Flynn pleads guilty to lying to FBI (Shannon Vavra, 12/01/17, Axios)

In a statement, Flynn said: "Actions I acknowledged in court today are wrong, and through my faith in God, I am working to set things right. My guilty plea and agreement to cooperate with the Special Counsel's Office reflect a decision I made in the best interests of my family and of our country. I accept full responsibility for my actions."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Biden makes his debut as the Democrats' presumptive nominee (Karen Tumulty, March 15, 2020, Washington Post)

What happened on Sunday night was not a presidential debate. It was former vice president Joe Biden's debut as the Democrats' presumptive 2020 nominee.

The headline of the evening was Biden's declaration that he plans to pick a female running mate, and that he would nominate an African American woman to the Supreme Court.

But it was the confidence with which Biden conducted himself throughout his two-hour exchange with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) that signaled how dramatically the race has changed in the two weeks since the voters of South Carolina rescued his candidacy from oblivion.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The illness caused by the new coronavirus gets a new name: COVID-19: The name couldn't reference an animal, a place, or a group of people (Nicole Wetsman,  Feb 11, 2020, Verge)

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced today that the disease caused by the new coronavirus will be referred to as COVID-19. Until this point, the illness was known as 2019-nCoV acute respiratory disease. Experts refer to the virus that causes the disease as 2019-nCoV, which stands for novel coronavirus 2019.

There are around 43,000 cases of the illness around the world, and it has killed over 1,000 people so far.

"Having a name matters to prevent the use of other names that can be inaccurate or stigmatizing. It also gives us a standard format to use for any future coronavirus outbreaks," said Tedros Adhanom, director general of the WHO, in a press conference today.

The name of the disease is linked with the virus that causes it: it starts with "co" and "vi" for "coronavirus." The "d" stands for disease, while "19" indicates the year that it was first discovered. What the name doesn't have is an association with Wuhan or China.

The outbreak started in Wuhan, China, and, initially, people colloquially referred to the unknown illness as Wuhan pneumonia or Wuhan flu. Naming conventions through the WHO say that the formal name given to an illness cannot refer to a geographic location. It also can't refer to an animal or group of people, has to be related to the disease, and must be easy to say.

March 15, 2020

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Sometimes a cult is right and their end really is nigh.

Posted by orrinj at 3:51 PM


Trump considering 'full pardon' of former national security advisor Michael Flynn (Spencer Kimball, 3/25/20, CNBC)

What flu?

Posted by orrinj at 3:37 PM


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Netanyahu rival Gantz to receive mandate for forming Israeli government (Barak Ravid of Israel's Channel 13 news, 3/15/20, Axios)

 Gantz secured the mandate after the Arab Joint List recommended him to Rivlin. This was a historic move by the Arab Israeli party that many view as a sign that the Arab minority, which turned out to vote in high numbers in the last elections, wants to further integrate into society and have a stake in the government.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Trump is increasingly irrelevant (Jennifer Rubin, March 15, 2020, Washington Post)

At his Friday news conference, President Trump declared his opposition to the House bill meant to ease the burden on businesses and individuals from the coronavirus pandemic. Trump said Republicans had not "gotten enough," a reference to the payroll tax that members of both parties opposed.

When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced she had reached a deal with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, it predictably did not include that payroll tax. Increasingly, the way to get anything done is for Pelosi and Mnuchin to hammer out a reasonable compromise, let Mnuchin sell it /to the president and then present it as a fait accompli to the Senate Republicans who have no ideas or legislation of their own, having become vassals of the president. This is how it went on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement trade negotiations.

He will leave behind him only the stench of racism.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Why Trump Intentionally Misnames the CoronavirusWhen conservative figures continually refer to the "Wuhan virus" or "Chinese coronavirus," it's clear they're doing it to make a point. (BEN ZIMMER, MARCH 12, 2020, The Atlantic)

As the science journalist Laura Spinney details in her 2017 book, Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World, Spain ended up taking the blame not because the pandemic actually originated there, nor because its outbreak was any more severe. Rather, it happened because while Europe was at war, Spain remained neutral and did not censor its press. Spinney explains that the major combatants in World War I kept their outbreaks under wraps to avoid damaging morale, with French military doctors cryptically referring to maladie onze, or "disease eleven." When influenza hit Spain hard in May 1918, it lit up the international news, and the French, British, and Americans began calling it "Spanish influenza."

With Spain serving as a convenient scapegoat, reports of the disease's spread followed the old xenophobic tropes. For instance, in July 1918, the Fort Worth Record picked up a wire report about a Spanish passenger liner arriving at an unnamed Atlantic port and being "thoroughly fumigated and those on board thoroughly examined by federal and state health officers." The article carried the headline "Spanish Influenza Is an Undesirable," conflating the disease with the foreign "undesirables" blamed for spreading it. The irony, in retrospect, is that the leading theory for the origin of the so-called Spanish flu places it right here in the United States. In early 1918, the first wave of the pandemic started at Camp Funston, an Army training camp in Fort Riley, Kansas, before it spread to other military camps and traveled overseas.

Even when a geographic label for a disease is more accurate in pinpointing its origin, such names can be quickly outgrown. The Ebola virus was named for the Ebola River in the Democratic Republic of Congo in central Africa, where it was first identified, but the 2014 epidemic took place far away in western Africa. Similarly, the Zika virus was named for a forest in Uganda where it was first isolated in 1947, but the outbreak that began in 2015 started in Brazil and spread throughout the Americas.

More recently, world health officials have tried to be more sensitive in naming diseases by avoiding geographic references that may seem to assign blame to a particular region. Sometimes names can have unexpected connotations, however. As Spinney notes in her book, the acronym for "severe acute respiratory syndrome," SARS, seems innocuous enough, but it created problems in Hong Kong when the disease reached epidemic levels in East Asia in 2003. Some in Hong Kong found the designation offensive because the official name of the country in English includes the phrase "special administrative region," which is abbreviated as "SAR."

Cognizant of how geographic labels have been unfairly used in the past, the WHO introduced a new set of best practices for naming infectious diseases, in 2015. Geographic names are to be avoided in order to "avoid causing offense," though the WHO did not insist that already established names like Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, should be retroactively changed.

When the WHO director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, announced last month that the new coronavirus disease would be called COVID-19, he referred to the 2015 guidelines to explain why the name did not refer to Wuhan, the city in central China where the virus is thought to have originated. "Having a name matters to prevent the use of other names that can be inaccurate or stigmatizing," he said, adding, "It also gives us a standard format to use for any future coronavirus outbreaks."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Bill Buford's Stint in Hell's Kitchen (Jonny Segura, March 11, 2020, The Millions)

By then Buford had published his well-received Among the Thugs, a horrifying and very funny study of English football violence in the 1980s. (A nod to Buford's literary cred: early in Thugs he writes about attending his first English football match with two unnamed friends; he says they were Salman Rushdie and Mario Vargas Llosa.) [...]

Dirt is big, 400-something pages, and the longest thing Buford has written. It started out as a pretty simple idea: go to Paris, work in a kitchen for a few months, bang out a book. This idea was jangling around in Buford's head well before Obama was elected, right after he wrapped up Heat. Basically, do Heat in France.

One problem: the French really didn't care about Buford or his book. If he wanted to go, which at that point meant taking his family (he and his wife, Jessica Green, a magazine editor turned wine expert, had preschool-age twin boys at the time), there would be beaucoup paperwork to fill out for their residency permits. So they did, and with a little fraudulent help from a well-placed friend, the Lyonnaise chef Daniel Boulud, they were in. Which was another problem: then they were there. And in Lyon, not Paris.

What follows is a mix of memoir, culinary anthropology, and immersion journalism, all told in Buford's hallmark erudite and ruthlessly self-effacing way. Early life in Lyon was a parade of difficulties and humiliations: contending with the French fetish for bureaucracy; finding an apartment; failing to find a kitchen to work in; finally getting work, only to be bullied by a 19-year-old kitchen psychopath; coming to realize that strangers thought Buford was a local in a city where, he writes, the men are all "ugly f[****]rs."

"It was a wild thing we did. Really, a wild thing," Buford says. "Because we get there, and everything's going wrong and I can't get into a kitchen, and I think, 'Well, what the f[***]? Now what?' Then I got into a kitchen where any reasonable person would say, 'Why didn't you get out of there?' But of course, as a writer, that's what you want."

The job Buford landed at the Michelin-starred restaurant La Mère Brazier required 15-plus-hour days in a kitchen where the culture resembled that of a pirate ship. The labor was so demanding and physical that he wound up losing weight working in a place where the recipes measured butter in kilos.

"I liked it a lot," Buford says. "I think I enjoy physical activity, but I've got kind of a desk brain. So, the pleasure of the situation--La Mère Brazier was different because it was so intense--is you can have a reflecting brain while you're doing a physical activity. It helps that I know that I'm going to be writing about it."

There are intellectual pursuits in the book as well as the demented rigors of the kitchen. Not to give anything away, but a turning point Buford discovers in the controversial history of interplay among Italian and French food (if you want to piss off the French, tell them French cuisine is actually Italian in origin, as Buford did repeatedly) will have people who care about such things looking at their ragù differently.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Origins of Baptism  (Peter Jackson, 3/15/20, Foreign Policy)

Water ceremony has long been practiced in the old world as a symbol not only of physical but also of moral purification. Christian baptism originates from the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist. In the first centuries of Christianity, it was always preceded by the introduction of faith. In early Christianity, it was performed on mature believers, who had previously had to apply as candidates for the baptismal rite and to go through the preparatory period by practicing fasting and prayer. Adults who intended to receive it had a special status.

This status lasted about two years, but sometimes the deadline was reduced or increased. If they were worthy of it, or admission to the Christian community, there would be a rite during which the initiate would, without clothing, descend into the water, washing away sins and symbolizing the death of his former self. The priest would then invite the Spirit to descend on the reborn, who wears a white robe and receives honey mixed with milk - food for the newborn. It was performed in streams and rivers, and from Constantine the Great in the special water pools that were at the church.

Jesus was not an infant.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


1 classic game to watch online for each MLB team (Sarah Langs, Andrew Simon, Manny Randhawa and Jason Catania , March 14, 2020,

With no live baseball games currently on TV, you can always fill the void by streaming a classic game from your favorite team's past. The MLB Vault account on YouTube has numerous games, and the MLB account has a bunch more, too.

Here's one memorable game for each team that can be watched online, for free, in its entirety...

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Older Americans are more worried about coronavirus -- unless they're Republican (Philip Bump, March 14, 2020, Washington Post)

It's worth noting a significant part of Sal Gentile's expressed lack of concern about the virus: his pointed mention about what "TV stations" were advocating.

Pew data indicate that about 3-in-10 members of both political parties identify cable news as their most common platform for political news. But the preferred cable news station varies widely depending on a viewer's politics. Almost no Democrats of retirement age identify Fox News as their main source of political or election news. Fully half of Republicans did.

Fox News, of course, is home to a number of hosts who've dismissed the threat posed by the coronavirus, framing the sense of urgency conveyed on other networks as being about Trump's presidency rather than the public health. If that is the message that half of older Republicans are hearing, it's not really a surprise that they are less concerned about the virus.

On the other hand, they were way ahead of the curve on President Obama being a gay Muslim Socialist from Kenya...

March 14, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 7:45 PM


Obama's Ebola Victory Lap: "People were understandably afraid. And, if we're honest, some stoked those fears," the president said. (GEORGE E. CONDON JR. and National Journal, FEBRUARY 11, 2015, The Atlantic)

He reminded his audience that he ignored the criticism of his actions and the political advice to impose quarantines and travel bans. Even though polls showed that the country was afraid and distrustful of the reassurances coming from Washington, Obama stuck with the experts.

"Remember, there was no small amount of skepticism about our chances," he said with some understatement. "People were understandably afraid. And, if we're honest, some stoked those fears. But we believed that if we made policy based not on fear, but on sound science and good judgment, America could lead an effective global response while keeping the American people safe, and we could turn the tide of the epidemic."

On Wednesday, he could not resist recalling the bad, often-partisan advice he was getting in October over his response to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, and the fears of it spreading to the United States. The coverage on cable news channels was nonstop, and the partisan assault was fierce and unrelenting with elections only weeks away. There was enormous pressure to cancel flights from the affected regions and ignore the doctors who said that would be counterproductive.

"In the 21st century, we cannot build moats around our countries. There are no drawbridges to be pulled up. We shouldn't try," he said. With Dr. Kent Brantly, one of the survivors, in the audience, the president recalled how controversial it was to bring him to the United States for treatment. "Some worried about bringing the disease to our shores." But he said he sided with the experts who knew "that we had to make the decisions based not on fear, but on science."

With Republicans often branding him as a non-believer in "American Exceptionalism," Obama offered his own definition. "What makes us exceptional is when there's a big challenge and we hear somebody saying it's too hard to tackle, and we come together as a nation and prove you wrong."

Posted by orrinj at 7:33 PM


Infighting, missteps and a son-in-law hungry for results: Inside the Trump administration's troubled coronavirus response (Ashley Parker, Philip Rucker, Yasmeen Abutaleb and Josh Dawsey March 14, 2020, Washington Post)

President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser -- who has zero expertise in infectious diseases and little experience marshaling the full bureaucracy behind a cause -- saw the administration floundering and inserted himself at the helm, believing he could break the logjam of internal dysfunction.

Kushner rushed to help write Trump's widely panned Oval Office address to the nation. His supermodel sister-in-law's father, Kurt Kloss, an emergency room doctor, crowdsourced suggestions from his Facebook network to pass along to Kushner. And Kushner pressed tech executives to help build a testing website and retail executives to help create mobile testing sites -- but the projects were only half-baked when Trump revealed them Friday in the White House Rose Garden.

What you need to know about coronavirus

Kushner entered into a crisis management process that, despite the triumphant and self-congratulatory tone of public briefings, was as haphazard and helter-skelter as the chaotic early days of Trump's presidency -- turning into something of a family-and-friends pandemic response operation.

The administration's struggle to mitigate the coronavirus outbreak has been marked by infighting and blame-shifting, misinformation and missteps, and a slow recognition of the danger. Warring factions have wrestled for control internally and for approval from a president who has been preoccupied with the beating his image is taking.

The scramble for solutions is occurring in an overriding atmosphere of trepidation of saying something that Trump might perceive as disloyal and of fear that their fumbles could cost the president his reelection in November.

Posted by orrinj at 7:19 PM


Artificial intelligence finds new antibiotic (TIM SANDLE, 3/14/20, Digital Journal)

Technologists, working with microbiologists, have made a significant breakthrough in the hunt for new antimicrobials. By using artificial intelligence, a new candidate antibiotic has been identified.

The discovery was made using a machine-learning algorithm. This technology enabled scientists to discover a powerful new antibiotic compound.

Posted by orrinj at 10:00 AM


Why coal power is now an economic loser around the world: Four astonishing facts about coal's declining viability. (David Roberts, Mar 14, 2020, Vox)

1. It is already cheaper to build new renewables than to build new coal plants, in all major markets.

Just two years ago, in 2018, Carbon Tracker did a similar analysis and concluded that new renewable energy would undercut new coal in all major markets by 2025. "Using updated data from publicly available sources," it concludes in this year's report, "we now believe these conclusions are too conservative."

In fact, they say, new renewables are cheaper than new coal plants in all major markets ... today.

2. Over half the existing global coal fleet is more expensive to run than building new renewables.

The second threshold, Carbon Tracker finds, has been crossed by about 60 percent of the global coal fleet, which now has a higher LMRC than the LCOE of new renewable energy.

"This trend is most pronounced in the EU, which has a strong carbon price and has benefited from years of investment in renewable energy," the report says. "The US, China, and India are not far behind the EU due to excellent renewable energy resources, low capital costs, and least-cost policymaking."

In markets where this threshold has not been crossed, like Turkey and Japan, the blame generally falls on unsupportive policy and unreliable markets.

3. By 2030, it will be cheaper to build new renewables than to run existing coal -- everywhere.

This is the real mind-blower: even in laggard markets, Carbon Tracker projects that coal power will cross the second threshold by 2030 at the latest.

In other words, within ten years, virtually every coal plant in the world will be uneconomic, producing power more expensive than what could be generated by new renewables. 

Carbon emissions are just a fetish of the Right.
Posted by orrinj at 9:42 AM


The Elegant Mathematics of Social Distancing (AARIAN MARSHALL, 03.14.2020, Wired)

"We all have to make contacts with people while we live our lives, what we should aim to do is to limit them, and certainly not to add more," says William Hanage, an associate professor of epidemiology at Harvard's Chan School of Public Health. "This may seem silly if your community is not yet reporting infections, but it is best to get used to thinking this way."

From a mathematical perspective, determining how big a crowd is safe depends on a couple of key questions: How many people in a given area are infected with the disease? And how big is the event? If you know those things, you can estimate the probability of someone getting infected at the event. An elegant "Covid-19 Event Risk Assessment Planner" by the Georgia Tech quantitative biologist Joshua Weitz makes the following calculation: If, say, 20,000 cases of infection are actively circulating the US (far more than are known so far), and you host a dinner party for 10 folks, there's a 0.061 percent chance that an attendee will be infected. But if you attend a 10,000-person hockey match, there's a 45 percent chance. Hence the suspension of the NHL season, along with the NBA, March Madness, and Major League Baseball.

Unlike in a flu epidemic, there's no underlying immunity in the population, meaning if you come in contact with the fluids of an infected person, you're likely to get sick. In light of these sorts of calculations, and the fact that the virus seems to be spreading throughout a number of American communities, "it makes sense to do things like cancel mass gatherings and schools," says Lopman.

Public health experts like social distancing for three reasons. For one, it likely "flattens the curve," or decreases the number of infections at one time, or even overall. That helps prevent overloading the health care system, with its limited number of doctors, nurses, beds, and equipment like ventilators. Also, it buys time for a vaccine to be developed, says Catherine Troisi, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and the former assistant director of the Houston Health Department.

Posted by orrinj at 9:06 AM


The sick joke of Donald Trump's presidency isn't funny any more (Richard Wolffe, 13 Mar 2020, The Guardian)

For three long years the world has been treated to the sick joke of Donald Trump's presidency. Some days were more sick than others. But now the joke is over.

So is the entire facade of the Trump White House: the gold-plated veneer of power and grift will be stripped bare by a global pandemic and recession.

Of all the obituaries we'll read in the next several weeks, every one will be more meaningful than the political end of a former reality-TV star.

But make no mistake. The humanitarian crisis about to unfold will consume what's left of this president and the Republican party that surrendered its self-respect and sense of duty to flatter his ego and avoid his angry tweets.

Trump was right about one thing, and only one thing, as the coronavirus started to spread across the world. The sight of thousands of dead Americans will hurt him politically. It will also hurt many thousands of Americans in reality.

Multiple reports have detailed how Trump did not just ignore the growing pandemic; he actively sought to block his own officials' attempts to track and stop it. Why has there been such a disastrous lack of testing? Because the president didn't want to know the answer, and because his staff were too busy fighting each other to do the right thing.

"The boss has made it clear he likes to see his people fight, and he wants the news to be good," Politico reported one Trump health adviser saying. "This is the world he's made."

Sorry, dude, it's all comedy:

Posted by orrinj at 8:55 AM


Pelosi Passes Virus Response Bill, Filling Vacuum Left by Trump (Billy House, March 14, 2020, Bloomberg)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Donald Trump haven't spoken in months, but the California Democrat seized the initiative to strike a deal with the White House on a broad measure aimed at helping Americans cope with the spiraling effects of the coronavirus outbreak.

After Trump didn't deliver on a promised announcement of a "major" economic stimulus package, Pelosi and House Democrats on Wednesday put out their own plan to ease some of the economic impact on workers and families. That began a series of negotiations between Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin over the course of three days and more than two dozen phone calls.

The end result was a rare bit of bipartisanship. The House, with the president's support, passed a bill early Saturday morning on a 363-40 vote to provide paid sick leave, money for food stamps, bolstered unemployment insurance and significant new funding for Medicaid. Those are all are long-held Democratic priorities, though in this version they are scaled back and temporary.

For Pelosi, it was a chance to step into a leadership vacuum and to demonstrate Americans in an election year how a Democratic-led government would function.

"We could have passed our bill yesterday," Pelosi said Friday night. "But we thought it was important to show the American people, that for the American people, that we are willing and able to work together to get a job done for them."

Donald who?
Posted by orrinj at 8:32 AM



On March 10, President Trump retweeted a post from conservative political activist Charlie Kirk, who referred to the coronavirus (COVID-19) as the "China Virus." Kirk also exclaimed in his tweet, "Now, more than ever, we need the wall...the US stands a chance if we can get control of our borders." Trump retweeted this and added the comment, "Going up fast. We need the wall more than ever!"

At first blush, this exchange might seem like the garden-variety white nationalist xenophobia characteristic of Trump or many of his influential supporters. Fox News' Tucker Carlson and GOP House Representative Kevin McCarthy, in fact, have both insisted on continuing to call the disease the "Chinese Coronavirus." But Trump's retweet, and where it originates, helps shed light not only on the Right's brazen xenophobia, but on the link between America's supposed religious heritage and fears of ethnic pollution. 

Charlie Kirk is co-founder of Liberty University's Falkirk Center for Faith and Liberty. The Falkirk Center is described by Liberty's newspaper as a "modern think tank set to renew and defend God-given freedoms and Christian principles throughout American politics and culture." 

That an ambassador of Christian nationalism like Kirk would hold xenophobic attitudes should be no surprise. In Taking America Back for God, we show that such views are fundamental to the Christian nationalist framework. One of the most consistent findings in research on Christian nationalism over the past decade is that Americans who more strongly subscribe to this ideology are more likely to be staunchly anti-immigrant―especially if those immigrants are non-white and/or non-Christian.

But Kirk's repeated "China Virus" tweets, and Trump's powerful retweet, both connecting the spread of disease with the need to keep immigrants out, are a clear reminder that white Christian nationalism has always connected non-white immigrants with social and biological contamination. Immigration is framed as an issue of purity or contamination; a righteous body politic or pathological disease. 

Chinese immigrants have long been the target of such attacks. The Immigration Act of 1882 included the Chinese Exclusion Act, which all but banned immigrants from anywhere in Asia, who were perceived to be plagued with "the social and political diseases of the Old World." Asians in particular, and to a lesser extent Eastern Europeans, were deemed less worthy than immigrants from parts of Europe populated by those more likely to be "White" and "Protestant," which have often been historically been understood  to mean the same thing.

Trump's 2016 Presidential campaign, which was successful due in no small part to his appeals to white Christian nationalism, drew on similar "contamination" rhetoric to shore up support for the Mexican border wall.

Exposes?  It's not as if they hide their racism.  Donald's henchman, Steve Bannon, told them to wear it like a badge of honor.

Posted by orrinj at 8:16 AM


The End Is Near? Three Apocalyptic Novels (JACK BUTLER, March 14, 2020, National Review)

In P. D. James's Children of Men, mankind is suddenly and inexplicably stricken with universal infertility. The 2021 England in which the story takes place is a caretaker tyranny, dominated by a figure who suspends democracy and curtails liberty for the promise of an agreeable senescence for a civilization that no longer cares for its future, because it doesn't think it will have one. The youngest living humans are in their mid-20s; no children have been born since.

The lack of children has affected society in myriad ways. The youngest humans are a fearsome force, the last source of any real vigor in society, but unrestrained by any social mores. Infertile couples bury childlike dolls (and controversy rages over whether religious involvement is licit); custody battles rage over pets. Sex "divorced from procreation" has "become almost meaninglessly acrobatic"; the state sponsors pornography in a vain attempt to keep the sexual instinct alive should a miracle occur and reproduction become viable again. And most disturbing: The state sponsors "Quietus," a "mass suicide of the old" in which the elderly are "encouraged" to kill themselves. It is a public ritual whose voluntary status Theo, the novel's protagonist, discovers is a fiction, forcing him to accept the barbarity of the regime perpetrating this euthanasia.

This enervated world originated before universal infertility, however. Theo believes that he "can trace" both the present societal decline and a persistent concern for personal health "to the early 1990s: the search for alternative medicine, the perfumed oils, the massage, the stroking and anointing, the crystal-holding, the non-penetrative sex." Around the same time, "the recognized churches, particularly the Church of England, moved from the theology of sin and redemption to a less uncompromising doctrine: corporate social responsibility coupled with sentimental humanism." This analysis of the "past" in the book is actually a condemnation of the writer's present, 1992.

Though James was not Catholic, her work is steeped in the anxieties of Catholicism that were addressed, but not resolved, in the 1968 papal encyclical Humanae Vitae. This was Pope Paul VI's broadside against contemporary sexual mores and in favor of the Church's ancient teachings, one he delivered against the recommendations of the committee he assembled to assist in its drafting. Catholicism was hardly alone in dealing with these anxieties. At a disputed vote at the Lambeth Conference in 1930, the Anglican Communion ultimately resolved that "in those cases where there is such a clearly felt moral obligation to limit or avoid parenthood, and where there is a morally sound reason for avoiding complete abstinence, the Conference agrees that other methods may be used, provided that this is done in the light of the same Christian principles." Far down the slippery slope of such attitudes, and in a twisted instance of the need to be careful what one wishes for, James's world is a spiritually and sexually hollow place, as consequence-free sex becomes an inescapable reality.

The world imagined by James in Children of Men rings truer in certain ways in our time than does either of the bombastic apocalypses of Miller or Benson. Leave aside the more obvious predictions, such as declining fertility rates and increased contraception use, the child-simulating dolls popular in low-fertility Japan, and the growing popularity of New Age spirituality (the latter also a feature of Benson's dystopia). Only James imagined a world in which institutional, established religion might linger on, but with its doctrinal integrity compromised, and its institutional strength all but vanished. Miller and Benson could imagine only that religious institutions would either be destroyed completely or maintain something of their ancient vitality. But James posited a murkier, middle ground.

She also posited hope.

Posted by orrinj at 8:04 AM


AI Is Coming for Your Most Mind-Numbing Office Tasks: Routine work, like cutting and pasting between documents, is increasingly being automated. But for now, there's little artificial intelligence involved. (WILL KNIGHT, 03.14.2020, Wired)

In 2018, the New York Foundling, a charity that offers child welfare, adoption, and mental health services, was stuck in cut-and-paste hell.

Clinicians and admin staff were spending hours transferring text between different documents and databases to meet varied legal requirements. Arik Hill, the charity's chief information officer, blames the data entry drudgery for an annual staff turnover of 42 percent at the time. "We are not a very glamorous industry," says Hill. "We are really only just moving on from paper clinical records."

Since then, the New York Foundling has automated much of this grunt work using what are known as software robots--simple programs hand-crafted to perform dull tasks. Often, the programs are built by recording and mimicking a user's keystrokes, such as copying a field of text from one database and pasting it into another, eliminating hours of repetitive-stress-inducing work.

"It was mind-blowing," says Hill, who says turnover has fallen to 17 percent.

To automate the work, the New York Foundling got help from UiPath, a so-called robotic process automation company. That project didn't require any real machine intelligence.

But in January, UiPath began upgrading its army of software bots to use powerful new artificial intelligence algorithms. It thinks this will let them take on more complex and challenging tasks, such as transcription or sorting images, across more offices. Ultimately, the company hopes software robots will gradually learn how to automate repetitive work for themselves.

In other words, if artificial intelligence is going to disrupt white-collar work, then this may be how it begins.

"When paired with robotic process automation, AI significantly expands the number and types of tasks that software robots can perform," says Tom Davenport, a professor who studies information technology and management at Babson College.

And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand;

When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.

Not so much, Big Fella.
Posted by orrinj at 7:56 AM


White House physician said Trump actually doesn't need to get tested for the coronavirus (The Week, 3/14/20)

Despite President Trump saying Friday he planned to get tested for the novel COVID-19 coronavirus, White House physician Sean Conley hours later said the action isn't necessary.

Trump, within the last week, had two interactions with individuals who tested positive for the virus -- he shook hands with Fabio Wajngarten, an aide to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, and he also shared a table with another person at his Mar-a-Lago resort. But Conley said both instances were "low risk" because neither person was exhibiting symptoms at the time. He added that because Trump himself is without symptoms, testing or quarantine are not recommended.

Posted by orrinj at 7:50 AM


Why Trump isn't getting the payroll-tax cut he wanted for the coronavirus (Amber Phillips, March 14, 2020,. Washington Post)

Any tax break on paychecks would come out of the Social Security fund: That would risk seriously denting it or even depleting it, meaning people who depend on their Social Security check each month might not get it in a worst-case scenario. That's the primary reason Republicans oppose a cut, said a senior Republican Senate aide.

It's super expensive: Eliminating the payroll tax for both employees and employers would cost the government about $90 billion a month, aides in Congress estimated. Multiply that over the entire year and you're looking at about $1 trillion in lost government revenue. The New York Times Jim Tankersley put that in perspective: That's more than the 2008 Wall Street bailout or the 2009 stimulus bill to prop up the economy after the crash that ignited the Great Recession.

It would increase most paychecks by 7.65 percent, but that doesn't help shift workers or those who rely on tips, said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, on Wednesday. That's because most of their money doesn't come from paychecks.

It only helps people who are working now: So if you're unemployed -- or lost your job because of the coronavirus -- this wouldn't help you. And from Democrats' perspective, it could distract from the real goal they want: mandatory paid sick leave.

"If a single mom gets a notice from school her child has to stay home, her getting a payroll-tax deduction or refund isn't going to help her if she loses her job," Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said Friday on MSNBC.

Here's how Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) describes the idea of a payroll-tax cut: "We don't think they should just throw money out of an airplane and hope some of it lands on the people who are affected."

Republicans aren't quite as vocal about their opposition to this, given their reluctance to upset Trump. But behind the scenes, this isn't something that they're seriously considering, no matter how much Trump tweets it or asks Congress for it in national addresses.

Posted by orrinj at 7:48 AM


Can nature really heal us? (Patrick Barkham, 14 Mar 2020, The Guardian

There is a revealing moment in Isabel Hardman's book where the author, a political journalist who lives with post-traumatic stress disorder, joins a forest therapy session. The therapist encourages her to "connect" with herself and "experience nature better". Hardman wanders through the wood and finds a small hornbeam, which is twisting up towards the light, struggling to make its way in the shade of a mature oak. She is attracted to its shape, admires its bark, and draws parallels with her own life: how long it takes to heal and grow, how the scars we gather can still be beautiful "like the zig-zagging trunk of this young tree". She reaches up and snaps one of its twigs: the tree is dead.

"Serves me right for being so dreadfully whimsical," Hardman writes. "There seemed to be no neat life lesson here, nothing you'd want to write on a fridge magnet or share on social media. I'd come here hoping to connect with myself, and instead I'd been drawn to a tree that was secretly dead."

It is a valuable lesson in Hardman's The Natural Health Service, a practical and self-aware account of the relief from mental illness to be found outside. Hardman, and the many people she meets, identify respite, recovery and resilience in walking, running, cold-water swimming, gardening, "forest bathing", birdwatching, botanising, horse riding and caring for pets. The common denominator is what Hardman calls "the great outdoors", that plangent, hearty Victorian-sounding cliche. But as she shows, other species and their ecosystems can be rebellious medics. At times, the "natural" world resembles the magic mirror that undercuts Snow White's stepmother: rather than reflecting back ourselves, it is alive with its own agency, a challenge to our narcissism.

The Natural Health Service is one of a rapidly growing forest of new books that examine cures found in nature. This winter alone has brought the publication of The Wild Remedy by Emma Mitchell; Losing Eden by Lucy Jones; Rootbound by Alice Vincent; and Wintering by Katherine May. One of last year's unexpectedly prominent books - unexpected because it was rejected by publishers and crowdfunded via Unbound - was Bird Therapy by Joe Harkness. 

If you think nature is healing then it is.

March 13, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 9:46 PM


Posted by orrinj at 9:41 PM


Trump Caught Google Off Guard With a Bogus Coronavirus Site Announcement (Brian Barrett, 3/13/20, Wired)

President Donald Trump announced Friday that the US government's coronavirus testing apparatus, which has lagged badly behind other developed nations, would soon get an assist from Google. The search and advertising giant will create a website, Trump said, that would help Americans figure out if they need a test for the virus, and if so where they can find one.

The only problem: There is no nationwide site like the one Trump described. And Google had no idea the president was going to mention one.

A source at Google tells WIRED that company leadership was surprised that Trump announced anything about the initiative at the press conference. What he did say was also almost entirely wrong. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:27 PM


I ran the White House pandemic office. Trump closed it. (Beth Cameron , March 13, 2020, Washington Post)

When President Trump took office in 2017, the White House's National Security Council Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense survived the transition intact. Its mission was the same as when I was asked to lead the office, established after the Ebola epidemic of 2014: to do everything possible within the vast powers and resources of the U.S. government to prepare for the next disease outbreak and prevent it from becoming an epidemic or pandemic.

One year later, I was mystified when the White House dissolved the office, leaving the country less prepared for pandemics like covid-19.

Posted by orrinj at 5:23 PM


Trump just gave the worst speech of his presidency (Matthew Walther, March 13, 2020. The Week)

On Friday afternoon, Donald Trump gave the worst speech of his political career.

He appeared at the podium in the Rose Garden half an hour late. He looked and sounded exhausted. He stumbled over the word "coronavirus" in his very first sentence and seemed to struggle at a number of points throughout his address. His wonted improvisations and other departures from the script did not suggest his usual ease. He sounded very much like what one suspects he is: a tired and confused senior citizen. [...]

Agreeing to take questions following his prepared remarks was almost certainly a mistake. In the coming days and weeks and months, Trump will have virtually unlimited opportunities to attack the legacy of the Obama administration. This was not the occasion for it. In so many other contexts, Trump's disdain for the press is defensible and even amusing. Friday it made him seem petty. And it is never a good idea for a president in the face of a crisis to tell the country that he takes "no responsibility" for anything (in this case, delays in virus testing). Taking responsibility is what the office is all about.

Posted by orrinj at 5:10 PM

AND, UNLIKE 2016...:

Biden's strength in Arizona spells trouble for Trump (Jennifer Rubin , March 13, 2020, Washington Post)

Likewise, the Univision/Arizona State University poll shows Biden's favorable/unfavorable rating (48 percent to 41 percent) far rosier than Trump's (46 percent to 54 percent). Biden beats Trump by eight percentage points in a head-to-head match-up, while Sanders leads by five points. By a 63 percent to 16 percent margin, voters are less likely to vote for someone identified as a socialist. (56 percent to 24 percent if a "democratic socialist"). Against Sanders, Biden leads by a huge margin of 51 percent to 34 percent.

Part of Trump's problem certainly is his stance on immigration. In Arizona 73 percent of voters favor a path to citizenship for the "dreamers," while 55 percent oppose a wall on the southern border. By a 52 percent to 48 percent margin, voters in Arizona think Trump should have been impeached and removed. Some 59 percent say Trump's policies have not benefited them personally at all or only a little bit. Noteworthy: 52 percent say they will not vote for Trump under any circumstances.

...Senator McSally has done herself so much damage defending him, she'll drag him down, rather than propping him up the way the GOP ticket did then.

Posted by orrinj at 5:06 PM


"I don't take responsibility at all": Trump continues downplaying coronavirus threat (German Lopez, Mar 13, 2020, Vox)

Asked about whether he takes any blame for the botched testing process, Trump said, "I don't take responsibility at all."

He's exactly the leader you'd expect his movement to produce.

Posted by orrinj at 9:12 AM


What Happened to Jordan Peterson?: A philosopher, a medical crisis, and a mystery (LINDSAY BEYERSTEIN, March 10, 2020, New Republic)

The Canadian psychology professor Jordan Peterson has been described as "the most influential public intellectual in the Western world." He is an exponent of the Jungian concept of the hero's journey, in which an ordinary person heeds a call to adventure and goes out into the world to struggle and suffer, only to return with heightened self-knowledge. (He has described himself, without apparent irony, as being "raised and toughened in the frigid wastelands of Northern Alberta.") His stern ethos of self-help and bootstrapping has made him a darling of the so-called intellectual dark web, and a gateway drug for countless budding right-wingers who have stumbled upon one of his lectures on YouTube.

So it was something of a surprise to learn, in early February, that Peterson had spent eight days in a medically induced coma at an unnamed clinic in Russia. Peterson's daughter Mikhaila, a 28-year-old food blogger, posted a brief but dramatic video claiming that she and her father had traveled to Russia in early January seeking an unorthodox treatment for his physical dependence on the drug clonazepam. Dependency goes against the core tenets of Peterson's philosophical brand: stoicism, self-reliance, the power of the will over circumstance and environment. "No one gets away with anything, ever, so take responsibility for your own life," he admonished in his bestselling self-help book 12 Rules for Life. 

According to Mikhaila, he nearly died several times during his medical ordeal. After weeks in intensive care, he was unable to speak or write and was taking anti-seizure medicine.

The news was met with bafflement by doctors and laypeople alike. What was Peterson doing in a drug-induced coma in Russia? Based on interviews with medical professionals and a close reading of various statements that Mikhaila and Peterson himself have made on podcasts and social media, it is clear that Peterson ended up in Russia after an extended battle to wean himself off clonazepam. And it seems likely that Peterson, a self-proclaimed man of science, succumbed to the lure of a quack treatment--with devastating consequences.  

Sola scriptura.

Posted by orrinj at 8:43 AM


Let's leave philosophers to puzzle over the reality of numbers: Numbers may be abstract concepts, but the figures in our bank accounts and the digits on our clocks are real enough for most of us (Michael Barany, 7 March 2020, The Spectator)

The reality (or lack thereof) of numbers is the kind of problem some philosophers consider overwhelmingly important, but it's of no consequence to just about everyone else. It does not make a wink of difference to your life whether the figures in your bank account or the digits on your clock are, in a philosophical sense, really real, so long as they work as expected. The mathematician Paolo Zellini's book, now translated by Simon Carnell and Erica Segre from the 2016 Italian original, does not exactly elevate the number-reality problem to a matter of concern to non-philosophers, and certainly does not explain the problem in a way that will make it tractable to them. But Zellini does offer a creative shift in perspective that challenges certain philosophers and philosophy-minded mathematicians to see the problem differently.

Where one might expect numbers to get their reality from the things they enumerate -- canonically, two apples come before the number two -- Zellini argues that this gets the story backward. Rather, the most philosophically significant examples of enumeration from ancient to modern times used numbers to give reality to the things they enumerated. He reaches this conclusion by setting to one side the bulk of historical enumeration and focusing on philosophical texts about divine and natural existence. Sure enough, in these texts numbers appear to be the source of reality, often by way of a divine agency or inspiration: hence the titular 'mathematics of the Gods'.

The book's second intervention, about the 'algorithms of men', connects 19th- and early 20th-century debates about how to define what numbers really are to subsequent developments in the theory of computing and computability. Zellini links the book's two themes by identifying a trans-historical through-line of interest in how numbers scale and grow through sacred and secular calculations. Such transformations structure questions about what exactly remains stable or immutable, as a basis of understanding what is real.

The reality of numbers, Zellini argues, comes not from their abstract definition but from what he calls their calculability. Seen this way, not all numbers are alike, nor are they equally real. Principles of algorithmic efficiency place hard limits on what can be calculated and with what precision. 

It's why the Anglosphere honors intelligence and scorns intellect. If your idea doesn't work it hasn't much value.

Posted by orrinj at 8:35 AM


The story behind "flatten the curve," the defining chart of the coronavirus: Clear. Approachable. Actionable. Perfect. (MARK WILSON, 3/13/20, Co.Exist)

 The idea is simple: Taking steps like washing your hands or staying home if you're sick can slow down new cases of illness, so that the finite resources of our healthcare system can handle a more steady flow of sick patients rather than a sudden deluge.

With roots that trace as far back as a 2007 paper published by the CDC, the core scheme of Flatten the Curve is an idea that's been repeatedly remixed by health experts to reach its final, clearest form, proposed by New Zealand epidemiologist Siouxsie Wiles and drawn by illustrator Toby Morris. It's a cartoon gif that appears to be a silly webcomic, but instead, it toggles between two potential futures for our healthcare system.

In the first, a man dismissively says "whatever, it's just like a cold or flu," and above him, we see a large spike in the number of coronavirus cases, peaking well above a dotted line conveying healthcare capacity. Then it toggles to another perspective, a woman washing her hands saying, "don't panic but be careful," and we see the number of cases smoothed to a long, low hill that doesn't overwhelm our hospital system.

Since first being shared on March 8, the gif has made 4.5 million impressions on Twitter and been shared across broadcast media. And after being translated into Czech, Italian, Spanish, and Welsh by volunteers, a coder developed an automated system to translate the comic into any language.

"This is my favorite dataviz about the coronavirus," Mauro Martino, founder of the Visual AI Lab at IBM research, tells us over email. "The message is altruistic: we must help sick people who need to be hospitalized."

"It's just this perfect [example of] what you want with design. You want something that's so engaging that people can really get the concept," says Wiles of the image. But she's also the first to clarify, "I guess I can take almost no credit."

Posted by orrinj at 8:32 AM


Data Sharing and Open Source Software Help Combat Covid-19: Scientists are rapidly analyzing genetic samples from infected patients and sharing the data. But to move too fast is to risk making mistakes. (Klint Finley, 3/12/20, Wired)

On February 27, a teenager in the Seattle area was diagnosed with Covid-19. Shortly after, researchers at the Seattle Flu Study shared genomic data about his strain of the virus with other researchers on an "open science" site. Armed with that data, researchers involved with a second open science project determined that the teenager's strain was a direct descendent of a strain of Covid-19 found in an unrelated patient in the Seattle area on January 20. The discovery was a key link in concluding that the virus had been spreading in the Seattle area for weeks.

The way researchers connected those dots highlights the role of open science projects in tracking the evolution of Covid-19 and other diseases. Sharing data and working collaboratively across the web, scientists are quickly analyzing genetic samples, helping to shape the public response. But the rush to interpret the data also creates new risks.

Viruses like Covid-19 spread by making copies of themselves. Each time they replicate, there's a chance that an error will be made, making the latest copy slightly different from the previous one. Emma Hodcroft, a postdoctoral quantitative genetics researcher at the University of Basel in Switzerland, likens these errors, known as mutations, to typos in the virus's DNA.

Most of these mutations are trivial, and don't change how the virus affects the body. But scientists can use mutations to track the spread of a virus. If two people in different places are infected with a version of the virus with particular mutations, it's a safe bet those two cases are related, even if the two people never met each other.

In the case of the Seattle area teenager, genetic data about his strain of Covid-19 was uploaded to Gisaid, a platform for sharing genomic data. Then researchers at Nextstrain made the connection with the earlier patient.

Nextstrain is an open source application that tracks the evolution of viruses and bacteria, including Covid-19, Ebola, and lesser-known outbreaks such as Enterovirus D68 using data sourced largely from Gisaid. Hodcroft and other researchers involved with the project analyze the data shared on Gisaid for mutations and visualize the results. That's how the team was able to spot the connection between the two Covid-19 cases in Washington.

Open source everything.

Posted by orrinj at 8:26 AM


Trump reportedly rejected aggressive coronavirus testing in hopes it would help his re-election (The Week, 3/13/20)

There are a lot of reasons why the U.S. lags other countries in testing for the new coronavirus -- defective early tests by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the decision not to adopt an effective German test adopted by the World Health Organization -- but Politico's Dan Diamond told Fresh Air's Terry Gross on Thursday that politics also seems to have played a role, along with mismanagement and infighting between, for example, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Seema Verma, the Medicare chief.

In January, Azar "did push past resistance from the president's political aides to warn the president the new coronavirus could be a major problem," Diamond said, but he "has not always given the president the worst-case scenario of what could happen. My understanding is [Trump] did not push to do aggressive additional testing in recent weeks, and that's partly because more testing might have led to more cases being discovered of coronavirus outbreak, and the president had made clear -- the lower the numbers on coronavirus, the better for the president, the better for his potential re-election this fall."

Posted by orrinj at 8:22 AM


Why Trump fears Biden (Windsor Mann, March 13, 2020, The Week)

President Trump is as scared of running against Joe Biden as he is of running. The question is, why? One reason he fears Biden is because Biden is like him. He's old, gets confused, mispronounces words, forgets things, and makes gaffes. But attacking him for these things invites the obvious response: "He sounds a lot like you!"

Indeed, Trump can't attack Biden without attacking himself. Biden's weaknesses magnify Trump's, which are far worse. There's nothing that Biden does that Trump doesn't do worse. Biden has been touchy with women; Trump has been criminal with women. Biden has hair plugs; Trump has something worse. Biden said Barack Obama was "articulate." Trump said Obama was Kenyan.

Trump hasn't addressed any of these yet. Instead, he is focusing on Biden's mental acuity. "Sleepy Joe," Trump said last week, "he doesn't even know where he is or what he's doing or what office he's running for. Honestly, I don't think he knows what office he's running for."

In typical narcissistic fashion, Trump is projecting his flaws onto his opponent. He did this in 2016 when he attacked Hillary Clinton for running a fraudulent charity and risking state secrets. When Clinton said Trump was Vladimir Putin's "puppet" in a debate, Trump shot back, "You're the puppet!" Which was unconvincing. By parroting Clinton's accusation, he effectively confirmed it. Trump's team learned a valuable lesson from that: Always accuse your opponent of that which you are guilty -- and do it before he or she accuses you. With Biden, Trump is shouting "You're the puppet!" preemptively.

The problem is, Americans were predisposed to think the worst of Hillary, but like Uncle Joe.

Posted by orrinj at 8:09 AM



The latest survey from Yahoo! News and YouGov found that 53 percent of polled U.S. adults did not have faith in the president to tell the truth about the threat of the new coronavirus, while a third of those polled said they trusted the commander-in-chief.

A further 14 percent of the 1,635 U.S. adults polled said they were "not sure" whether they trusted Trump on the matter.

Half of the rest are buying cures from Alex Jones.

Posted by orrinj at 7:56 AM


Dartmouth College tells students to stay away (NORA DOYLE-BURR, 3/12/20, Valley News)

HANOVER -- In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Dartmouth College is telling its 4,400 undergraduates not to return to campus housing until at least May 1 and to plan for the possibility that they may not return to campus at all during the spring term. Students instead are expected to take courses remotely.

The directive came as the college's winter term is ending and students are leaving for a two-week spring break. Many colleges and universities around the country announced they are clearing out campuses to slow the spread of COVID-19, the respiratory disease first identified late last year in Wuhan, China.

Faculty and staff, including union employees, "will be paid as usual," according to the email. Additionally, graduate students will continue to receive stipends and are not required to leave campus, and there will be some exceptions for undergraduate students to remain on campus for "medical, visa status, and other reasons."

Suddenly, the cost of a college degree is plummeting...

March 12, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 7:03 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:53 PM


Trump Considers Vetoing FISA Reauthorization Bill at Behest of Mike Lee, Rand Paul (TOBIAS HOONHOUT, March 12, 2020, National Review)

President Donald Trump greets supporters in Des Moines, Iowa, January 30, 2020. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
President Trump suggested Thursday that he could veto a reauthorization of FISA's expiring surveillance powers, tweeting that "many Republican Senators want me to veto the FISA Bill." [...]

[T]he bill has drawn criticism from FISA hawks on both sides of the aisle, with House Republicans who support more stringent reforms telling National Review that their coalition of conservatives and progressives who wanted to substantively change FISA were rebuffed by leadership.

Senators Mike Lee (R., Utah) and Rand Paul (R., Ky.) share critical views of FISA's civil liberties abuses, and both publicly condemned the House's bill.

"I'm going to use every option at my disposal to stop the House bill and to offer up amendments," Lee told Politico. "I have given no one any reason to believe that I would be unwilling to let the clock run out." He added that he had told Trump "publicly and privately" To veto the bill.

Paul told reporters that the current bill "with no amendments is completely unacceptable and an affront to any of those who were ever concerned about FISA abuse."

The entire FISA regime should be removed---our intelligence services ought not have to seek a court's permission to spy on foreign communications, which, by definition, are not constitutionally protected.

Posted by orrinj at 6:21 PM


Trump's Coronavirus Speech Sparks 'Total Chaos' in His Own Administration (Asawin Suebsaeng & Erin Banco, Mar. 12, 2020, Daily Beast)

Two officials in the U.S. State Department told The Daily Beast that foreign service officers and diplomats were unprepared for the president's announcement and spent the early hours of Thursday scrambling to figure out how their work and travel would be impacted in the short term. 

"It is just total chaos," said one official currently abroad, adding that they did not know if they would have to return to the U.S. immediately or if they would need to quarantine for two weeks upon arriving. Diplomats and other U.S. staff overseas did not know if they'd be able to even visit their families back in the States, and frantically searched for answers that weren't immediately available from Foggy Bottom or the West Wing.

In his Oval Office address Wednesday night, President Trump announced that he was banning travel from Europe to the U.S. but did not specify the details of how that plan would be rolled out and if Americans could still travel to the region. He also did not give European officials a heads up, saying the situation required him to move with haste.

The result was confusion. Another U.S. official said they received calls from their European counterparts asking for clarification on exactly what the president was restricting in regard to travel to and from European countries. As of Thursday night, U.S. officials abroad said they were still unclear exactly how Trump's proclamation would be implemented in real-time. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had not updated embassies with any guidance or notes on preventative measures.

"I'm used to it with this administration that we wouldn't know anything until the morning after," another U.S. official said. "But now basically a full work day later? That's surprising even for these times."

That lack of clarity extended to within the walls of the White House.

Posted by orrinj at 6:10 PM


The US stock market has now wiped out the entire $11.5 trillion of value it gained since Trump's 2016 election victory (Ben Winck, Mar. 12, 2020, Business Insider)

US stocks are down more than 8% Thursday afternoon as coronavirus risks build and investors fear near-term recession. The total market cap of the US equities market, as measured by the Russell 3000 index, has declined by $11.5 trillion from its February 19 peak to $23.8 trillion as of Thursday morning.

The current market cap is roughly equal to the size of the stock market when Donald Trump emerged victorious in the 2016 election. The Trump administration repeatedly downplayed the virus and its risks when outsized stock selling began in late February, with top economic adviser Larry Kudlow even saying the outbreak was contained on February 25.

When President Biden is sworn in, it will be like Donald never existed.  And we'll welcome his victims back to the fold.

Posted by orrinj at 6:00 PM



Experts generally agree that the key swing states to focus on this year are Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin--all of which were won by Trump in 2016.

"Those will be the six most critical states," Paul Maslin, a longtime Democratic pollster who worked on the presidential campaigns of Jimmy Carter and Howard Dean, told Newsweek.

"There will be others that'll be important in varying degrees," he said, "but those will be ones we'll ultimately look back on and say, 'How many of them did Democrats win back and were they able to win enough to win the presidency?'"

Billionaire Michael Bloomberg is making those areas a centerpiece of his revised 2020 agenda for Democrats. The former New York City mayor abandoned his own White House run this week after a disastrous Super Tuesday performance and endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden. He's now using his wealth and resources to boost the Democratic nominee in the general election.

Bloomberg's soon-to-be-formed super PAC will focus on advertising in those six critical swing states. Staff in each of those areas have signed contracts to work on the election effort through November, The Washington Post reported last week.

America's Mayor.

Posted by orrinj at 5:54 PM


HOW TRUMP MADE AMERICA FAR LESS PREPARED FOR CORONAVIRUS: After ignoring warnings and ousting experts, the national security apparatus is now scrambling to address the pandemic. (ERIC LUTZ, MARCH 12, 2020, Vanity Fair)

After slashing federal pandemic response teams and kneecapping other public health initiatives throughout his first term, he failed to prioritize the potential for outbreak, declining to devote adequate resources to the looming threat. Now, as the DNI's grim forecast last year proves correct, the United States' national security apparatus is scrambling both to address a growing crisis in the country--and, potentially, within its ranks.

America's national security and defense agencies are grappling with how to combat the virus quickly spreading across the globe--and the country--while simultaneously keeping their own staffs safe. But, critics and observers told Politico Thursday, actions by the Trump administration, like the 2018 ouster of Tim Ziemer, the White House's top pandemic response expert, could make an effective response more challenging. "[Staff shakeups] have had a profound ripple effect, the consequences of which we are seeing play out now, I think," Ned Price, who served in the CIA and on the National Security Council under Barack Obama during the 2014 Ebola outbreak, told the outlet.

As Politico pointed out, Ziemer, who was not replaced; Luciana Borio, the National Security Council's director for medical and biodefense preparedness; and Tom Bossert, the former Homeland Security adviser who oversaw a since-disbanded global health security team, all were ousted in 2018, shortly after John Bolton joined the Trump White House. According to Price, that leaves the current administration with fewer tools than its predecessors to combat public health threats. "There are directorates that can pick up the slack," Price said. "But you don't have the same level of expertise of people who have lived through Ebola, H1N1, and other disease responses."

"It would be nice if that office was still there," Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a leading voice in the U.S. on the coronavirus threat, said on Capitol Hill Wednesday of the global health security directorate the Trump administration disbanded.

Posted by orrinj at 3:49 PM


Joe Biden already sounds as if he's the president (Jennifer Rubin, March 12, 2020, Washington Post)

Speaking from Wilmington, Del., without an audience, former vice president Joe Biden demonstrated what a president should sound like and do in the midst of a pandemic. He was calm, forceful and direct. He had a detailed plan to offer. And most of all, he showed compassion for those afflicted -- something President Trump seems incapable of doing -- and made clear we are all in this together. "It will infect Republicans, independents and Democrats alike," Biden said. "It will touch people in positions in power, as well as the most vulnerable in our society." He added, "The coronavirus does not discriminate based on national origin, race, gender, or Zip code."

The contrast with Trump's inept performance Wednesday night was breathtaking. Biden rebuked Trump for xenophobia and blame-casting. "Neither should we panic or fall back on xenophobia," he said. "Labeling covid-19 a 'foreign virus' does not displace accountability for the misjudgments that have been taken thus far by the Trump administration. Let me be crystal clear: The coronavirus does not have a political affiliation."

He made clear that the White House had dropped the ball, pointing to its failure to test Americans on a massive scale. "The administration's failure on testing is colossal, and it's a failure of planning, leadership and execution," Biden said. "By next week, the number of tests should be in the millions, not the thousands."

Most important, he laid out a detailed plan both in his speech and in writing, displaying a mastery of the topic and of government light-years beyond anything the White House has devised.

Posted by orrinj at 3:12 PM


Trump's Botched Coronavirus Speech (DANIEL LARISON, 3/12/20, American Conservative)

The president's speech on the outbreak last night went over like a lead balloon. The new 30-day ban on travel from some parts of Europe took our allies completely by surprise, because they had not been consulted about it at all:

European officials strongly condemned President Trump's decision to severely restrict travel from Europe to the United States on Thursday, a sudden move that took them by surprise and that many saw as politically motivated.

Of all the slights between Washington and Europe in recent years, the new travel restrictions represented a blow an order of magnitude beyond previous disputes. In a short statement on Thursday morning rare in its directness, the European Union expressed only exasperation.

It is not the most urgent problem right now, but once the outbreak is over our allies are going to remember how our government treated them in the middle of a pandemic. Instead of the solidarity and cooperation that one would expect between allies, they get a gratuitous travel ban.

Trump also botched his explanation of the details of his own policy, which created panic among Americans still in Europe who thought that they might be cut off from coming home. That isn't the case, but that didn't stop a run on last-minute airline tickets because Americans thought that they had just a couple days to get out [...]

Markets also tanked because the president initially said that the ban would also apply to goods as well as people... the assertion that he's not senile, which just takes away an excuse.

Posted by orrinj at 12:52 PM


Pence attempts damage control after Trump's address but makes things worse (Dan Desai Martin, March 12, 2020, American Independent)

Trump declared that cargo from Europe would be prohibited from entering the United States, but hours later he tweeted that trade would not be impacted.

Trump also said that he would suspend "all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days." Afterward, the administration had to clarify that the restrictions did not apply to U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents.

The administration also had to correct Trump to state that new travel restrictions only apply to parts of Europe rather than all of it. Though none of the travel restrictions are directed at countries where Trump owns hotel properties.

Pence also discussed coronavirus testing availability in the United States, struggling to provide accurate information.

He was asked about numbers released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing a decline in coronavirus testing over the past week, from more than 1,200 tests administered on March 5 to only eight tests administered on March 10.

"Why are the number of tests going down?" Pence was asked.

"Well, I don't believe are," Pence replied.

Pence then said that labs in every state are able to conduct coronavirus testing, but did not repeat Trump's promise that anyone who wanted to be tested could be tested.

Instead, Pence touted the ability of private companies to produce more tests at some point in the near future.

"Ultimately, it's going to be the commercial laboratories that have the capacity to get tests all over the country, and we're making steady progress," Pence said.

When pushed about the testing numbers released by CDC, Pence equivocated.

"I'm not saying they're wrong," he said, but the numbers "may not be complete, because we don't necessarily collect today all the information from state laboratories about tests that are being done."

When asked yet again how many tests have been administered across the country, Pence replied, "Well, I would leave that to the experts."

Pence was not clear as to which experts he was referring.

Posted by orrinj at 12:41 PM


Four Eyes or Six? (William Malcolmson, 12 March, 2020, The Critic)

Texas GOP Senator Ted Cruz recently questioned the UK's future role in the 'Five Eyes' intelligence sharing partnership in the light of the British Government's decision to continue allowing the Chinese company Huawei access to its 5G network. He joined Donald Trump in criticising the decision and ominously remarked that 'four eyes are better than six eyes', at least, if that extra eye is looking in the wrong direction.

The US extracted a top spy from Russia after Trump revealed classified information (Sonam Sheth, Sep 10, 2019, Business Insider)

The US decided to extract a top-secret source from Russia after President Donald Trump revealed classified information to two Russian officials in 2017, CNN reported on Monday.

A person directly involved with the discussions told the outlet the US was concerned that Trump and his administration routinely mishandled classified intelligence and that their actions could expose the covert source as a spy within the Russian government.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Besieged Trump announces Europe travel ban in effort to stem coronavirus pandemic (Philip Rucker and Anne Gearan, March 11, 2020, Washington Post)

For the 11 minutes he addressed the nation Wednesday, Trump turned in a laboring performance -- one intended to project calm competence that instead seemed to reveal uncertainty. Seated behind the Resolute Desk, the president struggled at moments to read the words on the teleprompter. He clasped his hands and twiddled his thumbs. He spoke with a curious affect, his voice sounding raspy and his delivery lacking the passion typically evident in his speeches. [...]

The stately Oval Office setting underscored the gravity of the crisis, but Trump's demeanor made clear how hemmed in he has become. For weeks now, Trump's handling of the growing crisis has invited intensifying criticism. He has contradicted the public health experts in his own government, spread misinformation, accused the media of overhyping the threat of the virus to hurt his presidency, sought to lay blame on Democrats and the Chinese, and erupted in private meetings with advisers.

The coronavirus is testing Trump's governing philosophy that gut instinct is better than traditional expertise, that preparation and careful study is no match for impulse and luck. And the outcome is threatening his chief claim for a second term: a booming economy.

Trump's latest attempt to calm markets only makes stocks fall more (Emily Singer, March 12, 2020, American Independent)

Donald Trump attempted to mitigate investors' fears about the novel coronavirus and stop the stock market slide with an address to the nation Wednesday night.

However, following the address -- in which he announced a travel ban for most of Europe, getting facts about his own administration's policy wrong in the process -- the market slide more.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average opened down 1,696 points -- erasing another 7% from the market, according to trading data. It triggered yet another automatic stop to trading for the second time in two weeks.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


US chides Likud campaign for 'promoting hatred' against Arab Israelis (RAPHAEL AHREN , 3/12/20, Times of Israel)

The US State Department on Wednesday criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party for "promoting hatred" against Arab Israelis in the two 2019 Knesset election campaigns.

"During the April and September national election campaigns, the Likud Party deployed messages promoting hatred against Arab citizens," the department's annual human rights report says.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM



Dr. Anthony Fauci, a leading health expert and member of President Donald Trump's coronavirus task force, predicted three years ago that the administration would have to deal with a surprise disease outbreak.

The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) told a Georgetown University event on pandemic preparedness in January 2017 that there was "no doubt" President Trump's team would face "challenges that their predecessors were faced with" over infectious diseases.

He also called for the creation of a "public health emergency fund" aimed at handling situations such as a surprise virus outbreak, adding that waits for funding had been "painful" in the past.

Delivering a keynote speech at the Georgetown University Medical Center event, Dr. Fauci said: "If there's one message that I want to leave with you today... is that there is no question that there will be a challenge to the coming administration in the arena of infectious diseases.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Democrats smell blood in Texas after sky-high primary turnout (ALLY MUTNICK, 03/12/2020, Politico)

Staggeringly high Democratic turnout in the Texas suburbs last week has the party bullish about capturing a half-dozen seats that slipped through its grasp in the 2018 midterms.

Democratic primaries in six GOP-held districts saw a roughly 100 percent increase in voters compared to 2016, according to a POLITICO analysis of turnout data. The spike indicates that a lethal recipe might be brewing for Republicans in the run-up to November: President Donald Trump's unpopularity in the suburbs, combined with rapid demographic change and an amped-up Democratic base.

The loss of TX is how Nativism ends.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Florida poll shows Biden with staggering 44-point lead over Sanders (GARY FINEOUT, 03/12/2020, Politico)

Biden is lapping Sanders in voter support, with support from 66 percent of likely Democratic primary voters to 22 percent for Sanders, according to a University of North Florida poll taken March 5-10.

Fun watching the Left/Right decompensate as they realize that the relative success of Bernie/Donald was just a function of no one liking Hillary.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump's Authoritarian Blindness Comes Home to RoostCOVID-19 is revealing one of Trump's biggest weaknesses. (ROBERT TRACINSKI  MARCH 12, 2020, The Bulwark)

What is "authoritarian blindness"? It's a term for the well-documented tendency of an authoritarian state to be unaware of what is happening in the world around it and unable to respond appropriately. The paradox of authoritarian regimes is that the more efficient and all-pervasive the surveillance state, the less it knows about what is going on. The regime becomes blinded because people are afraid to tell the truth.

A fascinating article by Zeynep Tufekci described how this phenomenon was a factor in the Chinese government's initial response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Because an authoritarian system is designed to suppress information, rather than absorb it, the doctors on the front lines who initially warned about the disease were ignored and sometimes punished: "If people are too afraid to talk, and if punishing people for 'rumors' becomes the norm, a doctor punished for spreading news of a disease in one province becomes just another day, rather than an indication of impending crisis."

Tufekci provides a great analogy:

An Orwellian surveillance-based system would be overwhelming and repressive, as it is now in China, but it would also be similar to losing sensation in parts of one's body due to nerve injuries. Without the pain to warn the brain, the hand stays on the hot stove, unaware of the damage to the flesh until it's too late.

You can begin to see how this might apply to the Trump administration. No, we do not live under an authoritarian system, and there is no well-developed surveillance state or regime of censorship in America. But Donald Trump has developed and promoted two key concepts that produce much the same effect as authoritarian blindness: "fake news" and the "deep state."

The point of the "fake news" concept is to describe information from any media not obsequiously friendly to the president as some kind of conspiracy intended to hurt him. Veteran reporter Lesley Stahl says Trump told her he uses the term "to discredit you all and demean you all so that when you write negative stories about me no one will believe you."

The point of the "deep state" concept is to describe information coming to the president from within the federal bureaucracy as a partisan conspiracy to overthrow him by means of a "coup." (That's the president's word, not mine.) Thus, some of Trump's prominent supporters dismissed a warning from a CDC official by spinning a conspiracy theory connecting her to the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The practical effect of these two concepts is that they create a voluntarily accepted, self-induced authoritarian blindness, in which the administration and its circle of sycophants will accept no information from outside their bubble.

You can already see this blindness manifesting itself in the administration's muddled messages about COVID-19. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The White House scrambles to clarify key details from Trump's speech announcing his coronavirus response (Grace Panetta, 3/11/20, Business Insider)

Minutes after President Donald Trump delivered a major address on the administration's response to the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, his own administration and other US officials publicly contradicted three important claims from his speech. 

It's not like a guy his age even knows what he's saying.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Coronavirus: Greta Thunberg urges climate protesters to avoid large gatherings (The Local, 12 March 2020)

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, who has mobilised millions of young people across the globe, asked fellow campaigners to avoid mass protests in a bid to help halt the spread of the coronavirus.

She said her "Fridays for Future" movement would organise online strikes instead.

The Swedish activist warned her followers it was vital they listened to the advice of health experts who have advised people to avoid large public gatherings to slow down the spread of the virus which has infected more than 125,000 people worldwide.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump's travel ban sidesteps his own European resorts (RYAN HEATH, 03/12/2020, Politico)

President Donald Trump's new European travel restrictions have a convenient side effect: They exempt nations where three Trump-owned golf resorts are located.

Trump's coronavirus speech was laced with xenophobia (Laura McGann, Mar 11, 2020, Vox)

Seated behind his desk in the White House Wednesday, Trump looked into the camera and warned Americans of an enemy who has infiltrated our borders. We are at war, he said, with a "foreign virus." [...]

Trump rode into office on a message of division, of fear and hate and xenophobia. He announced his campaign in 2015 by smearing Mexicans. Even his inaugural address was laced with dark notes. "From this day forward," he said during his address, "it's going to be only America first." Xenophobia isn't a bug in the system for him; it's a feature.

Throughout his time in office, again and again, he's rallied his supporters through fear of outsiders -- whether it was fear of travelers from Muslim-majority countries or asylum seekers at the US-Mexico border. He's portrayed foreigners as filthy and derided others' homelands as "s[***]hole countries."

Now, faced with explaining his government's response to an outbreak that's getting worse, he's relying on the same tropes.

On Wednesday night, when he should have been calling on Americans to come together, he attempted to make us afraid of all of Europe. "To keep new cases from entering our shores, we will be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days," Trump said (excluding the UK for some reason).

This isn't the first time in history a leader has stoked fears among the public by linking outsiders to germs, of course. It's been part of many dark chapters in world history. Researchers have documented the repeated, often unfounded fears of connections between germs and immigrants throughout the 20th century. In a moment of crisis, it's particularly jarring and dangerous.

March 11, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 5:46 PM


Trump fears emergency declaration would contradict coronavirus message (ANITA KUMAR, 03/11/2020, pOLITICO)

President Donald Trump is reluctant to declare an expansive emergency to combat the escalating coronavirus outbreak, fearful of stoking panic with such a dramatic step, according to three people familiar with the situation. [...]

"The president isn't persuaded because [an emergency declaration] contradicts his message that this is the flu," said a Republican who speaks to Trump.

Posted by orrinj at 5:42 PM


Could Canada be 'flattening the curve' of coronavirus cases?  (Scott Gilmore, March 11, 2020, Macleans)

If we follow Japan's path, then we may succeed at "flattening the curve," which means while we won't necessarily reduce the total number of Canadians who are ultimately infected, we do slow down the rate of infection and spread those cases out over a longer period of time. This would prevent our hospitals being overwhelmed if everyone got sick almost at once.

But, we could also be following the United States' trajectory, which stayed flat for several weeks before shooting straight up over the last couple of days. It is quite possible, however, this is due to their apparently bungled roll out of testing.

In spite of promises by the Trump Administration that a million test kits would be shipped over the weekend, according to CDC data only about 8,500 tests have been conducted so far. That works out to approximately 26 tests per million people.

By comparison, Canada has already reached 220 tests per million people.

Posted by orrinj at 3:57 PM


Anthony Fauci undercuts Trump on the flu and other coronavirus assertions (Aaron Blake, March 11, 2020, Washington Post)

While Trump has throughout the coronavirus outbreak sought to minimize it by comparing it to the seasonal flu, Fauci noted the novel coronavirus is significantly more lethal.

"I mean, people always say, well, the flu does this, the flu does that," Fauci said. "The flu has a mortality of 0.1 percent. This has a mortality rate of 10 times that. That's the reason I want to emphasize we have to stay ahead of the game in preventing this." [,...]

Fauci was asked specifically about Trump's hopeful statements that a vaccine could be ready in a matter of months. Though Fauci has repeatedly corrected the president by saying the real timetable is a year to 18 months, he was more direct Wednesday. "No," he said when asked about whether Trump's ideal timetable was feasible. "I made myself very clear in my opening statement."

Another member asked him about Trump's decision in 2018 to disband the White House's global health security team and put its duties under the control of the national security adviser.

"I wouldn't necessarily characterize it as a mistake," Fauci said diplomatically. But then he added, "I would say we worked very well with that office. It would be nice if the office was still there."

One of the most significant tonal departures from Trump for Fauci, though, came on the question of whether the United States should be canceling large gatherings. As events nationwide have been canceled, Trump said he would press forward with holding rallies and said having people assemble in large crowds "doesn't bother me at all, and it doesn't bother them at all." As noted in the tweet above, he also suggested on Monday that perhaps the economy needs us to pursue something amounting to business as usual.

Fauci, though, suggested events such as NBA games should not take place in packed arenas.

"We would recommend that there not be large crowds," Fauci said. "If that means not having any people in the audience when the NBA plays, so be it. But as a public health official, anything that has large crowds is something that would [cause] a risk to spread."

Posted by orrinj at 3:54 PM


Trump's Company Paid Bribes to Reduce Property Taxes, Assessors Say (Heather Vogell, ProPublica and Katherine Sullivan, WNYC March 11, 2002)

The Trump Organization paid bribes, through middlemen, to New York City tax assessors to lower its property tax bills for several Manhattan buildings in the 1980s and 1990s, according to five former tax assessors and city employees as well as a former Trump Organization employee.

Two of the five city employees said they personally took bribes to lower the assessment on a Trump property; the other three said they had indirect knowledge of the payments.

The city employees were among 18 indicted in 2002 for taking bribes in exchange for lowering the valuations of properties, which in turn reduced the taxes owed for the buildings. All of the 18 eventually pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Manhattan except for one, who died before his case was resolved.

Posted by orrinj at 1:01 PM


Exclusive: White House told federal health agency to classify coronavirus deliberations - sources (Aram Roston, Marisa Taylor, 3/11/20, Reuters)

The White House has ordered federal health officials to treat top-level coronavirus meetings as classified, an unusual step that has restricted information and hampered the U.S. government's response to the contagion, according to four Trump administration officials. [...]

The sources said the National Security Council (NSC), which advises the president on security issues, ordered the classification."This came directly from the White House," one official said.

The White House insistence on secrecy at the nation's premier public health organization, which has not been previously disclosed, has put a lid on certain information - and potentially delayed the response to the crisis. 

Trump is ignoring the lessons of 1918 flu pandemic that killed millions, historian says ( Gillian Brockell, Feb. 29, 2020, Washington Post)

The first wave wasn't that bad. In the spring of 1918, a new strain of influenza hit military camps in Europe on both sides of World War I. Soldiers were affected, but not nearly as severely as they would be later.

Even so, Britain, France, Germany and other European governments kept it secret. They didn't want to hand the other side a potential advantage.

Spain, on the other hand, was a neutral country in the war. When the disease hit there, the government and newspapers reported it accurately. Even the king got sick.

So months later, when a bigger, deadlier wave swept across the globe, it seemed like it had started in Spain, even though it hadn't. Simply because the Spanish told the truth, the virus was dubbed the "Spanish flu."

Now, as fears about the coronavirus spread, at least one historian is worried the Trump administration is failing to heed the lesson of one of the world's worst pandemics: Don't hide the truth.

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"They [the Trump administration] are clearly trying to put the best possible gloss on things, and are trying to control information," said John M. Barry, author of "The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History," in a phone interview with The Washington Post.

When the second wave of Spanish flu hit globally, "there was outright censorship" in Europe, Barry said. "In the United States, they didn't quite do that, but there was intense pressure not to say anything negative." [...]

For the most part, the media followed the government's lead and self-censored dire news. That made everything worse, Barry said.

For example, in Philadelphia, local officials were planning the largest parade in the city's history. Just before the scheduled event, about 300 returning soldiers started spreading the virus in the city.

"And basically every doctor, they were telling reporters the parade shouldn't happen. The reporters were writing the stories; editors were killing them," he said. "The Philadelphia papers wouldn't print anything about it."

Posted by orrinj at 12:57 PM


How has Taiwan kept its coronavirus infection rate so low? (Deutsche-Welle, 3/10/20)

Dr. Jason Wang, a public health policy expert at Stanford University in the US, said that Taiwan recognized the potential scale of the crisis early, and was able to stay ahead of the outbreak. [...]

Wang said that the introduction of public health laws gave the Taiwanese government additional power to allocate resources.

"The Taiwanese government integrated data from national health insurance with immigration and customs data," Wang said. "This has allowed frontline medical personnel to identify suspected patients after examining their travel histories."

The Taiwanese government also developed a program that has allowed people to report travel histories and symptoms of illness by scanning a QR code when they arrive in Taiwan.

Travelers then receive a text message with their health status, allowing customs officers to skip low risk passengers and focus on passengers with a high COVID-19 infection risk.

"There are a lot of things that the Taiwanese government was able to do with new technology, and these practices allow them to triage people properly and follow up with appropriate care," Wang said.

The public's willingness to follow government regulations has also helped Taiwanese officials respond to the coronavirus outbreak.

"Most Taiwanese experienced hardship and interruption during the SARS epidemic, so the memory is still fresh. It helps to foster a sense of community," said Dr. Chunhuei Chi, a public health professor at the Oregon State University in the US.

"They know that they are in this together and that makes them willing to comply with the measures rolled out by the government."

Posted by orrinj at 12:50 PM


Trump shifts 2020 playbook to Biden, says he's like Sanders. Will it work? (FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, MARCH 11, 2020, News & Observer)

President Donald Trump and his campaign are rewriting their election-year playbook to shift focus to Joe Biden with tactics that seek to portray the former vice president as a carbon copy of Bernie Sanders.

Now that Biden is leading in Democratic delegates, the Trump campaign plans to move forward with what it has threatened for months -- to characterize any Democratic opponent in the presidential race as far-left, regardless of the candidate's policy proposals.

What about Hillary's emails?

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Sanders's secret is out: He has no movement (Jennifer Rubin, March 11, 2020, Washington Post)

For months -- for years, really -- the media have reported that the Democratic Party has gone far left. They have treated social media as a barometer of the party's political attitudes and characterized center-left candidates as out of touch with their own party. They have done so despite the triumph of moderate Democratic House candidates in 2018; despite the failure of left-wing Democrats to flip a single House seat; despite the polls showing a substantial percentage of Democrats consider themselves moderate or somewhat liberal; and despite the failure of super-progressive presidential candidates to attract the most critical element in the Democratic Party (African Americans).

With this faulty premise, the media's coverage has been at times wildly off-kilter. It was easy for anyone caring to look closely to see that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) did not "win" a single debate, because his ranting and raving merely reinforced the fervor of his own cult while turning off the rest of the party. The media have been obsessed with the "likability" of female candidates, never considering that Sanders's angry and rude demeanor would turn off women, who make up more than half of the Democratic electorate. A simple question -- "Who is he gaining by all this yelling?" -- should have been front and center in the media's coverage. His "movement" was assumed but never examined carefully.

In short, the media have been conned by the left, by the far-left interest groups and social media bullies, by Sanders's results in 2016 (now properly seen as much as an anti-Hillary Clinton vote as a pro-Sanders vote) and by the never-fulfilled promise that he was building a multiracial, young movement.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Michigan Romp Shows Biden Could Rebuild Democrats' 'Blue Wall' vs. TrumpA broad, convincing win should make Republicans nervous about November. (Tim Alberta, 3/11/20, Politico)

Maybe you've never heard of Livingston County, Michigan. It's not Oakland County, the vote-rich behemoth located next door; nor is it Macomb County, the much-mythologized home of the culturally conservative "Reagan Democrats" who began defecting to the Republican Party decades ago. It's a lot less populated, and a little too far from Detroit, to attract much notice from journalists and pundits. And yet, as the returns rolled in Tuesday night from Michigan's primary, it was Livingston that told the most compelling story. Not for what it said about Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden, but for what it said about Donald Trump.

Four years ago, Livingston was a safe haven for Republicans. Voters there--white, educated, upper-class commuters who head east to Detroit, south to Ann Arbor and west to Lansing--gave no hint of a coming realignment. The county's congressional seat, property of the GOP for 15 years, was locked down. Its political culture, anchored by a love of God, guns and tax cuts, seemed uncrackable. When the presidential primaries were held, the Republican contest attracted nearly three times more voters than the Democratic counterpart. Trump carried the county by 30 points against Hillary Clinton in November 2016, arguably his most impressive pound-for-pound showing in the state.

Today, Republicans are looking over their shoulders in Livingston County--and for good reason. They're not worried Trump is going to lose there; they're not worried about a wholesale change in the area's political DNA. They're worried about the only thing that matters in Michigan: margins. The reason Livingston is now represented by a Democrat in Congress is because Elissa Slotkin, the freshman Democrat, only lost the county by 19 points, limiting the damage in a way that allowed her to eke out an upset win with strong performances elsewhere in the 8th District.

There was a temptation for Republicans to dismiss Slotkin's victory as an outlier, to not sweat a 30-point margin slipping to a 19-point margin. But there can no longer be any doubt about the trajectory of Livingston County and the trouble it poses for the GOP: In Tuesday's Democratic primary, there were 27,458 votes cast in the county--compared to 17,591 four years ago. For Democratic turnout to jump 56 percent in any affluent, well-educated suburb is incredible; for it to happen in a deeply, fundamentally conservative place like Livingston County is astounding. Some people might think a difference of some 10,000 votes is no big deal. But in a state that was decided by some 10,000 votes, it's a very big deal.

Biden had a spectacular showing on Tuesday, winning every single county in Michigan and blowing Sanders out in three other states that voted, essentially sealing the nomination by leaving his lone rival no plausible path forward. But the big takeaway from the day's big prize, Michigan, isn't that Biden is a spectacular candidate. The big takeaway is that he doesn't need to be.

Two things happened on Tuesday in Michigan. First, Democratic turnout exploded. Second, Biden performed far better with key demographic groups than Clinton did four years ago. If either one of those things happen in November, Trump will have a difficult time winning the state again. If both things happen, the president can kiss Michigan's 16 electoral votes goodbye--and with them, more than likely, the electoral votes of Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

There goes the White House.

That's why your Trumpie friends are hysterical about Uncle Joe.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Bernie's Whole Campaign Was Based On a Misreading of the 2016 Election (Jonathan Chait, 3/11/20, New York)

The second Sanders campaign has shown conclusively how badly the left misunderstood the electorate. It is not just that Sanders has failed to inspire anything like the upsurge in youth turnout he promised, or that he has failed to make meaningful headway with black voters. White working-class and rural voters have swung heavily against him. In Missouri and Michigan, those voters turned states he closely contested four years ago into routs for his opponent. Some rural counties have swung 30 points from Sanders 2016 to Biden 2020. The candidate in the race who has forged a transracial working-class coalition is, in fact, Joe Biden.

The factor that actually explains 2016, as some of us chagrined liberals insisted at the time, was Hillary Clinton's idiosyncratic personal unpopularity. 

Without Hillary as his opponent, Donald will need great good fortune to reach 42%.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


What Do We Really Know About the Politics of People Behind Bars?:  More than 8,000 people responded to a first-of-its-kind political survey. Here is what they said.  (NICOLE LEWIS, AVIVA SHEN and ANNA FLAGG, 3/11/20, Marshall Project)

A plurality of white respondents back President Donald Trump, undercutting claims that people in prison would overwhelmingly vote for Democrats.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Anomaly of Taiwanese DemocracyWhy Washington should care about the success of this small island's democratic experiment. (Trevor Sutton, March 11, 2020, Washington Monthly)

At a moment when democratic governance seems increasingly under strain in countries around the world, Taiwan is a rare bright spot. Since emerging from decades of martial law in 1987, the island has held seven national elections unmarred by significant irregularities and experienced multiple peaceful transfers of power between the incumbent Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and its principal rival, the Kuomintang (KMT). During that time, Taiwanese politics has proven resilient in grappling with thorny issues such as same sex marriage, the rights of indigenous peoples, and reliance on nuclear power, all of which have been the subject of civil public debate and incorporated into the platforms of political parties. Last month, Taiwan's democracy successfully conducted what was arguably its most high-stakes election to date, which resulted in a second term for DPP President Tsai Ing-Wen and a renewed majority for the DPP in Taiwan's legislature.

Taiwan's democratic resiliency is especially notable in light of the unrelenting hostility it faces from the government of mainland China, which views the island as a renegade province and has warned that any attempt by Taiwanese authorities to declare independence will be met by force. In recent years, Beijing has engaged in a sustained pressure campaign to persuade the Taiwanese public that reunification is the only viable future for them, including information warfare aimed at sowing division in Taiwanese society, selective limitations on trade aimed at weakening the island's economy, bellicose rhetoric threatening military action, and aggressive diplomatic measures designed to isolate and humiliate Taiwan on the international stage.

ASs in places like Spain and Chile, the Chiangs built and/or preserved the institutions that allowed for a smooth transition to democracy.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Joe Biden Wins Yet Another Landslide Today (Kevin Drum, 3/10/20, MoJo)

There's not a whole lot to say about tonight's results. Obviously Joe Biden won today's primaries in another landslide and just as obviously this is the end for Bernie Sanders. The only question left is whether the Sanders team will accept this, or whether they'll pretend yet again that next week's contest is the real test. [...]

Even without Republican obstruction, Medicare for All was never going to pass. A flat $15 federal minimum wage was never going to pass. Free college was never going to pass. The Green New Deal was never going to pass. A wealth tax was never going to pass. In fact, we'll be lucky if even Biden's versions of these things can pass.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Democrats Are Better at This (TIM MILLER,  MARCH 10, 2020, The Bulwark)

(1) The Democratic Coalition Is Less Susceptible to a Populist Charlatan 

The Democrats' national coalition in 2020 was not immune to charlatans or populists but, unlike the Republicans, it made them constitutionally capable of staving one off.

Republican elected officials, strategists, and pundits spent the weeks leading up to Super Tuesday gleefully mocking anti-Trump Republicans and Democrats as the party looked to be stumbling towards nominating Bernie. They claimed that it proved what they had argued all along--that Trump was just a natural reaction because it was the Democrats who were really the crazy ones.

The past two weeks have destroyed these arguments. The Republican commentators didn't understand that the Democratic party is hardier than the GOP was. The Democratic coalition isn't as reactionary. The strong Democratic voting blocs aren't as easily seduced by grifters.

This isn't an opinion. It's just a plain fact. Look at the numbers.

What many of us on the inside had seen coming--but believed we could ward off--was that the Republican party had become ripe for a populist revolution after decades of shedding college-educated, professional-class voters and trading them for working-class voters. 

March 10, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 9:42 PM


GOP congressman -- who warned Trump about pandemics -- offers pointed criticism of proposed CDC cuts (Aaron Blake , March 10, 2020, Washington Post)

This was the day Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) has been warning about -- and essentially predicted. Back in 2017, when the Trump administration first proposed steep cuts to programs that handle disease outbreaks, Cole said, "I promise you the president is much more likely in his term to have a deal with a pandemic than an act of terrorism. I hope he doesn't have to deal with either one, but you have to be ready to deal with both."

Now that the potential pandemic has come, Cole is re-upping his long-standing criticisms of the Trump administration's posture toward preparedness. And on Tuesday, he offered a little bit of an "I told you so," even suggesting that the situation might not be as bad if the administration had listened to him.

At a House subcommittee hearing featuring Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield, Cole offered some veiled rebukes of how the administration has worked with people like him on this issue.

"Your requirement is to come and do what you all do, and that's defend the presidential budget," Cole told Redfield and the other officials testifying. "But I would just submit for the record that administrations would be a lot better off had they listened to us several years ago in this area, and we would all collectively be better off. And I hope we all learn a lesson from that."

Cole said that the outbreak of coronavirus is a "sort of vindication of the bipartisan judgment over the last several years that this was really an area we needed to make investments."

Posted by orrinj at 6:48 PM


Japan begins solar powered hydrogen production at Fukushima plant (Joshua S Hill, 11 March 2020, renew Economy)

The 10MW solar-powered Fukushima Hydrogen Energy Research Field (FH2R) project has been completed, according to Toshiba Energy Systems & Solutions Corporation, which oversaw the construction and will oversee the hydrogen energy management system in the former nuclear powered prefecture.

The FH2R project can apparently produce as much as 1,200 Nm3 of hydrogen per hour and is powered by a 20MW solar farm and some power from the grid.

So-called "green hydrogen" projects such as FH2R are becoming more attractive and commonplace, using renewable generated electricity to power the electrolysis of water to create hydrogen. [...]

Japan's Fukushima Prefecture, the scene of the world's most recent nuclear disasters in 2011, has embarked on a $US2.7 billion renewable energy rebirth over the past decade, including plans to transform its now unusable agricultural land into wind and solar farms. [...]

The electricity generated will be sent to the Tokyo metropolitan area - as it was by Tepco before the 2011 earthquake and tsunami destroyed its Dai-Ichi nuclear plant.

The Fukushima government has said it expects the new renewables hub to provide 13-14 percent of Japan's national energy mix by 2030.

Posted by orrinj at 6:13 PM


The UK Government Has Reacted With "Incredulity" And "Genuine Disbelief" At Trump's Handling Of Coronavirus (Alex Wickham, 3/09/20, BuzzFeed News)

UK government ministers and officials have privately reacted with "a general level of incredulity" at Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus outbreak.

A UK official -- one of several members of the government who spoke to BuzzFeed News on condition of anonymity about the Trump administration's response to the virus -- said the president's public statements have caused "more than the usual eyerolling" in London.

In particular, Trump's false claims about the outbreak of the disease caused by the coronavirus, COVID-19, his tweets, and the failure of the US authorities to adequately test for the virus early on have caused "genuine disbelief" in Whitehall, the official said.

Referring to the UK government's creation this week of a "fake news unit" to prevent the spread of misinformation about the coronavirus, they added: "Our COVID-19 counter-disinformation unit would need twice the manpower if we included him in our monitoring."

Posted by orrinj at 6:06 PM


On the Timeless Music of McCoy Tyner (Craig Morgan Teicher, March 9, 2020, Paris Review)

I think I saw Tyner perform live twice: once at an outdoor concert at Lincoln Center, where he was a vigorously pulsing dot in the distance, and later at the Blue Note downtown, where he was only a few feet from me and I could stare, mesmerized, at his thundering left hand. He raised it high over the keyboard, above his head, before sending it hammering down, blasting open the time that followed, filling the bars with cascading showers of high notes. That, more than anything else, was the definitive Tyner gesture: opening the musical measure with that heavy left-hand chord, which was simultaneously a drum, a cymbal, and a signal to the rest of the music about where it should begin and end; more than any pianist save Cecil Taylor, Tyner understood his instrument as a series of pitched drums.

How, from that high distance, did his hand know where to find the chord he wanted when it slammed back down to the piano? But that is the least of his miracles. As Johnny Cash said, "Your style is a function of your limitations, more so than a function of your skills." That's a humbling truism about all creative work, but the limiting factors are different for each art form. Writers are stuck with a particular vocabulary, a language, and the deep memory of the kinds of sentences they heard growing up. A singer is stuck with the particular resonating chamber that is their body. Tyner was perhaps blessed by being stuck with those catapult hands and an unwavering conviction that rhythm and melody should tell a story, enact a high drama. It can be cheesy at times, but mostly I find I agree with--am glad to be a part of--the story his music tells.

It's enough, more than enough, really, for an artist to simply find a voice, to chisel it out of the noise and to keep it ringing clear across a lifetime. Though he tried lots of modes and moods, Tyner began his professional career in the early sixties as a fully formed artist, and his last albums, from the aughts, are not unlike his first. From the beginning, his musical voice--seeking, earnest, exciting--was his alone. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:57 PM


Study: Cannabis users make for the most dangerous drivers (TIM SANDLE, 3/10/20, Digital Journal)

The research, from McLean Hospital, reveals that cannabis users tend to experience more accidents. This is related to users tending to drive at faster speeds, and having a tendency to jump red lights (based on figures for the general population). This applied whether regular cannabis users were 'high' or not.

Cannabis legalization has spread across a large portion of the U.S., displaying growth across a number of different demographic groups. This includes some 'at risk' sectors of the public, such as pregnant women (this is despite medical evidence being presented that this activity could harm their babies).

Another at risk group are young people, and here the McLean Hospital study found that earlier onset of marijuana use (defined as regular use of cannabis prior to age 16) was associated with the most unsafe driving performance, leading to a higher number of accidents. The indication of impaired driving performance, irrespective of when cannabis was last consumed, applied across all demographic groups; however, there was a particular association among those who first took the drug early in life.

Posted by orrinj at 5:42 PM


Appeals Court Affirms That the Trump Administration Has to Release the Unredacted Mueller Report (JEREMY STAHL, MARCH 10, 2020, Slate)

Judge Thomas B. Griffith, a conservative George W. Bush appointee, sided with Judge Judith W. Rogers, a progressive Bill Clinton appointee, to say that the lower court could authorize disclosure of the grand jury materials to Congress in connection with an impeachment investigation, as it had ordered in October. Judge Neomi Rao--a Donald Trump appointee--offered a lengthy dissent that would have protected the president from disclosure of the still-unreleased portions of the report.

Rao's latest efforts to shield the president from legal liability, though, appear likely to fail. The judicial precedents involved stretch back to the Nixon administration, and Rogers, in invoking them, was backed up by a jurist with conservative bona fides. Griffith added a concurrence demolishing Rao's dissent, and the DOJ now has one week to appeal the decision.* We may soon learn what is in the portions of the Mueller report Attorney General William Barr has been so desperate to keep from Congress and the public that his DOJ was willing to argue that key Watergate-era precedents should no longer be enforced.

Posted by orrinj at 2:59 PM

"HE FIGHTS" (profanity alert):

Joe Biden tells factory worker 'you're full of s---' during a tense argument over guns (Kevin Breuninger, MAR 10 2020, CNBC)

The worker accused Biden of "actively trying to end our Second Amendment right."

Biden immediately responded: "You're full of s---."

Amen.  But ditch the expletives.

Posted by orrinj at 12:36 PM


10% of Trump 2016 voters might not vote for him in 2020 (Laurel Bliss and Brian Schaffner,  Mar 10, 2020, Vox)

The dataset we used, a large academic election survey that YouGov has conducted online every year since 2006, allows us to better understand the share of 2016 Trump voters who are up for grabs. In November 2019, the survey interviewed 18,000 American adults who had been interviewed in 2016 about their vote, asking them how they planned to vote in 2020.

They found that most of Trump's voters plan to stick with him: Ninety percent of those who voted for Trump in 2016 say they plan to vote for him again. But 10 percent seem to be up for grabs. Four percent are already planning to vote for the Democratic candidate, and another 6 percent say that they are still undecided. By contrast, 94 percent of Clinton voters are already committed to the Democrats: just 2 percent of Clinton's 2016 voters are planning to vote for Trump in 2020, with another 4 percent undecided.

The largest share of Trump's support in 2016 came from baby boomers, and only 7 percent of them are considering abandoning him in 2020. Trump's older supporters are quite loyal to him. Where Trump is losing the most support is among Americans younger than 40 who voted for him in 2016.

He's really bumping up against that 42%.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'Remember us': could Trump lose Florida because of hurricane refugees? (Cristian Salazar, 10 Mar 2020, The Guardian)

[I]n 2017, Hurricane Maria swept through the island, destroying homes, killing thousands of people, and leaving millions of others stranded. Rivera became one of the tens of thousands of storm refugees who moved to Florida in the following months to try and build a new life.

Now Rivera and the other hurricane refugees have become a vital voting bloc coveted by both the Democratic and Republican parties in the swing state, where elections are often won by just tens of thousands of votes. While the last census data counted about 50,000 in the group, later estimates say there could now be more than 130,000 people who have resettled in Florida.

And they're largely politically active. Rivera, whose home was uninhabitable after the storm, moved close to her daughter, who already lived in the central Florida city of Gainesville. The septuagenarian left behind her church, her friends, and other relatives. But she did not want to give up her right to vote, now more powerful than ever, since Puerto Ricans can only vote in the presidential primaries when living in the territory.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Wait, so who is Nero, and why are people comparing him to Trump? (Gillian Brockell, March 9, 2020, Washington Post)

Nero, a descendant of Julius Caesar, was born Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus in 37 A.D.; his mother, Agrippina, conspired by an incestuous marriage to make Nero the next in line for the throne. Her husband/uncle, the emperor Claudius, died by poisoning soon after, making Nero, 16 or 17 at the time, the fifth emperor of Rome.

Agrippina attempted to rule via her son but was soon exiled and later executed. And as Nero grew into a young man, he was kind of always DTFF -- down to feast and frolic. He threw lavish parties in extravagant palaces, slept with anyone he wanted and even took to the stage as an actor, poet and musician.

The elites of Rome were not impressed. Orgies were one thing, but acting? In plays? That cheapened the throne, they complained.

Then, in 64 A.D., Nero announced he wanted to level and rebuild most of the city in a more contemporary style. The Senate refused him permission. Soon afterward, the whole city caught on fire.

It burned for six days straight, then rekindled and burned for three more. Ten of Rome's 14 districts were destroyed. And Nero soon began to build his massive "Golden House" on its smoldering ashes.

Trump's Fourth of July history speech: Turns out there weren't airports back then

But did he really fiddle while Rome burned?

No, because fiddles didn't exist until the Middle Ages. But he maybe played his lyre?

His first biographer, Tacitus, wrote in his "Annals" that Nero was 30 miles away in Antium at the time, "but at the very moment when Rome was aflame, he had mounted his private stage, and typifying the ills of the present by the calamities of the past, had sung the destruction of Troy."

Not a great look.

Later biographers were even less charitable. Suetonius claimed that witnesses caught him setting the fires, and that he watched the city burn from a tower, "and exulting, as he said, in 'the beauty of the flames,' he sang the whole of the 'Sack of Ilium,' in his regular stage costume." Cassius Dio claimed he hired a bunch of thugs to set fires and then watched from the palace, singing and playing the lyre in costume.

The famous expression that "Nero fiddled while Rome burned" came later, according to Encyclopaedia Britannica, but it was adapted over centuries from an original story.

In any case, Nero's feckless response to the tragedy is now being compared to Trump's Twitter behavior amid the growing crises of the coronavirus outbreak and its economic fallout. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The new Biden: Shorter speeches (and less time for gaffes) (Cleve R. Wootson Jr. , March 9, 2020, Washington Post)

It is a seismic shift for Biden, 77, who in five decades of political office and three White House runs has never had a reputation for breviloquence. It's a habit perhaps nurtured in the Senate, which prides itself on limitless debate and has a special term -- filibuster -- for talking endlessly.

In his shortened speeches, Biden still touches on his platform points, takes subtle jabs at Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and makes more than a few passing references to former president Barack Obama -- he just does it all much faster.

It requires a discipline that Donald certainly isn't capable of and that will test Uncle Joe.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM



With Tuesday's Democratic primaries hours away, former Vice President Joe Biden has found an unexpected supporter in Sterling Heights, Michigan Mayor Michael Taylor, a Republican.

"Since announcing my endorsement of Joe Biden I have received an outpouring of encouraging messages and believe even more strongly that Joe Biden is the candidate who can defeat Donald Trump in Macomb County and the State of Michigan," Taylor said in a statement to Newsweek on Monday.

While Taylor, a life-long Republican, voted for President Donald Trump in 2016, he said he would cast his ballot for Biden this year because Trump is "deranged."

Polls: Trump loses ground in key battleground states (Axios, 3/09/20)

Quarterly polling by Republican-founded Firehouse Strategies and 0ptimus finds that President Trump's lead dropped considerably against both Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders since December in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Cost of Trump's Obama Hatred: The president is wasting one of the country's most valuable assets: the wisdom of his predecessor. (Markos Kounalakis, March 10, 2020, Washington Monthly)

When Roosevelt died, he left an unprepared Harry Truman to take over as his constitutionally mandated successor. Truman inherited an ongoing war, the overblown legacy of a four-term president and a decision to make about blowing up Japan with the world's newest weapon--the atomic bomb.

FDR never deeply briefed Truman, and 82 days into his vice presidency, Truman was thrust into the role of 33rd president. He sought a lifeline from the only other person alive who knew the pressures he was facing and understood the presidency. He needed an ex-president, and the only one available was a vilified California Republican: Herbert Hoover. Truman and Hoover joked that this was the beginning of a "former presidents' club."

Hoover, desperately seeking rehabilitation and respect, hungrily accepted the role of hidden adviser, careful consultant, proven European post-war logistics master and savior.

Trump has not only taken a page from FDR's playbook, he's writing a whole new chapter on political purges, with updated sections on baiting, backbiting and bullying former presidents. Barack Obama meet Herbert Hoover

In the recent past and on solemn national occasions, group photos of living presidents showed the world America's power and unity. It is remarkable to see pictures of Nixon, Ford, Carter, Bush and Clinton together. It is powerful to know that they relied on each other for insights into foreign leaders, difficult hostage negotiations, secret two-track discussions with adversaries, joint humanitarian missions and general counsel on thorny issues.

Today, those photos seem like relics of a bygone era. Instead of former U.S. presidents posing for Associated Press photos in the Oval Office, spying foreign journalists are now welcomed into the White House to shoot Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak who yuk it up near Andrew Jackson's portrait.

March 9, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 6:25 PM


Lessons of the French Revolution : American Revolution, French Revolution, Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, Jeremy Popkin, Self-Government (JOHN O. MCGINNIS, 2/20/20, law & Liberty)

[P]eople like Menetra had no sense of the give-and-take of representative government, and no appreciation of pluralism. The absence of this tradition helps explain why the Revolution, from the taking of the Bastille on, was again and again propelled by popular uprisings when part of the population either became incensed at some turn of events or was manipulated to support a faction in the National Assembly, the body that rapidly succeeded the Estates General when the commoners declared themselves a unicameral assembly. Americans were skilled at compromise because of their long experience of representation in the colonies, but the French relied on direct and violent action, being wholly unschooled in any institution of representative government.

Edmund Burke observed that French philosphes abetted the violence of the Revolution because their abstract theories did not grow organically from political experience. But France had not even fledgling democratic experience on which their political philosophers could draw. As Bernard Bailyn makes clear in his great book, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, many of the English political philosophers on which the colonists relied were themselves practical statesmen, like the Earl of Shaftesbury, or at least advisors to such statesmen, like John Locke. In contrast, Jean-Jacques Rousseau--the patron philosopher of the Revolution--had no substantial connection to politicians. His theory of the General Will, which posits that there is a collective will for the general good that can be sharply distinguished from the view of particular groups within society, discouraged compromise because it made it easier for any faction to fancy itself the sole reflection of that general will. When American statesmen like John Adams read his works, they thought him mad.

Popkin's narrative shows how many of the famous actors in the Revolution--from Georges Danton to Maximilian Robespierre--were borne along by the current of a people unlearned in democracy. As a result, the leaders of the Revolution had little choice but to engage in conspiracies against other factions, because they rightly feared that other factions would also seek to conspire against them, mobilizing the French street at the first opportunity. Danton still has statues in his honor in France and is often contrasted as the good revolutionary compared to the bloodthirsty Robespierre (much like Lenin was once contrasted with Stalin). But in this book, Danton comes across as just a less deft (and more corrupt) schemer in the days of the Terror. Indeed, Robespierre is shown to be more moderate than this reputation. There were politicians farther to his left who were even more eager to destroy the past, whatever the cost, particularly when it came to the Catholic Church. Robespierre tried to restrain them.

My greatest disagreement with this outstanding achievement of narrative history is the author's ultimately positive assessment of the French Revolution. At one point he somewhat excuses the Terror, while lamenting its dreadful excesses, by noting that the Revolution could probably not have survived without it. But on balance, why was the survival of the Revolution desirable? For instance, if Louis XVI had escaped (and it was his lack of ruthlessness in refusing to leave his family behind that doomed his attempt) and had come back with an army to put down the rebellion, the world and France would likely have been better off in the short and long term. Louis XVI was more moderate than the Bourbon brothers who succeeded him after the Restoration and could well have begun the transition to a constitutional monarchy. In any event, the current of the times was such that transition would have occurred.

Posted by orrinj at 5:58 PM


Biden Holds Primary Lead; Dems Have Edge in General (Monmouth University, 3/09/20)

Michigan primary voters repeat the mantra of Democratic voters across the country - 57% say beating Trump is more important to their vote than any policy issue. Another 25% say electability is about as important as their top policy concern while 16% say it is less important than issue alignment. Among those who say beating Trump is their top priority, 60% support Biden and 25% support Sanders. Among primary voters who do not make electability their top priority, Sanders (50%) is preferred over Biden (40%).

"With Trump in office now, electability is certainly more of a factor for Michigan Democrats than it was four years ago," said Murray.

Looking ahead to November, both of the probable Democratic nominees hold narrow leads among registered voters over Trump in a crucial state the Republican won by 10,704 votes four years ago. Biden holds a 48% to 41% edge over the incumbent while Sanders has a similar 46% to 41% lead.

Posted by orrinj at 3:53 PM



By now many of the president's advisers are numb to this kind of performance. "There's very little that fazes anyone now," a former official said. But one person who spoke to the president over the weekend saw the press conference as an ominous sign. "He's just now waking up to the fact that this is bad, and he doesn't know how to respond."

As Trump pushes a nothing-to-see-here message in public, sources said he's privately terrified about getting the virus. "Donald is a famous germaphobe. He hates it if someone is eating nachos and dips a chip back in after taking a bite. He calls them 'double dippers,'" a prominent Republican said. Former Trump aide Sam Nunberg recalled Trump's response to the last major outbreak in 2014. "When I worked for Trump, he was obsessed with Ebola," Nunberg told me. (One Mar-a-Lago guest disputed this and said Trump was handshaking with gusto this past weekend. "He was acting like the opposite of a germaphobe," the source said.)

Stories about Trump's coronavirus fears have spread through the White House. Last week Trump told aides he's afraid journalists will try to purposefully contract coronavirus to give it to him on Air Force One, a person close to the administration told me. The source also said Trump has asked the Secret Service to set up a screening program and bar anyone who has a cough from the White House grounds. "He's definitely melting down over this," the source said.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


With global economy in balance, the White House and Fed are at odds over how to help (Heather Long and Jeff Stein, March 8, 2020, Washington Post)

Unlike the seasoned economists and Wall Street players who dealt with the 2008 financial panic such as Lawrence H. Summers, Timothy F. Geithner and Ben Bernanke, or the 1999 "Committee to Save the World" that quelled the Asian financial crisis, today's top policymakers have less expertise steering the government through a crisis.

"There is not any sense yet of a coherent American economic strategy for responding to what's clearly a very important set of developments," said Summers, a former treasury secretary who played a key role in financial crises in the Clinton and Obama administrations. "From the outside, things seem amateurish in terms of international coordination, cooperation with international financial institutions, and the presentation of a joint front by treasury and the Fed."

During the Asian financial crisis, Summers said, it was not unusual for the Treasury to talk to Fed Chair Alan Greenspan multiple times a day along with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Today there is a more awkward relationship among the key players. Trump distrusts many global institutions, and he frequently criticizes Powell on Twitter, even calling him an "enemy" in August. These repeated attacks on the Fed alarm many who have steered the economy in the past.

"Throughout both the Bush and Obama administrations, both the president and the treasury secretary left monetary policy alone," said Bernanke, a former Fed chair who led the central bank during the 2008 financial crisis. "It's worrisome that the president seems to think cutting interest rates is the first line of defense."

While W, Ben and the UR were saving the global economy in '08, Maverick and House Republicans were embarrassing themselves.  Donald is just carrying the torch.
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Michelle Malkin: Mother of GroypersHow did the darling of Conservatism Inc. get caught up with Nick Fuentes, America First, and the groypers? (AMANDA CARPENTER,  MARCH 9, 2020, The Bulwark)

Those who have followed Malkin over the years know that she has always been--how to put this politely--an immigration restrictionist. Though maybe that's too polite, since over the years she's championed not only racial profiling, roundups of minorities, too. In 2004, she wrote a book titled In Defense of Internment. One of the websites she founded, Hot Air, thrived touting her anti-immigration cause through the mid-2000s and she considers the defeat of the McCain-Kennedy 2006 "amnesty" bill as one of her great accomplishments. During those years, Malkin was put on a pedestal by mainstream conservative organizations such as CPAC, Regnery Publishing, and the Young America's Foundation as a leading voice for the movement. She had a Fox News contract and appeared on the network's highest-rated shows.

And she now seems to have turned her back on all of that in order to link arms with the most vocal elements of the white nationalist movement. Oh, I'm sorry. They insist on being called "America Firsters." Same difference. [...]

Last month, her wayward progression continued. For years Malkin had been a star at CPAC. But on February 28, instead of going to CPAC, where she was now banned from the stage, Malkin stood before a new crowd at an event organized by Fuentes. In that speech, she opened her remarks by saying "Thank you. Thank you. Mommy's in the house."

It seemed a little odd that Malkin would again describe herself as a "mom" to these bigots. But it turns out that her imagery was deliberate. This is Malkin's new identity: Mother of groypers.

In her speech she addressed accusations of anti-Semitism with the same sort of mocking "I talked about it, but didn't say it" tone that is so common on the alt-right:

Already right out of the gate, before I even knew who Nick Fuentes was, before I knew who Groypers were, I was being tarred as an anti-Semite. It's become a useless, meaningless term and everybody knows it. And that's why they're so desperate to tar all of us as that. It's anti-Semitic to mention George Soros' billions. It's anti-Semitic to criticize the Anti-Defamation League. It's anti-Semitic to question whatever the precise number is of people who perished in World War II. It is anti-Semitic for me, being married to a 100 percent Ashkenazi Jew, to question dual loyalties of people who are working here as agents of a foreign country.

Oh, and it is an unacceptably anti-Semitic to point out the rank hypocrisy of people who are fiercely protective of an ethno-state and an immigration enforcement system that works--who turn around and call those of us who believe, whatever our backgrounds are, who only have one homeland that they've ever known, to call us--what is it now?--"white majoritarianism" I believe is the term. That's me. Thank you. [...]

The Daily Stormer's Andrew Anglin described Malkin's speech as "beautiful."

In that same speech Malkin helpfully talked about others she considers part of the "family." Among them were Fuentes, Yiannopolous, Identity Evropa Director Patrick Casey, VDARE President Peter Brimelow, VDARE writer (and former National Review writer) John Derbyshire, National Review contributing editor Dinesh D'Souza, Ann Coulter, the Canadian white nationalist Faith Goldy, Frank Gaffney, and Pamela Geller. (Not all of them were thrilled by the honor. Geller posted the video of Malkin's speech, calling it "unconscionable and breathtaking" and linked to an open letter posted on Richard Spencer's "Jihad Watch" website--not that Richard Spencer--asking Malkin to "rethink her defense of a Jew-hater and Holocaust-denier.")

The great irony is that even now, Malkin still has friends in Conservative, Inc.

The Trump administration's Acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli, gave Malkin a shoutout from the same CPAC stage she was banned from. Although many outlets, such as National Review and the Daily Wire, stopped carrying her syndicated columns, the Salem Media-owned still does. (When I emailed a executive asking why the site continued to publish her column, I received no reply.)

Scratch an immigration restrictionist, find an anti-Semite.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


CDC to cut by 80 percent efforts to prevent global disease outbreak (Lena H. Sun, Feb. 1, 2018, Washington Post)

Four years after the United States pledged to help the world fight infectious-disease epidemics such as Ebola, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is dramatically downsizing its epidemic prevention activities in 39 out of 49 countries because money is running out, U.S. government officials said.

The CDC programs, part of a global health security initiative, train front-line workers in outbreak detection and work to strengthen laboratory and emergency response systems in countries where disease risks are greatest. The goal is to stop future outbreaks at their source. [...]

Two weeks ago, the CDC began notifying staffers and officials abroad about its plan to downsize these activities, because officials assume there will be "no new resources," said a senior government official speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss budget matters. Notice is being given now to CDC country directors "as the very first phase of a transition," the official said. There is a need for "forward planning," the official said, to accommodate longer advance notice for staffers and for leases and property agreements. The downsizing decision was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Social Security and Trends in Inequality (Sylvain Catherine, University of Pennsylvania - Finance Department, Max Miller, University of Pennsylvania, The Wharton School, Finance Department, Natasha Sarin, University of Pennsylvania Law School,  February 29, 2020, SSRN)

Recent influential work finds large increases in inequality in the U.S., based on measures of wealth concentration that notably exclude the value of social insurance programs. This paper revisits this conclusion by incorporating Social Security retirement benefits into measures of wealth inequality. Wealth inequality has not increased in the last three decades when Social Security is accounted for. When discounted at the risk-free rate, real Social Security wealth increased substantially from $5.6 trillion in 1989 to just over $42.0 trillion in 2016. When we adjust for systematic risk coming from the covariance of Social Security returns with the market portfolio, this increase remains sizable, growing from over $4.6 trillion in 1989 to $34.0 trillion in 2016. Consequently, by 2016, Social Security wealth represented 58% of the wealth of the bottom 90% of the wealth distribution. Redistribution through programs like Social Security increases the progressivity of the economy, and it is important that our estimates of wealth concentration reflect this.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Renewables keep crunching Australia's electricity emissions - no thanks to federal policy (Sophie Vorrath, 9 March 2020, Renew Economy)

From 2018, says the report's author, Hugh Saddler, "rooftop solar was sufficient to meet all of the (relatively modest) growth in total electricity consumption in the (National Electricity Market), with the result that electricity supplied through the NEM grid stayed almost exactly constant."

Meanwhile, in the large-scale sector, new wind and solar capacity had displaced, in varying proportions, black coal, brown coal and gas generation, resulting in a steady fall in emissions.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Ruble, Oil Prices Tumble Amid Market Chaos After OPEC-Russia Deal Collapses (RFE/RL, 3/09/20)

The Russian ruble fell to a four-year low after oil prices collapsed following a breakup of talks between OPEC leader Saudi Arabia and Moscow.

The ruble tumbled early on March 9 by 5 percent to 72.72 against the U.S. dollar, the worst rate since early 2016.

Meanwhile, oil prices crashed 20 percent in opening trading on March 9 as concerns of an oversupply in the market resurfaced after the so-called OPEC+ grouping, which includes Russia and Kazakhstan, failed to reach an agreement in Vienna last week on extending output cuts to bolster prices.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Video retweeted by President Trump is the first ever to be branded 'manipulated media' by Twitter (LEAH SIMPSON, 9 March 2020, Daily Mail)

A social media post shared by Donald Trump has become the first from Twitter to be branded 'manipulated' after it appeared to show Joe Biden endorsing the president, when in fact he was not.

Dan Scavino, assistant to the president and director of social media at the White House, shared a post Saturday, captioned: 'Sleepy Joe in St. Louis, Missouri today: "We can only re-elect @realDonaldTrump".'

But the tweet uses the line out of context of the full statement from Kansas City, Missouri, where Biden said: 'We can only reelect Donald Trump if in fact we get engaged in this circular firing squad here.'

March 8, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 4:35 PM


Trump administration budget cuts could become a major problem as coronavirus spreads (CHRIS MORRIS, February 26, 2020, Fortune)

The cuts started in 2018, as the White House focused on eliminating funding to Obama-era disease security programs. In March of that year, Rear Adm. Timothy Ziemer, whose job it was to lead the U.S. response in the event of a pandemic, abruptly left the administration and his global health security team was disbanded.

That same year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was forced to slash its efforts to prevent global disease outbreak by 80% as its funding for the program began to run out. The agency, at the time, opted to focus on 10 priority countries and scale back in others, including China.

Also cut was the Complex Crises Fund, a $30 million emergency response pool that was at the secretary of state's disposal to deploy disease experts and others in the event of a crisis. (The fund was created by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.)

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 PM


Mitch McConnell's Senate majority is in danger: With Biden poised to be atop the ticket, Democratic candidates are leading in the most consequential Senate races. (Josh Kraushaar,  March 8, 2020, National Journal)

Joe Biden's remarkable change of fortune in the presidential race is coinciding with Senate Democrats' growing optimism that they can win control of the upper chamber in this year's elections. Those hopes had dimmed when Bernie Sanders emerged as a leading contender to become the party's presidential nominee. With the current likelihood of a mainstream candidate leading the ticket, however, Democrats are growing bullish on their chances to win races in GOP-leaning states like Arizona and North Carolina.

It's hard to overstate the difference a week makes. While much of the coverage of Sanders's downballot impact focused on Democrats' House majority being threatened, he was making it even harder for Senate Democrats to compete in swing states. Nearly every vulnerable House Democrat had built up an independent brand and raised huge sums of money to insulate them from a worsening political environment. But in the Senate, Democrats are running a roster of fresh-faced recruits, many without much of a political record to lean on. Several leading candidates who didn't proclaim their opposition to Sanders found themselves on the receiving end of effective Republican attack ads.

Now the tables are turned. President Trump is looking like more of a liability for swing-state Republican senators than Biden is for Democratic challengers. In the three most critical Senate battlegrounds--Arizona, Maine, and North Carolina--Trump trails Biden, according to new public polling. Those same public surveys show Democratic Senate challengers leading the Republican incumbents.

It's why the Right is suddenly so hysterical about Uncle Joe.

Posted by orrinj at 3:57 PM


Official: White House didn't want to tell seniors not to fly (MIKE STOBBE, 3/08/20, AP)

The White House overruled health officials who wanted to recommend that elderly and physically fragile Americans be advised not to fly on commercial airlines because of the new coronavirus, a federal official told The Associated Press.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention submitted the plan as a way of trying to control the virus, but White House officials ordered the air travel recommendation be removed, said the official who had direct knowledge of the plan. Trump administration officials have since suggested certain people should consider not traveling, but have stopped short of the stronger guidance sought by the CDC.

Posted by orrinj at 3:54 PM


Pro-Trump Climate Denial Group Lays Off Staff Amid Financial Woes, Ex-Employees Say (Alexander C. Kaufman, 3/08/20, HuffPo)

An influential climate-denial think tank bankrolled by President Donald Trump's far-right billionaire donors has laid off nearly a dozen staffers amid financial troubles, according to three former employees.

The Illinois-based Heartland Institute ― which captured headlines last month for promoting a German teenager with ties to neo-Nazis as the climate denier's alternative to acclaimed youth activist Greta Thunberg ― pink-slipped at least 10 staffers Friday, shedding what one former employee described as "more than half" the organization's staff.

"Heartland is broke," Nikki Comerford, the nonprofit's events coordinator on staff for nearly 21 years, told a former colleague in a text message, a screenshot of which HuffPost reviewed.

Posted by orrinj at 3:35 PM


The Narrative of Discrimination against Conservatives in Higher Ed is Overblown (Anthony DiMauro, March 06, 2020, Real Clear Education)

The Democrat to Republican disparity can be accounted for without the resorting to conspiracies. In a 2010 paper published by John Hopkins University, graduate students Ethan Fosse, Neil Gross and Catherine Cheng (who are all now professors in the social sciences) conducted a field experiment that included so-called "secret shopper" methods that sought to find political bias against conservatives within the American professoriate. Not only did they discover no bias that impacts professorial hires, they also found that much of the disparity can indeed be explained by lifestyle choices and disposition.

In step with their findings, a 2007 study conducted by social scientists Matthew and April Woessner discovered that conservative and right-leaning students are significantly more likely to major in professional fields (such as business and M.B.A. tracks) and away from the academic path. Indeed, the Woessners found that "only 9 percent of the far left and 18 percent of liberals major in professional fields, as compared to 33 percent of conservatives and 37 percent of the far right." 

Additionally, their study reports that students who major in the humanities or other related non-professional fields are typically more liberal and are more likely to consider a PhD program than their conservative peers.

The disparity in higher education between left-leaning and right-leaning professors is not a simple result of discriminatory actions by universities. Personal lifestyle choices and psychological dispositions can account for a significant part of the disparity. Amid all the outrage and hyperbolic narratives of discrimination against conservatives in higher ed, we would do well to keep that in mind.

Posted by orrinj at 3:31 PM


Coronavirus is exposing Trump's unsuitability to handle a crisis (Philip Klein,  March 08, 2020, washington Examiner)

If anybody was hoping that Trump had the ability to rise to the moment, his comments upon touring the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should disabuse them of that notion.

Trump, speaking from the facility with a red "Keep America Great" campaign hat, found time to praise the ratings of his townhall interview on Fox News. He declared, "I don't watch CNN because CNN is fake news." He attacked Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who is dealing with the most deadly coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., as a "snake."

Dipping into the greatest hits from his impeachment defense, Trump said of the CDC tests that have run into significant problems, "the tests are all perfect, like the letter was perfect. The transcription was perfect, right? This was not as perfect as that, but pretty good."

When it came to the matter of testing, Trump also lied, and revealed staggering ignorance. In the face of questions about the disastrously slow rollout of testing in the U.S., Trump insisted, "Anybody that wants a test can get a test. That's what the bottom line is."

That is not remotely true. There have been many stories of people's futile efforts to try and get tested. Last Thursday, for instance, a registered nurse exhibiting symptoms in quarantine after having cared for a coronavirus patient, wrote of her difficulty obtaining a test even after it was okayed by a local health official.

Here in Washington, DC, where the first case was announced Saturday, health officials said they had the capacity to test 50 people a day. There is currently restrictive criteria for who can get tested.

South Korea, in contrast, has set up drive through centers, where individuals can get a sample taken in a few minutes without getting out of their cars, and get results back within a few days. This is exactly the sort of outside the box innovative solution that one would think a guy who ran as a practical businessman type would want to encourage or at least look into. Instead, Trump said "they're not testing. They're sampling people in other countries."

When a reporter interjected that those samples are then being tested, Trump said, "No, no -- excuse me, there's a difference. I heard what he said. They're sampling people. It's a drive-by. They give samples. Now, can we do that? Yeah, we can do that, but that's not effective like what we're doing."

The lack of adequate testing may be keeping the numbers of identified cases artificially low in the U.S., but they are also preventing public health officials from being able to identify areas of outbreak early enough to take steps to mitigate the spread. 

Posted by orrinj at 11:23 AM


Maryland governor criticizes Trump's statements on coronavirus (VICTORIA GUIDA, 03/08/2020, Politico)

The Republican governor said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that it was a smart move to put Pence, a former governor of Indiana, in charge of the coronavirus response.

"He's a former governor," Hogan said. "He knows the governors are on the front lines. And he is doing, I think, a good job of coordinating everybody and communicating with us."

"Has the president been perfect in his communication? I would say he hasn't communicated the way I would, and the way I might like him to," he added. "But I think the rest of the team has been doing a pretty good job."

Posted by orrinj at 10:26 AM


Russian Media Freak Over Joe Biden's Election Resurrection (Julia Davis, Mar. 08, 2020, Daily Beast)

Reporting on the U.S. elections for Russian state TV channel Rossiya 24, Alyona Pivkina made a gesture of surprise and said: "Suddenly, Biden surged ahead." The revelation was followed by an awkward moment of silence between Pivkina and the seemingly stunned host of the news broadcast.

The pro-Kremlin newspaper Vzglyad complained that Biden "rose from the ashes like a phoenix," prevailing "in spite of the corruption scandals" that have long been alleged and cultivated by the Russians--and the Republicans--concerning his son, Hunter, and his own activities in Ukraine.

With notable irritation, Vzglyad griped about Joe Biden's state primary victories in North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Alabama, claiming that the pro-Biden votes in rural states were secured by "rednecks, who shoot skunks for fun, bowl, beat their wives and associate the word 'socialist' with the communist threat." The newspaper bitterly surmised that through Biden's anticipated nomination, the U.S. elites won yet another Cold War against socialism.

Much like the Russians, Senate Republicans were caught off guard and visibly disappointed by Biden's resurgence as the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination. 

All that money and effort invested in getting a president who promises sanctions relief down the drain.

Posted by orrinj at 10:17 AM


Judaism was the loser in these elections: Religious voices in the political discourse backed corruption and division as if the Torah has nothing to say about any of this (Alon Goshen-Gottstein, MAR 7, 2020,  The Times of Israel)

At the heart of it all is the issue of the moral fabric and standing of the State of Israel. Prayer for leaders and judges is an important part of our daily prayer. Recited thrice daily, we pray during the Amida prayer for the establishment of judges and for proper leadership. Where are the concerns for proper moral leadership in the present political reality? How much are these seen as religious concerns proper?

The sad news - religious voices, as represented by political parties, do not even consider this an issue. With the exception of rare lone voices all religious parties, and their respective rabbinic leadership, have rallied behind Netanyahu. Graft, corruption, dissention, spreading hatred, engaging in lies, dirty campaigning - none of this ever comes under religious scrutiny. It is as if Torah voices have nothing to say about any of this.

The reason for this is that "the right" is perceived as more supportive of the flourishing of religious life. The culture of state-sponsored Yeshivot and the possibility for advancing religious legislation have created a "natural partnership" between the religious, Zionist and charedi, and the nationalist right wing parties. This process is detrimental to Judaism. It ends up redefining it, in line with nationalist concerns and at the expense of fundamental moral concerns. If "morality precedes Torah"(derech eretz kadma letorah) were the guideline, and if the kabbalistic teaching of midot (moral attributes) preceding mitzvot (ritual performance) were adopted, things would have been different. The cost of the "natural" partnership is the emergence of a Judaism that prioritizes ritual over morality. This undermines spiritual wellbeing of the State and of Judaism itself.

Posted by orrinj at 10:12 AM


It's the decency, stupid: The secret to Joe Biden's resiliency (MATTHEW DALLEK, 3/07/20, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)

The common explanations -- Clyburn's endorsement was the game-changer ("you brought me back," Biden told him), the center-left coalescing behind his candidacy and African-Americans recognizing his close ties to Barack Obama -- all tell a big part of the story.

Equally important, yet sometimes overlooked in the punditry's relentless nose-against-the-window focus on the news of the hour, is that in an era of nearly relentless nastiness, Biden exudes decency. And his biography makes him an almost uniquely sympathetic figure on the national stage. That enduring reality -- the fact that so many voters who almost reflexively dislike all politicians have a reserve of affinity for Joe -- must be central to almost any understanding of his remarkable Lazarus-like resurrection.

It is hard to think of another major political figure who lost both his first wife Neilia and two children 43 years apart: Neilia and baby daughter Naomi to a traffic accident in 1972, his adult son Beau to glioblastoma, a brain cancer, in 2015. His pain has enabled him to connect with people at a gut level, giving him the type of empathy that political leaders rarely manage to tap with so much poignancy.

And Biden's life's work -- his calling to politics and public service -- is something that he seems to need and feed off. Politics has given him an outlet and perhaps a hunger for personal connection where he has been able to channel his grief.

George W. Bush's campaign manager Ken Mehlman once observed that presidential campaigns "are about attributes, not issues."

Biden's political resurgence has to do as much with his solace, compassion and pain as with his endorsements, experience and good political fortune. His traits also match up well with Trump, who, as president, has shown virtually no humanity. And they match up well with Bernie Sanders, whose bombastic thesis that Biden personifies a rigged system is belied by Biden's life of service, tragedy and compassion.

It helps that he's running against the Left/Right, where indecency to opponents is the explicit appeal. 

Posted by orrinj at 9:55 AM


Trump & Sanders drove me to become a Democrat. Other disgusted Republicans should join me. (Gabriel Schoenfeld, 3/08/20, USA Today)

I became a Republican with Ronald Reagan's election in 1980. This was the party of the Constitution, of limited government and a forward-leaning American posture around the world. It was Reagan who helped topple Communism in the Soviet Union and shepherded countries like South Korea and Taiwan into the democratic fold. It was Reagan who enshrined an intelligent brand of originalism by appointing the great constitutionalist Antonin Scalia to the Supreme Court.

But on the day Donald Trump won the Republican nomination, I was out the door. As a lifelong New Yorker until quite recently, I know that three-card monte is a scam. I would never lend an iota of support to Trump and his shills. I immediately registered as an independent and devoted my efforts as a writer to exposing Trump's flimflammery.

The party that I once regarded as a pillar of our constitutional order is now eating away at that order like termites, indulging every one of Trump's transgressions against longstanding constitutional norms and against decency itself. The party that once stood against dictators is now led by a man who admires Russia's Vladimir Putin and says he fell in love with North Korea's Kim Jong Un. As much as I loathed the Democrats, I loathe these craven Republican cowards even more.

In 2018, I moved from New York City to Washington, D.C., and in January I changed my voter registration from independent to Democratic. Living in an overwhelmingly blue city, my vote has more meaning in a Democratic primary. I am passionately committed to bringing down Trump and I will support any Democrat who can achieve that result. 

Some self-reflection about how loathing Democrats helped create the miasma out of which the Right arose would be welcome here.

Posted by orrinj at 9:46 AM


Donald Trump has become the leader of the dumbest suicide cult ever (Joshua Holland, 3/07/20, Raw Story)

"Democrats are about twice as likely as Republicans to say the coronavirus poses an imminent threat to the United States," according to a new Reuters/Ipsos poll. Democrats are twice as likely as Republicans to "say they are taking steps to be prepared, including washing their hands more often or limiting their travel plans."

Americans, who often consume news based on their political preferences, have received two different views of the virus's potential impact.

Trump has accused the media and his political adversaries of trying to derail his re-election campaign by amping up alarm over the dangers posed by the virus. He has largely sought to cast it as a comparatively minor threat, comparing its risk to the less deadly seasonal flu.

Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh told listeners last week that, "The coronavirus is the common cold" and was merely being "weaponized as yet another element to bring down Donald Trump." [...]

In related news, The New York Times reported that "Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper has urged American military commanders overseas not to make any decisions related to the coronavirus that might surprise the White House or run afoul of President Trump's messaging on the growing health challenge.... Mr. Esper's directive, delivered last week during a video teleconference call with combatant commanders around the world, is the latest iteration of Mr. Trump's efforts to manage public fears over the disease, even as it continues to spread around the world."

In. The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History by John M. Barry, one of the main villains is Donald's soulmate, Woodrow Wilson and the totalitarian means he used to pursue WWI.  His censorship and disinformation helped prevent effective response to the flu.  Indeed, one of the reasons it was historically known as the Spanish flu was because Spain reported on the outbreak honestly while Wilson would not allow the same here.

Posted by orrinj at 9:36 AM


Kamala Harris endorses Biden (RISHIKA DUGYALA, 03/08/2020, Politico)

In a video she shared on Twitter, the California senator -- once the lone black woman in a formerly diverse and large 2020 Democratic field -- said she would do everything in her power to help elect Biden.

Having just arrived in Alabama to commemorate the 55th anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma, Harris said she was thinking about the generations of people who fought and died for civil rights and "help our nation achieve its ideals."

"We still have yet to achieve those ideals but one of the greatest things about us is that we are willing to fight to get there," she said. "So I just wanted you guys to know ... I have decided that I am with great enthusiasm going to endorse Joe Biden."

She called him a great leader, someone she's known for a long time and a public servant she really believes can unify the people. On Sunday, she joined the coalescing of moderates -- including ex-2020 rivals Pete Buttigieg, Beto O'Rourke and Amy Klobuchar -- behind the former vice president.

"There is so much at stake in this election guys, so join me in supporting Joe. Let's get this done," she said, before announcing she would be appearing at Biden's Detroit rally on Monday night.

There is divine justice in the fact that Donald will be driven from office by the groups he hates: women, blacks, Jews, Muslims, Asians and Latinos.

Posted by orrinj at 9:34 AM


A Puritan minister incited fury by pushing inoculation against a smallpox epidemic (Jess McHugh, March 8, 2020, Washington Post)

In the 18th century, however, Boston's colonists met Mather's inoculation proposal with a terror that bordered on hysteria. They didn't understand how inoculation worked, and the notion of choosing to infect yourself with a deadly disease struck them -- perhaps understandably -- as outrageous. Fear of science, suspicion of the ruling elite, and a belief that medicine might meddle with God's will -- these ideas guided the angry mobs in Boston in 1721 and linger today in some form in anti-vaccine movements.

The 1721 smallpox epidemic in Boston began with a single sailor exhibiting signs of the disease, and within a few months, nearly half of the city's 11,000 residents fell ill. Hundreds of deaths followed. The tolling of Boston's 10 church bells was so constant that the town selectman was forced to limit a single bell toll per death. Panic gripped the city where everyone lived in fear of seeing the telltale rash appear on their skin.

Mather, then 58 and one of Boston's best-known men, had learned of a smallpox inoculation process through his slave, Onesimus. The minister was so convinced by Onesimus's description of the inoculation he had undergone in Africa -- scraping a piece of smallpox pus and inserting it under the skin of a healthy person -- that he convinced local physician Zabdiel Boylston to inoculate two more slaves and Boylston's own son. After the process worked, Mather became a public crusader for the cause of inoculation, igniting a fierce debate over inoculation, public health and the role of local leadership in epidemics. The fact that Onesimus came from Africa only stoked racist fears about exotic sorcery.

March 7, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 9:49 PM


Smotrich appears to post support for expulsion of Arab Israelis (Times of Israel, 3/07/20)

Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich on Saturday lashed out at two Arab Israeli lawmakers, seeming to call for the expulsion of Arab Israelis from Israel with a reference to the late extremist rabbi Meir Kahane.

In response to two Arab Israeli politicians vowing to fight discrimination in Israel, Smotrich posted on Twitter the verse from the Book of Numbers: "But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live."

"Barbs in Your Eyes" was a phrase used by Kahane to call for the expulsion of Arabs from Israel.

Posted by orrinj at 4:08 PM


Matt Gaetz made light of coronavirus by wearing a gas mask. Now one of his constituents has died. (Kim Bellware, March 7, 2020, washington Post)

Days after Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) wore an enormous gas mask during a House floor vote on an emergency funding package for the coronavirus response, the congressman announced that a resident in his northwestern Florida district had died of covid-19.

Posted by orrinj at 7:30 AM


The Civil War's Little-Known Turning Point: The Battle of Shiloh (Roy Morris Jr., 3/07/20, National Interest)

No one expected this--not the fiercest "fire-eater" in South Carolina or the flintiest abolitionist in New England. By the time the guns fell silent at Shiloh on the night of April 7, 1862, soldiers on both sides of the battlefield realized that they had endured something never before seen in American history. Nearly 24,000 men had fallen dead or wounded among the peach orchards and tangled woods in southwestern Tennessee, more than the total loss from all three of America's previous wars combined. Small wonder that New Orleans writer George Washington Cable, himself a former Confederate, would later write: "The South never smiled again at Shiloh." 
Neither, for that matter, did the North--at least not for another three long years. Shiloh was the first truly disorienting battle in the national experience, a battle in which large numbers of poorly led troops stumbled into one another, blazed away, fell back, came together again, and stopped butchering each other only after darkness, rain, and exhaustion put an end to the fighting. There would be other battles like Shiloh in 1862, many of them commemorated in this special issue of Civil War Quarterly.

But there would never be another Shiloh, for that was where America's childhood ended. After Shiloh, all cocky talk of bloodless victories and cowardly foes gave way to the sickening realization that a war started almost cavalierly one year earlier would not be ending easily--or any time soon.

There's nothing more childish than the belief you can peacefully defend your democracy from its foes.

Posted by orrinj at 7:24 AM


2020 becomes the dementia campaign (JOHN F. HARRIS, 03/07/2020, Politico)

The two people most likely to control the U.S nuclear arsenal, and with it the capacity to blow up civilization, through January 2025 are both well into their seventies and facing pervasive public speculation that they are becoming senile.

That is some funny stuff, no?

Just listen to Tucker Carlson on Wednesday night, the day after Joe Biden's big Super Tuesday victory and the victory speech in which he was momentarily confused over which side of the podium his wife and sister were standing. "As a smart friend said last night, Joe Biden has spent his entire life trying to succeed in presidential politics," the Fox News host chortled, "and now he has: Too bad he's not there to enjoy it. Pretty funny."

2020 is suddenly becoming the Dementia Campaign.

President Donald Trump's own public blunders--saying that his father was born in Germany when it was really his grandfather, or referring to Apple CEO Tim Cook as "Tim Apple"-- have prompted recurrent commentary throughout his term questioning whether his cognitive faculties are deteriorating.

Now that the 77-year-old Biden is the Democratic frontrunner over the 78-year-old Bernie Sanders to take on the 73-year-old Trump, questions about age-related infirmity are taking on a new volume and centrality.

The president has to make some public appearances and this one's will inevitably be disastrous.  But Uncle Joe should be running a front-porch campaign until his convention acceptance speech and then his inaugural.

Posted by orrinj at 7:04 AM


Spenser Confidential review - Mark Wahlberg crash lands on Netflix: The actor plays a justice-seeking ex-cop in a clumsy, unfunny adaptation of a much-loved literary crime series (Benjamin Lee, 6 Mar 2020, The Guardian)

It's an action-comedy-mystery-thriller that manages to spectacularly fail at all the above, an algorithmic abomination that's as coldly constructed as it is clumsily made. It's actually surprising just how flat the whole thing is, given that Berg has experience with bigger budgeted films with a more ambitious scope, but there's a deadening lack of spark to his direction here which he tries to hide with lively and recognisable soundtrack choices. The character of Spenser appeared in the 80s in a network show called Spenser: For Hire and one can see this envisioned as a franchise-starter for Netflix, given the wealth of stories from Parker and later Ace Adkins, who took over writing duties. But Berg never once shows us why this should be the case. Spenser is identical to every other wisecracking, punch-throwing, gold-hearted tough guy that we have seen before and the plot he finds himself up against is similarly tired.

It's a dusty, connect-the-dots plot that offers nothing in the way of surprise even if Helgeland, and co-writer Sean O'Keefe, try to include some throwaway references to fake news, gentrification and the opioid crisis. Spenser is paired with wannabe MMA fighter Hawk, a partnership that's built up to be fractious but in actuality is bizarrely easy, the two getting on almost instantaneously, denying us of any quippy conflict. Playing Hawk is rising star Winston Duke, who broke out in Black Panther and then Us, but he's given nothing to do here other than throw the odd punch, a strangely thankless role given how the character played such an integral part in the original Spenser series of books. There's also a sleepwalking Alan Arkin as Spenser's mentor, an unfunny turn from comic Iliza Shlesinger as his ex and Bokeem Woodbine, saddled with a predictably structured turn as his old partner. As Spenser himself, Wahlberg is coasting, sticking to a dog-eared playbook, as bored as we are watching him. A snappier script could have and should have found smarter ways to utilise a talented troupe of actors such as this but instead, they're wasted, unable to lift the pedestrianism of what they're saddled with.

Watched it last night and couldn't bring myself to hate it as much as the critics do.  Even coasting, Wahlberg is too likable to hate and I liked Arkin's turn, even if it was his dentist from The In-Laws grown old.  It's inexplicable though why they even pretend it's a Spenser adaptation.  They make so many changes it's barely recognizable. If anything, it's more like a comic adaptation of Dennis Lehane's detective series.  Of course, just writing Susan Silverman out of the series is service enough to please any fan and it helps not to have Spenser protected by friendly cops, mobsters, spies, girlfriends, foster children, etc, as he was by the end of Parker's run.  In truth, what started as a nicely modernized and Easternized version of the classic p.i. novels was near unreadable by the time Parker passed.  He seemed not to get that the entire point of the genre is that the detective faces overwhelming odds as he is opposed by all of the institutions he runs up against.  Hawk in particular was a terrible character--one most of his successors have borrowed to their own detriment--as he gave Spenser a way to do awful things while not violating his own moral code, a complete cop-out.
On the other hand, when Arnold Schwarzeneger was making really terrible movies he did one where he was a Southern sheriff.  He comes home late on his birthday and his drunken wife (Kathryn Harold) whips his entire cake at him. Arnold, deadpan: "You shouldn't drink and bake."  Can't remember any of the rest of the film, but that line.

Here there's one nearly as good.  Hawk and Spenser are getting ready for the final shoot-out and Hawk takes the shotgun. Spenser tells him he doesn't get the fancy gun.  "Hawk is the name of a [m-fer] with a shotgun.  Spenser is the name of an accountant." Spenser: "Okay, I'll give you that one."  

The tunes are great too.

Posted by orrinj at 6:55 AM


Israeli democracy is no longer a given - but there's hope: While virulent rhetoric by Likud leaders undermines the legal system, Arab-Israelis have voted to be partners in a shared society (Arye Carmon, MAR 7, 2020, JTA)

The failure to distinguish between the decisions of voters and authorities entrusted to enforce the law poses a tangible threat to the future of Israeli democracy. Those authorities required to enforce the law -- among them the police, the state attorney's office and the attorney general -- determined after conducting a long and thorough independent investigation that the law demands Netanyahu be tried in court on serious criminal charges. However, his Likud supporters argue that the political decision by Israeli voters overrules the decisions made by the state's legal authorities.

About 2,300 years ago, Socrates rejected his students' pleas to flee from the death penalty imposed by the Athenian court, explaining that he could not violate the contract between the citizens and the laws of the state. By contrast, Netanyahu and his supporters are playing a game that is contrary to the fundamental rules of democratic societies in the 21st century.

Since the investigations against Netanyahu began about four years ago, he has incessantly waged a rhetorical attack against each of the legal authorities involved in the probes. This rhetoric reached a crescendo after the indictment was filed in January. Netanyahu, now desperate to avoid prosecution, seems ready to jettison any remaining concern for the rule of law.

The fragility of Israel's democratic foundations can largely be attributed to the fact that the Jewish people had no tradition of responsibility for political sovereignty to build upon when establishing the state and expressing its right to self-determination. This type of tradition was impossible to develop during 2,000 years of exile.

The lack of a tradition of political sovereignty accentuates the deep divisions in Israeli society, which has changed at an unprecedented pace over the course of seven decades. Demographically, Israel has grown by 1,200% during this period, and it has failed to slow the downward slide from diversity to division. The lack of a tradition of political sovereignty explains why the state's founding fathers gave up on establishing a constitution. The lack of this tradition and, consequently, the lack of a constitution, is what enables Netanyahu -- unlike Socrates -- to try to evade the wheels of justice by railing against law enforcement authorities and spewing incitement that widens the divides.

Israel is a formal democracy with institutions and procedures. It conducts elections and its parliament enacts legislation. But it is not a substantive democracy. It does not rest upon a written constitution anchored by a bill of rights that outlines the respective authorities and responsibilities of each of the three branches of government and ensures its continuity. A written constitution is not only a guide for sound conduct by institutions and other stakeholders. First and foremost, a constitution is an educational document designed to instill the guiding values of civic behavior in all members of a society.

In the coming days, Israel's Supreme Court will need to address a lacuna in the state's legal system. According to its previous rulings, government ministers and mayors cannot continue to serve in their positions once an indictment is served against them. On the other hand, under Israel's Basic Law, an indicted prime minister cannot be removed from office until a final judgment is rendered. As noted, however, Netanyahu is now only an acting prime minister.

...but we do have an electorate eager to get rid of our Bibi.

Posted by orrinj at 6:35 AM


The man who refused to freeze to death (William Park, 27th February 2020, BBC)

Heimaey is the largest of the Westman Islands, an archipelago south of Iceland mostly inhabited by puffins. On Stórhöfði peninsula, at the southernmost point of Heimaey is an outcrop that juts into the Atlantic Ocean. The local weather station here claims to be one of the windiest places in Europe.

It was here, in the early hours of March 12 1984, that 23-year-old Guðlaugur Friðþórsson stumbled towards salvation. His bare feet were bleeding from deep cuts caused by the volcanic rock hidden beneath the snow, his clothes soaked in seawater and frozen to his body. He should have already died several times over, but something deep inside Friðþórsson propelled him forwards. 

The night was clear and cold. The air temperature was -2C (28F) but with strong winds it would have felt much colder. Despite the freezing temperatures, he paused at a bathtub filled with water left out for sheep for a brief respite. Punching through the centimetre-thick ice he began to gulp down water from the trough.  [...]

Friðþórsson had fallen into the sea just east of Stórhöfði peninsula when his the small fishing vessel, Hellisey VE 503, ran into trouble. At 10pm, her trawl net caught on the ocean floor capsizing the boat so quickly the crew had no time to send a distress signal.

Her five fishermen were thrown overboard. Three of them managed to scramble onto the keel of the upturned fishing boat, two never resurfaced.

The survivors found themselves separated from shore by three miles (5km) of 5-6C (41-43F) sea. An average person will survive in water colder than 6C for about 75 minutes. Accounts of people surviving for longer are anecdotal and few. In laboratories, test subjects begin to suffer adverse effects within 20 or 30 minutes before they are pulled out. To swim three miles in these seas would take hours.

Seawater cannot get really, really cold like air. Seawater freezes at about -1.9C (28.6F), but around Iceland in March the sea is just above freezing. It is theoretically possible to get frostbite in cold water, then, but very unlikely.

On the keel of the upturbed boat, however, the sub-feezing air temperature was taking its toll. The fishermen's wet shirts, sweaters and jeans were quickly exacerbating their coldness. Staying put was not an option. [...]

After a short while deliberating, the three men decide to risk the swim. Within 10 minutes, the two others had succumbed to the cold. In all, it took Friðþórsson six hours to swim to land. How was he able to survive for so much longer than his compatriots?

For the fishermen, the first few minutes after hitting the water were critical. Cold water takes heat away from the body quicker than air at the same temperature. Those that succumbed quickly were probably unable to control the cold shock response. Gasping and panicking, they inhaled water. Friðþórsson, by contrast, managed to control his breathing.

He later described remaining clear-headed throughout his swim. He even chose to get back in the sea to swim further along the shoreline after the cliffs at his first landing spot proved too difficult to climb. The presence of mind to do this probably saved his life.

Finally, Friðþórsson reached a village, and around 7am on Monday morning he knocked on someone's door. He was later discharged from hospital having been treated for his cuts and dehydration. There was no sign that he had suffered from hypothermia at all.

Friðþórsson, now 58, is a large man. He stands 6'3" (193cm) and weighed 19.6 stone (125kg) in his twenties. A generous layer of fat about two and a half centimetres thick wraps his abdomen. His body fat kept him insulated, but it was also a vital source of energy.

Even so, his ability to stay warm was exceptional. Researchers who conducted tests on Friðþórsson after his ordeal concluded that he must have been able to maintain near normal body temperature for the entirety of his swim.

Unlike other extreme survivors, Friðþórsson has not made his story into a money-spinner. A 2012 independent Icelandic film is the sum total of the mainstream coverage. The clothes that he wore, now on display in the Eldheimar Museum on Heimaey in a small exhibit to the island's fishing history, are a modest recognition for his remarkable story.

In the film they basically conclude that he has the body of a seal.  

March 6, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 4:58 PM


AUDIO: McCoy Tyner: The Pianist (SONYA WILLIAMS, 2/07/99, NPR's 'Jazz Profiles')

Posted by orrinj at 4:36 PM


Newly obtained documents show $157,000 in additional payments by the Secret Service to Trump properties (David A. Fahrenthold, Joshua Partlow, Jonathan O'Connell and Carol D. Leonnig , March 5, 2020, Washington Post)

President Trump's company charged the Secret Service $157,000 more than was previously known -- billing taxpayers for rooms at his clubs at rates far higher than his company has claimed, according to a new trove of receipts and billing documents released by the Secret Service.

Many of the new receipts were obtained by the watchdog group Public Citizen, which spent three years battling the Secret Service over a public-records request from January 2017.

When added to dozens of charges already reported by The Washington Post, the new documents show that Trump's company has charged the Secret Service more than $628,000 since he took office in 2017.

The payments show Trump has an unprecedented -- and still partially hidden -- business relationship with his own government. The full scope of that relationship is still unknown because the publicly available records are largely from 2017 and 2018, leaving huge gaps in the data.

Posted by orrinj at 12:17 PM


American Machiavelli (Daniel McCarthy, OCTOBER 28, 2014, American Conservative)

The man whose mind explains our politics today and suggests a diagnosis--if not a cure--for our condition is James Burnham. Once a Marxist, he became the American Machiavelli, master analyst of the oligarchic nature of power in his day and ours.

He was one of William F. Buckley Jr.'s first recruits for the masthead of National Review before the magazine's launch in 1955. Burnham, born in 1905, had already had a distinguished career. He had worked with the CIA and its World War II-era precursor, the OSS. Before that, as a professor of philosophy at New York University, he had been a leading figure in the American Trotskyist movement, a co-founder of the socialist American Workers Party.

But he broke with Trotsky, and with socialism itself, in the 1940s, and he sought a new theory to explain what was happening in the world. In FDR's era, as now, there was a paradox: America was a capitalist country, yet capitalism under the New Deal no longer resembled what it had been in the 19th century. And socialism in the Soviet Union looked nothing at all like the dictatorship of the proletariat: just "dictatorship" would be closer to the mark. (If not quite a bull's-eye, in Burnham's view.)

Real power in America did not rest with the great capitalists of old, just as real power in the USSR did not lie with the workers. Burnham analyzed this reality, as well as the fascist system of Nazi Germany, and devised a theory of what he called the "managerial revolution." Economic control, thus inevitably political control, in all these states lay in the hands of a new class of professional managers in business and government alike--engineers, technocrats, and planners rather than workers or owners.

The Managerial Revolution, the 1941 book in which Burnham laid out his theory, was a bestseller and critical success. It strongly influenced George Orwell, who adapted several of its ideas for his own even more famous work, 1984. Burnham described World War II as the first in a series of conflicts between managerial powers for control over three great industrial regions of the world--North America, Europe, and East Asia. The geographic scheme and condition of perpetual war are reflected in Orwell's novel by the ceaseless struggles between Oceania (America with its Atlantic and Pacific outposts), Eurasia (Russian-dominated Europe), and Eastasia (the Orient). The Managerial Revolution itself appears in 1984 as Emmanuel Goldstein's forbidden book The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism.

Could freedom of any sort survive in the world of 1984 or the real world of the managerial revolution? Burnham provided an answer--one Orwell didn't want to hear--in his next book, The Machiavellians: Defenders of Freedom. Liberty's only chance under any economic or political system at all was to be found in a school of political realism beginning with the author of The Prince.

Machiavelli poses yet another paradox. The Florentine political theorist seems to recommend a ruthless and manipulative ethos to monarchs in The Prince--the book is a veritable handbook of tyranny. Yet his other great work, the Discourses on the First Decade of Titus Livy, is as deeply republican as The Prince appears to be despotic. Whose side was Machiavelli on?

Scholars still argue, but Burnham anticipated what is today a widely accepted view: Machiavelli was fundamentally a republican, a man of the people, yet one who took a clear-eyed, even scientific view of power. And by discussing the true, brutal nature of politics openly, Machiavelli provided any of his countrymen who could learn a lesson about how freedom is won and lost. As Burnham writes:

If the political truths stated or approximated by Machiavelli were widely known by men, the success of tyranny and all the other bad forms of oppressive political rule would become much less likely. A deeper freedom would be possible in society than Machiavelli himself believed attainable. If men generally understood as much of the mechanism of rule and privilege as Machiavelli understood, they would no longer be deceived into accepting their rule and privilege, and they would know what steps to take to overcome them.

From his experience in government and reading of the classics Machiavelli distilled a number of lessons, which Burnham further refines. "Machiavelli insists," he notes, that in a republic "no person and no magistrate may be permitted to be above the law; there must be legal means for any citizen to bring accusations against any other citizen or any official..." Freedom also requires a certain extent of territory, even if the means by which that territory is to be acquired are not as republican as one would wish: hence Machiavelli's call for a prince to unify Italy. Machiavelli was a Florentine patriot, but he had seen his beloved city ruined by wars with other cities while mighty foreign kingdoms like France overawed them all. Cities like Florence and their citizens could be free only if Italy was.

Boiled down to its essentials, it's stunning how many problems a strict adherence to republican liberty ameliorates.

Posted by orrinj at 11:23 AM


Trump gets heat from supporters on virus in Fox News town hall (Kevin Freking, 3/06/20, Associated Press)

President Donald Trump defended the administration's response to the coronavirus and his confrontational style of name-calling political opponents as he fielded questions Thursday from select members of the public in his first TV town hall of the 2020 election cycle.

Mr. Trump, who regularly calls his top Democratic presidential opponents "Sleepy Joe" and "Crazy Bernie," was asked whether he could deliver his message without the controversial rhetoric. "When they hit us, we have to hit back. I really feel that," Mr. Trump said in response to the first of two questions about civility. "You can't turn your cheek."

Nicely captures how defending Donald requires rejecting Jesus.

Posted by orrinj at 10:27 AM


Trump says he'll cut entitlements like Social Security and Medicare if reelected to shrink trillions in national debt (Joseph Zeballos-Roig, Mar. 6, 2020, Business Insider)

Trump was asked during the interview about the $23 trillion national debt, which has continued surging under his watch. He campaigned on 2016 on wiping it out but instead passed laws like the 2017 tax cuts, which piled more onto it.
At the town hall, Fox News host Martha MacCallum told the president that if "you don't cut something in entitlements, you will never really deal with the debt," and Trump immediately responded.

"Oh, we'll be cutting," he said to the Scranton, Pennsylvania, audience.

Has any politician ever hated his own base more?

Posted by orrinj at 10:18 AM


The Caliphate of Man: Popular Sovereignty in Modern Islamic Thought  (Usman Butt, March 6, 2020, MEMO)

Interrogating the works of Rashid Rida, Sayyid Qutb, Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, Abul A'la Maududi, Ayatollah Ali Khomeini and others, March captures the diversity and tensions of modern political Islamist thought. He puts forward the interesting argument that Islamist thinkers generally view the people -- the Muslim Ummah -- as being the living embodiment of the Shari'ah and God's Will. Unlike secular political thinkers, who tend to see the people as the sole embodiment of sovereignty, law and political rights, 20th century Islamist thinkers tended to argue for the notion of dual sovereignty, where law is both divinely decreed and exercised through the will of the people at the same time.

The tensions between the religious and secular occupy an important area of Islamic political thinking, according to March, as Islamists try to harmonise the two ideas of sovereignty. "A core thesis of my analysis is that the divine and popular elements in Islamic democratic theory are often derived from the same commitments and materials," he writes. "Divine command is not just a constraint on human freedom, and human freedom is not just the absence of divine command. Rather, the foundation of Islamic democratic theory is the same as the foundations of Islamic theocratic theory... The political theology of popular sovereignty in Islam is that the Umma [sic] has been entrusted by God with the realisation of His law on Earth. God is the principle agent and actor, and the first response of the people-as-deputy is a passive and receptive one. But the force of God dignified mankind as His caliph is that He has deputised no one else between God and man -- no kings, no priests, no scholars."

This is why Sunni Islam is not the natural ally of liberal democracy that Shi'ism is: it is Utopian.

Posted by orrinj at 9:54 AM


This village for the homeless just got a new addition: 3D-printed houses (ADELE PETERS, 3/06/20, Fast Company)

For the last few years, Tim Shea has lived in an RV in a small community outside Austin that was designed for people who were once chronically homeless. In early May, he'll move from the RV into one of the community's first 3D-printed homes--a small house with walls made from a concrete-like material that were automatically extruded from a giant, 33-foot-long machine.

"It's amazing," says Shea, who has been watching the new home rise from his RV. "Sometimes I'll just stand at the end of the property for an hour and watch them work."

Posted by orrinj at 9:48 AM


How Sweden is developing green batteries for a more sustainable future (Tim Marringa, 6 March 2020, The Local)

"If you want more electrified society, batteries need to have very high efficiency," explains University of Uppsala researcher Kristina Edström.

"The amount of energy you lose when you store it has to be very low. It also has to be scaleable, from really big batteries to very small ones, to be able to use them in different applications. They are crucial as a tool for a new generation of renewable energy cities."

Swedish company SaltX stores energy in the form of heat in large tanks filled with nano-coated salt. This heat can then be used to generate electricity when needed.

"There are a lot of days with wind that you're not going to need at that specific time and there are going to be days that you don't have any wind," says Corey Blackman, head of technology at the company. "The whole point of energy storage is that you store energy in times of surplus, and utilize this in times that you don't have enough."

"It's very similar to electrical batteries where you would store electricity in chemical bonds," Blackman tells The Local. "But instead of storing electricity, we store heat. Salt and water react with each other. When you put in certain amounts of heat you separate and when you bring them back together this heat is released from the system again, which you can utilise."

Posted by orrinj at 9:29 AM


Review: Devs: Nick Offerman and Alison Pill in Alex Garland's wild sci-fi mystery. (KURT LODER | 3.6.2020, reason)

Alex Garland, who wrote and directed every installment of this movie (let's call it that) has deep roots in the sci-fantasy world, having written two memorable Danny Boyle films (including the great Sunshine), the mega-dystopian Never Let Me Go, the comic-book adaptation Dread, and two films that he also directed, both unforgettable: Ex Machina and Annihilation.

With Devs, Garland takes on one of the oldest philosophical disputes--the one between determinism and randomness. You remember:

Determinism: "Every action in this world is predetermined, why worry?"

Randomness: "No, free will exists--let me demonstrate with this punch in your face."

Determinism: "I knew you were going to do that."

Variations on this conundrum have launched many a sci-fi story, but probably never at such painstaking length as in Devs. This could be a problem for some viewers, who might find the movie's measured, trance-like pace to be simply too slow (and indeed, there are an awful lot of lingering aerial shots of freeways and forests, and some scenes that may have been given a little too much room to breathe--they feel as if they were shot underwater). But still, the rich, hypnotic spell that Garland casts is hard to deny.

He's become one of our more interesting filmmakers and did a really enjoyable interview with Sean Fennessey of The Ringer.

Posted by orrinj at 9:22 AM


The Arabs' Moment (MARWAN MUASHER, March 06, 2020, Carnegie Endowment)

[E]lections are cementing what many analysts have already pointed out: We are in a one-state reality. The two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is supported by no more than a handful of Jewish-majority parties in Israel. Aside from the Arab parties, only seven Jewish members of the Knesset today explicitly support it! Long gone are the days when a majority of Israeli lawmakers expressed their strong support for an Israeli and a Palestinian state living side by side.

Whether Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or his electoral rival Benny Gantz forms a government, or whether Israel has a national-unity government, will not have any direct bearing on the conflict. Neither candidate is serious about a viable two-state solution, with changing demographics making a one-state outcome--not necessarily a solution--a stark reality on the ground. Regardless of what any party to the conflict, or the international community, thinks, we are already in a post-Oslo paradigm. The question has ceased to be whether a two-state solution is possible or not, but what kind of a single state will emerge. Will it be an apartheid system, a democratic state, or something in between?

The second outcome of the three elections is the steady, and probably permanent, rise of an Arab bloc in the Knesset. Since the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, Arab citizens have gone from feeling besieged, marginalized, and uneasy about being part of the Israeli system, to slowly becoming empowered, aware of their own strength, and determined to fight discrimination and marginalization by standing up to the system through the rules it has laid down.

While Israel's declaration of "independence" in 1948 assured Arabs full citizenship rights, most Israeli parties today are openly supportive of Israel as "a nation state for the Jewish people." This leaves 20 percent of the country's non-Jewish population wondering where they fit in this framework.

By insisting on a state only for the Jewish people, Israeli leaders adopted a racist attitude that backfired in the elections. The Arabs decided to fight back, put their differences aside, and run by uniting four Arab parties into one electoral list. Arabs also voted in record numbers, bringing their usually low voter turnout much closer to its Jewish equivalent, and even drawing support from some Jewish voters. The result is fifteen seats in the Knesset, making the Arab bloc the third largest in Israel's parliament, and rendering the formation of any Israeli government more difficult without Arab support. Who would have guessed that the Arabs in Israel today would hold more than twice the number of seats in parliament than David Ben Gurion's Labor Party does?

Times have changed. While a two-state solution has become almost impossible to implement, the struggle for Palestinian rights is itself undergoing an evolution. As a 2017 Carnegie report, "Revitalizing Palestinian Nationalism: Options Versus Realities," indicated, "[T]here are signs of an evolution in the thinking of Palestinian activists and political theorists, including inside Israel, toward an approach that seeks legal protections..." The Palestinians appear to be shifting from defining the shape of any solution--through two states or one state--to securing their rights.

The best option for the Occupied at this point is to simply insist on their full rights as Israeli citizens and let demographics do the rest.

Posted by orrinj at 8:27 AM


The Biden veepstakes  (Damon Linker, March 6, 2020, The Week)

That leaves the person who might be the best choice of all -- and a true dark horse in the competition to become second in line to the most powerful job on the planet: Sixty-year-old Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico. A lawyer and former member of the House of Representatives, where she served as chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Lujan Grisham became the first Democratic Latina governor in the country in 2018. Along the way, she's also served as New Mexico's secretary of health. On the personal side, she shares with Biden a family history marked by tragedy: Her sister was diagnosed with a brain tumor as a child and died at age 21, while her husband (with whom she had two children) died of a brain aneurysm in 2004.

Solid experience as a legislator and chief executive, the potential to woo Hispanic voters to the polls, a compelling and relatable biography -- in all of these ways, Lujan Grisham could well prove to be the perfect choice to serve as Joe Biden's running mate and potential VP.

No one has ever assembled a better team than W, who chose a former Chief of Staff for VP and Defense, a former Deputy Chief of Staff for Chief of Staff, a Chair of the Joint Chiefs/NSC head for State, governors for AG, HHS, EPA, etc, and Senate Chief of Staff for OMB.  He essentially had a senior team where 10 people were qualified to be president.  Of course, he was able to do so because of his confidence in his own qualification.

Bill Clinton, Barrack Obama and Donald Trump, in stark contrast, demonstrated their insecurities by choosing VPs and senior staff for political reasons and for their conspicuous lack of heft.  Uncertain about their own ability to govern they did not want to surround themselves with the better qualified.

Given Uncle Joe's age and the institutional damage done by his predecessor, it would seem a moral duty and patriotic obligation to choose--in particular--a VP, Chief of Staff and Treasury/Defense/State/AG/HHS heads who have actually governed or run governments.  The problem is that the Democratic bench is so shallow.  The best recent governor is Jerry Brown, who is 81.  Pretty nearly none of the sitting governors are popular--the ten most popular are all Republicans and most of the least popular are Democrats--even in overwhelmingly Blue states.  He could, of course, demonstrate bipartisanship by picking a few of the moderate Republicans who are beloved in Blue states--Larry Hogan, Charlie Baker & Phil Scott--but he'd have to be willing to face down the grousing from his own party and likely could not get away with taking one as VP.  He could prevail on his old boss to take State.  He could recycle Kathy Sibelius and Austin Goolsbee from the Obama Administration.  Howard Dean might be plausible at HHS?  But you're really scrambling to assemble a qualified team here.

Posted by orrinj at 8:18 AM


Warren calls out Sanders for 'organized nastiness' and 'bullying' by his supporters (Fred Barbash, March 6, 2020, Washington Post)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called out Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for not taking steps to control the "organized nastiness" of some of his supporters during the presidential campaign.

"It's not just about me," Warren said in an interview with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow on Thursday following her decision to suspend her campaign for the Democratic nomination. "I think that's a real problem with this online bullying and sort of organized nastiness. ... I'm talking about some really ugly stuff that went on."

While politics has become riddled with such behavior, she said it was a particular problem with Sanders's supporters. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:11 AM


The Trump administration 'brain drain' is impeding the coronavirus response: Efforts to address the outbreak risk are being undermined by an exodus of scientists and a leader who regularly distorts facts (Oliver Milman, 6 Mar 2020, The Guardian)

[T]he efforts to address the outbreak risk being undermined by three years of a Trump administration that has seen an exodus of scientists from a variety of agencies, the scrapping and remodeling of scientific panels to favor industry interests and a president who regularly dismisses or distorts scientific facts - from the climate crisis to whether the moon is part of Mars - in public.

"The US is badly positioned; the federal government isn't up to the task," said Judith Enck, a former regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). "When I learned more about this virus my heart sank because I know the Trump administration doesn't value basic science, it doesn't understand it and it tends to reject it when it conflicts with its political narrative."

Enck said that Trump "doesn't seem to understand what a clinical trial is", a reference to a White House meeting with pharmaceutical executives and public health officials on Monday where the president urged the attendees to release the anti-coronavirus drugs they are working on. "So you have a medicine that's already involved with the coronaviruses, and now you have to see if it's specifically for this," Trump said. "You can know that tomorrow, can't you?"

In the meeting, Trump wondered aloud why the flu vaccine can't just be used for coronavirus. When told by Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, that it could be up to 18 months before a vaccine is available to the public, Trump responded: "I mean, I like the sound of a couple months better, if I must be honest."

At a political rally in Charlotte later that day, Trump told the crowd that a vaccine will be available "relatively soon" before adding that there are "fringe globalists that would rather keep our borders open than keep our infection - think of it - keep all of the infection, let it come in."

The fringe being Americans.

March 5, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 9:59 PM


As Bernie Sanders Pushed for Closer Ties, Soviet Union Spotted Opportunity (Anton Troianovski, March 5, 2020, NY Times)

The mayor of Burlington, Vt., wrote to a Soviet counterpart in a provincial city that he wanted the United States and the Soviet Union to "live together as friends."

Unbeknown to him, his desire for friendship meshed with the efforts of Soviet officials in Moscow to "reveal American imperialism as the main source of the danger of war."

That mayor was Bernie Sanders, and the story of his 1988 trip to the Soviet Union has been told before. But many of the details of Mr. Sanders's Cold War diplomacy before and after that visit -- and the Soviet effort to exploit Mr. Sanders's antiwar agenda for their own propaganda purposes -- have largely remained out of sight.

The New York Times examined 89 pages of letters, telegrams and internal Soviet government documents revealing in far greater detail the extent of Mr. Sanders's personal effort to establish ties between his city and a country many Americans then still considered an enemy despite the reforms being initiated at the time under Mikhail S. Gorbachev, the Soviet general secretary.

They also show how the Kremlin viewed these sister city relationships as vehicles to sway American public opinion about the Soviet Union.

"One of the most useful channels, in practice, for actively carrying out information-propaganda efforts has proved to be sister-city contact," a Soviet Foreign Ministry document provided to Yaroslavl officials said.

It's good to be the Establishment.

Posted by orrinj at 5:42 PM


A GOP-appointed judge's scathing review of William Barr's 'candor' and 'credibility,' annotated (Aaron Blake , March 5, 2020, Washington Post)

Below is the meat of the 23-page ruling from Walton, who was appointed by George W. Bush, with annotations and analysis in yellow.

The Court has grave concerns about the objectivity of the process that preceded the public release of the redacted version of the Mueller Report and its impacts on the Department's subsequent justifications that its redactions of the Mueller Report are authorized by the FOIA. For the reasons set forth below, the Court shares the plaintiffs' concern that the Department "dubious[ly] handl[ed] [ ] the public release of the Mueller Report." EPIC's Mem. at 40; see also id. ("Attorney General[] [Barr's] attempts to spin the findings and conclusions of the [Mueller] Report have been challenged publicly by the author of the [Mueller] Report. [ ] Attorney[] General[] [Barr's] characterization of the [Mueller] [R]eport has also been contradicted directly by the content of the [Mueller] Report."); Leopold Pls.' Mem. at 9 ("[T]here have been serious and specific accusations by other government officials about improprieties in the [Department's] handling and characterization of the [Mueller] Report[.]"). Accordingly, the Court concludes that it must conduct an in camera review of the unredacted version of the Mueller Report to assess de novo the applicability of the particular exemptions claimed by the Department for withholding information in the Mueller Report pursuant to the FOIA.

Posted by orrinj at 5:37 PM


How Russia Is Trying To Boost Bernie Sanders' Campaign (Tim Mak, March 5, 2020, All Things Considered)

Russia's state-sponsored messaging about Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign was more neutral in the fall.

But over the past six weeks, this coverage has shifted to mirror pro-Sanders talking points first used in the last presidential campaign, said Clint Watts of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, who has been monitoring Russian interference continuously.[...]

While monitoring coverage on Russian news agencies RT and Sputnik, Watts has noticed an ongoing trend: While most coverage remains neutral, Sanders receives substantially better coverage than his opponents.

According to figures released by Watts' organization, Sanders received a higher percentage of positive coverage -- more than 2 1/2 times -- than any other Democratic candidate, and even more than President Trump.

And, Watts adds, "the important part is that they [the two networks] have been more negative about everyone else."

Posted by orrinj at 3:26 PM


Posted by orrinj at 3:21 PM


Mike Bloomberg plans new group to support Democratic nominee (Michael Scherer, March 5, 2020, Washington Post)

Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg has decided to form a new independent expenditure campaign that will absorb hundreds of his presidential campaign staff in six swing states to work to elect the Democratic nominee this fall.

The new group, with a name that is still undisclosed because its trademark application is in process, would also be a vehicle for Bloomberg to spend money on advertising to attack President Trump and support the Democratic nominee, according to a person familiar with the discussions, who requested anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

Posted by orrinj at 12:56 PM


Trump campaign is taking lots of cash from companies profiting off opioid epidemic (Dan Desai Martin, March 4, 2020, American Independent)

Donald Trump has benefited from more than $4.5 million in campaign funds linked to the deadly opioid epidemic ravaging the nation.

The Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee raised the funds from heirs to the Johnson & Johnson fortune as well as Stewart Rahr, former head of Kinray, a pharmaceutical distributor.

According to financial contributions flagged by American Bridge, a progressive opposition research organization, the Johnson family and Rahr donated $4,508,100 to Trump campaign efforts between late 2016 and February 2020.

Posted by orrinj at 12:52 PM


Sometimes the Obvious Thing Is True: Bernie Sanders Is Just Too Liberal (Kevin Drum, 3/05/20, Mother Jones)

Even among Democrats, there's not a majority who identify as liberal, let alone mega liberal. Maybe there will be someday when Millennials and Gen Z take over, but not today.

I know I'm a bit of a broken record on this, but the whole Bernie phenomenon is very much a part of the Twitter bubble. Or maybe it's just the "online blatherer bubble." In any case, I belong to a few progressive listservs and support for Joe Biden in those places is approximately zero. On Twitter, you'd think there were no human beings in the country who supported Biden. Even in the more traditional media, there's an assumption that Biden is just sort of a default choice for some people, but that nobody actively likes the guy.

Maybe so. But out in the real world I think there's more grass roots support for Biden than he gets credit for. It's not as loud or as enthusiastic as Sanders or Warren get, but neither is it "establishment" support, as Biden's weak fundraising shows. Rather, it comes from Biden's experience; his general likability; his optimism; and yes, some Obama coattails.

Ironically, by forcing blacks, Latinos and Asians to remain Democrats, Donald keeps their party mainstream.  It is Republicans who are radical.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM



Public Policy Polling surveyed 872 Maine voters and found 47 percent would vote for Democratic challenger Sara Gideon this fall, compared to 43 percent for Collins, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percent.

PPP also polled 666 Arizona voters and found 47 percent would vote for Democratic challenger Mark Kelly while 42 percent would vote for McSally, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8.

Donald's taking the party down with him, as we deserve.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


New Hampshire Gov Joins Legal Fight to Keep 'Obamacare' (Associated Press, March 05, 2020)

Sununu's running for a third term. His decision puts him in opposition to a group of Republican-led states and the Trump administration, which is pushing to overturn the law.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


VW Turns to Electric to Regain Momentum in the U.S. (Simon Hage, 05.03.2020, Der Spiegel)

The test laboratory is hidden away in an industrial park in Reston, Virginia, not far from the Washington, D.C., airport. Inside a corrugated metal structure, four men are sitting at folding tables and staring into their laptops. Nothing seems to disturb them as they work, and they don't even look up when the roller door at the entrance rattles open and a yellow, electric Chevrolet drives in.

The car stops in front of a row of white metal posts out of which green light is shining, thick, black cables hanging down at their sides. They're charging stations for all different brands of electric cars, from Tesla to Porsche to Chevrolet, and thousands of them are to ultimately be set up at parking lots and highway rest stops across the United States.

The man behind the wheel of the Chevrolet is named Giovanni Palazzo, and he is the head of this vast project, the name of which is mounted in black lettering on the back wall of the warehouse: "Electrify America." "We want to make the switch to electric cars as easy as possible," he says. "We want e-mobility to finally become reality in the U.S."

There is nothing in the building to indicate who is behind the multibillion-dollar project. The U.S. government? One of the tech companies based in Silicon Valley? Nope. It's an automobile producer from Germany: Volkswagen. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The dangerous pull of political tribalismWhy does believing in one thing mean signing up to an entire creed and picking a side? (JAMES MUMFORD, 3/05/20, Unherd)

[A]s I argue in my book Vexed: Ethics Beyond Political Tribes, an etch-a-sketch approach to ideology is called for. We need to start from first principles and decide, undetermined and undeterred by our historic political identifications, which positions on the weightiest moral questions align with the good.

We need to be prepared to concede that our historic ideological enemies, whichever tribe they come from, may have got it right when it comes to a particular controversy. This pick-n-mix approach is very different from carving out some amiable middle ground; it means taking substantive positions on specific issues, but from across the political spectrum. For difficult though this may be, failing to do so ensures a kind of moral stagnation we should all find unacceptable. The deals may give us mates, but they cannot deliver genuine progress.

There is something totalitarian about package deals, and having our thinking governed by the constellations of opinions which are but the product of historically contingent coalition-building. And because of this, I find inspiration in the Vaclav Havel  essay The Power of the Powerless and the Czech playwright's exhortation that "the primary breeding ground for what might be understood as an opposition in the post-totalitarian system is living in the truth". It is, he wrote, a drama "originally played out in the theatre of the spirit and the conscience of society".

Deciding where we stand as individuals on moral questions, irrespective of political parties, may not be the terminus. But it is the place to begin.

Hoffer again:

Unless a man has the talents to make something of himself, freedom is an irksome burden...We join a mass movement to escape from individual responsibility, or, in the words of an ardent young Nazi, 'to be free from freedom.' It was not sheer hypocrisy when the rank-and-file Nazis declared themselves not guilty of all the enormities they had committed.  They considered themselves cheated and maligned when made to shoulder responsibility for obeying orders. Had they not joined the Nazi movement in order to be free from responsibility?

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


What do far-right terrorists actually believe?The far-right's idea of an international white identity is at odds with mainstream patriotism. (PAUL STOTT, 5th March 2020, spiked)

Another counterintuitive finding was that the authors of these manifestos are not patriots or even nationalists. They are white separatists, followers of an ideology obsessed by race and rooted in a transnational white identity, besieged by conspiracies they cannot control and by environmental Armageddon.

When we listen to woke academics and activists talking about 'whiteness', we see the flipside of the coin in the far right. Indeed, who else proclaims the existence of a 'white' identity except the worst elements on the left and the worst elements of the right?

Donald and Bernie are united most by their hatred of America as it is,

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Fox News host Sean Hannity "tailored his shows" based on suggestions from Paul Manafort: FBI memos (IGOR DERYSH, MARCH 4, 2020, Salon)

Gates and Manafort, who were longtime business partners before joining the Trump campaign, were later indicted in connection to their overseas work for Russian-backed politicians in Ukraine.

Gates told investigators that Hannity and Manafort had a "good relationship" and that the Fox News host was a "Trump supporter who publicly applauded Manafort's hiring."

"During the campaign, Hannity tailored his shows to the agenda Manafort suggested," the FBI memo said. "Hannity called himself a 'pundit,' not a journalist."

AKA: in-kind contributions

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Far-right Polish lawmaker: Natural selection via pogroms made Jews powerful (CNAAN LIPHSHIZ, 4 March 2020, JTA)

Janusz Korwin-Mikke made the comment in an interview for the Polsat channel last week about the coronavirus, the Do Rzeczy newspaper reported Wednesday.

"Jews are now powerful because they had pogroms," he said. "As a result of pogroms, the strongest and the most gifted survived. This is a warning to anti-Semites: That is why Jews are powerful, because they had pogroms. There are even theories that rabbis deliberately provoke pogroms precisely so that Jews survive and then there is natural selection."

The dangers of taking Darwin seriously.

March 4, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 6:32 PM


Sanders and Trump Stare Into Their Graves (JOHN F. HARRIS, 03/04/2020, Politico)

Biden summoned high turnout from precisely the diverse constituencies of African-Americans, suburbanites, working-class and older voters that another aging pol more at home with coalition politics than movement politics--House Speaker Nancy Pelosi--marshalled to re-take the House in 2018.

In the near-term, Biden's achievement indicated that Sanders has no convincing path to defeating this coalition with young people or previous non-voters. The only formula for his revival would involve Sanders somehow managing to encroach on support Biden won so handily from these groups. If not, it's shovel time, no matter how long the nomination contest slogs on (which likely will be quite a while).

For the general election, the implications of Tuesday are equally urgent for Trump. Voter turnout in the primaries was up from 2016 in almost every state--in Virginia, for instance, turnout increased by more than two-thirds. The overwhelming evidence is that it is Trump, not any Democrat, who is stimulating this surge. Increased energy on the Democratic side, in the likely event this holds through the fall, means Trump must also stimulate new voters or it is shovel-time for him, too.

Posted by orrinj at 12:03 PM


Joe Biden's winning coalition: Black and suburban voters (Katelyn Burns,  Mar 4, 2020, Vox)

Support from black voters translated across the South, with Biden notching double-digit victories in Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. According to Washington Post exit polling data, Biden carried voters who care most about race relations, with a median 48 percent support across Super Tuesday states.

Black support explains some of Biden's success Tuesday, but surprise victories in Texas and Massachusetts suggested there's something else going on with Biden's voting coalition.

In the 2018 midterms, Democrats swept into power in the House on the strength of overwhelming support not just from black voters, but from suburban white women voters as well. Exit polling from Tuesday suggests that Biden's base tracks closely with the 2018 blue wave.

In Texas, Biden carried the Dallas and Houston suburbs. He also carried nearly every county in Virginia, including northern Virginia and the Washington, DC suburbs. That pattern was repeated throughout much of the Super Tuesday states.

The Trump coalition is essentially those on meth or Viagra.
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Feds: Mystery witness will implicate 'Putin's chef' in election interference (JOSH GERSTEIN, 03/04/2020, Politico)

U.S. prosecutors say they have a witness who will directly implicate a Russian businessman known as "Putin's chef" in schemes to carry out election interference overseas.

The mystery witness is prepared to testify at a criminal trial set to open in Washington next month in a case special counsel Robert Mueller brought accusing three Russian companies and 13 Russian individuals of meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, a prosecutor declared at a recent court hearing.

The anticipated testimony will focus on the most prominent Russian national charged in the indictment, Yevgeny Prigozhin, a St. Petersburg restaurateur who enjoys close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin and who has expanded his business empire to become a key contractor for the Russian military.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Biden makes a mockery of Sanders' main argument for his campaign (RYAN LIZZA, 03/04/2020, Politico)

On Tuesday night Joe Biden engineered one of the most monumental political comebacks in the history of party primaries. The scale of his Super Tuesday rout over three well-funded and hyper-organized Democrats -- Bernie Sanders, Michael Bloomberg, and Elizabeth Warren -- has no comparison.

Biden won every state in the South by double digits: Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, Oklahoma. He won Minnesota, the only contest in the Midwest, by 9 points. He narrowly won Texas. In the northeast he won Massachusetts, the home state of Elizabeth Warren and remained competitive in Maine, where the race was still too close to call but where Biden had a slight lead.

Sanders won similarly lopsided victories in his home state of Vermont and Utah, the two smallest prizes of the day, and in Colorado. Sanders did best in California, where as of late Tuesday, he was up by almost 10 points, but not enough for a delegate blowout. By the end of the night the most unthinkable outcome started to seem likely: Biden may be the delegate leader when all the votes are counted.

Biden's miraculous turnaround came about for four reasons. First, his support among African-American voters held steady across the country. Biden won those voters in every state in which exit polls registered a significant black population, from a low of 33% in California to a high of 72% in Alabama. Sanders did better with black voters outside the South, but he failed to improve over his 2016 numbers.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The overlooked ideology behind 21st century far-right terror (Rakib Ehsan, 3/03/20, CapX)

With the threat of far-right terrorism becoming increasingly globalised, the new report from the Henry Jackson Society analysing three far-right manifestos produced in 2019 is extremely timely. These documents - authored by suspected far-right terrorists Brenton Tarrant, John Earnest, and Patrick Crusius - while incorporating some familiar theories, also contain themes which suggest that the ideological complexities associated with contemporary far-right terrorism have been somewhat neglected.

What binds together the documents are classic white replacement theories, which are gaining serious traction in the online space. At the heart of these theories is the belief that white people of European heritage are being 'replaced' in parts of Europe, North America, and Australasia - in both a socio-demographic and socio-cultural sense. While Tarrant, an Australian, fleshes out that his parents are of English, Scottish, and Irish stock, Earnest, an American - referring to his "magnificent bloodline" - emphasises that he is of English, Irish, and Nordic heritage.

Elements of the far-right are also of the view that these processes of change have been deliberately engineered by mainstream pro-diversity politicians who kowtow to a multiculturalist ideology and the principle of 'cultural enrichment'. Earnest, in his aggressively anti-Semitic manifesto titled An Open Letter, blames an all-powerful international Jewry for "the meticulously planned genocide of the European race". This is supposedly attempted through a number of methods, such as bankrolling pro-immigration mainstream political parties.

But there are ideological elements of the manifestos which have been overlooked - or perhaps ignored - by much of the progressive mainstream media. What emerges from the analysis is a clear anti-corporation sentiment - a rally against the perceived excesses of free-market capitalism and globalised markets.

The hatred is driven in large part by the adaptations businesses make to remain competitive, helping to develop the economy globally and marketing to an increasingly diverse set of consumers. It's why Trumpbots who claim not to buy into the whole agenda still defend his war on business. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Joe Biden wins Massachusetts primary, NBC News projects, a crushing blow to Elizabeth Warren (Kevin Breuninger, 3/04/20, CNBC)

Former Vice President Joe Biden will win the Massachusetts Democratic primary, according to an NBC News projection.

The result is a crushing blow to rival Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who represents the state.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


If given $100, half of young Africans would use it to start a business, survey says (Vicky McKeever, 3/04/20, CNBC)

Around half of young people across Africa said that if they were offered $100, they would use it to start a business, a survey has shown. 

This entrepreneurial spirit was revealed in a study by the Ichikowitz Family Foundation charity, with just over three-quarters of the 4,200 youngsters surveyed saying they would like to start a new business in the next five years. 

Some 17% of those questioned said they wanted to do so in the retail sector, while 10% of respondents said they would look to either start a business in technology or agriculture. 

Social entrepreneurship was also a popular theme among young people in Africa, according to the survey, with 63% saying that their idea for a business or social enterprise would benefit those living in their community. 

March 3, 2020

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Posted by orrinj at 7:08 PM


How a Black Man From Missouri Transformed Himself Into the Indian Liberace (LIESL BRADNER, September 12, 2015, New Republic)

Before Liberace, there was Korla Pandit. He was a pianist from New Delhi, India, and dazzled national audiences in the 1950s with his unique keyboard skills and exotic compositions on the Hammond B3 organ. He appeared on Los Angeles local television in 900 episodes of his show, "Korla Pandit's Adventures in Music", smartly dressed in a suit and tie or silk brocade Nehru jacket and cloaked in a turban adorned with a single shimmering jewel. The mysterious, spiritual Indian man with a hypnotic gaze and sly grin was transfixing.

Offstage, Korla--known as the "Godfather of Exotica"-- was living the American dream: he had a house in the Hollywood hills, a beautiful blonde wife, two kids, and a social circle that included Errol Flynn and Bob Hope. He even had his own floral-decorated organ float in the Rose Bowl parade in 1953.

Like most everything in Hollywood, it was all smoke and mirrors. His charade wasn't his stage name--it was his race. Korla Pandit, born John Roland Redd, was a light skinned black man from St. Louis, Missouri. It was a secret he kept until the day he died.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Democrats actually learned from 2016 (Jennifer Rubin, March 3, 2020, Washington Post)

In an era of petulant and self-absorbed politics, in which parties are less relevant and effective than ever and the center is crumbling, an extraordinary scene played out on Monday. Moderate Democratic politicians acted like grown-ups, with grace and enthusiasm, as they rallied to support former vice president Joe Biden, the centrist candidate capable of defeating a bomb-throwing populist.

For many former Republicans (or one temporarily in exile) who lived through the total collapse of the Republicans in the Trump onslaught in 2016 -- and warned Democrats not to repeat the error of the rival party -- there was a mixture of delight, relief and amazement. Could it be that one party had collectively decided not to commit political suicide? Could it be that a party solved the conundrum in which the individual imperative to remain in the race leads to a collective failure (i.e. the inability to thwart a hostile takeover)?

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Impossible Foods slashes wholesale prices by 15% (Amelia Lucas, 3/03/20, CNBCX)

Impossible Foods is slashing wholesale prices on its products by 15% on average.

The maker of the meatless Impossible Burger said Tuesday that the price cut is thanks to manufacturing efficiencies and achieving greater economies of scale.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The EU is blind to its own failing tactics (Douglas Carswell, 3/03/20, CapX)

Having spent much of my adult life campaigning to get the UK out of the EU, I have noticed a pattern of behaviour by the Euro establishment.

Each time the EU side has been presented with what you might call British concerns about the nature of our relations with them, they start off by failing to take us seriously.  Rather than address our concerns, the Brussels side seemed to expend its efforts into brushing them aside.

An obvious example of this was when Tony Blair, hardly a noted Eurosceptic, warned back in the late 1990s that the EU was overly centralised. Reform, he understood, would be needed to make the block become more competitive.

How did the EU establishment respond? Blair was fobbed off with the so-called Lisbon Agenda, which was supposed to be an ambitious reform initiative, but which saw no powers actually passed back to member states.

Something very similar happened a decade later when David Cameron asked the EU to help him win his referendum. Might the EU, he politely enquired, offer him something that might allow him to persuade the British electorate to vote to remain? They gave him nothing of substance.

No doubt EU negotiators saw this as a win. Sitting in Vote Leave's campaign office, when Cameron came back empty handed, we knew that what might be a tactical victory for Brussels was a strategic victory for us. And so it proved.

It's a simple case of a nation choosing sovereignty.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Complicated History of Disestablishment (MARK DAVID HALL, 3/02/20, Law & Liberty)

Because it is such a useful resource, every college and university library should own a copy of Disestablishment and Religious Dissent. But it also should be read by anyone who works on religious liberty or church-state relations in early America. Unlike many scholars, Esbeck and Den Hartog carefully define important terms, starting with "establishment" itself. They contend that establishments include one or more of the following features:

Government financial support of the state church: assessments to pay ministers and rents from glebe lands.

Government control over the creeds, order of worship, polity, and clerical appointments of the state church. . . .

Mandatory attendance at worship services in the state church, prohibitions on church services by others, and required licensure to open a meeting house for nonconformists.

Use of the state church to record births, marriages, and deaths; to perform all marriages and funerals; and to administer tax revenues for the care of the poor and widows. . . .

Religious tests. Public office and voting rights confined to members of the state church or a broader test to include nonconformists.

This definition is similar to one offered by Michael W. McConnell in an influential 2003 article, but theirs is derived from the book's 20 substantive chapters. It is worth emphasizing this nuanced definition because far too many scholars simplistically equate establishments with financial support for churches.

Esbeck and Den Hartog's definition of "establishment" makes it difficult to offer neat, tidy dates for when states disestablished religion. For instance, many states retained religious tests for civic offices and prohibitions on ministers holding civic office well into the 19th century, and a few maintained them until they were declared to be unconstitutional in Torcaso v. Watkins (1961) and McDaniel v. Paty (1978).

The Virginia General Assembly, on the other hand, banned religious tests for civic offices when it passed Thomas Jefferson's Statute for Religious Liberty in 1786. But it did not repeal a law "whereby the general assembly made ecclesiastical decisions on behalf of the Episcopalian Church" until 1787. It is thus not unreasonable to conclude, contrary to many scholars and popular authors, that Virginia disestablished its state church in 1787 rather than 1786.

Even more interesting, Ohio's 1802 constitution stated that "no man shall be compelled to attend, erect, or support any place of worship, or to maintain any ministry, against his consent," and that the:

laws shall be passed by the legislature which shall secure to each and every denomination of religious societies in each surveyed township, which now is or may hereafter be formed in the State, an equal participation, according to their number of adherents, of the profits arising from the land granted by Congress for the support of religion.

Acting upon this provision, the Ohio legislature passed laws directing revenue from "ministerial lands" to churches. These statutes were amended and revised, but they remained law until voters amended the state constitution in 1968.

Many of the book's chapters discuss ways in which states continued to favor some denominations and religions over others well into the 19th century. 

Given the plain meaning and history of the clause it's especially anti-Constitutional to argue that government can't afford assistance to religious institutions generally.

March 2, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Coronavirus: Nasa images show China pollution clear amid slowdown (BBC, 29 February 2020)

The space agency noted that the decline in air pollution levels coincided with restriction imposed on transportation and business activities, and as millions of people went into quarantine.

"This is the first time I have seen such a dramatic drop-off over such a wide area for a specific event," Fei Liu, an air quality researcher at Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Center, said in a statement.

She added that she had observed a decline in nitrogen dioxide levels during the economic recession in 2008, but said that decrease was more gradual.

Nasa noted that China's Lunar New Year celebrations in late January and early February have been linked to decreases in pollution levels in the past. But it said they normally increase once the celebrations are over.

"This year, the reduction rate is more significant than in past years and it has lasted longer," Ms Liu said.

"I am not surprised because many cities nationwide have taken measures to minimise spread of the virus."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The new kingmakers: Israel's Arab citizens (Naomi Chazan, MAR 2, 2020, Times of Israel)

The campaign against Arab voters is not new. It has always been an oft-subsumed part of Israeli elections. If, however, it was long considered beyond the pale (see the prohibition against racist candidates in the wake of the Meir Kahane phenomenon in the 1980s), it has gathered momentum and considerable traction during the past two decades. Avigdor Liberman unabashedly adopted the election slogan: "no loyalty, no citizenship" ten years ago. Netanyahu's infamous appeal to his supporters on election day in 2015 to go out to vote because "the Arabs are going to the polls in droves" continued this trend with impunity. Throughout the past year, the Likud has flirted openly with Kahane's successors in the Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) party, providing them with that formal legitimacy that had eluded them previously. The ultra-nationalist Yemina party headed by Naftali Bennett contains anti-Arab provocateurs-turned-ministers (Bezalel Smotrich and Rafi Peretz) who spout hatred against non-Jews on a daily basis.

The greatest - and by far the most cynical - offender remains Netanyahu himself. Over the course of the last twelve months he has not missed an opportunity to demonize the elected representatives of Israel's Arab community, to question their loyalty, to drive a wedge between them and their voters, and to openly delegitimize them. In November, he went so far as to state that the Arab Members of the Knesset are "seeking to destroy the state". Nary has a day gone by without either he or one of his minions heaping abuse on the Arab citizens of the country. And then came the announcement of the Trump "deal of the century" with a clause intended to sanction the transfer of the entire triangle containing 300,000 residents to Palestinian hands (a revival of the transfer notion first raised by the late minister Rehavam Ze'evi).

Sadly, this noxious trend has been compounded by Netanyahu's mantra of the last few weeks: "It's either Bibi or Tibi" (a reference to Ahmed Tibi, one of the leaders of the Joint Arab List and a highly-regarded veteran parliamentarian). Benny Gantz and the Blue-White party, fearful of the effect of this barrage on soft-right voters, succumbed to the hate campaign and announced that he would not form a coalition with the Arab List, thus further fueling the rising ire in the Palestinian-Arab public.

The assault on Israel's Arab citizens is backfiring: at stake is not only the honor of an entire community, but also the value of equality of rights that lies at the core of any democratic society. That is why the anger it has evoked in large segments of this community - and among many Jewish voters who have refused to sit quietly as this campaign has progressed - is now being translated into a massive effort to increase turnout rates. The objective is to realize what Netanyahu fears the most: a high participation that can deny him and his cohorts another term.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Are America's rising high school graduation rates real--or just an accountability-fueled mirage? (Douglas N. Harris, Monday, March 2, 2020, Brookings)

One of the greatest apparent achievements in U.S. education in the past two decades century has been the steep rise of the U.S. high school graduation rate. For decades, the percentage of 18-24 year-olds who completed high school with a regular diploma or GED hovered around 85%. Since 2001, however, there has been a sharp increase, arguably the fastest rise since the early 1900s. Between 2001 and 2016, the percentage of 18-24 year-olds with a credential increased to 93%--an 8-percentage-point increase.  [...]

The uptick started in the early 2000s, just after No Child Left Behind (NCLB) passed into law. In addition to the law's well-known focus on test scores, NCLB also gradually added accountability for high school graduation. At first, the attention to graduation was relatively limited, but, in 2007, states were required to set specific targets that schools had to reach in order to make "adequate yearly progress" and use a common metric, called the average cohort graduation rate. The pressure was on to raise graduation rates. [...]

While we need to work to improve the data, we can also swing too far in the other direction--and too-easily dismiss the measures we have now. Yes, there are many ways to manipulate high school graduation measures, and some of this did occur. But, even in the worst-case scenarios laid out here, the evidence suggests that the accountability helped increase the national high school graduation rate--and produced some real and important knowledge and skills for students. Given the value of high school degrees generally, this is a great accomplishment.

At a time when the past two decades of accountability reforms are increasingly seen as a failure, our analysis suggests that graduation accountability has been a meaningful success story.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Ensuring Civics Education for the Next Generation (Rob Bluey,  March 02, 2020, Daily Signal)

Bluey: Well, it is great to have you here in our studio. The Bill of Rights Institute is an organization that develops educational resources and programs for both teachers and students all across this great country. Tell our listeners more about your work and who you are reaching.

Bobb: The Bill of Rights Institute has been around for two decades. We're focused on supporting teachers in the really vital work of civics education.

There are hundreds of thousands of teachers that every day get up and think about, how do we give students a notion of freedom and opportunity? How do we teach them about the founding principles and address all of the current events that are in the news as well?

Civics was really a preoccupation of the Founding Fathers. They thought of it not as something that was the responsibility of the federal government so much, but the responsibility of communities.

Lately, I've been thinking about a quotation that Thomas Jefferson had when he said, "Citizenship is not just about voting one time a year, it's really an everyday thing. It's an everyday responsibility."

If you think of that idea, that notion of everyday citizenship, today we've sometimes reduced it to just voting and for kids kind of recycling or figuring out ways that you can get the government to do something and mobilize people.

I think the notion that we're really trying to do in the Bill of Rights Institute is very different. That's to say to students, "You have rights, you have responsibilities. What are you going to do to a noble civil society?"

Bluey: It seems that there is a growing interest and even a concern in our country over the lack of civics education. So you're certainly addressing that.

Just recently I read that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis wants to have a test that high school students take. I know there's students in Rhode Island who are suing the state and the governor because they feel like they have a lack of civics education.

Tell us why it is that you're sensing this reaction from students or parents all across the country and how you're going about responding to it?

Bobb: There is a huge interest. I think it's really encouraging. ... We're really focused at the Bill of Rights Institute on reaching high school students, middle school students; supporting the teachers that every day take up the task of instructing students in American history, civics, and what's come to be known as social studies.

Students feel polarization in a different way than adults do. One of our students who attends a weeklong constitutional boot camp we run called the Constitutional Academy--it's here in the Washington D.C. area--said, "I wonder, can I disagree with my friends and will they still be my friends?"

So, one of the things I think that we're seeing is that teachers and students and then parents in the community are trying to grapple with, what is this thing, you can kind of feel it in the air that really bespeaks the division?

People are wondering, how do we get beyond that? Not to just some kind of kumbaya moment because I think the key thing here is, how do we learn to disagree amicably?

The Constitutional Convention was a remarkable meeting, it laid down some ground rules that said, "We're going to lay out a charter of our freedoms, we're going to take inspiration from the declaration."

For four months, the members of that convention debated things. They came out with what, sometimes by our textbooks, is characterized just as a bundle of compromises. ...

It's the same thing that we've seen happen this week on Capitol Hill, but, in fact, there was something really higher going on there, because what they were saying is, "Human beings have rights."The purpose of government is to protect those rights.

What I think we're feeling now is that many people are awakening to the fact that we've neglected this subject area in our schools, but even more, we've neglected to take it up as families, as communities ...

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Germany hits record 61 per cent renewables for month of February (Joshua S Hill, 2 March 2020, Renew Economy)

Renewable energy sources provided a record 61.2% of Germany's net public electricity generation in February, according to figures provided by the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE), which also showed that wind energy provided nearly half of the country's electricity during the month.

March 1, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 10:49 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Turkey shoots down two Syrian planes over Idlib amid newly-launched 'Operation Spring Shield' (New Arab, 1 March, 2020)

Syrian state media on Sunday said Turkish forces had shot down two regime planes over Idlib, in the latest escalation between the neighbours.Tags:Syria, Turkey, Idlib,
Turkish forces "targeted" two Syrian regime planes over the embattled rebel bastion of Idlib in northwest Syria on Sunday, Syrian state media said on Sunday, just moments after Turkey announced Operation Spring Shield.

The Sukhoi jets fell in regime-held territory, likely after being targeted by Turkish F-16 planes, according to a rebel group and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Turkey's Erdogan Asks Russia to Step Aside in Syria (Reuters, Mar 01, 2020)

Turkey, which has poured forces into Idlib, also hit back, killing 26 pro-Damascus troops around Idlib and the Aleppo countryside, the Syrian Observatory said, and Turkey-backed rebels said they had re-taken six towns and villages in southern Idlib.

With diplomacy sponsored by Ankara and Moscow to ease tensions in tatters, Turkey has come closer than ever to confrontation with Russia on the battlefield in Syria.

Speaking in Istanbul, Erdogan said he had told Putin in a phone call to stand aside and let Turkey "do what is necessary" with the Syrian government. He said Turkey did not intend to leave Syria right now.

We should provide any help they need against two of our enemies.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


25-year study: Most corporate tax incentives do more harm than good (ARIANNE COHEN, 2/29/20, Inc.)

Rolling out the red carpet for corporations with tax incentives often comes at a steep cost to cities and states, according to a comprehensive new study that tracks 25 years of such incentives. "We found that in almost all instances, these corporate tax incentives cost states millions of dollars, if not more, and the returns were minimal," says co-author Bruce McDonald, an associate professor of public administration at North Carolina State. The agreements "ultimately left states in worse financial condition than they were in to begin with."

...why are we taxing them in the first place?

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Capital and Ideology by Thomas Piketty review - down the rabbit hole of bright abstractions (Paul Mason, 1 Mar 2020, The Guardian)

In this book, Piketty outlines his solution: a "participatory socialism" in which capitalism is gradually abolished via a progressive income tax and a tax on inherited wealth, which are used to finance both a basic income and a "capital endowment" for every citizen.

In a single table, Piketty demonstrates that, in the abstract, it would be possible to finance a radically egalitarian economy if both income tax and inheritance tax for the rich were set around 60-70%. The outcome would be to "make ownership of capital temporary". Meanwhile, by legislating to enforce power-sharing within firms, between workers and bosses, you could achieve the "true social ownership of capital".

At the End of History one hardly expects coherence from the critics of capitalism.  But the idea that using capital transfers to create universal individual capital endowments is anything but capitalism on steroids is pretty demented.  Meanwhile, having recognized the need to make everyone wealthy the idea that we should tax that wealth is conflicted on a Harvey Dent level.