August 31, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 6:15 PM


White House coronavirus reports contradict public statements by Trump officials (Laurin-Whitney Gottbrath, 8/31/20, Axios)

The eight weeks of reports, released by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, detail how each state was fairing amid the pandemic. The reports often contradict what was being said publicly by White House officials, including President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

In a June 23 report, the White House coronavirus task force privately warned seven states that they remained in the "red zone," indicating the highest risk of coronavirus spread. But just a week earlier, on June 16, Pence claimed in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that the "panic" over a possible second wave of COVID-19 cases was "overblown."

On June 26, Pence said during a televised task force briefing that "all 50 states are opening up safely and responsibly." But in a private report dated June 29, the White House task force had concluded that 10 states were in the "red zone."

Similar contradictions were seen this month. On Aug. 3, President Trump encouraged schools to reopen, tweeting: "Cases up because of BIG Testing! Much of our Country is doing very well." But in a private report dated Aug. 2, White House officials had warned that 23 states were in the "red zone." By Aug. 9, 48 states and the District of Colombia were in red or yellow zones.

Posted by orrinj at 5:22 PM


Posted by orrinj at 3:26 PM


How Trump Brought Nazis Into Republican Politics (Jonathan Chait, 8/31/20, New York)

Yesterday, President Trump retweeted a video of a man on a New York subway platform shoving and injuring a white woman. In normal times, it would have been unfathomable to determine why the president of the United States would take an interest in this case. The assault took place a year ago, and the perpetrator was arrested in short order.

But the actual source of Trump's interest is perfectly obvious. The perpetrator was Black, and the victim white. The video was shared, and seems to have come to Trump's attention, by an account called "I'm With Groyper." For those unfamiliar, "Groypers" are a white-supremacist sect who criticize other far-right groups for failing to be explicitly "pro-white."

Trump has a way of wearing down journalists by violating norms so often and so shamelessly that it ceases to be newsworthy. During the 2016 campaign, when he shared a white-supremacist image using a Jewish star to depict Hillary Clinton as being bought and controlled by the Jews, it caused enough of a controversy that Trump's campaign was forced to insist it had somehow mistaken the image for a sheriff star.

But Trump has retweeted enough decontextualized, random videos of nonwhite people attacking white people -- indeed, he shared the same 2019 subway attack clip in June -- that it has lost its shock value. But it is this very banality that makes Trump's behavior so significant. The president is in the habit of promoting a wide array of his supporters, and we all have grown accustomed to the fact that some of those supporters are, well, Nazis.

Posted by orrinj at 3:22 PM


Trump's popularity slips in latest Military Times poll -- and more troops say they'll vote for Biden (Leo Shane III, 8/31/20, Military Times)

In the latest results -- based on 1,018 active-duty troops surveyed in late July and early August -- nearly half of respondents (49.9 percent) had an unfavorable view of the president, compared to about 38 percent who had a favorable view. Questions in the poll had a margin of error of up to 2 percent.

Among all survey participants, 42 percent said they "strongly" disapprove of Trump's time in office. [...]

Among active-duty service members surveyed in the poll, 41 percent said they would vote for Biden, the Democratic nominee, if the election was held today. Only 37 percent said they plan to vote to re-elect Trump. [...]

In the 2016 Military Times Poll, nearly twice as many respondents said they planned to vote for Trump than then Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Exit polls from the election showed a similar margin after election day.

A 2012 Military Times Reader Survey -- conducted in a non-scientific fashion -- showed respondents favoring then Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney by a 2.5-to-1 margin.

Posted by orrinj at 3:17 PM


Appeals court deals setback to Flynn's attempt to end DOJ case against him (JOSH GERSTEIN and KYLE CHENEY, 08/31/2020, Politico)

A federal appeals court has dealt a setback to former Trump White House adviser Michael Flynn, ruling that a district court judge can proceed with a planned hearing on the Justice Department's attempt to abandon the criminal false-statement case against Flynn.

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, sitting en banc, voted 8-2 to reject Flynn's effort to dismiss the case immediately. The court's ruling Monday also rejected efforts by Flynn to remove District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan from the case for alleged bias.

Posted by orrinj at 2:53 PM


Trump Campaign Knowingly Accepting Contributions From Notorious Neo-Nazi Morris Gulett and Other Racists (Tom Sykes, Aug. 31, 2020, Daily Beast)

The Trump campaign has been accepting thousands of dollars in donations from a notorious neo-Nazi leader and other racist extremists. The newsletter Popular Information reports records show Team Trump has repeatedly accepted cash from Morris Gulett, who set up an outpost of the Aryan Nations, also known as the Church of Jesus Christ Christian, in Louisiana. [...]

The newsletters also details contributions to the Trump camp from Peter Zieve, a businessman who was sued by Washington state for discriminating against minority applicants and imposing his racist views on his employees.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Southern Guilt, Southern Gospel (J. Brandon Meeks, August 31, 2020, Mere Orthodoxy)

Traditional Country Music as expressed by the haunting echoes of Hank Williams, the gritty ballads of Johnny Cash, and the tragic tales of love gone wrong by George Jones (to name but a few iconic examples) may be described as a form of religious testimony. The enigmatic figures who sang them were like some instantiation of Johannes Redivivus--latter day messengers storming in from the wilderness with honey on their chins, fire in their bellies, and a tear in their voices. Such unvarnished prophets often said more about the stark realities of sin and our inherent need for redemption in a single song than one might hear in a whole month of Sunday sermons.

The popular prophets of this musical tradition were hostages of times and places foreign to those who do not hail from small southern towns or dysfunctional southern families. Classic Country is not a diverse genre; its character may well seem painfully abstruse to anyone who wasn't raised with a yard full of dogs and rusty pickup trucks. It is typically working class, white, southern, and Protestant. So it speaks of that which it knows; it sings the songs of its people.

To say that it witnesses to a particular form of faith is not to say that it is a defense of the particulars of that faith, rather it demonstrates how faith so shaped the environs in which these artists lived, moved, and had their being that the presence of certain unwritten dogmas were simply their daily bread. Teetering back and forth between honor and shame, Classic Country extolled what has come to be termed "traditional values," while at the same time admitting--without hesitancy--the failure of most in living in perfect conformity to that moral standard.

For instance, daddies were revered as strong patriarchs, but almost always as angels with broken halos. Mothers were venerated far above any Madonna, as they sought to instill the fear of God in the hearts of rebellious sons. Or, as we are told, those mammas tried. The Church was respected, even when its members were not respectable. Longsuffering wives were the stuff of legend, as husbands, derelict in their duties and callous in their affections, rendering sorrowful tributes to broken-hearted and neglected spouses have too often told us. Children were viewed as blessings instead of burdens. Virtues were well regarded even if rarely manifested. Vices were portrayed as such, along with their lamentable consequences. The Prodigal God who wastes his substance on those living riotous lives, ever ready to welcome home foolish sons, was never far from their minds.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Justice Department secretly curtailed the investigation into Trump's links to Russia in 2017: NYT (Lauren Frias, 8/31/20, Business Insider)

When appointing Robert Mueller as special counsel of the investigation, former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told Mueller to look for "any links and/or coordination between the Russian government," which falls under the purview of a counterintelligence investigation to scope out threats to national security, The Times reported Tuesday.

But Rosenstein privately told Mueller to conduct it as a criminal investigation, thus building a staff equipped to investigate crimes, not national security threats, former Justice Department and FBI officials told The Times.

Citing journalist Jeffrey Toobin's book that first reported their conversation, Rosenstein told Mueller: "I love Ken Starr. But his investigation was a fishing expedition. Don't do that. This is a criminal investigation. Do your job, and then shut it down."

Joe's AG gets to go fishing.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'Fake' Rembrandt came from artist's workshop and is possibly genuine (Mark Brown,  30 Aug 2020, The Guardian)

It had always niggled at her that the panel might not be a fake. "It is what Rembrandt does. He does these tiny head studies of old men with forlorn, melancholic, pensive looks. It is very typical of what Rembrandt does in Leiden around 1630."

The panel was analysed by Peter Klein, one of the world's leading dendrochronologists, and it was established that the wood panel came from the same tree used for Rembrandt's Andromeda Chained to the Rocks, which is in the Mauritshuis in the Hague and Jan Lievens' Portrait of Rembrandt's Mother, in the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen in Dresden, Germany. Both were painted around 1630 when the artists, friends from childhood, were working in Leiden in the Netherlands.

Klein said the wood panel came from an oak tree felled in the Baltic region between 1618-28. "Allowing a minimum of two years for the seasoning of the wood, we can firmly date the portrait to 1620-30," he said.

Van Camp said all the research pointed to the panel being at least from the workshop of Rembrandt. More investigations will follow to determine whether there is evidence of Rembrandt's own hand in the work.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Yusef Salaam: 'Trump would have had me hanging from a tree in Central Park' (Arwa Mahdawi, 31 Aug 2020, The Guardian)

If Donald Trump had got his way I wouldn't be speaking to Yusef Salaam right now. "Had his ad taken full effect we would have been hanging from trees in Central Park," Salaam says matter-of-factly. "People wanted our blood running in the streets."

You've probably seen the ad in question: it's infamous. In 1989, a white investment banker was raped and left for dead in Central Park. Five black and brown teenagers, including 15-year-old Salaam, were charged with her rape. Two weeks after the attack, before any of the kids had faced trial, Trump took out a full-page advert in multiple New York papers calling for the death penalty. His inflammatory stunt is credited with prejudicing public opinion and contributing to the Central Park Five - now known as the Exonerated Five - going to prison for something they didn't do. The boys' story was retold last year in the Emmy-winning Netflix drama When They See Us, directed by Ava DuVernay.

Salaam spent almost seven years behind bars; he had his youth ripped away from him. However there is no bitterness in the slim, softly spoken, 46-year-old man I'm talking to: you can come out of prison better, not bitter, he likes to say. Salaam, who is speaking to me from his home in Georgia, completed a college degree in prison and, when he got out, dedicated his life to educating others about what he calls the "criminal system of injustice". He has 10 children ("It's a blended family"), a successful career as a public speaker, a record of policy reform, and a lifetime achievement award from Barack Obama. Now he and the Haitian-American author Ibi Zoboi, a National Book award finalist, have teamed up on a young adult book partly inspired by his experience. Punching the Air, a novel-in-verse, explores institutional racism and the school-to-prison pipeline through the eyes of Amal Shahid, a 16-year-old black Muslim boy who is wrongfully incarcerated after a fight in a park leaves a white kid in a coma. [...]

With issues like defunding the police becoming mainstream talking points and the Black Lives Matter movement going global, Punching the Air feels particularly timely. However, as Zoboi notes, it has always been painfully relevant. They could have written the book in 2012 when Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, was killed. They could have written the book in 1999 when Guinean immigrant Amadou Diallo was fatally shot by four New York City police officers, who were all found not guilty. It may feel like we're on the brink of change at the moment, but history warns us not to expect too much. "We have lived long enough to see change not happen in a big way," Zoboi says. "Because Salaam and I are parents, we have to be hopeful for our children. At the same time, change is going to be incremental not monumental. Small steps. And this book serves as one small step."

How has social media changed things? Salaam was convicted before there were hashtags, before viral videos shone a light on police brutality. "The worst part about social media is that we hoped that, as we told our stories, the oppression would stop," Salaam says. But it hasn't. "Social media has allowed us to be more aware but it doesn't seem that awareness alone makes anything change," Zoboi adds. "It seems like the more awareness we have, the more pushback there is. It seems like white supremacists have doubled down because of our awareness."

This isn't to say that we should give up hope. Amal means hope in Arabic. And while rage and frustration simmer through Punching the Air it is, ultimately, a hopeful book. If there is one thing Salaam wants readers to take out of the story it is "to never give up hope on themselves. To understand that you were born free and that you were born mattering." But what about Salaam himself? As the 2020 election, and the possibility of another four years of Trump looms, is Salaam hopeful? He is quiet for a moment, thoughtful. "My experience has taught me to prepare for the worst," he says, "but to hope for the best."

The folks who reluctantly voted Donald but insisted he was just acting like a racist to appeal to The Base were ignoring his entire life.

August 30, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 12:55 PM


The FBI warned for years that police are cozy with the far right. Is no one listening? (Mike German, 28 Aug 2020, The Guardian)

For decades, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has routinely warned its agents that the white supremacist and far-right militant groups it investigates often have links to law enforcement. Yet the justice department has no national strategy designed to protect the communities policed by these dangerously compromised law enforcers. As our nation grapples with how to reimagine public safety in the wake of the protests following the police killing of George Floyd, it is time to confront and resolve the persistent problem of explicit racism in law enforcement.

I know about these routine warnings because I received them as a young FBI agent preparing to accept an undercover assignment against neo-Nazi groups in Los Angeles, California, in 1992. [...]

[I]n June 2019, when Congressman William Lacy Clay asked the FBI counter-terrorism chief, Michael McGarrity, whether the bureau remained concerned about white supremacist infiltration of law enforcement since the publication of its 2006 assessment, McGarrity indicated he had not read it. Asked more generally about this infiltration, McGarrity said he would be "suspect" of white supremacist police officers, but that their ideology was a first amendment-protected right.

The 2006 assessment addresses this concern, however, by summarizing supreme court precedent on the issue: "Although the First Amendment's freedom of association provision protects an individual's right to join white supremacist groups for the purposes of lawful activity, the government can limit the employment opportunities of group members who hold sensitive public sector jobs, including jobs within law enforcement, when their memberships would interfere with their duties."

More importantly, the FBI's 2015 counter-terrorism policy, which McGarrity was responsible for executing, indicates not just that members of law enforcement might hold white supremacist views, but that FBI domestic terrorism investigations have often identified "active links" between the subjects of these investigations and law enforcement officials. But its proposed remedy is stunningly inadequate. It simply instructs agents to protect their investigations by using the "silent hit" feature of the Terrorist Screening Center watchlist, so that police officers searching for themselves or their white supremacist associates could not ascertain whether they were under FBI scrutiny.

Of course, one doesn't need access to secret FBI terrorism investigations to find evidence of explicit racism within law enforcement. Since 2000, law enforcement officials with alleged connections to white supremacist groups or far-right militant activities have been exposed in Alabama, California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia, among other states. Research organizations have uncovered hundreds of federal, state and local law enforcement officials participating in racist, nativist and sexist social media activity, which demonstrates that overt bias is far too common.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump's favorability and perceptions of COVID-19 response stagnate post-convention (Kendall Karson, August 30, 2020, ABC News)

Less than one-third (31%) of the country has a favorable view of the president in the days after he accepted the Republican nomination for the second time -- a stagnant reality for Trump. His favorability rating stood at 32% in the last poll, taken a week earlier, right after the Democratic National Convention.

In the new survey, which was conducted using Ipsos' KnowledgePanel, Biden's favorability remains higher than his unfavorability, 46% to 40%, solidifying his improvement in favorability from last week, when attitudes about the Democratic nominee improved to a net positive from his slightly underwater position prior to the convention.

Biden's favorability ticked up from 40% in an Aug. 13 poll to 45% just after the Democratic convention.

Among Democrats, too, Biden's favorability climbed seven points after his convention -- showing signs that he's solidified support among his base. But Trump's favorability dipped slightly -- by four points among Republicans in the newest survey.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Surprise of Order: a review of Beauty: What It Is and Why It Matters by John-Mark L. Miravalle (John Tuttle, 8/30/20, University Bookman)

Beauty always attracts. We are drawn to it. We desire it. We express it. And, ultimately, we aspire to it. Nevertheless, it is debatable whether people are more readily able to define truthfulness and hail someone as being good before they can give a convincing explanation of beauty. A charitable woman might be called good. A man who gives an accurate account of an event might be called truthful. But when something is acclaimed as beautiful, the claim can bring controversy rather than clarity.

Pontius Pilate's weighty inquiry, "What is truth?" would be no more significant than asking "What is beauty?" Both questions come with philosophical and moral implications. These very issues, with special regards to beauty, are addressed in John-Mark L. Miravalle's work Beauty: What It Is and Why It Matters. In doing so, the author pulls from the Greek fathers of a priori philosophy to St. Thomas Aquinas, from G. K. Chesterton to Hans Urs von Balthasar and C. S. Lewis, from papal documents to the Scriptures. The greatest thinkers have honed in on particular manifestations of beauty, all of which are the handiwork of a master Craftsman. Naturalist and environmental advocate John Muir summed it up nicely in so many words: "No synonym for God is so perfect as beauty."

In a tangible appraisal of this most elusive transcendental, Miravalle's book gives two criteria that must be present in anything that is to be called beautiful. First, beauty requires order. Such an order is fulfilled in the melody of song or the visual aesthetics of painting. Second, there is meant to be an element of surprise or even mystery. This can come through unique presentation, unanticipated imagery, and other methods.

Were the One Story not so surpassing beautiful it would not be worthy of faith.

August 29, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 1:31 PM


Opposition to Obama becomes a political liability for embattled Senate Republican incumbents (kAISER hEALTH nEWS, 8/29/20)

Polling conducted by KFF for the past 10 years shows a shift in public opinion has occurred nationwide. (KHN is an editorially independent program of KFF, the Kaiser Family Foundation.)

"Since Trump won the election in 2016, we now have consistently found that a larger share of the public holds favorable views" of the health law, said Ashley Kirzinger, associate director of public opinion and survey research for the foundation. "This really solidified in 2017 after the failed repeal in the Senate."

The foundation's polling found that, in July 2014, 55% of voters opposed the law, while 36% favored it. By July 2020, that had flipped, with 51% favoring the law and 38% opposing it. A shift was seen across all political groups, though 74% of Republicans still viewed it unfavorably in the latest poll.

Public support for individual provisions of the ACA -- such as protections for people with preexisting conditions or allowing young adults to stay on their parents' health plans until age 26 -- have proved even more popular than the law as a whole. And the provision that consistently polled unfavorably -- the mandate that those without insurance must pay a fine -- was eliminated in 2017.

"We're 10 years along and the sky hasn't caved in," said Sabrina Corlette, a health policy professor at Georgetown University.

Posted by orrinj at 1:24 PM


A Theory of Natural Universal Computation Through RNA (Hessameddin Akhlaghpour, Quantitative Biology)

Life is confronted with computation problems in a variety of domains including animal behavior, single-cell behavior, and embryonic development. Yet we currently have no biologically plausible model capable of universal computation, i.e., Turing-equivalent in scope. Network models (which include neural networks, intracellular signaling cascades, and gene regulatory networks) fall short of universal computation, but are assumed to be capable of explaining cognition and development. I present a class of models that bridge two concepts form distant fields: combinatory logic (or lambda calculus) and RNA molecular biology. A set of simple RNA editing rules can make it possible to compute any computable function with identical algorithmic complexity to that of Turing machines. The models do not assume extraordinarily complex molecular machinery or any processes that radically differ from what we already know to occur in cells. Distinct independent enzymes can mediate each of the rules and RNA molecules solve the problem of parenthesis matching through their secondary structure. This demonstrates that universal computation is well within the reach of molecular biology. It is therefore reasonable to assume that life has evolved - or possibly began with - a universal computer that yet remains to be discovered.

Posted by orrinj at 1:21 PM


The many benefits of commute-free remote work (Bryan Walsh, 8/29/20, Axios)

In a survey released Thursday, the freelancing platform Upwork found that those who were working remotely because of COVID-19 were saving an average 49.6 minutes a day because they were no longer commuting.

For the majority who commuted by car, staying off the roads has saved $758 million a day in time, fuel and health costs, which adds up to more than $90 billion since mid-March.

Posted by orrinj at 1:18 PM


Did you see photos of officers supposedly injured last weekend in NW cities? The facts don't check out (The Associated Press, 8/29/20)

The Associated Press checks out some of the most popular but completely untrue stories and visuals of the week. This one is bogus, even though it was shared widely on social media. Here are the facts:

CLAIM: Photos show four police officers who were injured by Democrats and Black Lives Matter rioters over the weekend in Portland, Seattle and nearby cities.

THE FACTS: The officers in the photos weren't injured at U.S. protests -- in fact, they were on the other side of the world.

Posted by orrinj at 1:15 PM


Trump's Army of Allies and TV Sycophants Is Crumbling (Maxwell Tani & Asawin Suebsaeng, Aug. 29, 2020, Daily Beast)

When Republicans nominated Donald Trump for the presidency four years ago in Cleveland, they had a stable of regular on-camera personalities to back them up.

Trump attorney Michael Cohen went on CNN to defend criticism of his boss by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). Trump-supporting media star Scottie Nell Hughes appeared on CNN to bash Hillary Clinton's newly announced running mate Tim Kaine. And Michael Flynn was on stage in Cleveland whipping up the crowd of Trump fans with a good ol' "Lock Her Up" chant.

Four years later, that enthusiastic and absurd Trump surrogate operation was almost nowhere to be found. Some of the most ubiquitous 2016 Trump backers and GOP convention speakers had been absorbed into the administration. But many have simply disappeared from the defend-Trump news gauntlet, often by flaming out in spectacular fashion. And several had even publicly turned on the president, trashing him in the press as a racist and an existential threat to the republic.

It's too late to save their own reputations, but they can at least stop taking on water.

Posted by orrinj at 10:17 AM


The end is near for the Pentagon's endless budget explosion (Savannah Wooten, 8/29/20, Business Insider)

US warfighting since 9/11 has cost $6.4 trillion, 770,000 lives, and counting. We spend more on our military than the next nine countries combined. Every year, Congress authorizes hundreds of billions of dollars for the Pentagon, consuming most of our discretionary budget that could otherwise fund programs that meet Americans' needs.

Instead, this money is dumped into a military-industrial vortex, used to pay defense contractors up to three times more than their federal employee counterparts, produce malfunctioning fighter jets and pad a nearly-$100 billion slush fund earmarked for "general warfighting."

The pandemic has amplified anger around this massive amount of US military spending. Frontline workers have called out the fact that billions of dollars supposedly poured into "safety" and "protection" did nothing to prevent the pandemic, provide personal protective equipment or adequately trace the spread of the virus.

This ire peaked in May when the Trump Administration chose to fly elite fighter jets over cities stricken by the virus whilst withdrawing from the World Health Organization and refusing to enact basic protection measures for essential workers. When these aircraft cost a grandiose $60,000 to operate per hour, it's not difficult to understand the frustration.

Similarly, national cries to defund the police have also increased the attention around the idea of defunding the US military. The movement that sprung up after the killing of George Floyd has brought all systems of violence into question, with organizers questioning the whopping $740 billion Pentagon budget alongside the $100 billion national police budget. Both of these massive funds perpetuate racialized violence and consumes funding that could be reallocated to meet tangible community needs.

The padded military budget also enables the US Department of Defense to over-produce gear and machinery that is handed off to police for storage, contributing to the over-militarization of US security forces. Never was this more brazenly on display than this summer, as officers brandished armored vehicles and shields at peaceful protests across the country and tear gassed citizens outside of the White House. 

With the country at peace and no plausible threats, it's a good time to draw down the military as we did after every other war until the Cold War. 

Posted by orrinj at 9:58 AM


Israel's false flag anti-Semitism (Asa Winstanley, August 29, 2020, Middle East Monitor)

"The anti-Semites will become our most dependable friends, the anti-Semitic countries our allies" - thus spoke the founder of Zionism, Theodor Herzl.

Herzl was far from the only Zionist to advocate for an alliance with anti-Semites, and this malign pattern still holds today.

In Ukraine, for example, Israel has been arming and training the Azov Battalion, a vehemently anti-Semitic, neo-Nazi militia.

One of Israel's strongest political and moral allies in the present day is Christians United for Israel, an organisation which, based on dubious figures, claims a membership of some six million supporters.

The Christian Zionist group was founded by John Hagee, A US televangelist and mega-pastor with a lucrative line in "end times" theology books, DVDs and other assorted merchandise. Hagee once preached that Adolf Hitler was "a hunter" sent by God to chase the Jews "back" to Palestine in order to become colonial settlers and found the State of Israel.

Evangelical Christian Zionists like Hagee have a disturbingly anti-Semitic theology which prophetises that, at the end of history, the Jews will be split between those who convert to Christianity en masse, and those who are doomed to the fiery pits of hell.

And yet, Hagee is a firm friend and ally of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Hagee gave the valedictory prayer at the dedication of the new US embassy in Jerusalem when it was opened in 2018.

Also addressing the attendees to that ceremony was another right-wing Evangelical leader, Robert Jeffress.

Jeffress is another anti-Semite racist and Islamophobe. During one interview with a Christian TV channel, he claimed that Jews, Muslims and Mormons are all going to hell.

"Islam is wrong. It is a heresy from the pit of hell," he declared. "Mormonism is wrong. It is a heresy from the pit of hell." He continued: "Judaism - you can't be saved being a Jew. You know who said that, by the way? The three greatest Jews in the New Testament: Peter, Paul and Jesus Christ."

Israeli politicians like Netanyahu are no doubt aware of the hateful ideology of such allies. But as long as these allies are committed to political support for the State of Israel and defending its crimes, they do not care.

For so long as the premise of Israel is that it is a Jewish state, no matter its demographics, the natural allies will be the Nationalists everywhere else.

Posted by orrinj at 9:52 AM


Revisiting Chesterton and The Mystery of Capital (JAMES E. HARTLEY, 8/27/2020, Public Discourse)

The new conservatives have not just forgotten the lessons of de Soto; they have also forgotten their Chesterton. In St. Francis of Assisi, Chesterton notes the strange propensity of the modern mind to start at the end of the story.

Men for whom reason begins with the Revival of Learning, men for whom religion begins with the Reformation, can never give a complete account of anything, for they have to start with institutions whose origin they cannot explain, or generally even imagine. . . . We may concede to our contemporaries that in any case it is not a story that ends well. We do not insist that in their version it should begin well. What we complain of is that in their version it does not begin at all. . . . We learn about reformers without knowing what they had to reform, about rebels without a notion of what they rebelled against, of memorials that are not connected with any memory and restorations of things that had apparently never existed before.

These new conservatives are acting exactly like the enlightenment thinkers whom Chesterton chastises. Starting with the existence of a wealthy society, where teachers make $60,000 a year in a small factory town, they ask why the town is no longer vibrant. They forget to wonder why the town existed in the first place. Surely, the impressive thing is that a factory town arose in some vast, uninhabited plain and that the town provided incomes and wealth to many people who worked there--enough wealth to pay teachers $60,000 a year to educate their children.

If these conservatives had peeked backward in time for just a moment, they would have noticed something amazing: that factory whose closing occupies their attention was built when somebody moved their capital into the town and built it. Where did that capital come from? It must have come from somewhere else, and its departure deprived that former location of its use. Similarly, where did the people come from who worked in the original factory? They too left somewhere else and deprived their former hometowns of their labor.

If these conservatives want to be consistent when they complain about the modern economy, then perhaps they should advocate returning all capital to its place of origin. Let us not stop with telling existing factories' owners that they should not move their capital elsewhere: let us return the capital from the prairies and the mountains back to the coasts, and then ship it back to its countries of origin.

Presumably nobody is actually going to argue for returning all capital to its point of origin. Similarly, we can presumably agree that if a new factory were going to be built, it would be good to use the best available technology to produce better quality products. The matter in question is whether an existing factory's owner has a moral obligation to continue operating a factory even if a better opportunity comes along. Does the government have the right to prevent the factory owner from moving capital elsewhere if the result would be the demise of the factory town?

It sounds nice to insist that the factory owner should forgo more profitable opportunities in order to keep the workers employed. But, as Joseph Schumpeter noted, what is to stop someone else from coming along and opening a second, new factory that can produce the same (or a better) product at a lower price? Once that new factory has opened, the old factory with the higher costs will close. The effect on the workers at the old factory is exactly the same, whether that factory and its owner leave town altogether, or whether the new factory puts the old one out of business.

Can we rescue the argument by insisting that in some cases the factory owner does have the legal and moral right to move capital to more productive opportunities, but only in extreme cases involving significant technological improvements? Perhaps. If we could predict the future, that might be a possible argument. Are 1970s Japanese cars only slightly better than the cars made in Detroit? Is the iPod a small or large improvement over the Walkman? Is a flat screen HDTV a small or large improvement over those TVs of old? Is Netflix's mailing out DVDs a major or minor advance over Blockbuster's retail stores? In every case like this (and you can spend hours thinking of new examples) at the time when the innovation happened, there was no way to tell whether the new product would win out. Somebody had to gamble and move capital into the new production lines. Somebody else could have easily argued that the new product is not enough of an improvement to make it worth laying off so many workers.

The alternative is to recognize that de Soto is right. Factories, like houses, have two aspects. There is the actual, visible building to be sure. But the real magic of generating wealth comes from the invisible potential of the capital inherent in that physical building. Allowing capital to move is exactly what generates the wealth in the first place. 

...the Right/Left never even asks the threshold question: what is the point of an economy?  It is to create wealth, not jobs.  Rather than fighting to make the economy less productive, as they are, they ought to seek to make capital universal.

Posted by orrinj at 8:23 AM


In search of 'English Proust' (Christopher Prendergast, 28/08/2020, Standpoint)

Writing to his publisher Gaston Gallimard, Proust opted for an unusually crisp register: "I refuse to let the English destroy my work." He was protesting at translator C. K. Scott Moncrieff's use of a pretty Shakespeare quotation (Remembrance of Things Past) for his analytically more precise title (À la recherche du temps perdu), not to mention the now iconic but misleading Swann's Way (for Du côté de chez Swann). He softened, though his subsequent communications with Scott Moncrieff himself are best represented as polite rather than cordial. Scott Moncrieff remains nevertheless the true hero in the story of Proust in English, and any bad feeling on Proust's part is a mere bagatelle compared to how he would have felt about John Middleton Murry's unintelligible proposition: "No English reader will get more out of reading 'Du côté de chez Swann' in French than he will out of reading 'Swann's Way' in English." It is, alas, the sort of thing that also infected Conrad, who came up with the lunatic claim that Moncrieff's Proust was superior to Proust's Proust.

In short, where the reception of Proust is concerned, the English have form. It would be a truth pretty well universally acknowledged that À la recherche du temps perdu is a "masterpiece" were, for example, it not for the undiluted nonsense of Evelyn Waugh. In a letter to John Betjeman, he wrote of Proust, "the chap was plain barmy". His barminess, Waugh maintained, consisted in being constitutionally unable or wilfully refusing to narrate things in the right order. In another letter, joshing with Nancy Mitford, Waugh casts the barmy chap as a lamebrain simpleton: "I am reading Proust for the first time--in English of course--and am surprised to find him a mental defective. No one warned me of that. He has absolutely no sense of time." Proust suffered from all manner of ailments, but dyschronometria certainly wasn't one of them. The challenge here lies in swallowing one's astonishment at the number of times Brideshead Revisited has been described as "Proustian" without throwing up.

If you frequent used book sales and shops, a fun exercise is to try and find a copy of Proust, Joyce, Foster Wallace, etc. that has ever been read.  You'll fail.

Posted by orrinj at 8:15 AM


Trump is Allowing Right-Wing Extremists to 'Start a Race War,' Ex-DHS Official Says (BRENDAN COLE, 8/29/20, Newsweek)

Elizabeth Neumann, who stepped down in April as assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) expressed concern at the portrayal by speakers at the Republican National Convention this week of lawless Democratic cities, where protests initially sparked by the death of George Floyd have raged throughout the U.S.

She said Trump's rhetoric ignored the far greater threat posed by groups such as white supremacists. "It is completely a sideshow to distract from the real threat and it's extremely dangerous," Neumann told Skullduggery, a Yahoo News podcast.

"There are multiple arrests that the FBI has conducted in the last few months at these peaceful protests where you have right-wing extremists coming in trying to take advantage of the cover of the protests to carry out these violent acts and they are trying to start a race war.

Which is why the Trumpbots defend Rittenhouse and company: he was just acting out their ideology.

Posted by orrinj at 8:03 AM


Christianity to Liberalism: An Interview with Daniel Klein (Peter J Olsson, 28 August 2020, Svensk Tidrift)

Does liberalism owe its existence to Christianity? Yes, says Larry Siedentop in Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism: "Liberalism rests on the moral assumptions provided by Christianity."

This summer, Siedentops book was discussed in five sessions at the Classical Liberal Reading Group jointly hosted by Svensk Tidskrift and Timbro. The reading group was led by Daniel Klein, professor of economics at George Mason University. We participated in the reading group, and can assure the reader that Klein presented the work quite thoroughly.

As a follow up, we sat down to talk with Klein about the book, the reading group and his further thoughts on the subject.

Clearly you thought it was important to get people to read Siedentop's book. Why this one?

People today often do not realize that some of the important assumptions of their worldview--ontological assumptions, you might say--were brought forward by Christianity. At the center is that you are a soul. You are an interpretive creature with moral agency, a will, and a conscience.

At the same time, Christianity teaches us that we humans are to be a species for itself, the whole species, so there is a universalism that was rather new to Christianity.

We now take these moral assumptions for granted. They are the water we swim in. But they had to be developed, and they had to find a footing in social practices and institutions.

It took a long, long time! People today just don't understand how remarkable the development was. Understanding all this, and the scope of the story, is important for understanding what Western civilization is all about.

But was it Christianity in particular, or monotheism more generally, that opened up the road to liberalism? Don't other religious traditions and civilizations also have ideas on individuals, moral agency, and the conscience?

Monotheism is necessary but not sufficient. Other monotheistic religions didn't have moral agency, moral equality, and the conscience in quite the same way. Siedentop says that Christianity was quite exceptional in the dignity it accorded the individual. That individual was a votary of the Christ with responsibility to figure out how to advance the well-being of the widest whole of humankind.

Siedentop speaks a lot about moral equality, and I think that one aspect of what he means is that everyone, no matter how depraved or religiously misguided, even an enemy, has the potential for upward vitality, and everyone, no matter how saintly and accomplished up to the present moment, has the potential for downward moral movement. Each of us faces a same sort of moral challenge all the time. Siedentop would associate this image of the individual with Augustine. The implication is that everyone is with or potentially with God, and as an individual. It isn't about abiding by a set of ritualistic practices. It is a very individual affair.

Siedentop argues that liberalism emerged from, and best prevails today, in what was once thought of as Christendom. If you look at a map of economic freedom today, you will see that the "most free" countries generally correlate to Christendom circa 1300, plus areas (North America, Australia and New Zealand, arguably Japan) that have since been developed by or influenced by the Christian West.

August 28, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 7:01 PM


A Kenosha Militia Facebook Event Asking Attendees To Bring Weapons Was Reported 455 Times. (Ryan Mac, 8/28/20, BuzzFeed News)

In a companywide meeting on Thursday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that a militia page advocating for followers to bring weapons to an upcoming protest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, remained on the platform because of "an operational mistake." The page and an associated event inspired widespread criticism of the company after a 17-year-old suspect allegedly shot and killed two protesters Tuesday night.

The event associated with the Kenosha Guard page, however, was flagged to Facebook at least 455 times after its creation, according to an internal report viewed by BuzzFeed News, and had been cleared by four moderators, all of whom deemed it "non-violating." The page and event were eventually removed from the platform on Wednesday -- several hours after the shooting.

"To put that number into perspective, it made up 66% of all event reports that day," one Facebook worker wrote in the internal "Violence and Incitement Working Group" to illustrate the number of complaints the company had received about the event.

Where was Janet Reno when we needed her.

Posted by orrinj at 6:26 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:21 PM


Trump Advisers: He Was 'Triggered' by Talk of White Supremacy (Asawin Suebsaeng & Erin Banco, Aug. 28, 2020, Daily Beast)

Two former top Homeland Security officials in the Trump administration have told The Daily Beast that there was an unwritten policy to not utter phrases like "domestic terrorism" and "white supremacy" around the president, for fear that he would take such conversations as implicit criticism of him. 

Hard to believe this story because of the degree of self-knowledge it suggests Donald has about his racism. Although Steve Bannon does say to wear it like a badge...

Posted by Glenn Dryfoos at 4:55 PM


Tomorrow, August 29, 2020, would have been Charlie Parker's 100th birthday.  Here is a re-post of what I wrote for his 95th:

Tomorrow is the 95th anniversary of the birth of alto saxophonist Charlie "Yardbird" Parker, the most revolutionary and influential instrumentalist in jazz history other than Louis Armstrong. 
Although Bird hasn't been featured prominently in ATJ up to now (his recording of "White Christmas was in my sampling of holiday music), he's been mentioned tangentially in terms of his role in the development of bebop (along with Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk and others); his influence on players such as Phil Woods, Dexter Gordon and Hampton Hawes; and as the inspiration for the group Supersax, which was dedicated to playing harmonized arrangements of his improvised solos.
Musicians and real critics will have their own (and more informed views), but to me Parker was so startling, and so successful in creating the template for the music that remains to this day, because it was so absolutely rooted in the conventions of the music he grew up with.  A native of Kansas City, Parker idolized and emulated the many top-notch swing saxophonists who were part of that city's thriving jazz scene, including the incomparable, laid back tenor man, Lester Young.  And his repertoire was based on the same types of tunes his predecessors played, the blues and songs from the Great American Songbook.  But Parker developed an until-then unmatched technical facility on his horn, which allowed him to play much faster and with more precision than anyone before him, and allowed him to follow his ear through more complex harmonies and substitution chords than the standard changes played by the Swing era musicians.  And, at a time that the model tone for the alto was either the florid romanticism of Johnny Hodges or the bright, just-slightly sweet sound of Benny Carter, Parker's tone was dry, almost brittle...a tone he developed because it allowed him to articulate at the faster tempos he wanted to play.  By the time Parker got to New York and teamed up with Dizzy, Monk and drummer Kenny Clarke, the revolution was on, and jazz began its move from popular dance music to music meant strictly for listening.
A brief survey of some of Bird's greatest hits:
"Koko"- If you want to know what bebop is, this is it.  Based on the standard "Cherokee," Parker rips over chords at breakneck speed, with clarity, unflagging harmonic and rhythmic imagination and, as always, with a great sense of swing. 

"A Night in Tunisia" - Gillespie's great tune, with its opening vamp and Middle Eastern-meets-Latin tinge, and featuring Bird's remarkable solo break after the melody.

"Parker's Mood" - One of the best blues recordings ever.

"Embraceable You" - Parker's take on the well-known, and much-played Gershwin ballad....bittersweet, maybe a touch sentimental, but without self-pity.

There is lots of information about Parker all over the web, and many books about him, including Stanley Crouch's intriguing "Kansas City Lightning", which isn't a traditional biography, but more an extended improvised jazz solo in words, where the "melody" is the first 20 years or so of Parker's too-short life (he died at 34), but like a great jazz soloist, Crouch meanders away from and back to the main theme.  A more straight-ahead recounting of Bird's life and influence can be found in Gary Giddins's extended-essay-with-pictures-in-book-form, "Celebrating Bird".

Posted by orrinj at 4:04 PM


Rand Paul demands FBI arrest peaceful protesters for yelling at him  (Oliver Willis -August 28, 2020, American Independent)

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) took to Fox News and Twitter on Friday to demand that protesters in Washington, D.C., be arrested by the FBI after peacefully demonstrating against him.

After attending Donald Trump's nomination acceptance speech at the White House on Thursday night, Paul claimed on Twitter, he was "attacked by an angry mob."

But video evidence of the encounter between Paul and protesters showed no violence or attack. The video showed that a police officer protecting Paul was jostled and stumbled into Paul's shoulder.

He's lucky he wasn't surrounded by neighbors.

Posted by orrinj at 3:57 PM


NBA Will Convert Arenas to Polling Stations As Part of New Social Justice Agreement (JORDAN HOFFMAN, 8/28/20, Vanity Fair)

Posted by orrinj at 2:06 PM


Teen Vigilante Killed Unarmed Kenosha Protester Who Threw a Plastic Bag at Him: Court Docs (Rachel Olding, Pilar Melendez, Jonathan Ballew, Aug. 28, 2020, Daily Beast)

According to a criminal complaint, obtained by The Daily Beast, Rittenhouse was walking down the road alongside a reporter at about 11:45 p.m. when a protester, Joseph Rosenbaum, approached and tried to "engage" the armed teen. Rittenhouse did a "juke" move and started running away, the reporter--identified as Richard McGinnis but apparently a reference to Daily Caller reporter Richie McGinniss--told investigators.

As Rittenhouse ran across a parking lot, Rosenbaum followed him and threw an object, according to videos reviewed by investigators. "The object does not hit [Rittenhouse] and a second video shows, based on where the object landed, that it was a plastic bag," the complaint says. "Rosenbaum appears to be unarmed for the duration of this video."

Moments later, videos captured a loud bang and a male shouting, "Fuck you!" Another four shots were heard and Rosenbaum was seen falling to the ground.

McGinniss told investigators that he didn't hear the pair exchange any words but he saw Rosenbaum, who was unarmed, trying to grab Rittenhouse's gun when he was shot. Rosenbaum died from multiple gunshots that hit his right groin, left hand, left thigh, and back, perforating his right lung and liver, according to the Milwaukee Medical Examiner's Office.

As Rittenhouse ran away, he made a phone call and could be heard saying, "I just killed somebody," the complaint says. Detectives later spoke to Dominic Black, a friend of Rittenhouse, who confirmed he was on the other end of the call.

Several protesters chased after Rittenhouse as he ran away, shouting things like "Beat him up!," "Hey, he shot him!" and "Get him! Get that dude!" One man swung at Rittenhouse, knocking his hat off. Another could be heard yelling, "Get his ass!"

Rittenhouse then tripped over and, in scenes that were filmed and subsequently shared widely on social media, several people tried to grab his gun as he lay on the ground. Rittenhouse's second alleged victim, Anthony Huber, was shot once as he tried to grab Rittenhouse's gun with one hand and swing a skateboard at the teen with his other, the complaint says.

The shot pierced his chest, perforating his heart, aorta, pulmonary artery, and right lung, according to Milwaukee Medical Examiner's Office.

Posted by orrinj at 1:53 PM


Posted by orrinj at 9:03 AM


Posted by orrinj at 8:07 AM


Kenosha County sheriff said some people 'aren't worth saving' after 2018 shoplifting case (Konstantin Toropin and Nicole Chavez, August 28, 2020, CNN)

A Wisconsin sheriff who has led the response to protests over the Jacob Blake shooting previously made some inflammatory comments involving Black suspects.

Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth addressed reporters in January 2018 following the arrests of five people for shoplifting at a Tommy Hilfiger outlet store in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, and a high-speed chase that led to their arrests.

At least four of the suspects were Black, according to jail records. The fifth suspect was a minor, the sheriff's department said in a statement.

"I'm to the point that I think society has to come to a threshold where there's some people that aren't worth saving," Beth said at the news conference a day after the incident, according to CNN affiliate WTMJ. "We need to build warehouses, to put these people into it and lock them away for the rest of their lives."

Posted by orrinj at 8:05 AM


Trump 'exploded with anger' in front of UK leader after learning he missed a Putin phone call: report (Brad Reed, 8/27/20, Raw Story)

The U.K.-based Independent reports May's former chief of staff, Nick Timothy, described how Trump "exploded with anger" about the missed call while appearing on the "What Were They Thinking" podcast.

"Somebody just mentioned in passing that Vladimir Putin had asked for a call with him, and right in front us he absolutely shouted down Mike Flynn," Timothy explained. "Like really shouted. This was at a formal dinner with butlers and fancy crockery - and he was properly shouting at him down the table."

According to Timothy, Trump told Flynn that "if Putin wants a call with me you just put him through."

Wouldn't want to miss your marching orders.
Posted by orrinj at 7:51 AM


Oeuvre: Hayao Miyazaki: Kiki's Delivery Service (Greg Vellante, 8/28/20, Spectrum Culture)

Hayao Miyazaki's Kiki's Delivery Service begins with our title character staring up at the clouds as they slowly morph and whisk by in a flurry of wind. In a way, it's the perfect introduction to a film that focuses on the shifting changes of adolescence. Kiki is a 13-year-old witch, and her tale is set forth into motion when she leaves her home for the city in search of a new job. There, she finds success in her delivery, but she also faces multiple growing pains and new experiences along the way. Like those opening, cloud-laced vistas, Kiki's journey is constantly in metamorphosis. But isn't that true for all of us?

Once again, Miyazaki's work here blends a hybrid of surface fantasy and secret realism, a staple of the filmmaker's career. From My Neighbor Totoro to Spirited Away, we're not only given worlds of magic, mysticism and whimsy, but we're buried deep into the characters' thoughts and feelings. It's a natural gift, really, and Kiki's Delivery Service is no exception.

The film takes us on a wondrous adventure, following Kiki as she builds her career (imagine doing this at 13) as a delivery witch, transporting items like gifts across the city in an expectedly speedy fashion. But this is only the beginning, as Miyazaki also explores Kiki's friendships within her new home--a friendly store owner, a persistent boy who has a crush on her, a loving old woman--as well as the struggles she experiences on the job. But the film's true turning point is when Kiki loses her witch powers and battles hard to gain them back. In some ways it's one of the most triumphant allegoric films about writer's block next to Barton Fink.

Kiki's loss of her powers is the same as the deficit we often feel when we lose interest in the things we love. Maybe you're a musician who can't write a song, or a writer who can't pen their latest story. Maybe you've been depressed. Maybe a life event has caused you to be defeated in your passionate pursuits. What ultimately makes Kiki's Delivery Service so compelling is not the fact that its protagonist can fly through the sky on the broom, but rather how, despite her talents, she eventually becomes as grounded as the rest of us. And Miyazaki's tale examines how we might get that desire back; how to regain an appetite once again for the things that previously fed your life's momentum.

Posted by orrinj at 7:44 AM


Trump wanted to "maim" and "tear gas" migrants at US-Mexico border, former DHS official claims (ROGER SOLLENBERGER, AUGUST 28, 2020 salon)

Former Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Chief of Staff Miles Taylor claimed in a podcast earlier this week that President Donald Trump told administration officials he wanted to "maim" and "shoot" migrants at the southern border.

Taylor, who served as chief of staff to former DHS Kirstjen Nielsen before departing the agency with her in April 2019, made the remarks Monday on an episode of "The New Abnormal" podcast from The Daily Beast.


Taylor said he could not get through a meeting without Trump "doing 20 tangents, becoming irascible, turning red in the face, demanding a diet Coke, spewing spit."

"Literally out of goddamn nowhere, he'd be like, 'You know who's just my favorite guy? The MyPillow guy. Do any of you have those pillows?'" Taylor said, referencing his first in-person interaction with the president, at a meeting about the construction of a wall on the southern border with Mexico. [...]

When discussing border security, Taylor said, Trump would concoct "sickening" schemes "to pierce the flesh" of migrants at the southern border, "maim" and gas them.

"He wanted to maim them, and tear gas them and shoot them," Taylor said. "And I'm not even being hyperbolic."

On one occasion, he said, Trump asked for steel bollards "so sharp that I want them to pierce human flesh if they climb it."

Posted by orrinj at 7:38 AM


The Making of the Reagan Generation (Rick Perlstein, August 28, 2020, lIThUB)

[W]hat the campaign said was a scheduling problem arose, and the Urban League appearance was postponed to the next day--the sort of development, in a crowded campaign, that was neither particularly unusual nor consequential. Except that this made his first campaign stop what was originally supposed to be his second, and Reagan ended up actually opening his campaign marveling, wide-eyed, to a T-shirted crowd of thousands standing under a hot Southern sun, "I think you all know without me telling you that Nancy and I have never seen anything like this--because there isn't any place like this anywhere on earth! . . . How did you ever accomplish this without a federal program?" The Mississippi crowd roared in appreciation. And it was true. There was nothing like the Neshoba County Fair.

Every July, farm families from across the middle of the state moved into elaborate on-site two-story cabins for a week, enjoying card games, bull sessions, and romancing on the front porch and balcony all night long, after spending long days enjoying the midway, the livestock displays, country and gospel music, mule races, beauty contests, pie-eating contests--and the only legal horse racing in the state.

White families, that is. Blacks only participated as employees.

In the 1950s and 60s, the fair was the place where state and local politicians competed to outdo each other with nasty imprecations at the evil federal government and civil rights organizations like the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the NAACP--an acronym that Paul Johnson said in his successful run for governor in 1963 stood for "Ni**ers, Apes, Alligators, Coons and Possums." In 1964, the fair opened as planned on August 8 even though six days earlier, the bodies of three SNCC voter-registration workers were discovered buried in an earthen dam a few miles away. They had been assassinated by the Ku Klux Klan, with the assistance of the local sheriff, Lawrence Rainey.

And now Ronald Reagan was raising the curtain on his campaign there. Which raised more than a few eyebrows.

White supremacist organizations like the KKK had been making increasingly frequent appearances in the news in recent years. In 1977, a small Klan unit led by Grand Wizard David Duke received a great deal of publicity for patrolling the Mexican border on horseback with weapons in an effort to halt border crossings, setting "punji traps," camouflaged pits filled with sharpened sticks, for migrants to fall into, a technique borrowed from the Viet Cong. In 1978, six thousand robed Klansmen rallied in Morgan County, Alabama, after a nineteen-year-old black man with an IQ of thirty-nine was charged with raping three white women; the next year, during his trial, ten thousand rallied, and a gunfight broke out between Klansmen and black demonstrators. That November, Communists in Greensboro, North Carolina, were preparing with residents of a housing project for an anti-Klan march when a caravan of Klansmen and Nazis rolled up, gathered shotguns and rifles out of the trunk of a blue Ford Fairlane, and began firing. Eighty seconds later, five were dead. The women who disrupted Jimmy Carter's acceptance speech were widows of two of the victims.

In April of 1980, robed Klansmen had brazenly fired shots from their car while cruising down the main thoroughfare in Chattanooga's black neighborhood; a week later, Klansmen marched through downtown Kokomo, Indiana. In May, an avowed Nazi got 43 percent of the vote in the Republican primary for North Carolina attorney general, winning 45 of 100 counties, coming only seventy-five votes from taking the county encompassing Winston-Salem. ("There are many closet Nazis in the Republican Party. Most conservatives are closet Nazis," he said. "If you scratch a conservative, you'll find a Nazi underneath, just as if you scratch a liberal, you'll find a Communist.") That was during the period in which white sheets became a veritable fixture at demonstrations in Arkansas against the Mariel boatlift. A month later, in California, Klansman Tom Metzger won the congressional nomination from the San Diego area as a Democrat. He promised to "get into Congress and have a fistfight every day."

Then, the head of the Urban League, Vernon Jordan, was shot while riding in a car with a white woman (it was the first story broadcast by CNN). African Americans suspected a racial motive, correctly: it turned out the shooter was a white supremacist who had shot several other interracial couples, firebombed one synagogue and shot at the members of another, and attempted to assassinate pornographer Larry Flynt because his magazine Hustler depicted interracial sex. Klan membership was believed to have gone from 6,500 to 10,500 in the previous five years. The openly racist magazine the Spotlight, published by a Holocaust denier named Willis Carto, had three hundred thousand paid subscribers, many times more than Human Events or National Review. Gallup found that 13 percent of Americans (and 20 percent of Southern whites) approved of the KKK; in 1965, it was 7 percent. The sort of open racists that the civil rights revolution had supposedly vanquished now seemed almost ubiquitous--and they were history conscious: in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, the Federated Knights of the Ku Klux Klan even curated an exhibition of 19th-century Klan artifacts: "our version of 'Roots,' " a leader said.

And here was Ronald Reagan, ducking in on what you might call one of their sacred sites. What was his campaign thinking?

It was part of a strategy to signal that Republicans intended to seriously contest the South for the first time in over a century. Jimmy Carter's Atlanta was considered first, until the Mississippi Republican Party suggested a rural audience would be more receptive. That suited Wirthlin's plan just fine: a county fair checked off two of the Black Book's four most important target groups: Southern white Protestants and rural voters (the other two, which overlapped, were blue-collar workers in industrial areas and urban "white ethnics").

Reagan would be the first presidential nominee ever to address the fair. Previously, it would have been a waste of time: for most of US history it was taken for granted that Mississippi went to the Democrats. This year, however, Mississippi seemed up for grabs.

Reagan was fetched at the airport in Meridian by his state chairman, Congressman Trent Lott. Lott had been president of the fraternity that stockpiled a cache of weapons used to riot against the federal marshals protecting a black student seeking to enter the University of Mississippi in 1962. Later, a defensive state party official insisted it was Lott--and certainly not them--who suggested that if Reagan really wanted to win this crowd over, he need only fold a certain two-word phrase into his speech: states' rights.

These were the most reliable code words Southern demagogues could deploy to activate their audiences' most feral rage against African American civil rights. Ronald Reagan, whose unshakable belief in his own purity of motivation was his defining trait, surely got to immediate work persuading himself that in uttering them, he was referring to all federal intrusion into local affairs, from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to the Department of Ed--the same thing he always excoriated. He seemed anxious about taking the suggestion all the same. For, as Reagan speeches went, this was a strange one. He took less than ten minutes, an unusually large portion of that spent buttering up his audience: praising the fair, praising the state, telling an uplifting story about the time he watched the Ole Miss football team upset Tennes- see while sitting next to their governor, telling joke after joke after joke ("Now, I know that people keep telling me that Jimmy Carter's doing his best"--pause--"that's our problem!"): almost as if he was reluctant to get to the point. Halfway in, he finally did. He began reciting his familiar litany of federal government failure, though a little more wobbly than was customary:

"Over the recent years--with the best of intentions!--they have created a vast bureaucracy, or bureaucratic structure, bureaus and departments and agencies, to try and solve all the problems and eliminate all the things of human misery that they can. They have forgotten that when you create a government bureaucracy, no matter how well intentioned it is, almost instantly its primary priority becomes--preservation of the bureaucracy."

He had started rushing, like he was nervous, far shy of his usual level of energy, when he delivered the payload:

"I believe in states' rights; I believe in people doing as much as they can for themselves at the community level and at the private level, and I believe that we've distorted the balance of government."

Then, he returned to his usual boilerplate. Far from the usual Neshoba County Fair demagoguery, the way he carried out Trent Lott's suggestion doused the enthusiasm of a previously energetic crowd. He did far better with the jokes and the football story. And it was hardly worth it. The backlash was immediate and caustic.

Reagan had just been endorsed by the imperial wizard of the Invisible Empire, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan--who praised his platform for reading "as if it were written by a Klansman."
Jimmy Carter organized a passel of Southern politicians to demand a collective apology that framed Ronald Reagan as a modern-day carpetbagger. Andrew Young penned a moving essay for the Washington Post about stopping in Neshoba County during Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1966 March Against Fear.

Sheriff Lawrence Rainey and his posse were nightriders in good standing, and a black man's life wasn't worth much once he decided to approach the courthouse with voting on his mind.

I remember Martin standing on the Neshoba County Courthouse steps in 1966, describing how the bodies of the slain civil rights workers had been found buried in a dam two years earlier. He said, "The murderers of Goodman, Chaney, and Schwerner are no doubt within the range of my voice." A voice rang out: "Yeah, damn right. We're right here behind you."

Young noted, too, that Reagan had just been endorsed by the imperial wizard of the Invisible Empire, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan--who praised his platform for reading "as if it were written by a Klansman." Carter's only African American cabinet member, Health and Human Services Secretary Patricia Harris, observed that Reagan had taken weeks before disclaiming that endorsement, and that now, when she heard Reagan speak, she saw "a specter of white sheets." As for the intended audience, many white Mississippians who might have once been proud of their state's reputation as the most fearsome bastion of resistance, were now ashamed to find the nation pointing it out. Which was why, claimed an embarrassed Mississippi Reagan fan in a letter to Bill Brock, in Neshoba County, the Republican candidate had screwed the pooch. "Three weeks ago Reagan had a landslide victory in Mississippi. Today it is a tossup."

Reagan's speech before the Urban League the next day, followed by a hospital visit to Vernon Jordan, might have proven a political coup, were it not for the Neshoba controversy--and the opening that day of the trial in the Greensboro Klan/Nazi murders.

Posted by orrinj at 7:26 AM


The Mets heard Dom Smith's message, and found a striking way to support their teammate (Tim Brown, 8/28/20, Yahoo Sports)

A Black man who is their friend, their teammate, tried to tell them -- tell us -- what it was like to be him. What 25 years in his skin has felt like. What the world and in particular America has looked like from there.

He cried. He'd tried so many words before. This time he cried, straight from his soul.

He's a big, strong fellow who's done pretty well for himself. He long ago went running out after that baseball dream and on a Wednesday night in the oddest, most trying summer anyone could remember, he'd stood in the outfield of a major-league stadium and helped the New York Mets win a baseball game.

Then, in the hours after other baseball games had been postponed in other towns in protest against racial injustice, systemic oppression and police brutality, and for the names we've all learned on the news, he'd said, "I mean, I think the most difficult part is to see people still don't care. For this to continuously happen, it just shows the hate in people's hearts. I mean, that just sucks, you know?"

And you hurt for him. You hurt for everyone like him. You wondered again how we got here, how we stayed here, and how men and women like Dom Smith are supposed to survive this. They cry for so many.

Then you wondered how long it would take to forget what Dom Smith had done, what he'd said, the weight it had left in your own heart. A day? Two? For as long as it took, maybe, for something else to come along, something terrible, or maybe another ballgame, something else to take your mind off a problem too massive and entrenched to settle over a few postgame tears.

But Dom Smith stuck. Just for a day, so far. What he'd said, what he'd expressed beyond that, stuck.

For a day later, on Thursday night, he led the Mets out of their dugout at Citi Field. Not for a baseball game. Not for anything so pointless.

How Jackie Bradley Jr. pulled the Blue Jays into a historic moment (John Lott Aug 27, 2020, tHE aTHLETIC)

Of the two teams at Sahlen Field, only one had an African American player in the clubhouse. That player, along with an African American coach, steered the Red Sox into a historic walkout on Thursday.

The Blue Jays tagged along.

Outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., Boston's only Black player, indicated on Wednesday that he would not play Thursday in protest against racial injustice and police brutality. He and coach Tom Goodwin, who is also Black, made emotional appeals during a team meeting that led to the Red Sox refusing to play their scheduled game against Toronto in Buffalo.

Meanwhile, the Blue Jays held a players-only meeting, then told manager Charlie Montoyo that they had decided to play.

"But once we got word that (Bradley) and the Red Sox made the decision not to play, then we fully supported them," Montoyo said. [...]

[B]oston manager Ron Roenicke was present to hear what his players had to say.

"Listening to Jackie, I've got tears in my eyes, listening to (Goodwin), I've got tears in my eyes," an emotional Roenicke told reporters. "This is really an important time in our country, and what are we going to do? These guys have a platform to be able to discuss some things that are serious issues in our country that we need to straighten out."

To hear Bradley and Goodwin speak out, "it makes a big difference in our lives and it should make a difference in everybody's lives," he said.

"If you're a kid and you turn on the TV tonight and you don't see that we're playing, and you ask your parents why aren't the Red Sox playing, I hope the parents have a serious discussion with their kids and tell them what's going on ... because we need to discuss these things more. We need to listen more. And that's the only way that we're going to change."

Posted by orrinj at 7:07 AM


Walkouts proof MLB's men in uniform are learning to listen (Alden Gonzalez, 8/28/20, ESPN)

Chicago Cubs manager David Ross, a white man raised in northern Florida, struggled to compose himself when asked about Jason Heyward's plight as a Black man in America.

"I can't even imagine what he's going through," Ross said, his voice quavering, before abruptly ending his video conference with MLB reporters Wednesday night. The following afternoon, Ron Roenicke, a white man who manages the Boston Red Sox, spoke at length about being moved to tears while listening to center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. and first-base coach Tom Goodwin recount personal experiences.

"It makes a big difference in our lives, and it should make a difference in everybody's lives," Roenicke said. "If you're a kid and you turn on the TV tonight, and you don't see that we're playing, and you ask your parents, 'Why aren't the Red Sox playing?' I hope the parents have a serious discussion with their kids and tell them what's going on and explain what's going on because we need to discuss these things more, we need to listen more, and that's the only way that we're gonna change."

It was the most basic, fundamental request from the Black men and women who took a knee or marched the streets or turned to any platform with the hope of raising awareness about the social injustice that still pervades this country.

Listen! [...]

Former major league outfielder Torii Hunter, notably outspoken about the racism he experienced throughout his playing career, wrote the following in a text message: "When the people who have always been quiet about the racial issues or injustices we've been having in this country to stay in good graces with their family and friends start to speak up and lift their voices to provoke change in all systems, then we are headed in the right direction."

Kershaw, a white man who grew up in the suburbs of Dallas, now embodies the sentiment. The longtime ace of the Los Angeles Dodgers was spurred to action, like so many others, after watching a police officer bury his knee into George Floyd's neck on May 25. Since then, Kershaw has gone out of his way to educate himself on the issues that continually plague people of color. He released a heartfelt social media message on Juneteenth, was at the forefront of a poignant video that included several white teammates and vowed to prioritize social justice in his philanthropy.

When Betts decided that he would not play in Wednesday's game against the San Francisco Giants, Kershaw was among those who rallied around him. He has taken note of those criticizing his efforts but has remained steadfast in his beliefs.

"We're just doing the right thing," Kershaw said. "We're supporting our Black players, we're supporting the Black community and what they're going through. If the roles were reversed and there was something that was really difficult for me or really difficult for one of my other teammates, I would hope that we would have the support of our full team. It's as simple as that."

Posted by orrinj at 6:54 AM


The Fed might never hike rates again. Here are growth stocks for the long run, according to one strategist (Steve Goldstein, 8/28/20, MarkretWatch)

Joachim Klement, investment strategist at U.K. brokerage Liberum Capital, said the Fed's change of policy goals makes it almost inevitable that the next five years will be dominated by a Japan-like environment of low nominal and real, or inflation-adjusted, interest rates.

In a note entitled, "Low rates forever? -- Possibly," Klement points out that had the Fed abided by its new inflation strategy, it would have left interest rates unchanged for a decade after the 2008 financial crisis. "Given the historic experience and current Fed and market implied forecasts, we find it safe to argue that the Fed will not hike interest rates not just for three years, but for the next five years if not longer," he says.

Technology, immigration, trade, Thatcher, Reagan and Volcker killed inflation and hikes have, as a result, triggered the near recessions since. The only real question is how far negative the Fed is willing to take rates in an increasingly deflationary epoch.

August 27, 2020

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Vigilante violence is being pushed within right-wing media, where many, like Carlson, have used the shooting to launch attacks on Democrats, the press, and racial justice activists. Ann Coulter tweeted that she wanted Rittenhouse to be president, while Infowars host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones tried to absolve the suspected killer, claiming the shooting was an act of preservation against "rioters" who were trying to "murder him." Prior to the shooting, Infowars reportedly promoted a "call to arms" event posted by a self-described militia on Facebook, a gathering encouraging the vigilante-style tactics that Rittenhouse is suspected of. "Any patriots willing to take up arms and defend our city tonight from the evil thugs?" asked the Facebook group, according to the Verge. "No doubt they are currently planning on the next part of the city to burn tonight."

Posted by orrinj at 7:09 PM


Why police encouraged a teenager with a gun to patrol Kenosha's streets (Zack Beauchamp, Aug 27, 2020, Vox)

In footage from about 15 minutes before the shootings pieced together by the New York Times's Visual Investigations team, you can see Rittenhouse walk up to an armored police vehicle and chat with officers. A police officer pops out of one vehicle's hatch and tosses bottles to Rittenhouse's associates, members of an armed militia. "We appreciate you guys, we really do," the officer says before driving off.

The young-looking Rittenhouse is under the legal age for firearm ownership and was carrying an assault rifle, which appears to be a misdemeanor under Wisconsin law. Instead of stopping him and asking for proof of age, the police give him water and an attaboy. And when he tried to surrender after the shootings, the police went right by him, even as bystanders were telling them that Rittenhouse had shot people.

How can we understand this behavior? Why do the police in Kenosha seem perfectly fine with armed militia members patrolling the streets -- behavior that, just minutes later, ended with two people dead? Shouldn't police want to be the only ones with guns?

A recent paper by University of Arizona sociologist Jennifer Carlson offers some insight into the police's behavior. She conducted dozens of hours of interviews about guns with 79 police chiefs in three states -- Michigan, California, and Arizona -- to try to better understand the way police see armed civilians.

Carlson found that police leaders tended to see armed civilians as allies, maybe even informal deputies -- provided they fit a set of racially coded descriptors.

"Police chiefs articulated a position of gun populism based on a presumption of racial respectability," Carlson writes. "'Good guys with guns' were marked off as responsible in ways that reflected white, middle-class respectability."

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Why Some Tropical Fish Are Gettin' Squiggly With It (Sabrina Imbler, Aug. 22, 2020, NY Times)

When American painter Bob Ross said, "There are no mistakes, only happy accidents," he was ostensibly referring to paint on a canvas.

But Mr. Ross's mantra is just as true for fish from coral reefs, where the eggs of one species of fish and the sperm from another can sometimes combine to produce hybrid offspring with colors even more startling than that of their parents. Think of them as the happy little shrubs of speciation.

Take, for example, the multibarred angelfish (Paracentropyge multifasciata), which boasts black-and-white stripes like window blind slats, and the purple masked angelfish (Paracentropyge venusta), which resembles a lemon drop with a brilliant purplish-blue backside. When the two fish breed, they produce a blue-and-yellow hybrid swirled with white, almost like a slice of babka.

When Yi-Kai Tea, a graduate student at the University of Sydney and the Australian Museum Research Institute first saw this squiggly angelfish, he suspected it was a hybrid. Although coral reefs may appear to be a panoply of bright hues, many coral reef fish have colorful patterns as distinct as stamps. So when a hybrid happens, it's easy to spot.

As Mr. Tea hunted around for other examples of the apparent hybrid, he came up with the idea for a comprehensive survey of all known, naturally occurring marine angelfish hybrids, which he and his colleagues describe in a paper published this month in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

To find potential subjects, the researchers pored through photographs, old studies and museum archives. Mr. Tea even asked to see someone's pet fish. After comparing the mitochondrial DNA of 37 hybrids to that of their parents' species, the team found that a lofty 48 percent of marine angelfishes can hybridize, more than any other group of coral reef fish. This data topple the previous record-holders, the butterflyfishes, a family in which more than a third of species are capable of producing hybrids.

Posted by orrinj at 7:24 AM


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The Alternative to Ideology (JERRY TAYLOR, OCTOBER 29, 2018, Niskanen)

The first pangs of doubt about my old ideological attachments arose from my loss of faith in the case against climate action. As I began to express doubts about the narratives offered by climate skeptics, I found it impossible to offer an argument that resonated with my libertarian colleagues. But just how, exactly, does an ideological commitment to limited government, free markets, and individual dignity inform an understanding of atmospheric physics or paleoclimate records? And what does libertarianism have to contribute regarding the case for hedging against incredibly dangerous risks stemming from the misuse of a common pool resource, such as the atmosphere?

Libertarians have nothing at all to contribute to the conversation about the science of climate change as libertarians. They could, however, marshal ideological insights to suggest the best means of addressing global warming if it indeed turns out to warrant a policy response (as I believe it does). For libertarians, that could mean a carbon tax, but for other, more hardline libertarians, it could mean that greenhouse gas emitters should be held liable for climate-related damages via common-law legal proceedings.

But my old colleagues at the Cato Institute (where I worked at the time) were not interested in engaging in those "if/then" conversations. They were only interested in a fight to the death over climate science. Carbon tax advocacy was removed from the institutional table in 2007 when my former colleague David Schoenbrod used the institute's byline in a Wall Street Journal op-ed suggesting a carbon tax, an act that infuriated management and led to his resignation. The common law approach to address climate change was rejected once and for all in 2010, when the Cato Institute filed an amicus brief in American Electric Power Company v. Connecticut, arguing that "it is unconstitutional for courts to make complex policy decisions that should be left to the legislature -- and this is true regardless of the science regarding global warming." Cato's institutional position was thus adaptation (learning to live with warming), which is only defensible if scientific alarm over the risks posed by climate change is unwarranted.

This problem extended beyond the realm of climate change. Over and over again, libertarian friends and colleagues were engaged in fierce, uncompromising debate about empirical matters that had nothing to do with libertarian principles or commitments. Is the Keynesian multiplier consequential? Is Thomas Piketty correct that returns to capital are greater than the rate of growth? Do tax cuts pay for themselves? A libertarian could take either side of those disputes without having to recant any of their principles or fundamental beliefs. But to cross the party line on these or an ocean of similar empirical matters was to risk unemployment.

The point is that what ideologues fiercely believe about empirical arguments has little to do with their ideological priors. It has to do with the policy implications of those empirical arguments given their ideologically-driven preferences.

We should not shrink from the truth based on what that truth might mean for our pre-existing beliefs. I know libertarians well and they tend to accept this in theory, but like all ideologues, they have difficulty accepting it in practice. Libertarians do not care for government because they believe it is inherently coercive and destructive of individual liberty. Hence, they are highly motivated to dismiss arguments that might suggest an important need for government, or evidence that offers a cautionary warning about the negative consequences that might follow from a curtailment of governmental power.

Reason, as David Hume famously noted, is a slave of the passions, and libertarian passions point in one direction and one direction only: hostility to government. This passion is a powerful engine of motivated cognition, which invariably leads to weak policy analysis and dogmatism.

Posted by orrinj at 5:56 AM


'Watch out for the paramilitaries': A disturbing prediction about Trump's presidency appears to be coming true (Travis Gettys, 8/26/20, Raw Story)

Armed anti-government groups have faced existential tension after Trump's election, but they've resolved the dilemma by forming a "counter-resistance" to demonstrations against the president and law enforcement, and also by providing security to Republican groups.

That's exactly the scenario that Timothy Snyder, a Yale University historian, warned against after the 2016 election.

"Watch out for the paramilitaries," Snyder wrote on Feb. 2, 2017. "When the men with guns who have always claimed to be against the system start wearing uniforms and marching around with torches and pictures of a Leader, the end is nigh."

"When the pro-Leader paramilitary and the official police and military intermingle," he added, "the game is over.

The Trace found, just over three years ago, at least five instances in Michigan, Oregon and Texas where anti-government gun groups had aligned themselves with conservative elected officials and GOP causes.

That alignment seems to be accelerating amid ongoing nationwide protests against racist police violence following the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

Some of the earliest violence to erupt as part of those sustained demonstrations was allegedly touched off by a member of the Hells Angels biker gang who "wanted to sow discord and racial unrest by breaking out the windows and writing what he did on the double red doors," according to Minneapolis police.

However, the so-called "Umbrella man" still hasn't been arrested nearly a month after a tipster revealed his identity to police.

White supremacists posing as Black Lives Matter protesters also instigated riots that broke out late last month in Richmond, Virginia, where six people were arrested in connection with violence and vandalism.

Oregon police stood by over the weekend as right-wing protesters brandished handguns and other weapons against left-wing demonstrators in Portland, and a video from early June appears to show Salem officers advising militia group members how to avoid curfew violations during a protest.

Posted by orrinj at 5:31 AM


Meet the Stone Collector of Iceland's Eastern Coast: A. Kendra Greene Gathers the History of a Life (A. Kendra Greene, May 15, 2020, LitHub)

Almost every day of her life, Petra went for a walk. 

Walks up into the hills mostly, but also walks along the shore. Maybe walks along the relative flat of the unpaved road hemming the eastern fjords, but mostly walks with a vertical bent, a slope, walks with split and scrabble and crag. And on almost every walk, they say, she found a stone. 

She didn't keep the stones. Not at first. Not for a long time. She left them nestled in the hills or scattered among the shells and the rocks and the shorebirds, left them more or less alone right until she got married and had a place of her own. Then she began to bring them home. She ringed them around the flagpole and along the house wall. She lined them up on bookshelves. The bookshelves filled and the curio cabinets filled and Petra bought new bookshelves and those filled up, too.

And when the little family could spare no more room inside the little home, the stones spilled out again, filled up shelves erected outside and covered over benches and spread through the garden, stretching back up the hill: a reverse avalanche, unspooling in slow motion, rock by rock, as if gravity were calling these stones back up to the peaks like a tide. 

Imagine collecting anything. Pennies or paper clips or blades of grass. Every gum wrapper, every bus ticket, whatever arbitrary thing as a marker of your days. Imagine collecting one almost every day. And imagine these tokens never broke or got lost or were thrown away. What a tremendous lot of things. It would be a lot of tally marks, and it's certainly a lot of stones. 

When I say stone, perhaps I should clarify that I do not mean some plain-Jane piece of rock. I mean eye-catching. I mean white whisker-width spines radiating out in clusters like so many cowlicks. I mean a green between celery and mustard, pocked with pinprick bubbles and skimming like a rind over a vein that's crystal clear at the edges but clotting in the middle to the color of cream stirred into weak tea. I mean crystals like a jumble of molars and I mean jasper in oxblood and ocher and clover and sky, sometimes a hunk of one color but more likely a blend of two or three or five, maybe like ice creams melting together, or perhaps like cards stacked in a deck. 

The eastern coast is the oldest part of Iceland, a crust of 14 volcanoes, not all of them dead. All of Iceland has geological intrigue, including some 150 varieties of minerals, but the east seems particularly rich in both the frequency and variety with which the raw elements of the earth have been heated and pressed into wonders of color and texture and shape. It renders mint green and rouge red, flat matte and crystal clear, all of it spun in spindles and spires and lumps and swirls and brittles and pastes and bubbles and smears. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:23 AM


The Dreams of Sohrab Ahmari  (JACK BUTLER, August 26, 2020, nATIONAL rEVIEW)

'Dreams feel real when we're in them," says Cobb, the main character in Christopher Nolan's blockbuster Inception, which turned ten this past July. "It's only when we wake up that we realize something was strange." Fortunately, Sohrab Ahmari, op-ed editor of the New York Post, is here to rouse complacent conservatives from slumber. In an essay for the September issue of the Spectator USA, Ahmari archly adopts left-wing terminology to divide conservatism, as it stands today in terms of comprehending the challenge the Left poses and how to countermand it, into two camps: "those who get it, and those who don't -- the woke and unwoke." Unsurprisingly, this stark framing proves a drastic simplification, short on some details, misleading on others, and overall suggestive that he is caught in a dream world of his own. Dreams are often a mix of things that are drawn more straightforwardly from reality and others that seem completely fabricated. Thus Ahmari can draw real-world figures into a vision that nonetheless fails to add up entirely. In his view, President Trump, Tucker Carlson, Bill Barr, and Missouri senator Josh Hawley are four "woke" figures...

Donald and his minions are, of course, woke in exactly the same way as the Left, mired in an identity politics that sees only race.

Posted by orrinj at 5:11 AM



Ted Williams and Wade Boggs had been talking nonstop from the time they left Winter Haven, Fla. 70 minutes earlier. The two batting champions were on their way to a rendezvous with yet another, Don Mattingly, when Williams, in the backseat, posed a question to Boggs, who was in the front.

"Have you ever smelled the smoke from the wood of your bat burning?" asked Williams in a voice not unlike that of John Wayne.

"Whaaat?" said Boggs.

"The smell of the smoke from the wood burning?"

"What are you talking about, Ted? I don't understand."

"Five or six times, hitting against a guy with good stuff, I swung hard and--oomph--just fouled it back. Really hit it hard. And I smelled the wood of the bat burning. It must have been that the seams hit the bat just right, and the friction caused it to burn, but it happened five or six times."

Boggs shook his head. "Awesome." [...]

GAMMONS: Does anyone ever see the ball off the bat?

WILLIAMS: Now if the ball's coming real slow and you swing early, you can come real close. I've seen what I thought was the ball going over my bat--I think.

BOGGS: You can't see the bat hit the ball if you're generating any bat speed. If you're just laying the bat through the strike zone, sure, maybe. Ted, ask Don the question you asked me about the bat burning.

WILLIAMS: Have you ever smelled the smoke from the wood burning?

MATTINGLY: I've had it happen. Yeah. Twice, for sure. All of a sudden, I smelled a real big burn, and at the same time I was thinking, "I just missed that one." Two or three times. I've never told that to anyone, because I didn't think anyone would believe me. I think one of the bat burns came off Nunez, too.

BOGGS: That's the damndest thing I've ever heard. I thought I'd heard everything about hitting, but that's unbelievable. Amazing.

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Thomas Cromwell and ReputationMacCulloch and Mantel have revealed a better side to the controversial Tudor statesman (Michael Coren, 20 July, 2020, The Critic)

So we had the Cromwell wars. On the one side were the traditionalist, often Roman Catholic, writers who insisted that Cromwell was a corrupt brute and a cruel tyrant; and the rival school that regarded him as the first modern leader of the country, setting it on a road that would distinguish it from the ancient regimes of the European continent. But there was more. While previous political leaders - the term "Prime Minister" didn't develop until the early eighteenth-century - had sometimes been of relatively humble origins, and Cromwell's mentor and predecessor Thomas Wolsey was the son of a butcher, they were invariably clerics. Cromwell wasn't only from rough Putney on the edge of London, and the son of a blacksmith, but he was a layman, and someone who had lived abroad, even fought for foreign armies.

Here was have the embodiment of the great change: the autodidact who was multi-lingual, well travelled, reformed in his religion and politics, and prepared to rip the country out of its medieval roots. Yet no matter how many historians might believe and write this, the culture is notoriously difficult to change, and understandably indifferent to academics. Not, however, to novelists. And in 2009 the award-winning author Hilary Mantel published Wolf Hall, a fictional account of Cromwell's life from 1500 to 1535. Three years later came the sequel, Bring Up the Bodies. Both books won the Man Booker Prize, an extraordinary achievement for two separate works. The trilogy was completed recently with The Mirror and the Light. The first two volumes were turned into an enormously successful stage play and a six-part television show. Forget noble academics working away in relative obscurity, this was sophisticated work watched and read by tens of millions of people. Cromwell was back.

"It is as a murderer that Cromwell has come down to posterity: who turned monks out on to the roads, infiltrated spies into every corner of the land, and unleashed terror in the service of the state", wrote Mantel in the Daily Telegraph back in 2012. "If these attributions contain a grain of truth, they also embody a set of lazy assumptions, bundles of prejudice passed from one generation to the next. Novelists and dramatists, who on the whole would rather sensationalise than investigate, have seized on these assumptions to create a reach-me-down villain."

But as she researched and wondered, Mantel was pulled in other directions. "The picture changed. My character scraped himself up from the ground and staggered into his future. From behind those small eyes, the sharp eyes of a good bowman, the Tudor world looked complex and unfamiliar. The angles were different. Light and shadow fell in unexpected places."

Cromwell was quintessentially practical, willing to trim his views when needed

Then, in 2018, and with exquisite timing came what is almost certainly the definitive biography of Cromwell, by one of the most respected historians in the English-speaking world. Sir Diarmaid MacCulloch, the author of a number of seminal books and host of several television series about history and Christianity, gave us Thomas Cromwell: A Revolutionary Life. It was the book waiting to be written, and in 700 pages MacCulloch put flesh on the body that the novelist Mantel had resurrected. Five years ago in the BBC History Magazine he wrote that, "We need to put Cromwell back in the centre of Tudor England's picture", and described him as "a cool, self-contained idealist who wanted to shape the kingdom of England in the name of a new religion - the re-maker of this realm."

When I spoke to MacCulloch in Oxford last summer, he said the challenge was that so much of Cromwell's personal correspondence was destroyed when he was arrested in 1540 - he would be beheaded shortly afterwards by a Henry VIII who was infamously fickle but would soon come to regret the loss of his great minister. The enormous archive contains countless letters written to him but hardly any written by him, "the out-tray, the sent e-mails as it were" says MacCulloch. He's sure that this was the work of Cromwell's people, anxious to destroy any potentially harmful evidence. It didn't do any good.

But in spite of that, the book roars Cromwell's personality, without ever excusing him from some genuine crimes - there were certainly unjust arrests and executions. It was, of course, a harsher age, with harsher expectations. It was also in many ways a more intellectually engaged age, especially when it came to politicians.

Cromwell was quintessentially practical, willing to trim his views when needed, and operated in an era that lacked formal political parties - although it was nevertheless profoundly and often bloodily divided between conservative and reforming. But he was always connected to the intellectual and scholarly class, familiar with the latest works and ideas, and a reader of the humanism that so dominated thinking in the sixteenth-century. He had a hunger for knowledge, as an end in itself. Compare that to modern politics, where even beyond the obvious, screaming barbarism of a Donald Trump, those politicians we consider to be intellectually curious seldom pass the litmus test.

August 26, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 6:39 PM


Kenosha Police Chief Blames Protesters for Their Own Deaths, Defends Vigilante Groups (JEREMY STAHL, AUG 26, 2020, Slate)

In describing the shooting of two protesters, Miskinis also declined to call it a homicide and instead referred to it by various euphemisms often used to describe killings by a police officer, which Rittenhouse is not. He said that the shooter "was involved in the use of firearms to resolve whatever conflict was in place" and that there was a "disturbance that led to the use of deadly force."

Additionally, Miskinis refused to comment on the video of Blake's shooting, but offered that there may have been a reasonable explanation for the man being shot seven times in the back, which has reportedly left him paralyzed and in critical condition. (The officer has been put on administrative leave and has not been fired or arrested.) [...]

Video taken on Tuesday before the shooting showed Rittenhouse gathered with what appeared to be members of armed militia groups. Those vigilante groups had gathered on Tuesday night, it was reported by CNN and the Verge, in response to calls on Facebook for "any patriots willing to take up arms and defend our city tonight from the evil thugs."

When asked about the vigilante groups, Miskinis defended them as civilians out to protect property and "exercise their constitutional right."

"Across this nation there have been armed civilians who have come out to exercise their constitutional right and to potentially protect property," he said. "Am I aware that groups exist? Yes, but they weren't invited to come."

Miskinis' views of the gathering of vigilante groups that reportedly led to the killing of two local men appears to be very much in line with those of his department. Before the shooting, officers in armored vehicles could be seen giving water to armed men gathered with the alleged shooter and telling them, "We appreciate you guys, we really do." After the killings, the alleged shooter walked slowly past a series of police vehicles with his arms raised and was allowed to simply walk away. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:41 PM


A 'Kenosha Guard' Facebook event called on people to 'take up arms' against protesters. Facebook removed it after two people were shot dead. (Aaron Holmes, 8/26/20, Business Insider)

The event was created Tuesday by a page called Kenosha Guard -- which had more than 3,000 members on Facebook -- and called on people to "defend our city tonight from the evil thugs." Facebook on Wednesday removed the Kenosha Guard page and the event for violating its policies, the company told The Verge.

Posted by orrinj at 3:03 PM


A 17-Year-Old Aspiring Cop Has Been Charged With Murder In Kenosha (Tess Owen, August 26, 2020, Vice)

Police interacted with the alleged gunman at various locations in Kenosha throughout the night. In one video, Rittenhouse is seen chatting with police who gave him a bottle of water and thanked him for being there.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Republicans Are Losing the Battle for Congress: Election Poll (ANA DE LIZ, 8/26/20, Newsweek)

A new poll has revealed that 50 percent of registered voters surveyed would vote for the Democratic Party if elections for Congress were held today, according to a poll released on Tuesday. The Republican Party would get 39 percent of the votes. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


JOBS ARE A COST NOT A BENEFIT (Tim Worstall, 8/26/20, Adam Smith Institute)

We desire that all be able to consume, that's true. This means both that things are produced so they may be consumed and also that people have incomes so they may collect those things that they consume. This is not, absolutely not, the same as the desire to create jobs.

A job is the use of human labour to do something. We would much prefer - for we like leisure - that the consumption and the intermediary, the income (or, given that a real income is by definition what can be consumed, these two being the same thing) could be achieved by not having to employ that cost, the human labour. 

We would, as we have been doing these past couple of centuries, like the machines to be doing the work. 

This insistence upon "creating jobs" is to make the mistake Milton Friedman warned against. We want the ditch dug, certainly, we want everyone to be able to consume but issuing teaspoons isn't the way to do it. 

Jobs, the uses of human labour, are a cost of doing something, not a benefit. 

Let the economy generate wealth as efficiently as possible. The redistribution of that wealth is a political question.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM



It can happen the instant you leave your house.

And then again as you sit at a stoplight.

And yet again as you walk into the grocery store.

If you live in an urban area, or even a suburb, chances are your image is captured dozens of times while you go about your daily routine in public. Surveillance cameras are so ubiquitous now--from traffic cameras to doorbell cams--that it's almost impossible to escape them. But where do all these images go and what happens if they end up in the wrong hands?

Cameras are proliferating, and you may even have one in your hand right now. Cameras are used billions of times a day to snap selfies, take videos, and maybe even record a crime in progress. But it's not just the use of smartphone cameras that has exploded. Every day, surveillances cameras mounted in public spaces are poised to capture images of your face, your car, your license plate. Roughly 770 million surveillance cameras are in use today, and that number is expected to jump to one billion by 2021, according to a market forecast reported by the Wall Street Journal last year.

And it isn't only government agencies collecting images. They have help. Dozens of cities across the country have partnered with private businesses to create surveillance networks. Store owners in shopping centers, for example, might decide to share their feeds with local police, who monitor those feeds in real time. The result is more coverage at a lower cost to police departments, but it can also mean a more pervasive system of surveillance, one in which computer software flags "suspicious" behavior for police to scrutinize.

Fake Watchful Eyes Discourage Naughty Behavior (Mark Brown, 12/18/10, Wired U.K.)

Being watched by a photograph of staring eyes can be enough encouragement to behave, follow orders or do the right thing, a study has found.

Psychology researchers at Newcastle University hung two different posters at a restaurant, to see how customers would react. They both featured text asking patrons to bin their rubbish, but one had a picture of flowers on it and the other had a pair of staring eyes.

The number of people who paid attention to the sign, and cleaned up after their meal, doubled when confronted with a pair of gazing peepers. The research team, lead by Dr. Melissa Bateson and Dr. Daniel Nettle of the Centre for Behaviour and Evolution found that twice as many customers followed the orders when met with eyes, compared to figures for the flower poster from the day before.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


VIDEO: The Wall Street Journal's Seib on the rise of Trump and the GOP's future (CNBC, 8/25/20)

CNBC's Kelly Evans is joined by the Wall Street Journal's Gerald Seib to break down the rise of President Donald Trump, and what the party may look like post Trump. too is the party of business turning against business.  All of the reasons the GOP was historically capitalist, free trading, anti-regulation and open to immigration still obtain.  Joining the Left in opposing them all just drives more of the core to the Democrats.

Economic Nationalism Forestalls Our Economic Greatness (ALEX MURESIANU, August 26, 2020, National Review)

From an economic perspective, perhaps Trump's biggest faux pas has been his intense focus on reducing immigration. According to the National Foundation for American Policy, immigration will have fallen by half since 2016 by fiscal year 2021 -- and while COVID-19 has certainly worsened this trend, the fact remains that the Trump administration had reduced legal immigration well before the current crisis.

Broadly, reducing immigration slows down economic growth. In fact, certain policy measures (such as suspending H1-B and other work visas until the end of the year) will directly interfere with specific economic nationalist goals of the Trump administration -- such as creating jobs for Americans, bringing jobs back from China, and ensuring that high-tech and manufacturing firms headquarter in the United States.

Keeping high-skilled immigrants out of the country, for instance, will lead tech companies to relocate their operations where the best workers are rather than create jobs in the United States. A recent paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that restrictions on H1-B immigration predominantly led to the offshoring of jobs to countries such as Canada, India, and China. Research from Georgetown has shown that Canada is increasingly pulling highly skilled workers away from the United States.

There are practical, real-world examples of this. Duolingo, a tech company currently headquartered in Pittsburgh, is considering moving to Toronto thanks to the suspension of the H1-B program. That's bad for American workers -- after all, only 20 percent of Duolingo employees are on some form of visa. This move from the Trump administration would cost a city recovering from the decline in manufacturing employment its first billion-dollar startup.

August 25, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 7:53 PM


How the West Stole Democracy from the Arabs: Elizabeth Thompson's book examines how the West subverted democracy in the Arab world. (Josh Ruebner, 25 August, 2020, New Arab)

While the imposition of colonial mandates on the Arab former provinces of the Ottoman Empire is a well-told story, Thompson provides an invaluable historical service in excavating the lesser-known dynamics of how Syria was well on its way towards democratic self-governance before France brutally overthrew its indigenous attempts at parliamentarianism and constitutionalism. 

The book focuses on the short span between the capture of Damascus in October 1918 by Prince Faisal, the son of Sharif Hussain, King of the Hijaz, and France's destruction of the constitutional monarchy established under his leadership following the Battle of Maysalun in July 1920.

Within less than two years, Faisal succeeded in setting up a functioning governmental apparatus out of the shambles of a post-Ottoman bureaucratic void, and Syrians elected a religiously and geographically diverse constituent assembly on the basis of universal male suffrage, which was composed of a multi-confessional assemblage of leaders from Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine. 

In turn, the Syrian Arab Congress declared independence and crowned Faisal king in March 1920 and was well on its way to finalising a liberal constitution through which Faisal would be accountable to the legislative branch.

Thompson helpfully includes in her book the first published English translation of the Syrian constitution in all of its 147-article complexity, demonstrating the seriousness of thought which went into the drafting of the document and the detailed mechanisms worked out for a democratic system of government in a diverse land.

The proceedings of the congress and its commitment to a liberal constitutional order put paid to French Orientalist tropes that Arabs were not capable of self-government and therefore needed the mission civilisatrice that only the French could supply. 

Crucial to the destruction of Syria's fledgling democracy was Robert de Caix, the leader of France's powerful colonial lobby who was later appointed interim high commissioner in 1922. Despite his avowal that he knew nothing about Syria, de Caix mobilised Islamophobic tropes to denigrate Faisal and the Syrian congress in order to systematically undermine it and impose direct French rule.

De Caix falsely claimed that "Faisal did not represent Syrians, but rather was a 'Sharifian'- a descendant of the Prophet aligned with the religious fanaticism of his father in Mecca," writes Thompson. The emerging liberal constitutional order was, for de Caix, merely a duplicitous cover for "Muslim theocrats who threatened France's Christian clients." 

The alliance among Donald, Israel and the Sunni dictators maintains this spirit.

Posted by orrinj at 6:47 PM


RNC Speaker Boosts QAnon Conspiracy Theory About Jewish Plot to Enslave the World (Will Sommer, Aug. 25, 2020, Daily Beast)

Hours before she was set to speak at the Republican National Convention on Tuesday night, Mary Ann Mendoza took to Twitter and urged her followers to investigate a supposed Jewish plot to enslave the world.

Posted by orrinj at 1:28 PM


Unmasked Protesters Push Past Police Into Idaho Lawmakers' Session (JAMES DAWSON, 8/25/20, Boise State Public Radio News)

To enforce social distancing, the gallery area above the House chamber was restricted with limited seating. But after the confrontation with state troopers, which resulted in the shattering of a glass door, Republican House Speaker Scott Bedke relented and allowed protesters to fill every seat.

The response stands in stark contrast to 2014 when dozens of advocates pressuring lawmakers to pass LGBTQ protections were arrested for standing silently in a hallway, blocking access to the Idaho Senate chamber.

It's not a riot when we do it.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Why Trump's Losing (RICH LOWRY  & RAMESH PONNURU, August 6, 2020, National Review)

He is losing in Florida, a must-win state for Republican presidential candidates for roughly 100 years. He is behind in North Carolina, which successful Republicans have won for the last half century. Arizona and Georgia are battlegrounds, and maybe Texas, too. Biden has been reliably ahead in all the Blue Wall states, in large part by eating into Trump's lead with whites or reversing it. 

So far the polling in the race looks more like Bob Dole against Bill Clinton in 1996, when Dole persistently and substantially trailed, than like Donald Trump against Hillary Clinton in 2016, when Trump was behind but by smaller margins than today (and briefly even ahead). 

The standard restrictions apply: There are around three months to go, state-level polling was off in 2016, and Trump doesn't have to make up much ground to be within plausible range of another Electoral College victory. 

Still, his situation is dire by any measure. Underlying conditions have turned against him, yet even when the economy was thriving, Trump was in a notably perilous position for a president presiding over peace and prosperity. The fault is not in his stars but in his tweets, erratic behavior, scattershot belligerence, and denials of reality, which had already made him radioactive before what he sometimes calls the "Wuhan flu" ever emerged. 

Trump is thin-skinned, self-obsessed, small-minded, intellectually lazy, and ill-disciplined. These never seemed to be great qualities in a chief executive, but they have caught up with Trump over the last six months in particular. They have played into his poor handling of the coronavirus crisis and the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd. When times became more serious, he remained as unserious as ever.

COVID has been the main factor worsening his political condition. The damage didn't register in the polls at first. At the end of March and beginning of April, polling had his handling of the crisis in positive territory, a kind of rally-around-the-flag effect. But the effect was smaller and shorter-lived for him than it was for other officials, in the states and abroad. As of early August, the average of the polling at the website FiveThirtyEight has his rating on the crisis at 58 percent disapprove and 38 percent approve. This is a flashing red light given that COVID is the most important issue to voters at the moment, a rare instance when the economy isn't the top issue in a presidential election. 

Of course, none of Trump's critics predicted that a deadly and economy-flattening contagion would kneecap him in an election year. But his inability to respond adequately to the crisis is the kind of thing that they had in mind when they warned that his character traits were unsuited to the presidency.

Particularly in the circumstances of a novel pandemic, the president needs a process that brings him relevant information, structures his deliberation, allows him to adapt to new developments and correct mistakes, and guides the rest of the government in executing his decisions. And he must act in concert with Congress, governors, public-health experts, business leaders, and others, all of whom have their own roles to play. Nobody could perform this job perfectly.

What we have under Trump is very nearly the mirror image of this ideal. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Costa Rica is allowing U.S. travelers again -- but only if they come from the right states (Monica Buchanan Pitrelli, 8/25/20, CNBC)

Residents of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont will be able to fly into Costa Rica from Sept. 1.

That opens the possibility of travel to Costa Rica to approximately 35 million Americans, or almost 11% of the U.S. population.

Multiple reports cited a Costa Rica tourism official as saying the country chose U.S. states that have outbreak conditions that are similar to or better than those in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica closed its borders to international travelers on March 18 and reopened them on Aug. 1 to select, low-risk countries. Residents of the European Union and Schengen Zone, the U.K., Canada, Uruguay, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore, China, Australia and New Zealand are also allowed in. 

August 24, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 7:21 PM

LOST SON (profanity alert):

The Tragic Charisma of Justin Townes Earle (Amanda Petrusich, August 24, 2020, The New Yorker)

Lyrically, Earle often leaned into dark moments with insouciance and dry humor. He had a punk-rock heart, and liked the fission of desolation and ecstasy, the sacred mixing with the profane: "Lord I'm going uptown / To the Harlem River to drown / Dirty water's gonna cover me over / And I'm not gonna make a sound," he sang on "Harlem River Blues," from 2010. He performed the song on "Late Night with David Letterman," with Jason Isbell on guitar. Each time I watch the clip, I'm reminded of how liberating it can feel to hear someone sing calmly about feeling thoroughly lost. "Harlem River Blues" was a fraught period for Earle. He relapsed that year, and, while on tour in Indianapolis, he was arrested and accused of destroying his dressing room and punching the club owner's daughter.

Posted by orrinj at 6:40 PM


Business partner of Falwells says affair with evangelical power couple spanned seven years (ARAM ROSTON, 8/24/20, Reuters)

In a claim likely to intensify the controversy surrounding one of the most influential figures in the American Christian conservative movement, a business partner of Jerry Falwell Jr has come forward to say he had a years-long sexual relationship involving Falwell's wife and the evangelical leader.

Giancarlo Granda says he was 20 when he met Jerry and Becki Falwell while working as a pool attendant at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach hotel in March 2012. Starting that month and continuing into 2018, Granda told Reuters that the relationship involved him having sex with Becki Falwell while Jerry Falwell looked on. [...]

Falwell's departure from that high-profile perch represents a remarkable fall from grace for a man who has been a potent force in American conservative politics. His surprise 2016 endorsement of Donald Trump helped the twice-divorced New Yorker win the Republican nomination for president.

Becki Falwell, 53, is a political figure in her own right. She served on the advisory board of the group Women for Trump, which advocates for the president's reelection campaign. She also spoke as part of a panel with her husband and Donald Trump Jr at last year's Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, the signature annual gathering of conservatives.

Posted by orrinj at 6:36 PM


Posted by orrinj at 5:59 PM


The job benefit workers really need right now is an equity stake in their company (Corey Rosen, 8/24/20, Market Watch)

Employee ownership works:  Companies with the main form of employee ownership, the Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), grow 2.5% per year faster relative to their competitors after they set up a plan than they did before. Studies of ESOP companies between 2009 and 2013, which included the last recession, showed that ESOP companies defaulted on their loans at just two per thousand, per year. Based on quadrennial General Social Survey data back to the early 2000s, employees in employee ownership plans are laid off at one-third to one-fifth the rate of those who are not, depending on the survey year. In the 2008-09 recession, public companies with these plans rebounded faster than those without them. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:56 PM


NY AG probes if Trump pumped up value of estate, assets (MICHAEL HILL and MICHAEL BALSAMO, 25 August 2020,AP)

New York's Democratic attorney general asked a court Monday to enforce subpoenas into an investigation into whether US President Donald Trump and his businesses inflated assets on financial statements.

Attorney General Letitia James filed a petition in state trial court in New York City naming the Trump Organization, an umbrella group for the Republican president's holdings, as a respondent along with other business entities. The filing also named Eric Trump and Seven Springs, a New York estate owned by the Trump family.

The attorney general said Eric Trump, president of Seven Springs and vice president of the organization, should be compelled to testify.

Chief Roberts is going to be swearing Joe in with one hand and serving Donald with the other.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


You Might Not See This Image For Much Longer: Are Navies Obsolete?In wartime, the seas will be barren of combat ships as we know them. (James Holmes, 8/24/20, National Interest)

 Physicist Thomas Kuhn would urge us to entertain the question of navies' longevity whether we relish its implications or not. Forethought prepares us for the unexpected. Writing in the early 1960s, Kuhn contested the conceit that science advances in an orderly fashion whereby scientific researchers modify or discard old theories about how the physical world works and replace them with better theories as new information or insight comes in. Instead, he maintains, scientific progress is a political process. Progress is fitful and oftentimes painful--just as in any political process.

 How so? Well, says Kuhn, it turns out that scientists are people rather than disembodied reason. Self-interest and biases animate them the same way they animate ordinary folk. Stakeholders in the dominant "paradigm," or theory for explaining something about the universe, become invested in the paradigm for reasons of personal gain and status as well as dispassionate research. Promotions, academic appointments, grant money, and prestige flow to them so long as the paradigm remains the best thing going. These are things worth fighting to defend. And fight scientists do--sometimes waging a rearguard action long after the paradigm starts to falter.

Gatekeepers of the reigning paradigm, that is, adjust it to account for "anomalies," disparities between what the model predicts and new observations that come to light. Aberrations accumulate over time, casting doubt on the orthodox view. For awhile it's possible to explain faults away through tinkering around the paradigm's margins. Ultimately, though, anomalies become so many and so glaring as to be irrefutable. Then the paradigm shatters--making way for a rival theory that explains reality better. The new paradigm stands, with defenders of its own, until a superior competitor comes along.

Rinse, lather, repeat.

Kuhn lists a number of historical paradigm shifts. Most famously, the "Copernican Revolution," whereby the geocentric gave way to a heliocentric understanding of the solar system, marked a quintessential "paradigm shift." Or to go beyond the strictly scientific realm, recent years have witnessed a paradigm shift among China-watchers in the West, as the reality of a great Chinese navy falsified the entrenched view that China is a continental power with no special desire or aptitude to go to sea. Keepers of the paradigm mounted a fighting retreat, but in the end only a Baghdad Bob insists what is happening can't happen.

Progress is messy and fractious, not orderly and dispassionate. Naval analysts and practitioners should refuse to be Baghdad Bob. We should ask ourselves frankly whether we're guardians of an increasingly obsolescent paradigm of naval warfare. If so, we will find ourselves in jeopardy should we encounter an antagonist that espies a worthier naval-warfare paradigm. Best to think ahead now in case our cherished archetype splinters around us.

Anomalies abound in today's marine paradigm. Aircraft carriers and other surface combatants, long masters of the sea, now operate under the shadow of shore-based missiles and aircraft that greatly outrange them--calling into question whether they can fight their way to the scene of a fight, let alone prevail. It's hard to win command of the sea or project power ashore when you never close within weapons range to open fire. Increasingly lethal integrated air defenses imperil non-stealthy aircraft and perhaps stealthy ones as well. Reputable undersea-warfare mavens speculate that newfangled sensor and computer technology verges on rendering the oceans and seas transparent--stripping submarines of their chief advantage, stealth, and exposing them to being hunted down and sunk.

Any one of these anomalies would call into question whether fleets built around the same basic platforms that fought World War II--carriers, cruisers and destroyers, amphibious transports, subs--have a future in a world bristling with extended-reach missiles, unmanned vehicles of all types, and artificial intelligence. Combined, anomalies between the new normal and the old paradigm spell trouble.

For the sake of questioning the ruling paradigm and transcending it if necessary, let's suppose these anomalies are real, significant, and enduring. Current trends are not mere momentary shifts of advantage in the eternal tug of war between fleets prowling the sea and forts that festoon shorelines. Land warfare has won, or stands poised to. What might possible futures hold? First, consider the trivial yet most baleful future. Great powers, and potentially lesser coastal states as well, might field precision weaponry capable of striking enemy craft on, above, or beneath the ocean's surface many thousands of miles away. 

The uselessness of navies is a classic white swan.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


RNC officially re-adopts 2016 GOP platform, resolves to keep 'enthusiastically' supporting Trump's agenda (The Week, 8/24/20)

The Republican National Committee adopted the official 2020 GOP national platform in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Sunday evening, and it looks a lot like the 2016 party platform -- because it is the 2016 party platform, sharp criticism of the "current" president and all.

It's not as if he's accomplished anything.

August 23, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 6:59 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:45 PM


Trump abruptly ends news conference after reporter points out contradictory statements on plasma treatment (Sarah K. Burris, 8/23/20, Raw Story)

President Donald Trump abruptly ended his press conference after a reporter asked for details about the emergency authorization of convalescent plasma from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn's comments seemed to conflict with Trump's characterization during the short Sunday press conference. [...]

Trump left after taking just three questions, all from conservative outlets Fox News, OAN, and then the Washington Examiner.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


How Can an Unchanging God Regret Making Saul King? (D. BLAIR SMITH, 8/23/20, Gospel Coalition)

There are times in Scripture when God appears to change his mind. This is especially seen in the Old Testament as he interacts with his people. We meet this change rather early on when, just five chapters after pronouncing man "very good" (Gen. 1:31), we read: "The LORD regretted that he had made man on earth, and it grieved him to his heart" (Gen. 6:6).

How can we relate to our Creator when he changes his mind so quickly?

Because, as the text states, He changes.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Opposing rallies battle with mace, paint balls and rocks near Justice Center in downtown Portland ( K. Rambo, 8/22/20, The Oregonian)

After about an hour of the increasingly tense standoff, no police were present on the scene.

Some of the people involved in organizing the event, as well as promoting it, are familiar faces in Portland, as they were involved in the infamous brawls between protesters in recent years.

Tusitala "Tiny" Toese was seen at the Saturday protest. The right-wing activist who is known for brawling at Portland protests was barred in January from participating in future city demonstrations for the next two years. He was also sentenced to two years' probation and 80 hours of community service after he pleaded guilty to third-degree assault, a misdemeanor, for his role in a violent altercation prompted by political differences.

Court records appear to show an arrest warrant remains out Toese on an alleged probation violation. A Multnomah County Circuit Court hearing set for Aug. 27 on the alleged probation violation was canceled, according to court records.

A number of other protesters appeared to be members of the Proud Boys, a right-wing fraternal organization. They wore signature jersey shirts -- in some cases noting "Battle Ground, WA." [...]

Just before 1:30 p.m., Portland police announced over the loudspeaker that firearms, shields and other weapons had been seen in the crowd as well as criminal behavior. If it continued, they announced, protesters could face arrest, citations or force. But no officers were seen in the area.

About 1:45 p.m., the right-wing crowd rushed left-wing protesters, one of them spraying mace indiscriminately as they pushed into Chapman Square. As the pro-police group quickly retreated, one in the crowd tossed a commercial-grade firework into the opposing group.

Members of the right-wing group jumped on the "Snack Van," a regular fixture at nightly Black Lives Matter protests. Protesters tore the door off the van and broke the driver's side window.

The police connivance is revealing.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump's sister bitterly criticizes him in conversations secretly recorded by her niece Mary Trump (Kelly Mena and Jeremy Diamond, 8/23/20, CNN)

The Washington Post first obtained the previously unreleased transcripts and audio from Mary Trump, author of a recent bombshell book about the President and one of his most outspoken critics. Mary Trump, who has said that Donald Trump is unfit to be president and has voiced support for his rival Joe Biden, revealed to the Post that she had secretly taped 15 hours of face-to-face conversations with Barry in 2018 and 2019.

In one of the conversations revealed by the Post, Trump's sister called him "cruel."
Among the some of the more critical comments made by Barry was commenting on how her younger 74-year-old brother operated as president. "His goddamned tweet and lying, oh my God," she said, according to the recording. "I'm talking too freely, but you know. The change of stories. The lack of preparation. The lying. Holy [****]."
Barry, a retired federal appellate judge, the Post noted, has never spoken publicly about disagreements with President Donald Trump, but the audio seems to tell a different story of discord and a rift that began when she asked her brother for a favor in the 1980s, which she claims Trump has frequently used to try to take credit for her success.

Barry also said at one point to her niece, "It's the phoniness of it all. It's the phoniness and this cruelty. Donald is cruel," according to the audio scripts and recordings. [...]

Barry's view of her brother also lines up closely to others who have known Trump well. A litany of former aides have also described Trump in similar terms -- including the former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci, his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, the former Department of Homeland Security chief of staff Miles Taylor and others.

August 22, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 11:08 AM


The Story of Satchel Paige (Ryan Powers, American Heritage)

Standing nearly six-feet five but weighing less than one hundred eighty pounds, with size 14 shoes and long spindly arms and legs, he did not look like a prototypical athlete. Paige himself would say he looked like an "ostrich." But whether it was his body type, his natural ability, his fierce determination or some combination of all of those things, Satchel Paige could throw a baseball better than just about anyone who ever tried.  

While difficult to prove without accurate record keeping, at twenty-five hundred and two thousand respectively, Paige claims to have pitched in and won more games than anyone else. What's not difficult to prove is that he pitched more years, in more places, with more teams and more showmanship than anyone else in the history of organized baseball. A career that is even more astounding because for so many of his games, Paige pitched through acute and chronic stomach pains he called 'the miseries'.  

When Paige pitched, it was a must see event. He routinely broke attendance records in every town he visited. His presence on the mound was intimidating. He threw the ball harder and more accurately than anyone had ever witnessed. His windup, high leg kick and torqued delivery struck fear in the heart of the opposing batters or at least the ones who could even see the one hundred mile per hour, precision pitches before they reached the catcher's mitt.  

He was a self-described loner who hid in plain sight. His introversion did not hinder him from pitching in front of millions or becoming one of the greatest showmen the game has ever seen. He played to the crowd for laughs and cheers but always took baseball seriously. He would often talk to the batters telling them exactly what he was going to do and despite that advantage for the hitter it rarely mattered.  

Most pitchers have a few pitches they rely on to get them through a game and a career; Paige had a library of them and he named each and every one. His forkball was called the whipsy-dipsy-do, his fastball was called trouble and his bee ball got its name because it would be right where he wanted it, high and inside. He had the blooper, the looper and the drooper. If a batter crowded the plate, he'd throw his barber pitch to brush them back and give them a clean shave. He also had a midnight creeper, a side-armor, a submariner, an ally-oops, a slow gin fizz and many, many more.  

Satchel Paige was an almost unexplainable force of nature on and off the field. But his story makes clear that neither his humble beginnings nor a segregated society could prevent his undeniable gifts and spirit from reaching unimaginable heights and affecting history for himself, his teammates and his sport, all for the better. 

Posted by orrinj at 11:03 AM


Republicans are 'going to suffer a wipeout' in November due to Trump: GOP strategist (Matthew Chapman , 8/22/20, Raw Story)

"I think the party's going to suffer a '74 Watergate wipeout," added Tyler. "I think that's necessary. I think the Republican Party has to reject Trumpism and everything that he has embraced. It's going to take a long time ... to recover and regain its conservative philosophy, or any philosophy at all for that matter. The Democrats can do their part by showing how to become a governing majority. If they go too far to the left, they will be rejected again and we'll be in that constant battle. I'd like to see us return to policy arguments and not this partisan division that is practiced by our president."

Posted by orrinj at 9:34 AM


Some Reasons for Optimism Regarding the "Hollowing Out" of America's Middle Class (Scott Lincicome, 8/20/20, Cato)

First, in a new Brookings Institution analysis, George Washington University's Stephen Rose conducted a "longitudinal" analysis of the same people over time using the popular Panel Study on Income Dynamics (PSID) dataset. These data, Rose tells the Washington Post's Robert Samuelson, "provide a picture of what is really happening to people because they have data on each specific person for many years." In particular, Rose examined individuals aged 25 to 44 during two different 15‐​year periods: 1967-1981 and 2002-2016. To standardize the data, he converted all individuals into "family units" of three and adjusted for inflation (using Bureau of Economic Analysis' Personal Consumption Expenditure price deflator). The results, which the Post helpfully summarized in the table below, run counter to the prevailing "polarization" narrative:

Americans' incomes over time

As the table makes clear, the predominant trend during and across the two periods - although certainly less so during second one - is fewer poor and lower/​middle‐​class Americans and more upper‐​middle and rich Americans. Rose thus draws two important conclusions from these data:

First, while the benefits of economic growth have not accrued equally, they have not gone solely to the top 1%. The upper middle class has grown. Second, the main reason for the shrinking of the middle class (defined in absolute terms) is the increase in the number of people with higher incomes.

He also finds another bit of good news: "many more Black people are in higher income classes" during the latter period (though there is still more work to do in that regard). Samuelson helpfully adds in his Post piece that these figures likely understate the individuals' actual gains, because the income figures do not include government transfers (which, as this CBO analysis demonstrates, substantially improves poor and middle class income gains over time) or non‐​wage employer compensation like healthcare premium contributions. (I'd also note that the latter period not only featured the 2008-09 Great Recession and the 2015-16 "mini‐​recession" in U.S. manufacturing, but could show even more improvement if it ended last year instead of 2016 and thus captured the strong gains for middle‐​class workers in 2018-19.)

Second, a 2019 paper from Jennifer Hunt and Ryan Nunn provides similar conclusions when examining wages at the individual level (rather than occupation‐​average wages) over time.

The young can certainly be forgiven their ignorance about what life was actually like for the middle class 50 years ago, but maybe they should check out some movies and tv from the period?

Posted by orrinj at 8:11 AM


JACK REACHER AND THE GRAND UNIFIED THEORY OF THRILLERS: Malcolm Gladwell dives into the world of Lee Child and his legendary wandering warrior. (MALCOLM GLADWELL, 8/20/20, Crime Reads)

There are, structurally, four essential narratives in this genre. The first is the Western. In the Western, our hero comes to a world without justice or law, and establishes order. Gary Cooper rides into the chaos of a dusty town and single-handedly subdues the bad guys.

Then there's the Eastern. In the Eastern, our hero works to improve and educate the institutions of law and order in a world where they are incompetent. The Sherlock Holmes stories are all Easterns: Scotland Yard is hapless, unimaginative. Inspector Lestrade and his colleagues dutifully follow rules and procedures. Agatha Christie wrote Easterns as well. What does it say for the English attitude towards authority that they were so willing to believe that a moustachioed Belgian and an elderly spinster from St Mary Mead could outperform their officers of the law? (The Eastern, curiously, is the only one of the four thriller paradigms where the criminal himself is a bit player: the Eastern's narrative emphasis is entirely on the game of wits between our heroic protagonist and the brain-dead institutions of authority.)

Third is the Southern, where our hero restores order to a world that is hopelessly corrupt. John Grisham's novels are all Southerns. The protagonist in Grisham's books is an outsider, a lawyer of scruple and conviction. The villains are all hopelessly crooked and venal insiders: representatives of corporate and political authority. Who is the winner in a Grisham book? The law.

Finally, there is the Northern, in which our hero works to perpetuate order from within a functional system. The popular television show Law & Order is a classic Northern. The prosecutors are hard-working and honest. The police are dogged. By the end, the villain is always behind bars. Virtually all Scandinavian crime fiction--which has recently and deservedly risen to such prominence--is Northern. How could it not be? There is little room in the orderly, rational universe of Scandinavian pragmatism for crooked cops and corrupt judges. (It has been a long time since anything was rotten in the state of Denmark.)

...because, just like Reacher, Shane and Will Kane ride out of town having established order.  

Posted by orrinj at 7:27 AM


Protecting the Products of Liberty: Liberalism establishes conditions in which unpredictable but socially beneficial institutions emerge--and that's why it must be protected from manipulation. (ANDY SMARICK,  AUGUST 22, 2020, The Bulwark)

We should understand liberalism itself as an evolved, experienced-based response to the human condition. Over the course of scores of generations, some societies realized, for instance, the danger of centralizing authority, preventing people from thinking independently, and permitting the state to invade homes and confiscate property. Over time, some of these societies fostered the development of concepts like natural rights, governments as protectors of liberty, political equality, the rule of law, and the consent of the governed. These societies also helped establish concrete rules like separating branches of government, enumerating state powers, and protecting explicit individual rights. Though some of these ideas and practices preceded Enlightenment-era liberalism, together they help define contemporary liberalism.

But once government was limited and individuals were liberated, the lessons didn't stop. Free societies now had free individuals bumping into one another. And from those nearly infinite interactions over time, these societies produced evolved, experienced-based responses to the human condition as it exists inside of the rules of liberalism. We used our liberty to develop tools for amplifying the strengths and mitigating the dangers of liberated individuals. These tools should be thought of as the products of liberty.

Many exist outside of government as institutions or "social formations," like traditions, customs, and norms. For instance, realizing the costs of unbridled expression, societies developed rules of civility. Appreciating the need for community despite legal autonomy, they developed a constellation of voluntary and civic associations. Recognizing the dangers of unregulated behavior, they developed norms of social conduct. The list goes on: schools, local journalism, courage, soup kitchens, grit, marriage, charity, volunteerism, fables, and so on. F.A. Hayek astutely noted that liberal states develop a reverence for such organic institutions, habits, and customs. "Paradoxical as it may appear," he wrote in "Freedom, Reason, and Tradition," "it is probably true that a successful free society will always in a large measure be a tradition-bound society."

But some products of liberty take the form of government--typically local and state--action. That is, among our liberties is the right to engage in the process of producing democratically legitimate government rules. As G.K. Chesterton famously wrote, "The liberty to make laws is what constitutes a free people." Indeed, our Constitution isn't merely a list of individual freedoms; it fully intends to cultivate participatory self-government. Its Article I creates a democratically elected legislature charged with making laws; its Article IV guarantees a republican form of government in each state; its 10th Amendment gives states and their subdivisions the authority to legislate broadly under "police powers."

Importantly, the laws that emerge in a democratic republic don't fall from the sky, and they are seldom the result of speculation and reason alone. Instead, they grow from the traditions and experiences of citizens and their representatives. People living in liberty learn lessons about family formation, theft, vandalism, homelessness, land use, professional licensing, alcohol sales, taxation, gambling, and much more. If a community reaches a consensus on such a matter, maintains that consensus for long enough, and deems that consensus sufficiently important, the community can codify it.

With both types of products of liberty--the non-governmental and the governmental--it is important they primarily remain local, differentiated, and malleable. Different geographies will have different heritages and different animating principles. They will have different experiences and cope with different challenges. They will develop different strategies and adjust them over time. This is America as a community of communities. So long as their varied products of liberty are small-scale and don't run afoul of clear constitutional and legal prohibitions, they stand as invaluable ways for groups of citizens to learn, deliberate, compromise, and self-govern. Those on the right should remember that such ideas have been at the heart of American conservatism. For example, Russell Kirk's ten principles of conservatism include respect for custom and convention, the appreciation of variety among such traditions, and the recognition that such traditions are brought to life and sustained by local democratic action and voluntary association.

We can see, then, that the defense of individual rights is not the only goal of liberalism. Also important is the preservation of those things we use our liberty to create.

It's not terribly helpful when the defenders of liberty make the same mistake as the opponents and view it primarily as a means of instituting individual freedom.  Rather, republican liberty requires submission of all individuals to the laws of the citizenry as a whole.  It centralizes authority but requires that said authority be used only to enforce the norms that the people have agreed upon and that those norms be applied universally.  It is a bulwark against arbitrary and unequal application of laws, not against law itself. 

With this in mind, the proper criticism of the current state of our liberal republic is twofold: (1) Administrative law has moved the rule-making power from a democratic institution--the Legislature--to the Executive; and, (2) the Judiciary has both failed to rule against this violation of first principles and does not consistently judge laws/rules by the standard of republican liberty.  Combined, this means that rule-making is arbitrary and capricious--indeed, given the sheer number of rules the Administrative state generates they are unknowable and often contradictory--and that even such laws as are adopted with proper regard to the forms and substance of republican liberty are struck down by a Judiciary that does not favor the content. For instance, the Court's entire line of privacy rulings is anti-republican. 

But the solution to these admitted problems is to double-down on liberalism and make it adhere more closely to standards of republican liberty, not to abandon the Republic.  And, especially, not to abandon it in favor of an anti-democratic/anti-republican regime that removes democratic participation because either the Integralists or the Progressives disfavor the choices that the citizenry arrives at about what to constrain and what to allow.

Posted by orrinj at 7:16 AM


Posted by orrinj at 7:06 AM


Half of US COVID Deaths Are People of Color (VOA News, August 22, 2020)

The Associated Press reported Friday that half the COVID-19 deaths in the United States were people of color - Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans and Asian Americans.

An analysis by The Associated Press and The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization covering the criminal justice system, found that while people of color make up just under 40% of the U.S. population, they accounted for approximately 52% of all the "excess deaths" above normal through July. The report defined excess deaths as the number of people above the typical fatality number who died in the United States during the first seven months of 2020, based on figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The U.S. has more coronavirus cases and deaths than any other country, with 5.6 million infections and more than 175,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

August 21, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 7:10 PM


Posted by orrinj at 11:48 AM


The GOP's months-long effort to paint Biden as doddering and senile backfired massively with his solid DNC speech (Jake Lahut, 8/21/20, Business Insider)

[G]oing into the biggest speech of his almost five decades in national politics, the Trump campaign and the GOP made a concerted effort to paint the Democratic nominee as doddering and suffering from "cognitive decline," significantly lowering expectations.

The Trump campaign even secured the pricey and highly influential ad space of YouTube's top banner on Tuesday to show a new ad painting Biden as senile, juxtaposing old clips of the then-VP with cuts to him stuttering or losing his train of thought on the 2020 campaign trail.

President Donald Trump's adult sons, Eric and Don Jr., were appearing on Fox News all week claiming Biden couldn't even string a sentence together.

The bar was set so low for Biden going into his convention address that a merely competent performance would have helped the campaign.

But after two failed bids for the presidency in 1988 and 2008, along with being on the ropes in the 2020 primary before South Carolina, Biden not only made sure he wouldn't squander the opportunity with any slip ups. He brought his A-game, teed up by the cognitive decline attacks to hit "a home run in the bottom of the ninth," in the words of Fox News anchor Dana Perino.

Biden managed the rare feat of earning praise from multiple Fox News panelists following his speech.

Posted by orrinj at 11:41 AM


Manchester Arena: an atrocity so swiftly forgotten (Tom Slater, 21st August 2020, spiked)

In a year of grim records being broken, the Abedi trial was also a first: no one in an English court has ever been convicted of so many murders. He was only spared a whole life order -- life imprisonment with no prospect of release -- because he was under 21 when the atrocity was committed. Still, in all likelihood he will never breathe free air again.

And yet the trial seems to have come and gone with little comment. It briefly led the bulletins, then faded away. Granted, we've got a lot on our plates these days. But just as we seem to have completely forgotten the Reading knife attack barely two months back, in which three men were allegedly killed by a presumed Islamist zealot, Manchester - the deadliest terror attack on Britain's streets for a decade - risks fading from our collective memory and public debate.

It's not just that Islamicism holds no appeal for anyone but the paltriness of the asymmetrical warfare that adherents have to rely on that makes the combat portion of the WoT so secondary. The real fight is over democratizing the Middle East and that doesn't have much impast domestically in the West.

Posted by orrinj at 11:29 AM


Posted by orrinj at 7:51 AM


TRUMP COMES UP EMPTY WHEN PRESSED FOR EVIDENCE OF ELECTION FRAUD IN COURT: The Trump campaign's 524-page response to a discovery demand turned up precisely zero instances of mail-in vote fraud. (Richard Salame, August 20 2020, The Intercept)

The response provided by the Trump campaign to the opposing counsel, which was shared with The Intercept and Type Investigations, contains a few scant examples of election fraud -- but none of the instances in the 524-page discovery document involved mail-in ballots.

"Not only did the campaign fail to provide evidence that voter fraud was a widespread problem in Pennsylvania, they failed to provide any evidence that any misconduct occurred in the primary election or that so-called voter fraud is any sort of regular problem in Pennsylvania," said Suzanne Almeida, interim director of Common Cause PA, one of the parties in the lawsuit. The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this story.

The non-redacted portion of the Trump campaign's response consists in large part of news reports and copies of the campaign's open records requests to counties. It contains no new evidence of fraud beyond what local news outlets have previously reported. The examples of fraud that it does provide include the case of four poll workers who admitted to harassment and intimidation of voters at one polling place during a special election in 2017. It also includes an election judge who altered vote totals in his polling place between 2014 and 2016 at the behest of a political consultant. And while the amended complaint brought by the campaign cites a few incidents of mail-in fraud, none were mentioned in the discovery document.

"Not only did the campaign fail to provide evidence that voter fraud was a widespread problem in Pennsylvania, they failed to provide any evidence that any misconduct occurred in the primary election."
This is far from the first time that Republicans have failed to substantiate their frequent claims that voter fraud is a persistent problem in American elections. In 2018, one of U.S.'s most prominent crusaders against voter fraud, then-Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, was asked by a district court to produce evidence that noncitizens were voting in his home state of Kansas. Kobach brought forth witnesses, but their testimony fell apart on cross examination. Judge Julie Robinson wrote in her opinion that "evidence that the voter rolls include ineligible citizens is weak. At most, 39 [non]citizens have found their way onto the Kansas voter rolls in the last 19 years." The rare known cases of voter fraud were not the tip of the iceberg, she concluded, "there is no iceberg; only an icicle, largely created by confusion and administrative error."

Posted by orrinj at 7:10 AM


Biden offers himself as an "ally of the light" (Hans Nichols, Alayna Treene, Margaret Talev, 8/21/20, Axios)

In last night's acceptance speech, Joe Biden never said President Trump's name. The former vice president used the biggest stage of his 50 years in politics to humanize himself, with the intended subtext: "I am you. You are me."

If you didn't know anything about Biden before last night, you'd remember four things: He conquered a childhood stutter, he lost his wife and daughter, found redemption and joy in Jill, then encountered grief again when Beau died.

Why it matters: A country burying its dead is being offered a chance to hire someone who knows how to grieve. [...]

"Morning" Joe Scarborough called Biden's tone "Reaganesque."

Biden said he "will be an ally of the light":

The current president has cloaked America in darkness for much too long. Too much anger. Too much fear. Too much division. ...

May history be able to say that the end of this chapter of American darkness began here tonight as love and hope and light joined in the battle for the soul of the nation.

A perfect metaphor:

In support of these premises, Niebuhr applied the metaphors of children of darkness and children of light to two basic approaches to democratic life. The children of light are those who recognize that self-interest must be disciplined by a more universal law whereas the children of darkness are those who see no universal law beyond the self either individually or nationally. 

Niebuhr suggested that modern democracies mainly consist of children of light who recognize the need for a more universal law to govern self-interest. Yet, too often  they also entertained a form of sentimentalism that underestimated the power of self-interest either among the moral cynics (children of darkness) or even among themselves. In short, the children of light have not always understood that inordinate self-love corrupts every level of human moral and social achievement and thus do not provide the necessary mechanisms to balance individual and collective interests.

August 20, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 10:58 PM


Obama returned to torment Trump in ways that only a member of the Oval Office club can (Richard Wolffe, Aug. 20th, 2020, The Guardian)

[O]bama returned to torment Trump in ways that only a member of the Oval Office club can: "He's shown no interest in putting in the work; no interest in finding common ground; no interest in using the awesome power of his office to help anyone but himself and his friends; no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.

"Donald Trump hasn't grown into the job because he can't. And the consequences of that failure are severe."

Incompetence is one thing; impotence is another.

Beyond his own inability to do the job of president, Trump has no clue about what the job entails. That was the less-than-subtle message of Obama's choice of location for his convention speech: in front of a Philadelphia museum about the writing of the constitution.

The former president accused of being a foreigner was detailing how deeply un-American his accuser really is.

Posted by orrinj at 10:39 PM


Thanks To Donald Trump, Americans Now Think Immigration Is Too Low (Alex Nowrasteh, 8/20/20, National Interest)

Gallup has been polling Americans about whether they want immigration levels to decrease, increase, or remain the same since 1965. In 2020, the percentage of Americans who want to increase immigration rose above the percentage who want to decrease it for the first time. This is a remarkable shift on its own, but one that has been building slowly for decades. But an even larger shift has occurred: Those dissatisfied with the level of immigration in the United States are increasing likely to be dissatisfied because they think that it is too low.

One of the big problems in the politics of immigration is that those who desire less immigration typically want it much more intensely than those who want to increase it. As a result, immigration restrictionists have historically had more political power because they are willing to campaign, vote, and badger politicians into adopting their point of view while pro‐​immigration voters don't hold that opinion nearly as intensely. But this has also started to shift since President Trump took office.

Posted by orrinj at 4:19 PM

It's Not Just Trump: The Neoliberal Roots of the Postal Service Crisis  (MAX B. SAWICKY, AUGUST 20, 2020, In These Times)

We're cur­rent­ly get­ting a vivid, painful reminder of why we need a pub­lic sec­tor. The col­lapse of pub­lic ser­vices, in par­tic­u­lar the pro­vi­sion of pub­lic health, has tor­pe­doed the entire econ­o­my as a dead­ly pan­dem­ic rav­ages the coun­try. The end of the road in our cur­rent devo­lu­tion may be the assault on one of our old­est pub­lic insti­tu­tions -- the ven­er­a­ble and very pop­u­lar U.S. Postal Service. 

The inter­net has come to take on much of how we com­mu­ni­cate in the 21st Cen­tu­ry, but the fact remains that Amer­i­cans still rely heav­i­ly on the deliv­ery of phys­i­cal cor­re­spon­dence. And it's not just assis­tance checks and life-sav­ing med­ica­tion, all kinds of com­merce in pri­vate goods is facil­i­tat­ed to a sig­nif­i­cant extent by the Postal Service's pack­age deliv­ery. Trans­port of peri­od­i­cals, the busi­ness of non-prof­it orga­ni­za­tions, and now the very fea­si­bil­i­ty of our nation­al elec­tions, also all depend on a well-func­tion­ing Postal Service.

Maintaining the Post Office would reflect a failure to modernize.  Replace nearly all its functions and add many others (including voting, a personal bank account, etc.) with Estonian style digital citizenship. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:17 PM


Posted by orrinj at 4:06 PM


Donald Trump's Fight to Hide His Tax Returns Has Failed: He can blame John Roberts (MARK JOSEPH STERN, AUG 20, 2020, Slate)

Trump's lawyers argued that sitting presidents are absolutely immune from state criminal subpoenas. Alternatively, they insisted that prosecutors should have to show a "heightened need" when subpoenaing the president, demonstrating that their action is a "last resort" to obtain information "not available from any other source."

Chief Justice John Roberts' opinion for SCOTUS, issued in July, rejected both these arguments. Roberts explained that nothing in the Constitution compels state prosecutors to show a "heightened need" for a subpoena of the president. Nor do the president's constitutional powers shield him from a subpoena while in office. To the contrary, historical practice confirms that "the public has a right to every man's evidence." However, Roberts noted, a president may challenge a subpoena that is issued in bad faith if he can show it was designed to harass him. He can also defeat a subpoena by showing that it will impede his constitutional duties. The chief justice then sent the case back down to the lower courts, giving Trump an opportunity to raise these final objections.

Roberts' decision was diplomatic: It confirmed that no one is above the law without immediately forcing Trump to comply with the law. But it was also a time bomb, because the chief justice surely knew that none of those objections had any merit in this case. The bomb went off on Thursday.

Always bet on the Deep State.

Posted by orrinj at 12:45 PM


Steve Bannon was arrested by US Postal Service agents (Grace Panetta, 8/20/20, Business Insider)

Posted by orrinj at 10:42 AM


More Voters Say Democratic Party Is Better at Governing than GOP: Poll (MATTHEW IMPELLI, 8/20/20, Newsweek)

The poll, which was conducted by Morning Consult, found that 48 percent of voters said Democrats are more capable of governing, while 42 percent sided with Republicans.

Posted by orrinj at 10:23 AM


Judge throws out Trump's effort to block subpoena for financial records (Zachary Basu, 8/20/20, Axios)

A federal judge on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit from President Trump that sought to block Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance's subpoena for his financial records.

Kamala took the wrong job.
Posted by orrinj at 9:57 AM


PODCAST: Uncommon Knowledge: Mathematical Challenges to Darwin's Theory of Evolution (PETER ROBINSON, August 19, 2020, Uncommon Knowledge)

Has Darwinism really failed? I discuss it with David Berlinski, David Gelernter, and Stephen Meyer, who have raised doubts about Darwin's theory in their two books and essay, respectively The Deniable Darwin, Darwin's Doubt, and "Giving Up Darwin" (published in the Claremont Review of Books).

Recorded on June 6, 2019 in Fiesole, Italy

Posted by orrinj at 9:53 AM


Steve Bannon Arrested in New York on Charges of Stealing From 'Build the Wall' Fundraiser (Rachel Olding, Aug. 20, 2020, Daily Beast)

Hundreds of thousands of donors who gave a total of $25 million to the crowdfunding campaign were defrauded, Audrey Strauss, acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement.

Posted by orrinj at 9:44 AM


Before 'Coup 53,' the US and Iran were old friends (Daniel Thomas Potts, 8/19/20, The Conversation)

The British- and American-backed plot to overthrow Iran's prime minister in 1953 laid the groundwork for the 1979 Iran hostage crisis and decades of hostility with the U.S. A documentary about the plot released on Aug. 19 offers new details of what happened.

I believe it is worth recalling the time before the events chronicled in "Coup 53," when the two countries had a distinctly different relationship.

In the 1800s, American missionaries journeyed to what was then called Persia.

The missionaries helped build important institutions - schools, colleges, hospitals and medical schools - in Persia, many of which still exist.

Dr. Joseph Plumb Cochran, an American physician fluent in Persian, Turkish, Kurdish and Assyrian, founded a hospital in Urmia in 1879, as well as Iran's first medical school. When Cochran died at Urmia in northwestern Iran in 1905, over 10,000 people attended his funeral.

This image clashes with most American stereotypes of Iran and its people, and is at odds with decades of anti-Iranian sentiment emanating from Washington.

Iran and the United States, in fact, have a deep history of mutual respect and friendship.

...was not accepting the offer when Khamenei sued for peace.

Posted by orrinj at 9:21 AM


The Need for Mutual Forbearance: Ben Klutsey talks to Alan Charles Kors about the history of liberalism and the purpose of education (Benjamin Klutsey, 8/04/20, The Bridge)

In this first installment of an interview series on liberalism, Benjamin Klutsey, the director of academic outreach at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, speaks with Alan Charles Kors about the history of liberalism, the proper purpose of education, and the core liberal value of mutual forbearance. Kors is the Henry Charles Lea Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Pennsylvania, specializing in European intellectual history of the 17th and 18th centuries. He has published several books and many articles on early-modern French intellectual history and was editor-in-chief of the Encyclopedia of the Enlightenment. [...]

KLUTSEY: I see. You talked about Voltaire and you mentioned toleration, the idea that you have two religions, they might be going after each other, but you have 30, so everyone learns to live with one another. That idea, it grew. Now, would you think of liberalism as a pre-political notion or in some sense meta-politics?

KORS: It is in the modern sense, I suppose, a pre-political position with the most dramatic political implications. I should think of it that way. But I think you do right to focus on toleration as lying at the heart of it. If people are willing to slaughter each other over religious beliefs, in fact over beliefs in general, if people are not willing to argue, to debate, their recourse then, if they think matters are important, is to force and to coercion.

So at the heart of the classical liberal tradition lies the notion of, in John Stuart Mill's terms, mutual forbearance, in which we allow each other to think, to choose a lifestyle, to seek to satisfy ourselves on the deepest or on the shallowest questions with mutual forbearance, which has the advantage, as John Stuart Mill saw, of also producing experiments in living, experiments in lifestyles, experiments in life choices from which a whole society of individuals can learn negative or positive lessons.

KLUTSEY: You had mentioned in a recent talk when you were talking about Voltaire--I think this was a quote--that "mutual forbearance, legal equality, peace, and prosperity go hand in hand, and if you lose the first, the rest are in peril."

KORS: Yeah. That's exactly right. Again, in Voltaire's seminal Philosophical Letters, a work of extraordinary influence all throughout the Western world, what Voltaire is essentially arguing is that religious liberty, free trade and commerce, the end of aristocratic privilege by birth, restraint upon central power, and balance of powers and separation of powers, which he sees in the English model, that all of these are part of the same general picture that has made progress possible and can make yet extraordinary progress possible in the future.

KLUTSEY: It's almost as though it would be difficult to separate the civil freedoms from the economic freedoms. They almost go hand in hand.

...flows from following Rousseau instead of the Anglospherics  that Voltaire is counseling there.

Posted by orrinj at 9:16 AM


Posted by orrinj at 9:09 AM


Atheist Sam Harris claims to be a defender of intellectual freedom -- but has become a super-spreader of racist disinformation (Phil Torres, August 16, 2020, Raw Story)

[O]ver time, Harris withdrew from expressing his opinions through platforms designed to ensure a minimum level of intellectual integrity. He began blogging and then started an enormously popular podcast, his principal medium for the past seven years. He stopped publishing peer-reviewed research papers. He opted not to submit articles to media outlets that imposed some editorial control over what they publish. Instead, he created a small media empire that enabled him to say whatever he wants, whether or not the message is misleading, the claims are factually erroneous, the reasoning is fallacious and so on. In other words, he figured out a way to bypass intellectual accountability -- to opine as much as he wants about topics he doesn't understand without peer-review, editorial oversight or other quality-control measures.

Like Trump, Harris seems wholly uninterested in getting things right. He claims to care about intellectual honesty and good scholarship, yet he consistently spouts misinformation on his podcast that could easily be corrected if only he were to engage -- sincerely, and in good faith -- those who disagree with him (very often actual experts on the topics of racism, feminism, social justice and so on). Indeed, so far as I can tell, Harris has become one of the greatest sources of misinformation on social justice issues in the United States today. His contribution to scientific racism -- his boosting the visibility of claims like Black people are almost certainly dumber than white people for genetic reasons -- will no doubt be one of his greatest, and darkest, legacies.

Consider this anecdote from a few years ago. I was in Sweden for a two-month-long workshop. During lunch one day I was speaking to a professor at the local university and the uncomfortable topic of race and IQ came up. He told me that he has come to embrace (in his words) the "racist view," according to which white people are intellectually superior to Black people because of evolution. He further told me that it is only once one accepts this view that white folks can be genuinely empathetic toward Black people. That is, by recognizing that "they can't help it," we can take on the burden of helping them out.

Over the course of an excruciating two hours (in every moment of which I wanted to defenestrate myself), I explained the problems with "IQ" as a metric of intelligence and went over some of the data about how horrifically widespread heavy-metal poisoning and malnutrition is in poorer regions of the world. By the very end, he told me that I had nearly talked him out of the "racist view."

The point here is this: Literally the first thing I asked when he explained his "racist view" was, "Why do you think that?" And his response was: "Well, I mean, listen to Sam Harris. Listen to his interview with Charles Murray. Listen to the points that he made in his podcast interview with Josh Zepps." Indeed, so far as I know, the Zepps podcast was Harris's most explicit statement that affirmed his racist convictions. To quote him in full:

And as bad luck would have it, but as you absolutely predict on the basis of just sheer biology, different populations of people, different racial groups, different ethnicities, different groups of people who have been historically isolated from one another geographically, test differently in terms of their average on this measure of cognitive function. So if you're gonna give the Japanese and the Ashkenazi Jews and African Americans and Hawaiians ... you're gonna take populations who differ genetically -- and we know they differ genetically, that's not debatable -- and you give them IQ tests, it would be a miracle if every single population had the exact same mean IQ. And African Americans come out about a standard deviation lower than white Americans. A standard deviation for IQ is about 15 points. So, if it's normed to the general population, predominantly white population for an average of 100, the average in the African American community has been around 85.

There is simply no other interpretation of this than "Black people are genetically dumber." What's worse is that Harris presents this as if it's the unavoidable, obviously true inference from the indisputable facts. This is where the Trumpian strategy of avoiding peer-review, editorial oversight, and quality control comes into the picture with force: There are profoundly strong reasons for rejecting all of this. Yet Harris' adoring audience of mostly white men (including a lot of Trump supporters) would never know this listening to him.

Harris is a perfectly rational Darwinist.

Posted by orrinj at 8:55 AM


QAnon supporters are celebrating after Trump publicly praised the conspiracy movement for the first time (Tom Porter, 8/20/20, Business Insider)

The movement was identified as a domestic-terrorism threat by the FBI in documents obtained by Yahoo News last year.

QAnon supporters have been tied to a series of violent crimes around the country, according to the civil-rights nonprofit Southern Poverty Law Center.

In late July, thousands of pro-QAnon accounts were removed from Twitter. Facebook followed suit this week, banning thousands of accounts and groups.

But on fringe platforms such as Gab and Parler, where many supporters have regrouped, they were jubilant following a moment they seemed to have long anticipated.

"Trumps answer yesterday has me grinning like a madman, even hours later. It's been a great honor observing and participating in this movement!" one supporter wrote on Gab, an online gathering space used often by the far right.

"It's not over yet but I just had to share my feelings on this watershed happening."

On the Parler platform, another supporter wrote: "'I've just heard these people love our country' - Donald J. Trump on 'The #QAnon Movement' Hold tight, anons. The best is yet to come."

Other supporters celebrated the news with memes.

Imagine living a life of such desperation that praise from Donald is thrilling, not humiliating?

Posted by orrinj at 8:40 AM


Obama breaks open convention by hammering Trump (Jonathan Allen, 8/20/20, NBC News)

Former President Barack Obama returned to the political arena Wednesday to issue a norm-shattering warning to the country that President Donald Trump represents an existential threat to the American experiment.

"That's what's at stake right now -- our democracy," Obama said from the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia on the third night of the Democratic National Convention.

Democrats lauded the address for its value as a historical marker -- a baring of the national moment in context -- and yet the oratory of ideals also served as the velvet cover for a political hammer.

"Donald Trump hasn't grown into the job because he can't," Obama said. "And the consequences of that failure are severe. 170,000 Americans dead. Millions of jobs gone while those at the top take in more than ever. Our worst impulses unleashed, our proud reputation around the world badly diminished, and our democratic institutions threatened like never before."

Posted by orrinj at 8:31 AM


Deputy AG: NH Needs Independent Panel To Probe Police Misconduct  (DAMIEN FISHER, , 8/20/20,

The state should have an independent commission to hear and investigate accusations of police misconduct, and sustained findings against officers should be made open to the public, according to a set of recommendations being proposed by the New Hampshire Attorney General's Office. 

"We, as a state, should speak with one voice when it comes to holding our public officials accountable," said Deputy Attorney General Jane Young.

Young, who is chairing the Law Enforcement Commission on Accountability, Community and Transparency, presented the Attorney General's recommendations for dealing with police discipline at Wednesday's meeting. Along with creating the new commission, Young put forward recommendations for a dedicated public integrity unit within the Attorney General's Office to prosecute alleged crimes committed by police officers, and mandate for implicit bias training for all prosecutors in the state.

 The new investigating commission mirrors the New Hampshire Attorney Discipline System and would be made up of 23 members. The membership of the hearing commission would include law enforcement, lawyers, and members of the public. Young said complaints would be investigated by staff, and then hearings brought before the commission. Officers would have the opportunity to have their side of the story heard by the commission.

 "There has to be fairness and due process for all concerned," Young said. need for protests nor stormtroopers.  

Posted by orrinj at 8:30 AM

WHO'DA THUNK? (self-reference alert):

Posted by orrinj at 8:14 AM


Scoop: Jon Meacham to speak on Democratic convention's last night (Mike Allen, 8/20/20, Axios)

Meacham speaks from his library, surrounded by photos and posters from past presidential campaigns -- including a portrait of Lewis, Meacham's latest subject ("His Truth Is Marching On," out Tuesday).

"By habit, I see the world historically and theologically," said Meacham, a devout Episcopalian and author of 10 books. "History and theology tell us we're at our best when we look outward rather than inward."

Meacham's roots are in journalism: He said he's voted for candidates of both parties, and has never endorsed a candidate before.

"This president poses such a clear and present danger to the things we should value most that I think it's incumbent on all of us who believe that to say something."

"Joe Biden is a good man. We need him."

August 19, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 6:45 PM


Donald Trump Jr. appeared in promotion for gun company run by prominent member of polygamous group (GRAHAM KATES, JESSICA KEGU, AUGUST 19, 2020, CBS News)

Posted by orrinj at 6:42 PM


Trump praises QAnon supporters: "I understand they like me very much" (Axios, 8/19/20)

President Trump claimed at a press conference Wednesday that he doesn't know much about the fringe conspiracy theory QAnon, but that he understands its supporters "like me very much" and that they "love America."

Why it matters: QAnon is a sprawling internet conspiracy theory that baselessly alleges that a powerful cabal of sex traffickers within the "deep state" is engaged in a global fight to take down Trump. The FBI identified fringe conspiracy theories, like QAnon, as domestic terrorist threats in 2019.

Posted by orrinj at 1:55 PM


Rudy Giuliani says George Soros wants to destroy government due to his 'sick background' (JTA, 8/19/20)

Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump's personal attorney, alleged in an interview that George Soros wants to destroy the government.

Giuliani referred to the "sick background" of the Jewish billionaire and Holocaust survivor in condemning his donations to Black Lives Matter.

Scratch a Trumpist, find an anti-Semite.

Posted by orrinj at 1:43 PM


The Republican Party of Florida is backing Laura Loomer, a "proud Islamophobe" who said she's in favor of "more" migrant deaths (ERIC HANANOKI,  08/19/20, Media Matters)

The Republican Party of Florida recently expressed its support for right-wing commentator and congressional candidate Laura Loomer, who has described herself as a "proud Islamophobe," has said that she didn't "care" about the anti-Muslim mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand, and has stated that she's in favor of "more" migrant deaths. 

Posted by orrinj at 1:40 PM


An overwhelming majority of Americans say the US response to coronavirus makes them feel embarrassed (John Haltiwanger, 8/19/20, Business Insider)

Almost seven in 10 Americans in a new CNN poll said the US response to the coronavirus pandemic made them feel embarrassed.

Sixty-eight percent said that, compared with 28% who said they were proud. 

Posted by orrinj at 1:37 PM


Joe Biden is already planning a failed presidency (Ryan Cooper, August 19, 2020, The Week)

In 2008, after eight years of a George W. Bush administration that had done staggering damage to the United States and the world, a moderate Democrat ascended to the presidency, promising that he would set things right.

That president, of course, was Barack Obama. He did nothing of the sort -- instead he tried to "look forward, as opposed to looking backwards" to restore a bleary simulacrum of the pre-disaster status quo. Obama let severe problems fester for eight years, let war crimes galore go unpunished, and helped secure the nomination of his unpopular former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, as his successor. She lost to a game show clown.

Now Democrats have officially nominated Joe Biden, who served as vice president under Obama, after four years of catastrophe just possibly even worse than what happened under Bush. Team Biden clearly expects to win, and they are already starting to walk back their campaign promises, just as happened under Obama.

The entire premise of his candidacy is he'll be exactly like Carter/Reagan/Bush/Clinton/Bush/Obama. That's all America is looking for.

Posted by orrinj at 1:31 PM


How Ukraine's audacious secret service successfully scammed Putin and his mercenaries (Mitch Prothero, 8/19/20, Business Insider)

The intelligence world is currently roiled by reports that Ukraine's intelligence service had tricked 32 Russian mercenaries accused of war crimes into confessing their jobs and nearly flying to Ukraine by setting up fake job interviews under the guise of a fake security contract.

The allegations were first reported in Ukrainian media on Tuesday evening.

The reports claim that the Ukrainian intelligence (SBU) operation was designed to convince dozens of Russian mercenaries who had fought in the 2014 Donbass war, between Russia- and Ukraine-backed fighters, to provide verification of their presence in the region. The entire operation began nearly a year ago, the reports said.

To extract the mercenaries' confessions and eventually bring them into custody, the SBU created a fake security contract for them, set up fake job interviews, and readied a flight taking them from Moscow to Minsk, then to Istanbul on July 25, the reports said.

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Radio listening has plummeted. NPR is reaching a bigger audience than ever. What gives? (Sarah Scire, Aug. 19, 2020, Nieman Lab)

Even as its legacy platform's audience has declined, though, NPR says it is reaching more people than ever. The dip in radio listenership -- 22 percent -- has coincided with a record number of people turning to NPR on virtually every other platform. More people than ever are reaching NPR through the website, apps, livestreams, and smart speakers ("Alexa, I want to listen to NPR").

In total, 57 million listen or watch or read NPR content each week, up 10 percent from this time last year. Comparing spring 2019 to spring 2020, here's where NPR saw its numbers move:

Unique weekly visitors to increased 94 percent
Smart speaker streams and on-demand audio increased 29 percent
Live stream listeners increased 39 percent
NPR app usage grew 22 percent
NPR One app usage increased 19 percent
NPR Music, through YouTube, saw its traffic increase by 90 percent

These changes have implications for NPR's bottom line, which draws on a mix of underwriting, member station fees, government funds, and donations. In 2020, for the first time, NPR will make more money from underwriting on podcasts than from its radio shows.

But, for its own sake, NPR should seek to liberate itself from any dependence on government funding at all.

Posted by orrinj at 5:39 AM


The triumph of capital over labor (Felix Salmon, 8/19/20, Axios)

Historically, about two thirds of economic output went to workers in exchange for their labor, with the other third being retained by owners. But since 2000, that ratio has been plunging.

Now that America's workforce has been decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the share of national income being kept by workers could hit a new record low.
The bottom line: It's unclear how or whether workers will be able to regroup and reclaim more of the fruits of their labor. So long as capital retains the upper hand, an increasing share of corporate revenues will show up as profits. Which is good news for anybody owning stocks.

The point of an economy is to generate wealth and the lower you can get the labor input the more it generates.  The question now is how to get capital into the hands of the citizenry without boondoggle employment. That's a political question, not an economic one.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Pax Americana is Here to Stay (Imran Said, 8/19/20, Quillette)

Lost in much of the fretting (or boasting) about American declinism is the massive lead the American economy continues to hold over China, despite four decades of rapid growth for the latter. The total output of the US economy in 2019 was US$21.4 trillion, significantly larger than China's output of US$14.3 trillion. On a per-capita basis, the division becomes more stark--US$65,280 to US$10,261 (at current US$).

America's share of the world economy has remained virtually unchanged since 1980, when it accounted for 25.2 percent of world GDP. As of December 31st, 2018, the US share only dropped to 23.9 percent. Over the same period, Japan's share of world GDP fell from 9.7 percent to 5.8 percent, while the European Union's share fell from 34.6 percent to 22 percent. This suggests that China's rise has been at the expense of other countries' share of the global economy, rather than that of the US.

Furthermore, China's economy had already been slowing since peaking at 14.2 percent growth in 2007, before dropping to 6.6 percent in 2018. As Derek Scissors of the American Enterprise Institute argued last year, the quicker China slows down, the less likely it will be able to catch up with the US. While the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) insists that China will experience a gradual slowdown, internal factors suggest a more rapid slowdown would not be out of the question. In the aftermath of the pandemic, China watchers warned that the CCP had doubled down on the debt-fuelled, state-directed investment strategy which characterized its response to the 2008 global financial crisis.

As observed by late Indian economist Deepak Lal, the aftermath of the big surge in public spending post-2008 saw industrial producer prices fall steadily after 2011. This deflation was partly attributed to the glut in production in major Chinese industries such as steel, coal, glass, aluminium, solar panels, and cement. While this may inflate China's baseline output (and therefore GDP), the question is whether these add value to the economy.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


PODCAST How The CIA Overthrew Iran's Democracy In 4 Days (LAWRENCE WU, 2/07/19, NPR: Throughline)

On Aug. 19, 2013, the CIA publicly admitted for the first time its involvement in the 1953 coup against Iran's elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh.

The documents provided details of the CIA's plan at the time, which was led by senior officer Kermit Roosevelt Jr., the grandson of U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt. Over the course of four days in August 1953, Roosevelt would orchestrate not one, but two attempts to destabilize the government of Iran, forever changing the relationship between the country and the U.S. In this episode, we go back to retrace what happened in the inaugural episode of NPR's new history podcast, Throughline.

Mohammad Mossadegh was a beloved figure in Iran. During his tenure, he introduced a range of social and economic policies, the most significant being the nationalization of the Iranian oil industry. Great Britain had controlled Iran's oil for decades through the Anglo-Iranian Oil Co. After months of talks the prime minister broke off negotiations and denied the British any further involvement in Iran's oil industry. Britain then appealed to the United States for help, which eventually led the CIA to orchestrate the overthrow of Mossadegh and restore power to Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran.

August 18, 2020

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NOT THE 3%?:

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GOP-Led Senate Intel Committee's Report Reveals 'Gold Mine' of Evidence on Trump Campaign's Russia Contacts (JERRY LAMBE, Aug 18th, 2020, Law & Crime)

The panel confirmed that Trump's campaign chairman Paul Manafort sought to give internal campaign data to Russian intelligence officer Konstantin Kilimnik, saying Manafort posed a "grave counterintelligence threat" to the United States.

"The Committee found that Manafort's presence on the Campaign and proximity to Trump created opportunities for Russian intelligence services to exert influence over, and acquire confidential information on, the Trump Campaign," the report stated. "Taken as a whole, Manafort's high-level access and willingness to share information with individuals closely affiliated with the Russian intelligence services, particularly Kilimnik and associates of Oleg Deripaska, represented a grave counterintelligence threat."

The report also contradicted Republican politicians' dubious claims that Ukraine, not Russia, may have been responsible for meddling in the election.

"[D]uring the course of the investigation, the Committee identified no reliable evidence that the Ukrainian government interfered in the 2016 U.S. election," the report stated. Additionally, Kilimnik was identified as having "almost certainly helped arrange some of the first public messaging that Ukraine had interfered in the U.S. election."

Referring to the web of contacts between Russia and the Trump campaign, Washington, D.C.-based national security attorney Mark Zaid (who represented the Ukraine whistleblower) wrote, "This is called a shoe dropping. Hard."

The panel was surprisingly personal in its assessment of President Trump, asserting that he lied to former special counsel Robert Mueller regarding Roger Stone and WikiLeaks. During Mueller's probe, the president told investigators he had "no recollection" of any conversations between him and Stone about Wikileaks. Despite that, the panel concluded that "Trump did, in fact, speak with Stone about WikiLeaks and with members of his Campaign about Stone's access to WikiLeaks on multiple occasions."

National security attorney Bradley P. Moss referred to the finding as "the coup de grace," writing that "even Senate Republicans believe Trump lied to Mueller."

Senate made criminal referral of Trump Jr., Bannon, Kushner and two others to federal prosecutors (Ken Dilanian, 8/18/20, NBC)

The Republican and Democratic chairmen of the Senate Intelligence Committee made criminal referrals of Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Steve Bannon, Erik Prince and Sam Clovis to federal prosecutors in 2019, passing along their suspicions that the men may have misled the committee during their testimony, an official familiar with the matter told NBC News.

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South Carolina Senate Moves From Likely to Lean Republican (Jessica Taylor, August 17, 2020, Cook Political Report)

A Quinnipiac University poll conducted from July 30-August 3 showed the race tied at 44 percent a piece. Graham's job approval was also narrowly underwater (47 percent disapproving and 43 percent approving), and he was losing independents by 10 points to Harrison. The Democratic nominee is also winning women by 5 points, but that slim advantage seems to be driven by Black women, since Graham is still winning white women by 26 points. Republicans also argue that the poll undersampled GOP voters and said their own polling shows a more sizable lead for Graham. 

Two Democratic surveys last month also suggested the race was tightening, and private Democratic pollings shows the same thing. An internal survey from Cornell Belcher at brilliant corners Research & Strategies (conducted July 13-19) for Harrison's campaign showed Graham with a 43 to 41 percent lead in a four-way race (including a Libertarian and a Constitution Party candidate), and also noted that Harrison was leading by 19 points among college-educated women and 7 points among suburban voters. An Anzalone Liszt Grove survey (conducted July 5-20) for the Lindsey Must Go super PAC showed Graham with a 49%-45% edge, underscoring still why it is much easier for a Republican than a Democrat to come close to 50% in the state. However, Democrats hope that with third-party choices on the ballot, that threshold will drop, but Republicans say they aren't worried about such a scenario. 

Presidential polling shows a much closer race than President Trump's 14 point win over Hillary Clinton four years ago. Those same Senate surveys show Trump's lead is now between just 5 and 7 points

Posted by orrinj at 2:31 PM


DeJoy suspends Postal Service changes amid election fears (ZACH MONTELLARO and DANIEL LIPPMAN, 08/18/2020, Politico)

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy announced Tuesday that he was suspending "longstanding operational initiatives" at the United States Postal Service, amid fears that the changes could delay election mail this fall in the middle of the pandemic.

Posted by orrinj at 2:25 PM

YEAH, BUT HILLARY'S EMAILS! (profanity alert):

A Republican-led Senate panel's report on Russian election meddling threw a wrench into Trump's conspiracies. Here are its biggest findings. (Sonam Sheth, 8/18/20, Business Insider)

Perhaps the biggest finding was buried in a footnote more than 100 pages into the report: "The Committee's efforts focused on investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election. However, during the course of the investigation, the Committee identified no reliable evidence that the Ukrainian government interfered in the 2016 U.S. election." [...]

The longtime Republican strategist Roger Stone drafted at least eight tweets supporting Russia for then Republican candidate Donald Trump in July 2016. The report said Stone emailed the drafts to one of Trump's assistants with the subject line, "Tweets Mr. Trump requested last night."

"Many of the draft tweets attacked [then Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton] for her adversarial posture toward Russia and mentioned a new peace deal with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, such as 'I want a new detente with Russia under Putin,'" the report said.

Konstantin Kilimnik, a former Russian intelligence operative with close ties to the former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, "may be connected" to the GRU's "hack-and-leak operation related to the 2016 U.S. election."

The GRU is Russia's primary military intelligence unit, and the "hack-and-leak" operation the committee mentioned refers to the GRU's efforts to breach the Democratic National Committee's servers in 2016 and disseminate damaging information via WikiLeaks and the Russian hacker Guccifer 2.0.

The report hinted at the possibility that Manafort had knowledge of the GRU's hacking campaign. "Two pieces of information ... raise the possibility of Manafort's potential connection to the hack-and-leak operations," the report said. Several subsequent paragraphs were redacted.

Manafort's involvement in the hack-and-leak operation is "largely unknown," the report said, and the committee did not have "reliable, direct evidence" showing that he and Kilimnik discussed the breach. However, "the content of the majority of the communications between Manafort and Kilimnik is unknown" and there is no "objective record" of the two men's conversations when they met in person.

Manafort was a "grave counterintelligence threat" to the US because of his extensive ties to pro-Russian individuals and entities, the report said.

In addition to working with Kilimnik "on narratives that sought to undermine evidence that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. election," the report also highlighted Manafort's involvement in other events central to the Russia probe, like the 2016 Trump Tower meeting between campaign officials and the Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. [...]

The Senate Intelligence Committee's investigation found "significant evidence to suggest that, in the summer of 2016, WikiLeaks was knowingly collaborating with Russian government officials," the report said. Two bullet points directly following that statement were redacted from the report, as were significant portions of a footnote on the page.

AG is the best job in the Biden Administration.

Senate Intelligence Committee Report Reveals Damning New Information About Trump's Russia Ties: Its 3-year probe links Paul Manafort to Russian intelligence and finds Trump's campaign helped Vladimir Putin's 2016 attack. (DAVID CORN & DAN FRIEDMAN, 8/18/20, Mother jones)

During the 2016 presidential race, while Vladimir Putin attacked the election in part to help Donald Trump, there was a "direct tie between senior Trump Campaign officials and the Russian intelligence services." This damning statement comes from a long-awaited bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report released on Tuesday morning. The report, 966-pages long, is the final volume resulting from the committee's investigation of Russian intervention in the 2016 campaign. It is full of revelations and findings that make clear that there is no Trump-Russia "hoax" and that the Trump and his campaign aided and abetted Moscow's assault on American democracy and sought to exploit it.

The report also explores the question of whether Russian intelligence developed blackmail material on Trump, revealing new information on this dicey subject but without reaching a conclusion.

A good chunk of the report is dedicated to Paul Manafort, who was a senior Trump campaign official for about five months in 2016. The committee notes that Manafort, who was imprisoned in 2018 for committing fraud and money laundering, posed a "grave counterintelligence threat" due to his Russian connections. The report details his extensive dealings during the campaign with a former business associate named Konstantin Kilimnik, whom the committee describes as a "Russian intelligence officer." (Special Counsel Robert Mueller characterized Kilimnik as an "associate" of Russian intelligence.) The committee puts it bluntly: "Kilimnik likely served as a channel to Manafort for Russian intelligence services." [...]

The report continues: "The Committee obtained some information suggesting Kilimnik may have been connected to the [Russian intelligence's] hack and leak operation targeting the 2016 U.S. election." Whoa. This report is saying that Trump's campaign manager was in close contact with a Russian intelligence officer who might have been tied to Putin's covert attack on the 2016 campaign to help elect Trump. Moreover, the report reveals that the committee found "two pieces of information" that "raise the possibility" that Manafort himself was connected "to the hack-and-leak operations." The report's discussion of that information, though, is redacted. Whether this counts as collusion or not, it's a big deal. 

Manafort, according to the committee's investigation, also explored using his access to Trump to help advance Russian interests. He discussed with Kilimnik promoting a pro-Russia "peace plan" for Ukraine that would have entailed creating an autonomous zone in eastern Ukraine, a scheme Manafort knew would offer a "'backdoor' means for Russia to control eastern Ukraine," the report says. Manafort understood that Kilimnik had cleared the plan with "someone in the Russian government." Why was Manafort willing to assist a move seemingly at odds with US interests? "Manafort could benefit financially," the committee explains. 

The picture gets worse for the Trump-Russia truthers. 

"DROP THE PODESTA EMAILS": SENATE REPORT SURE SEEMS LIKE ANOTHER TRUMP-RUSSIA SMOKING GUN: More details of Roger Stone's interactions with WikiLeaks and Paul Manafort's Russian ties don't look great for the Trump campaign. (ERIC LUTZ, AUGUST 18, 2020, Vanity Fair)

Apparently sensing the cataclysmic damage the comments would wreak, Stone--self-styled dirty trickster and unofficial Trump adviser--spoke by phone to the conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi, directing him to get in touch with Julian Assange, whose organization, WikiLeaks, had obtained Russian-hacked emails from Democratic Party staffers, including Clinton campaign chair John Podesta. "Drop the Podesta emails immediately," Stone instructed, seeking to "balance the news cycle" after the release of the Access Hollywood tape. Thirty-two minutes later, WikiLeaks followed through.

The episode, one of many eye-popping revelations about the Trumpworld's interactions with Russia catalogued in a Senate Intelligence Committee report released Tuesday, highlights both the degree to which Stone was involved in Moscow's election meddling and his efforts to leverage stolen Democratic emails. Much of the story is already known: the Kremlin sought to spread disinformation and stoke division in the United States to hurt Clinton and help Trump, an effort seemingly aided by some in his orbit. But the Intelligence Committee's report also adds to what was already outlined by special counsel Robert Mueller, finding that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort had been working with Russian intelligence official Konstantin Kilimnik, who "may have been connected" to the Kremlin's interference; that Trump and members of his campaign spoke with Stone about WikiLeaks and sought advance information about their email dumps, despite suggesting to Mueller they hadn't; that Russia exploited the Trump campaign's inexperience and possibly even the FBI to its advantage; and that the Kremlin has promoted the baseless narrative that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that tampered with the election.

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Michelle Obama tells 'the cold hard truth' in a searing DNC keynote speech (Christina Wilkie, 8/17/20, CNBC)

Michelle Obama had one message for Americans at Monday night's Democratic National Convention: "If you think things cannot possibly get worse, trust me, they can; and they will if we don't make a change in this election." It was a dire warning, but it captured the essence of a speech marked by a sense of urgency and bleak realism.

The former first lady painted a picture of what she said young people, including her two daughters, see around them in America today.

"They see people shouting in grocery stores, unwilling to wear a mask to keep us all safe," Obama said in the prerecorded speech. "They see an entitlement that says only certain people belong here, that greed is good, and winning is everything because as long as you come out on top, it doesn't matter what happens to everyone else."

"Sadly, this is the America that is on display for the next generation," she said. "That's not just disappointing; it's downright infuriating."

Obama has long been admired on both sides of the aisle for her ability to deliver inspiring and motivating speeches. To this day, she remains one of the most sought-after campaign surrogates in all of politics. 

But if viewers tuned into the Democratic convention Monday expecting to see the same warm, welcoming, "mom-in-chief" version of Michelle Obama they had grown accustomed to during her eight years in the White House, they were in for a wake-up call. 

Obama herself seemed to acknowledge this, describing how she reframes one of her best-known phrases, "when they go low, we go high," when people ask her today how to "go high" in the face of a president like Donald Trump. 

"Going high does not mean putting on a smile and saying nice things when confronted by viciousness and cruelty. Going high means taking the harder path. It means scraping and clawing our way to that mountain top," Obama said.

"Going high means standing fierce against hatred. ... And going high means unlocking the shackles of lies and mistrust with the only thing that can truly set us free: the cold hard truth."

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Losing the Senate Would Be a Catastrophe (ROBERT VERBRUGGEN, August 18, 2020, National Review)

The possibility of full Democratic control should scare the living hell out of conservatives and moderates, very much including those who can't stand Trump. For God's sake, people, don't vote for down-ballot Democrats just to punish the GOP for Trump.

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Why Not Cancel Karl Marx? (Paul Kengor, August 18, 2020, American Spectator)

Karl Marx was, after all, a bigot. His attitude toward blacks and Jews alone (not to mention women) would stun Stonewall Jackson. Ugly racial-ethnic stereotypes by Marx are littered throughout his writings.

Consider how Marx spoke of his own son-in-law, Paul Lafargue, husband of his daughter Laura. Paul came from Cuba, born in Santiago, and Marx thus viewed him as marred by "Negro" blood and denigrated him as "Negrillo" or "the Gorilla." Karl never let up his ridicule of poor Paul. In November 1882, still 14 years after Lafargue and Laura married, Marx complained to Engels that "Lafargue has the blemish customarily found in the negro tribe -- no sense of shame, by which I mean shame about making a fool of oneself."

Marx had a friendly audience for such views in Friedrich Engels, his Communist Manifesto partner. Engels, a proud Darwinian, averred that Paul possessed "one-eighth or one-twelfth nigger blood." In 1887, Lafargue had been a political candidate for a council seat in a Paris district that contained a zoo. In an April 1887 letter to Paul's wife, Engels cruelly opined, "Being in his quality as a nigger, a degree nearer to the rest of the animal kingdom than the rest of us, he is undoubtedly the most appropriate representative of that district."

It is no wonder that Marx's son-in-law had such low self-esteem. In fact, one day in November 1911, Paul ended it all. He killed himself in a suicide pact with Marx's daughter. In fact, two of Marx's daughters killed themselves in suicide pacts with their husbands.

Karl Marx freely dispensed with nasty epithets aimed not only at blacks but at Jews. Biographer Jonathan Sperber notes that Marx's correspondence is "filled with contemptuous remarks about Jews." Even his admiring biographer Francis Wheen, who habitually defends nearly everything about Marx, admits that he "sprayed anti-Semitic insults at his enemies with savage glee."

Of one contemporary, Marx blasted his "cynical, oily-obtrusive, phony-Baronial Jew-manners." Particularly loathsome to Marx was anyone he suspected of part Jewish and African roots. Marx referred to his fellow German socialist Ferdinand Lassalle as a "greasy Jew," "the little kike," "water-polack Jew," "Jew Braun," "Yid," "Izzy," "Wily Ephraim," "Baron Itzig," and "the Jewish Nigger." In a July 1862 letter to Engels, Marx confidently observed of Lassalle, "It is now perfectly clear to me that, as the shape of his head and the growth of his hair indicates, he is descended from the Negroes who joined in Moses' flight from Egypt." Lassalle's "cranial formation," detected Marx, was the giveaway. Marx did, however, allow for an exception: "unless his mother or grandmother on the father's side was crossed with a nigger." Marx chortled, "This union of Jew and German on a Negro base was bound to produce an extraordinary hybrid." He also hastened to add, "The fellow's importunity is also niggerlike."

One of Marx's worst expressions of anti-Semitism was his painful 1844 essay "On the Jewish Question."

"What is the worldly cult of the Jew?" asked Marx. His answer: "Haggling. What is his worldly god? Money." He growled, "Money is the jealous god of Israel before whom no other god may exist.... The bill of exchange is the actual god of the Jew. His god is only an illusory bill of exchange." The Jew, Marx snarled, had become "impossible." The German chillingly concluded, "The emancipation of the Jews, in the final analysis, is the emancipation of mankind from Judaism."

In his seminal edited volume on Karl Marx and religion, Saul Padover said that Marx -- who was, ironically, an ethnic Jew -- had "learned to despise and hate the people from whom he originated. This was an expression of what the Germans call Selbsthass (self-hate), a trait which Karl Marx displayed throughout his whole life." Padover was taken aback by "the extent and virulence of his anti-Semitism."

Karl Marx summed it up plainly in a letter to his longtime friend Arnold Ruge in 1843: "the Israelite faith is repulsive to me."

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When George Washington Met Moses (JOHN BERLAU, August 13, 2020 , National Review)

What is undisputed, however, are the powerful messages of religious freedom and equality under the law from the Jewish congregation's letter and Washington's swift response. The letter dated August 17 states: "Deprived as we heretofore have been of the invaluable rights of free Citizens, we now (with a deep sense of gratitude to the Almighty disposer of all events) behold a Government, erected by the Majesty of the People -- a Government, which to bigotry gives no sanction, to persecution no assistance -- but generously affording to All liberty of conscience, and immunities of Citizenship." The letter implicitly asks Washington to affirm that the views of the promise of the new nation held by Seixas and the congregation were correct.

Washington did indeed affirm this in a letter replying to the congregation dated one day later. And in that letter, Washington promised even more than the religious liberties the Jewish congregation had asked for: that Jews would be full citizens of the new republic. Echoing some of Seixas's phrasing, Washington replied, "For happily the Government of the United States . . . gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance." Washington was quick to add, though, that the U.S. Constitution goes beyond mere religious toleration and explicitly grants religious freedom and full citizenship to people of every creed. "It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights," he wrote in the letter to the synagogue.

Washington then made an allusion to the passage of Micah 4:4 of the Hebrew Scriptures, or the Old Testament, which reads, "but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid." Washington stated emphatically to the Jewish congregation that in the new nation, "every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and figtree, and there shall be none to make him afraid."

Scholars of religious freedom have called Washington's letter to Seixas and the congregation a milestone in human rights. For the first time, members of religious minorities were granted full partnership in the nation they inhabited as a matter of policy, as stated by the nation's leader. The late political philosopher Harry V. Jaffa, longtime professor at Claremont McKenna College and distinguished fellow at the Claremont Institute, wrote that Washington's letter meant that Jews would be "full citizens for the first time, not merely in American history, but since the end of their own polity in the ancient world, more than two thousand years before."

Jaffa continued, "From no one else could such a statement about Jews have carried the authority it did carry, when it came from Washington. No one could repudiate these words, once they had come from Washington, without making himself contemptible."

August 17, 2020

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Conservative Liberalism: The false dichotomy between conservatives and liberals is distracting citizens from the real threat, which is to liberalism more broadly (Vaughn Bryan Baltzly, 8/17/20, The Bridge)

The most natural application of the label "liberal," I hold, is to the great politico-philosophical tradition that contains multitudes: Adam Smith and also J. S. Mill; Thomas Paine and also Edmund Burke; Alexander Hamilton and also Thomas Jefferson; Friedrich Hayek and also John Maynard Keynes; John Rawls and also Robert Nozick. And yet, within this diverse group of thinkers, there is a coherence. Indeed, liberalism comprises a vision of government as secular, limited, representative, and constitutional, and a vision of citizens as free and equal.

It's a tradition that unites many foes who until recently would have considered themselves warring partisans--the Democrats and the Republicans of the 1980s, 1990s, or 2000s, for example, and even into the early years of the just-lapsed decade. And it's a tradition that has recently come under assault from multiple flanks in the United States. (I might group these warring flanks into two large groups named "the Right" and "the Left," were it not for my dissatisfaction with that particular labeling scheme as well--though that's a topic for a separate essay.)

These assaults have, for the most part, come to fruition in just the last five years (though they began brewing well before that). The attack on the liberal tradition erupted first within the Republican Party; its 2016 nomination of the anti-liberal demagogue Donald Trump seemingly betokened the party's abandonment of liberalism broadly construed. But the scale of that party's repudiation of liberal mores has been matched (and perhaps exceeded) by recent actions on the other side: the revolutionary Year Zero zeal now on display among many associated with the Democratic Party and its proxy institutions (e.g., the media and the academy) should give any genuine liberal at least as much pause as does Trumpism.

And if we're liberals in this broad, sweeping, grand sense of the term, then in one respect it is of relatively little importance that we be able to draw fine-grained distinctions among, or categorizations of, the sorts of illiberalism that currently threaten us. Scholars and historians may illuminate much by trafficking in such distinctions. Right now, though, concerned citizens have rather less need to keep track of the subtle or not-so-subtle gradations of the forces of illiberalism that threaten our republic.

That is why, despite its tautological vacuity and underinformativeness, "illiberalism" is still the most useful term for us to adopt. This vocabulary derives its utility largely from the fact that--by stripping from its title any of the qualifiers ("traditionalist," "progressive") that once served to subdivide its adherents--it thereby encourages these adherents to think of themselves as "small-l," "mere," or "no-label" liberals. Furthermore, it focuses the energies and aims of all adherents of liberty, equality, limited government, individual rights, personal responsibility, and the universal dignity of all. For it is time--it is past time--for liberals of all stripes to put old divisions (and terminological distinctions) behind them and to unite in an effort to resist the impending forces of illiberalism: to band together, in other words, in an effort to conserve our cherished and hard-won liberalism. too, at the End of History, do we have two Republican parties.

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This Twist on Schrödinger's Cat Paradox Has Major Implications for Quantum Theory: A laboratory demonstration of the classic "Wigner's friend" thought experiment could overturn cherished assumptions about reality (Zeeya Merali, August 17, 2020, Scientific American)

[Hungarian-American physicist Eugene Wigner] was frustrated by the paradoxes arising from the vagaries of quantum mechanics--the theory governing the microscopic realm that suggests, among many other counterintuitive things, that until a quantum system is observed, it does not necessarily have definite properties. Take his fellow physicist Erwin Schrödinger's famous thought experiment in which a cat is trapped in a box with poison that will be released if a radioactive atom decays. Radioactivity is a quantum process, so before the box is opened, the story goes, the atom has both decayed and not decayed, leaving the unfortunate cat in limbo--a so-called superposition between life and death. But does the cat experience being in superposition?

Wigner sharpened the paradox by imagining a (human) friend of his shut in a lab, measuring a quantum system. He argued it was absurd to say his friend exists in a superposition of having seen and not seen a decay unless and until Wigner opens the lab door. "The 'Wigner's friend' thought experiment shows that things can become very weird if the observer is also observed," says Nora Tischler, a quantum physicist at Griffith University in Australia. [...]

Until quantum physics came along in the 1920s, physicists expected their theories to be deterministic, generating predictions for the outcome of experiments with certainty. But quantum theory appears to be inherently probabilistic. The textbook version--sometimes called the Copenhagen interpretation--says that until a system's properties are measured, they can encompass myriad values. This superposition only collapses into a single state when the system is observed, and physicists can never precisely predict what that state will be. Wigner held the then popular view that consciousness somehow triggers a superposition to collapse. Thus, his hypothetical friend would discern a definite outcome when she or he made a measurement--and Wigner would never see her or him in superposition.

This view has since fallen out of favor. "People in the foundations of quantum mechanics rapidly dismiss Wigner's view as spooky and ill-defined because it makes observers special," says David Chalmers, a philosopher and cognitive scientist at New York University. Today most physicists concur that inanimate objects can knock quantum systems out of superposition through a process known as decoherence. Certainly, researchers attempting to manipulate complex quantum superpositions in the lab can find their hard work destroyed by speedy air particles colliding with their systems. So they carry out their tests at ultracold temperatures and try to isolate their apparatuses from vibrations.

Several competing quantum interpretations have sprung up over the decades that employ less mystical mechanisms, such as decoherence, to explain how superpositions break down without invoking consciousness. Other interpretations hold the even more radical position that there is no collapse at all. Each has its own weird and wonderful take on Wigner's test. The most exotic is the "many worlds" view, which says that whenever you make a quantum measurement, reality fractures, creating parallel universes to accommodate every possible outcome. Thus, Wigner's friend would split into two copies and, "with good enough supertechnology," he could indeed measure that person to be in superposition from outside the lab, says quantum physicist and many-worlds fan Lev Vaidman of Tel Aviv University.

The alternative "Bohmian" theory (named for physicist David Bohm) says that at the fundamental level, quantum systems do have definite properties; we just do not know enough about those systems to precisely predict their behavior. In that case, the friend has a single experience, but Wigner may still measure that individual to be in a superposition because of his own ignorance. In contrast, a relative newcomer on the block called the QBism interpretation embraces the probabilistic element of quantum theory wholeheartedly (QBism, pronounced "cubism," is actually short for quantum Bayesianism, a reference to 18th-century mathematician Thomas Bayes's work on probability.) QBists argue that a person can only use quantum mechanics to calculate how to calibrate his or her beliefs about what he or she will measure in an experiment. "Measurement outcomes must be regarded as personal to the agent who makes the measurement," says Ruediger Schack of Royal Holloway, University of London, who is one of QBism's founders. According to QBism's tenets, quantum theory cannot tell you anything about the underlying state of reality, nor can Wigner use it to speculate on his friend's experiences.

Another intriguing interpretation, called retrocausality, allows events in the future to influence the past. "In a retrocausal account, Wigner's friend absolutely does experience something," says Ken Wharton, a physicist at San Jose State University, who is an advocate for this time-twisting view. But that "something" the friend experiences at the point of measurement can depend upon Wigner's choice of how to observe that person later.

The trouble is that each interpretation is equally good--or bad--at predicting the outcome of quantum tests, so choosing between them comes down to taste. "No one knows what the solution is," Steinberg says. "We don't even know if the list of potential solutions we have is exhaustive."

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How George Orwell Helped Cause the Cold War (John Rodden and John Rossi, November 26th, 2016, Imaginative Conservative)

Animal Farm's positive reception in Great Britain was far exceeded by its smashing success in the United States. The initial American reaction to Orwell's fable came in the form of a favorable review in the very influential pages of Time in May 1946. Shortly thereafter, the Book-of-the-Month Club announced that Animal Farm would be its choice for the month of September, thereby guaranteeing Orwell a large audience in the United States for the first time.

The Club's selection of Animal Farm was probably the single most significant event for expanding Orwell's reputation in his lifetime, and arguably the most important event in his entire American reputation history. "The Uncle Tom's Cabin of our time," announced one member of the Club's selection committee. Extolling the fable's "worldwide importance," Club president Harry Scherman issued a special statement: "Every now and then through history, some fearless individual has spoken for the people of a troubled time.... Just so does this little gem of an allegory express, perfectly, the...inarticulate philosophy of tens of millions of free men.... Wherever men are free to read what they want, this book and its influence will spread."

As if to guarantee that outcome, Scherman also asked subscribers to pick Animal Farm rather than any alternate Club choice. The fable sold 460,000 copies during 1946-49 through the Club and soon became a runaway bestseller. By 1947, it had been adapted as a BBC radio play and translated into nine languages (and titled Comrade Napoleon in at least one language). In 1941, Arthur Koestler had bet some literary friends five bottles of burgundy that Orwell would be "the greatest bestseller" among them in five years' time: Animal Farm was proving Koestler prescient.

After the special treatment that Animal Farm received from the Book-of-the-Month Club came a rapturous welcome in America. The popular magazines--including Time, Newsweek, and the New York Times Magazine--were all enthusiastic in their admiration. One of the most flattering reviews came from the highly respected Edmund Wilson in the New Yorker. Wilson gave Orwell's reputation a generous boost by comparing him as a satirist with La Fontaine, Voltaire, and Swift. Naturally, some reviewers missed the point of the allegory. Edward Weeks, writing in The Atlantic Monthly, concluded an otherwise favorable comment by noting that Animal Farm showed a "clever hostility if one applies the analogy to Soviet Russia." If? To what other country could the analogy possibly have applied?

The political magazines on the left reacted with confusion and anger. They were still committed to the ideal of Soviet-American friendship and thus viewed Animal Farm as a lethal threat to that cause. The winds of the Cold War had not yet begun to blow strongly through the American literary scene. Isaac Rosenfeld in The Nation raised contrived, ideologically motivated reasons for disliking Orwell's tale, which were more obviously concerned with political than literary factors. He denied, for example, that Orwell's interpretation had any validity when applied to Russia. Rosenfeld conceded that at one time such a view had some relation to reality. But he argued that offering such an interpretation now made Animal Farm a reactionary work. There was little that Rosenfeld liked about Animal Farm. He believed that it not only failed to explain why the revolution was betrayed but, what was worse in his eyes, told readers things about Russia we already knew. This was a strange view from a journal that had sought to justify every switch of the communist line during the 1930s.

If Rosenfeld found Animal Farm insignificant, George Soule in the New Republic revealed a naiveté and hostility toward it that, particularly in hindsight, is embarrassing. According to Soule, Animal Farm was "dull" and the allegory was "a creaky machine for saying in a clumsy way things that have been better said directly." He neglected to say where these things were said better. Certainly not in the pages of the New Republic, which had been one of the most consistent apologists for Soviet Russia in the United States. Soule managed the difficult task of confusing the identities of both Snowball and Napoleon. He thought Napoleon was supposed to represent Lenin, failing to recognize Stalin's character in the successful pig who betrayed the Bolshevik Revolution.

Soule took strong exception to Orwell's description of the young dogs being trained as secret police, asking if one was supposed to take that seriously as a commentary on Soviet education. He also could not see any relationship between the slaughter of the old workhorse, Boxer, and any event in Soviet Russian history. That claim represents further testimony regarding his understanding, or rather lack of understanding, of Stalin's USSR in the 1930s, especially the purge of the faithful so-called Old Bolsheviks who had made the revolution a success. Yet such unfavorable reviews in the progressive journals could not offset the impact of the endorsement of the popular magazines.

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With looming decline in GDP, US must allow more immigration (CHRISTOPHER J.L. MURRAY, 08/12/20, The Hill)

For the first time in history, the 21st century will see a decline in global population not because of wars or pandemics. The number of people is expected to peak at 9.7 billion in 2064, then shrink to 8.8 billion by 2100, because the fertility rate (the average number of children a woman delivers over her lifetime) is expected to fall below the number needed to maintain population levels.

Because fewer children will be born, there will be a narrower base of working-age adults ages 20 to 65 years old, and a much larger retirement-age population. One of the economic consequences of this inverted population pyramid is that major industrialized nations will struggle to sustain the necessary workforces to maintain GDP. Without strong economies, those nations will find it challenging to provide health and social systems that expanding elderly populations require. The way to address this problem is for nations to adopt two strategies: supporting women who wish or need to combine parenting and paid employment, and having more open immigration policies.  

These are among the findings of a study published recently in The Lancet by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, part of the University of Washington's School of Medicine. 

Two countries facing this demographic dilemma, the United States and China, are competing to be the world's leading economic superpower. Both face declining fertility rates. While the U.S. has historically welcomed immigrants and has built a strong sector of the economy on their labor, China has no such tradition, relying instead on internal rural-to-urban migration to power its economic growth.

For this reason, although China is predicted to surpass the U.S. as the world's largest economy in 2035, the United States will regain the top spot toward the end of the century -- but only if immigration continues to sustain its economy.

...even most people in the PRC aren't incipient Chinese.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Jeffrey Epstein showed off 14-year-old victim to Trump at Mar-a-Lago: lawsuit (Brad Reed, 8/17/20, Raw Story)

A new lawsuit claims that late alleged child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein brought one of his victims to see President Donald Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort when she was just 14 years old.

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Area home sales spike as the pandemic pushes people into the Upper Valley ( JOHN LIPPMAN,, 8/15/20, Valley News)

Real estate industry sales statistics for the key Upper Valley municipalities of Hanover, Lebanon, Claremont, Hartford and Woodstock bear out the demand for homes from buyers while at the same time showing a correspondingly shrinking number of homes on the market.

For the two months from May 20 to July 20 for homes under $500,000, there were 261 pending sales in those five key communities, up 40% from 187 during the same period last year, according to data compiled by Four Seasons Sotheby's in Hanover. The number of available homes for sale fell 38% from 224 to 138.

For homes between $500,000 and $1 million, pending sales rocketed up 141% from 22 to 53, and listings plunged 53% from 60 to 28, according to the data.

The imbalance between supply and demand is driving the current frenzied state of the real estate market, said Bruce McLaughry, who heads Sotheby's office in Hanover. That imbalance -- which has persisted for several years in the Upper Valley -- has been made more lopsided by the pandemic, he explained.

"We already had extremely low inventory, but what added to it this year is that a lot of sellers who would normally be coming to market are saying they don't feel comfortable with the COVID virus out there and jumping into the process of moving. So they're sitting on the sidelines, which has resulted in approximately the 50% drop inventory this year," McLaughry said.

Meanwhile buyers, who essentially had to sit on their hands during the economic shutdown from March to early May -- the time of year when home sales kick into high gear so closings and moves can occur during the summer before the start of the school year -- crowded back into the market once travel and other restrictions eased in the second half of May.

"We've had a whole year jammed into a three-month span," McLaughry said. "If something comes on the market and is even reasonably teed up for sale, multiple people will jump on it and make offers."

Kasia Butterfield, a real estate agent who specializes in the Quechee Lakes market and represented the Robbinses in the sale of their condo, said the number of listings and pending sales in Quechee Lakes this year is about at the same level it was last year.

Instead, she said, the telling difference is how quickly homes are selling.

In Quechee Lakes, during the first seven months of the year the median number of days between when a property was listed before it sold was 67 days. Since January, the median number of days on the market has been more than halved, to 31 days.

"If something comes on the market and it's fairly priced, we generally get multiple offers and they sell within a day. That's where the real difference is," Butterfield said.

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American Jewry is falling away from Zionism, making adversaries of US Jews (ARDIE GELDMAN   AUGUST 16, 2020, Jerusalem Post)

Today, the views expressed by Beinart and Rogen may indicate that anti-Zionism among American Jews, even if still beyond the mainstream, is gaining popularity, and most markedly among Jews under 40.
Jewish millennials certainly carry no personal memories of the Holocaust. Neither do they remember Israel's miraculous victory in the Six Day War, the anxiety of her near loss, but ultimate victory, in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, and her fable-like rescue of Israeli and Diaspora Jewish hostages at Entebbe on July 4th, 1976. All of these historic events contributed to the formation of a strong, positive Jewish identity whose foundation was a gushing pride in the State of Israel. So pervasive was this experience that for more than a decade following the Six Day War American Jews' adoration of Israel was accused of replacing Judaism as their primary form of Jewish worship.

In stark contrast to their parents' and grandparents' generations the Israel most familiar to many Jewish millennials is anything but a source of pride. This is attributable to their understanding of Israel being shaped mainly by mainstream media and popular culture whose bias, in all international conflicts, favors the perceived underdog. More and younger American Jews are adopting and sharing the Palestinian view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In this narrative, the Jewish state is no longer heroic. It is undemocratic and oppressive, and being identified with it as Jews is a source of shame. For many younger American Jews "Zionism" has become a pejorative. [...]

 Today most American Jews of all ages see themselves primarily as Americans; their engagement with Judaism is at best a part-time affair. And as they understand the essence of Judaism to be "tikun olam," the practice of social justice, the very notion of a sovereign Jewish nation-state is problematic. As Rogen said, it "doesn't make sense."

The question is not whether Americans will oppose the increasingly racial/confessional Israeli state but whether Israel can stop its slide into apartheid.

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How Europe Can Help Belarus Through Its 1989-Moment (Clara Ferreira Marques
August 17, 2020, Bloomberg View)

After 26 years at the helm, Alexander Lukashenko's days are numbered. European prudence can help accelerate his demise.

Protests of unprecedented scale have filled the streets of Belarus since the president claimed an implausible landslide re-election just over a week ago. A brutal crackdown, mass arrests and savage beatings followed, angering even those previously indifferent. Yet in the past few days, security forces have largely stood aside, as they did on Sunday when huge crowds again demonstrated in the capital and beyond. Strikes have been spreading too, with growing numbers of workers walking out last week even at crown jewel state enterprises such as Minsk Tractor Works, and government television. 

It's a turning point for the most enduringly Soviet of the former Soviet nations, and one with echos of 1989, the year that saw communist regimes toppled across Europe. 

We're four months away from folks wondering why they were clutching their pearls so tightly over the decline of democracy.  Always bet on the Deep State.

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Broadest Based Economic Metric Doing Better Than GDP (Jerry Bowyer, 8/13/20, Vident Financial)

[W]hat happens when we zoom out and look at the broader measure, Gross Output? We see a smaller contraction:

"Real gross output--principally a measure of an industry's sales or receipts, which includes sales to final users in the economy (GDP) and sales to other industries (intermediate inputs)--decreased 4.0 percent in the first quarter. " [...]

What we see is that 'private goods' barely contracted at all. That's likely because GO includes the steps in production beforehand. So if people stop buying things at the store, GDP plunges, but that doesn't mean businesses stop growing, weaving, building, filming, or cooking the things that eventually will get put on the shelves. The supply chain doesn't shut down unless business believes that there is a permanent or long-term shut-down on the consumer.

GO shows us that business is still in business. Slowing down to be sure, but not acting as though we're never going shopping again. That's the advantage of not focusing exclusively on GDP, with its bias towards consumption and against production. GO shows us that the true contraction was a little less serious than generally believed.

The decline in US productivity numbers over the past several decades has just been a function of overemployment.  
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Locked down? Open up to... a pretty Jewish view of afterlife in 'The Good Place' (PENINA BEEDE, 8/17/20, Times of Israel)

"Hindus are a little bit right, Muslims a little bit, Buddhists, Jews, Christians, Buddhists; every religion guessed about five percent," says Michael, the architect of Eleanor's neighborhood in The Good Place, played by Ted Danson. "You know how some people pull into the breakdown lane when there's traffic, and they think to themselves, 'Ah, who cares? No one's watching?' We were watching!"

Michael Schur, the show's Jewish creator (who also worked on "The Office" and co-created "Parks and Recreation" and "Brooklyn Nine-Nine"), approached the plot as an ethical commentary on the afterlife rather than a religious one -- although he told The Hollywood Reporter that he studied several religions while preparing the script.

Nevertheless, "The Good Place" teaches us about ethics -- in a very Jewish way, full of indecision. Eleanor's supposed soul mate, Chidi Anagonye (William Jackson Harper), was an ethics professor before he died and can never settle on a flavor of frozen yogurt to eat, much less a concrete view of moral philosophy. After much debate, he agrees to teach Eleanor how to be a good person so she can pass into The Good Place without anyone noticing her tendency for selfishness.

Chidi explains that you can't do good deeds simply because you want to get into The Good Place, you have to be selfless. It's like he took it straight from the rabbis. 

August 16, 2020

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The Most Tremendous Reelection Campaign in American History Ever:  Inside the chaotic, desperate, last-minute Trump 2020 reboot. (Olivia Nuzzi, 8/16/20, NY Mag)

For the two and a half years that he was in charge, a Brad Parscale sighting was always news at Trump campaign headquarters in Rosslyn, Virginia. Parscale is six-foot-eight with a dagger of a beard and thorns for ears that give his head the shape of a spiked club, like a medieval morning star. So you can't really miss him. But "there were times Brad might not be there for two to three weeks," one campaign official told me. "If he wasn't meeting with the president or going on the road, you weren't seeing him. He was only around for the high-profile, celebrity things."

"He was never there," a senior White House official said. "He'd make phone calls from his house in Florida and brag that he was by the pool. And because he was never there, at the campaign office, people would leave at four o'clock in the afternoon." (Jason Miller, a senior adviser to the Trump campaign, told me, "I've never FaceTimed Brad, so I cannot speak to what he is or is not doing while I'm on the phone with him.")

It was a sign of impending doom, to some, when earlier this summer Parscale began coming in more often just as the target on his back swelled to carnival proportions. The polls? Trump trailed his almost-invisible challenger by double digits nationally and by a considerable margin in most battleground states. The messaging? Well, you try to "spin" six months in which 160,000 Americans died and at least 5 million more were infected by a virus you first said wouldn't be much to worry about. Six months in which your best case for reelection -- the greatest economy in the world -- was destroyed too. The offense? Trump couldn't even settle on a nickname for Joe Biden. Was he "Sleepy Joe," or "Creepy Joe," or "Beijing Biden"? That tiny Tulsa rally Parscale had organized -- which followed weeks of massive hype -- preceded a spike in coronavirus infections in the city that, local officials said, was probably born of the event, where the guest list included Herman Cain, who later died. Meanwhile, nationwide, there was civil unrest that Trump, whose political career had begun with a media tour to promote a racist conspiracy theory called birtherism, was unfit to handle. Yet there was an attitude, naïve and cocky, that led Parscale to compare the campaign to the Death Star...

The reboot being to go more racist.

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The Unwritten Constitution: a review of A Constitution in Full: Recovering the Unwritten Foundation of American Liberty by Peter Augustine Lawler and Richard M. Reinsch II (Reviewed by Luke C. Sheahan, University Bookman)

The founders forged a complex republic, one that recognized a sphere of autonomy for states and local governments, as well as a sphere of national power and prerogative. In such a way, the Constitution of 1787 was a work of practical genius, rooting the political institutions of the written constitution in the preexisting social reality of the unwritten constitution.

Essential to this founding genius was the recognition of the relational aspect of American life in the structures the Founders built or, rather, as the authors point out, preserved. The Constitution did not abolish the states. It preserved them in the constitution. The Constitution did not create space for religious free exercise. It preserved religious free exercise that already existed, protecting religious institutions and practices that had been present in the colonies from their founding in the seventeenth century.

In addition to this historical dimension to human relationality is the theoretical dimension. The founders were steeped in a society that took for granted Christian philosophical anthropology, which viewed every person as having duties to God that he or she must fulfil in conjunction with others. While we are free persons, we are relational in our freedom. This relationality is an essential feature of persons, the concrete beings we actually encounter in our everyday lives, the ones who actually cast votes, pay taxes, and write letters-to-the-editor. This person is neither the abstraction of the individualists nor the cog of the collectivists. For persons as relational beings, freedom is exercised in the context of a plethora of relationships that constitute the unwritten constitution.

The authors write, "A relational person exists with multiple dimensions: political, social, economic, and religious." The relational person is embedded in family, country, religious organization, local neighborhood, voluntary associations, and the like. Any account of the person that ignores these aspects of her concrete existence is in grave error. This means that theories of the law and the constitution must recognize the essentially non-political realms of human existence, where human beings interact in ways that are not strictly political. To be meaningful, freedom from political intrusion into realms of economics, society, and religion is necessary for humane existence because human beings relate to each other in these spheres.

These plethora of relationships are where the rubber meets the road in self-government. We relate to each other through our institutions and associations and there govern ourselves in relation to each other. The states/colonies were preexisting political entities where the inhabitants had governed themselves. These entities were not ignored or trampled upon, but incorporated into the new constitutional order. The rights often heralded as individual were really the preservation of social spaces for relational practices of worship, assembly, speech, and the like.

Asystem of individual rights undermines this understanding of the relational nature of the person and the fundamentally social nature of the unwritten constitution. This is where a lot of conservatives go wrong and it is why the authors are critical of the Supreme Court's incorporation of the Bill of Rights against the states. This move by the Court violated the logic of the Constitution, which preserved various spheres of autonomy, including that of the states, from federal interference. Furthermore, the Court used the concept of incorporation to increase its own power because the logic of incorporation made the judiciary the arbiter of the substantial content of rights as well as their application. All of this served to undermine the fundamentally relational nature of the unwritten constitution, one that is grounded in Christian philosophical anthropology of proper social relations.

The authors see this movement as leading to the privacy jurisprudence, which ignores the fundamentally sound relations between members of the traditional family. This line of jurisprudence is manifested most recently in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015). The authors spend an entire chapter dissecting the case, seeing in the thrust of the decision the reductio ad absurdum of the Court's refusal to recognize the unwritten constitution and the relational person. In Obergefell the Court struck down all state laws that defined marriage between a man and a woman. Justice Kennedy, who wrote the majority opinion, indicated that liberty had no definite content, but could be defined by what was necessary in any given time. The liberty manifested in the right to same-sex marriage is Lockean to the core. While conservatives often complain about progressive collectivization undermining the constitutional order, the authors argue that actually conservative Lockeanism has won and the constitutional order is being undermined not by collectivization but by individualization. "[The Lockean] transformation was and is in the interest of liberating the individual from all biological, relational imperatives and to free consent for every aspect of our life." The Court's effort to individualize a social institution by defining it in terms of individual self-fulfillment rather than social obligation and responsibility required it to strike down marriage laws in many states, thus undermining the relational nature of state governments as well.

The very concept of republican liberty is, of course, relational, not individual.

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Love and Loyalty in the "Liberalocracy": Some reactionary conservatives claim that liberal democracy destroys the social fabric--but they conveniently ignore countervailing traditions and many current realities. (LAURA K. FIELD  AUGUST 16, 2020, The Bulwark)

The notion that liberal democracy destroys human relationships is jarring to contemporary ears, but it draws on ideas that are very old. The core political tensions today's illiberal reactionaries describe--between conservative traditionalists and innovative, freedom-loving progressives--are nothing new. Early on in his History of the Peloponnesian War, for example, Thucydides shows how a similar dynamic shaped affairs in ancient Greece. At one point a Corinthian envoy is trying to draw Sparta into the war, but rather than provoke the Spartans with tales of Athens's strength, they raise the specter of her relentless dynamism. The busybodied Athenians, we learn, are "addicted to innovation," "adventurous beyond their power," and "daring beyond their judgment." They are something like the world's first neoliberals: selfish, restless, "ever engaged in getting," and never comfortable at home. The Spartans, in contrast, suffer a "total want of invention." They are fatalistic and slow to act, content with the peace of their rustic life. The Corinthians argue that Sparta is in danger of underestimating imperial Athens. Slowly but surely the Spartans come around.

In February 2020, Yoram Hazony stepped onto a sterile auditorium stage in Rome and gave a rather Spartan speech about loyalty to one's own. Hazony is an Israeli-American scholar, the author of The Virtue of Nationalism (2018), and a key organizer for the emergent national conservatism movement. The purpose of the Rome conference was to build solidarity on the new illiberal right (Hungary's Viktor Orbán was the conference's star speaker). Hazony clearly views himself as sounding a wake-up call to imperiled conservatives across the globe, and, like the Corinthian envoy, offers a Manichean vision of two fundamentally different tribes.

Hazony defines conservatives as those who understand the world of deep familial bonds and obligations:

A conservative knows that one's first loyalty is to one's parents, even though we didn't choose them, and to our children, even though we didn't choose them. . . . And to your grandchildren, who you didn't choose, and to your parents and to your grandparents. . . . A conservative knows that these obligations are fixed, and that beyond the family . . . there are obligations to the local church and religious community, to the clan, and beyond that to the tribe and the nation.

Hazony contrasts this deep, unquestioning loyalty with "enlightenment rationalist liberals" in the starkest of terms. While conservatives are capable of real human love and are loyal to the last drop, liberal internationalists are subject instead to Hobbesian individualism and selfishness, and are full of contempt for the ties that bind: "They believe that the world can be reduced to free and equal individuals undertaking obligations only on the basis of consent." Again and again, Hazony asks "What kind of people are these?" in reference to the liberal foe. "Can you be a decent human being if you have no loyalty? If you build your political theory from--on a structure, on a basis in which no one is loyal?"

Nationalism is racism in fancy dress.

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Which way are you going?Views of the afterlife in early Christianity : review of Heaven and Hell by Bart D. Ehrman (Rachel Ashcroft, 8/08/20,  History Today)

Within this patchwork of pagan and early Christian sources, Ehrman introduces us to his overarching thesis: that the Christian notions of heaven and hell we know today 'do not represent the earliest Christian views of the afterlife'. Instead, heaven and hell 'emerged over a long period of time as people struggled with how this world can be fair and how God or the gods can be just'. 

Ehrman is no stranger to bold claims about the roots of Christianity. He has previously topped the New York Times bestseller list with Misquoting Jesus (2005) and Jesus, Interrupted (2009). His latest offering argues that heaven and hell do not appear in the Old Testament or indeed in Jesus' own teachings. 'To put it succinctly: the founder of Christianity did not believe that the soul of a person who died would go to heaven or hell.' Instead, we encounter several conflicting views of the afterlife in early Christianity which were influenced by Judaism and Hellenic sources. 

Human motives frequently shape views of afterlife. For example, Jesus taught that people would enter God's kingdom at the Final Judgement, a future day of reckoning when 'God would destroy all that is evil and raise the dead, to punish the wicked and reward the faithful'.

You've got time to get right with God.
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Remote work is changing how productivity is measured (Matt Klassen, 8/16/20, Inc)

In March 2020, the largest "work-from-home" experiment in history began.

The moment entire companies moved their workforces remote, business owners and employees alike both started to realize new realities about their jobs. For years, people had been told, "It's essential for you to be in the office," only to suddenly realize that being in the office wasn't so essential after all. Zoom calls easily replaced dozens of weekly in-person meetings. Manual tasks such as filling out paperwork suddenly couldn't be performed the same way, forcing companies to accelerate their digital transformation efforts. Processes that seemed to work fine in a physical office space suddenly showed how dated and inefficient they were. And every executive or manager's fears of remote employees doing nothing but watching Netflix and playing Xbox all day at home instead of working were eased.

Companies all over the world have realized that working from home is not only more efficient but more suitable for the wants and needs of today's workers. According to one company interviewed by Forbes, as well as research by Harvard Business Review, working from home boosts company-wide productivity--it doesn't squander it.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Suburban Housewives Take a Hard Pass on Trump's Cringeworthy Ploy (Emily Shugerman, Aug. 16, 2020, Daily Beast)

Indeed, a recent NPR/PBS poll found that 66 percent of suburban women said they disapproved of the job Trump is doing overall, and 58 percent said they "strongly" disapproved. According to The New York Times' Nate Cohn, Trump trails Biden by 25 percentage points with female voters. And in the 2018 midterms, when a historic wave of Democratic women swept into office, 51 percent of married men voted Republican, while just 44 percent of their wives did the same.

Presidential candidates have long considered the suburbs, which now make up about half the electorate, key to winning their elections. Trump took the suburban vote by 5 percentage points in 2016, and voters there drove him over the finish line in battleground states like Michigan and Wisconsin.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


REVIEW: of Political Thought in Contemporary Shi'a Islam: Muhammad Mahdi Shams al-Din (Omar Ahmed, August 16, 2020, MEMO)

[T]he idea that during the absence of the Shia Imam, jurists may assume political authority or even that a temporal government should not be secular is not one that is readily agreed upon or adhered to by the majority of Shia scholars, although some only differ on how the guardian-jurist concept has been implemented. It is within this context that Political Thought in Contemporary Shi'a Islam is a valuable contribution to this field, as it not only explores a notable counter-thesis to Wilayat Al-Faqih but also ideas on civil government and the prospects for Shias in particular living as minorities within a multi-confessional society of a modern nation-state.

The author, Farah Kawtharani, achieves this by basing her work on the intellectual work and political career of Ayatollah Muhammad Mahdi Shams Al-Din, who was among the most esteemed 20th century Lebanese Shia scholars and who also headed the country's highest body for its Shia community, the Islamic Shi'i Supreme Council (ISCC) until his death in 2001. As a product of the Najaf seminaries in Iraq, Shams Al-Din was from a generation of young scholars who were concerned with the perceived threats of the time - secularisation and Communism - which is reflected in his earlier works. He would arrive in his ancestral homeland of Lebanon a few years after the Ba'athist coup of 1963 in Iraq as it proved increasingly intolerable under the new government for Shia scholars and activists.

Kawtharani provides an insightful and brief historical background to modern Lebanon in the introductory chapter, examining the history of the Shia community largely concentrated in Jabal Amil, or what is today South Lebanon, under the Ottoman Empire towards the end of the 19th century, at a time when ideas of nationalism and modernisation began to take hold across the region. She points out that while the Sunnis wanted unity with other Arabs in Greater Syria, the Christians and Shia opted for Lebanese nationalism through forging ties with the French authorities, thus leading to the emergence of an independent Shia confessional group in a new political order. She later argues that Shams Al-Din's intellectual evolution and his tenure as head of this confessional group would build on this "Amili legacy".

The main theme of the book is Shams Al-Din's critique of Khomeini's absolutist Wilayat Al-Faqih theory, whereby he developed his own theory; Wilayat Al-Ummah in response to concerns he had of Iran's growing influence on Shi'ism and Shia jurists beyond its borders. Kawtharani explains? "Any government that is not the government of the Twelfth Imam is inherently illegitimate," according to Shia doctrine, although there are ample examples in the classical period of coexisting with such governments. Yet for Shams Al-Din, his theory underpins his earlier advocacy for an "Islamic government" which delegates a more restricted level of authority in the hands of the jurists than the system in Iran and entrusts more power to the people, or Ummah (Muslim community).

The reader learns that Shams Al-Din's thinking would transform as his career progressed and amid the Lebanese Civil War. We learn that he later geared his attention to theorising how the Shia community can be politically integrated in a multi-confessional society like Lebanon, or in Sunni-majority countries. The fundamental shift in his thinking, says Kawtharani, would occur in the 90s, after the Taif Agreement which brought the civil war to an end. It is during this period, where Shams Al-Din formulates his ideas on civil government, or Al-Dawla Al-Madaniyya, "a government which is not Islamic in nature but is still respectful of a religious society".

Peace will accelerate the reforms.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Portland Police Jump On Protester Shield Line and Start Swinging Batons (KHALEDA RAHMAN, 8/16/20, Newsweek)

Portland Police officers were seen charging into a line of protesters carrying shields and swinging their batons as demonstrations against police brutality in the city continued for the 80th night.

Police deployed tear gas at protesters shortly after midnight on Sunday, according to videos posted on Twitter by Oregon Public Broadcasting reporter Sergio Olmos.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Joe Biden Will Be America's Most Pro-Kurdish President (Aykan Erdemir, Philip Kowalski, 8/16/20, National Interest)

"I don't like Kurds," President Donald Trump said, according to former national security adviser John Bolton. Twice now, Trump has ordered the withdrawal of U.S. troops from northeast Syria, leaving Washington's Syrian Kurdish allies to fend for themselves, despite the heavy sacrifices they made while fighting the Islamic State.

Polls indicate that if elections were to take place today, voters would likely replace Trump with the most pro-Kurdish politician ever to occupy the White House. During fifteen years as the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee--including two terms as chairman--Joe Biden demonstrated a special concern for the Kurds, especially those in Iraq, a country he visited twenty-four times as vice president. One Kurdish-American activist has written, "If Kurds are your concerns, he will make a good president."

It'll be American to be allied with the democracies in the region instead of the oppressors.

August 15, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 6:54 PM

WE REMEMBER (self-reference alert):

I Fought The Imperial Presidency, And The Imperial Presidency Won: The inside story of an ACLU lawyer's cross-country Hail Mary to persuade the Supreme Court that Nixon's bombing of Cambodia was unconstitutional. (Burt Neuborne, September 27, 2019, ACLU 100)

Driven by the illegality and murderous injustice of the war, I flew across the country and drove all night in the summer of 1973 to ask Supreme Court justice William O. Douglas to stop the unconstitutional bombing of Cambodia, secretly ordered by President Nixon in April 1970. It was the last gasp in the ACLU's sustained effort to enforce Congress's exclusive power to declare war. I owe a special debt in the Vietnam War cases to my long-time colleague and mentor at NYU and the ACLU, Norman Dorsen, who was already a respected academic in those days, as well as an ACLU general counsel. Norman agreed to lend his analytic precision and academic prestige to the Second Circuit argument in DaCosta v. Laird, an early effort to challenge the war's constitutionality. In the course of a brilliant 45-minute oral presentation, Norman turned a fringe theory into a credible legal argument. He also persuaded me that it was possible to link an activist life in court with a career as a law professor.

Once Norman had rendered the arguments respectable, Leon Friedman and I peppered the courts with constitutional challenges to the Vietnam War. Every expansion of the country's military presence in Vietnam, like the mining of Haiphong Harbor, triggered a new constitutional challenge. We zeroed in on two extraordinarily decent and conscientious Brooklyn federal judges, Orrin Judd and John Dooling, arguing that neither the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, nor routine votes on military appropriations, were constitutionally adequate Congressional authorizations for a full-scale war.

The Brooklyn judges were clearly uncomfortable. One afternoon, Judge Dooling interrupted my argument in the Haiphong Harbor case and called me to the bench. I expected a verbal spanking for some gaffe.
Instead, Judge Dooling said: "Mr. Neuborne, you seem to be having a very good time arguing this case. I'm not having much fun judging it. How about changing places?" 
I told him: "Not on your life, your honor. I have the easy job. The tough job is yours. Please do it."
We lost again.

Finally, Judge Judd bit the bullet -- literally -- in a case challenging the carpet bombing of Cambodia. Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman of Brooklyn, New York, and a group of Air Force bomber pilots stationed at the Utapao Air Force base in Thailand sought a judicial ruling that the bombing of Cambodia was unconstitutional because it was unauthorized by Congress. On July 25, 1973, in a deceptively simple opinion, federal Judge Orin Judd of the Eastern District of New York ruled that Congress had not only failed to authorize the bombing of Cambodia, it had forbidden it. Judge Judd issued an injunction prohibiting the unauthorized bombing -- the first and only time a federal district judge enforced the War Powers Clause of the Constitution. This was an act of courage and wisdom that deserves to be remembered.

Once Judge Judd had issued his injunction, the Holtzman case careened wildly through the appellate courts. Judd delayed his order for a day or two to permit the government to seek appellate review. On July 27, the Second Circuit Appeals Court in Manhattan issued an order allowing the bombing to continue pending a speedy appeal. Since the Supreme Court had adjourned for the summer, I flew to Washington, D.C, and asked Justice Thurgood Marshall to reinstate the injunction pending appeal. On August 1, after hearing several hours of argument in his Supreme Court chambers, Marshall explained that while he agreed with Judge Judd's opinion, since the Supreme Court was in summer recess, he felt obliged to act as a surrogate for the full court, predicting how his absent colleagues would probably vote.

Posted by orrinj at 6:43 PM


White House warns of 'widespread and expanding' COVID-19 spread in Georgia (J. Scott Trubey & Greg Bluestein, 8/13/20, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

President Trump's coronavirus task force warns that Georgia continues to see "widespread and expanding community viral spread" and that the state's current policies aren't enough to curtail COVID-19.

The task force "strongly recommends" Georgia adopt a statewide mandate that citizens wear masks, joining a chorus of public health officials, Democrats and others who have warned that Gov. Brian Kemp's refusal to order face coverings has plunged the state into deeper crisis and will prolong recovery.

"Current mitigation efforts are not having a sufficient impact," the report said.

Posted by orrinj at 6:03 PM



Paragraph 2 of the Kevin Clinesmith Criminal Information reads:

On July 31, 2016, the FBI opened a Foreign Agents Registration Act ("FARA") investigation known as Crossfire Hurricane into whether individual(s) associated with Donald J. Trump for President Campaign were witting of and/or coordinating with the Russian government. By August 16, 2016, the FBI had opened individual cases under the Crossfire Hurricane umbrella on four United States persons including a United States person referred to herein as "Individual 1."

That paragraph is, at a minimum, deeply dishonest.

But I believe -- and four experts I asked on the topic (which does not include Andrew Weissmann, who has since tweeted about this) agree -- that it may be something worse. It appears to be evidence that John Durham doesn't understand his own investigation.

The paragraph is dishonest because it suggests that the investigation into Carter Page arose exclusively out of the Crossfire Hurricane predication. That's false.

As the DOJ IG Report made clear, the NY Field Office opened an investigation into Page during the spring of 2016 upon discovering that, when he was identified in the indictment of one of the Russians trying to recruit him in 2013, he went to other Russians and apparently tried to reassure them that he had not told the FBI about their efforts (and when interviewed by the FBI, Page repeatedly said sharing non-public economic information with known Russian intelligence officers was a positive for him).

On March 2, 2016, the NYFO CI Agent and SDNY Assistant United States Attorneys interviewed Carter Page in preparation for the trial of one of the indicted Russian intelligence officers. During the interview, Page stated that he knew he was the person referred to as Male-1 in the indictment and further said that he had identified himself as Male-1 to a Russian Minister and various Russian officials at a United Nations event in "the spirit of openness." The NYFO CI Agent told us she returned to her office after the interview and discussed with her supervisor opening a counterintelligence case on Page based on his statement to Russian officials that he believed he was Male-1 in the indictment and his continued contact with Russian intelligence officers.

The FBI's NYFO CI squad supervisor (NYFO CI Supervisor) told us she believed she should have opened a counterintelligence case on Carter Page prior to March 2, 2016 based on his continued contacts with Russian intelligence officers; however, she said the squad was preparing for a big trial, and they did not focus on Page until he was interviewed again on March 2. She told us that after the March 2 interview, she called CD's Counterespionage Section at FBI Headquarters to determine whether Page had any security clearances and to ask for guidance as to what type of investigation to open on Page. 183 On April 1, 2016, the NYFO CI Supervisor received an email from the Counterespionage Section advising her to open a [redacted] investigation on Page.


On April 6, 2016, NYFO opened a counterintelligence [redacted] investigation on Carter Page under a code name the FBI assigned to him (NYFO investigation) based on his contacts with Russian intelligence officers and his statement to Russian officials that he was "Male-1" in the SONY indictment. Based on our review of documents in the NYFO case file, as well as our interview of the NYFO CI Agent, there was limited investigative activity in the NYFO investigation between April 6 and the Crossfire Hurricane team's opening of its investigation of Page on August 10. The NYFO CI Agent told the OIG that the steps she took in the first few months of the case were to observe whether any other intelligence officers contacted Page and to prepare national security letters seeking Carter Page's cell phone number(s) and residence information. The NYFO CI agent said that she did not use any CHSs to target Page during the NYFO investigation. The NYFO investigation was transferred to the Crossfire Hurricane team on August 10 and became part of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation.

Carter Page was the subject of a legitimate counterintelligence investigation months before Crossfire Hurricane got opened, based off conduct that continued three years after CIA had ended approval for Page as an operational contact, based off conduct with multiple Russians -- at least one a known intelligence officer -- that Page did not share with the CIA. Carter Page was the subject of a counterintelligence investigation started irrespective of all ties Page had formerly had with the CIA that is the issue at the core of the Clinesmith Information.

...that the corruption and the incompetence overlap so completely they can be hard to distinguish.  

Posted by orrinj at 5:36 PM


A big sign Trump is a weak candidate (Harry Enten, August 15, 2020, CNN)

[A]t least one key indicator suggests Trump is, indeed, doing worse than the average Republican would be doing in the same conditions -- Trump doesn't seem to be receiving the average boost an incumbent does compared to his party brethren in the House.

Look at the live interview polls (and all surveys, for that matter) taken this summer that asked about race for the presidency and the race for Congress. Counting each pollster only once in the average, former Vice President Joe Biden leads Trump by 10 points in these polls. Democratic House candidates are ahead of the Republicans by 8 points on the generic congressional ballot in these same surveys.

This goes in tandem with the fact that Republican candidates for the House are less likely than Democratic candidates to release internal polls that include a presidential result. In theory, this would indicate that Trump is weak in their districts.

The fact that Biden's lead is wider than the House Democrats' edge is unusual. If it holds, it would be historic.

You'd expect that Trump would be doing better than Republicans running in the House. The simple reason is that more Democrats (i.e. the majority party) have an incumbency advantage in the House, while Trump enjoys that same advantage for the presidency.

The rest of the ticket ran ahead of him in 2016 as well, dragging him to office in their wake.

Posted by orrinj at 9:16 AM


New Pandemic Poll Shows That Most Voters Now Distrust Trump (Kerry Eleveld, August 15 | 2020, National Memo)

The new NPR/PBS/Marist poll released Friday showed that fully 71 percent of Americans now consider the coronavirus to be "a real threat." That's not only an eye-popping share of the electorate, that's a major jump from March when 56 percent deemed it a major threat.

The share of Americans who think the pandemic threat is overblown has likewise dropped to just 27 percent from the 38 percent who believed that in March. [...]

The NPR/PBS polling showed that the coronavirus is now almost on a par with the economy in terms of determining how people will vote, with 34 percent calling it a "major factor" and 37 percent saying the same of the economy. In April, just 14% of respondents anticipated the pandemic playing a major role in their vote.

Respondents overwhelmingly preferred Biden over Trump on the pandemic, 53 percent to 38 percent. And interestingly, Biden was almost even with Trump on whom respondents favored to handle the economy, 45 percent Biden to 47 percent Trump.

Also notable: Just 31 percent said they trust what Trump says about the pandemic, while 67 percent said they don't have much, if any, trust in Trump's musings. 31 percent is pretty much Trump's floor on anything, which means he's totally lost the trust of anyone but Trump bitter-enders on the matter.

Posted by orrinj at 8:51 AM


Trump starting to sound desperate (Chris Stirewalt, 8/15/20,  Fox News)

When Trump says Attorney General Bill Barr had better come across on the Biden business or be cast aside as "just another guy" it leaves Barr to tell reporters that he and his team will "use our prudent judgment to decide what's appropriate before the election and what should wait until after the election." 

After all of Trump's pressuring and wheedling of the Justice Department, just imagine how "prudent" it would appear for the federal prosecutors to do anything to criminally implicate the opposition candidate. It would be steroidal Comeyism. 

Or how about Ron Johnson, the Wisconsin Republican who is chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee? He's been on a media blitz this week trying to reassure Trump supporters that he is doing everything he can to use his position to get the hits in on Biden in time to sway the election. 

"The more that we expose of the corruption of the transition process between Obama and Trump, the more we expose of the corruption within those agencies," Johnson said on a talk radio show. "I would think it would certainly help Donald Trump win reelection and certainly be pretty good, I would say, evidence about not voting for Vice President Biden." 

Talk about getting too close to the bison, senator! That one makes Kevin McCarthy's Benghazi boner look like smooth statesmanship. 

The president's supporters may be glad that he is doing what he accused his predecessor of: Trying to use government authority to try to maintain power. He and they may believe that such conduct would be justifiable and even morally right given their view that the Obama administration did it first. 

But what they cannot say is that it is politically wise to be seen doing so. 

Voters do not like desperation for power. What they like even less is desperation to maintain it. As Trump fumes and rages and threatens he does not much seem like a man with the light touch on the reins that voters prefer. 

Biden, who has devoted himself for decades to the goal of acquiring the ultimate political power in our system, manages to seem almost apologetic about it. His posture of reluctant aspirant may not gibe with his real record, but he knows it is one that voters want to see. Biden may be carrying it too far for the sake of avoiding typically terrible live interactions with reporters, but he certainly seems convincing as a reluctant candidate. 

The more desperate Trump seems to maintain power, the more likely he is to end up with a bison horn where he won't like it.

Based on what Michael Cohen observed, can we rule out Donald enjoying that?

Posted by orrinj at 8:37 AM


Harris 'electrifies' West Indian voters -- and gives Biden a new edge in Florida (MARC CAPUTO, 08/15/2020, Politico)

Almost as soon as Kamala Harris became the first woman of Jamaican-Indian descent to be nominated for vice president, a mock White House menu of oxtail and jerk chicken cropped up on a West Indian diaspora Facebook group called Soca de Vote.

Calls from Caribbean radio show hosts flooded the Biden campaign from South Florida. And a jolt of excitement shot through the crowd of early vote poll workers at the Lauderdhill Mall, in the midst of Broward County's growing Jamaican community.

"There was just this sense of energy," state Rep. Anika Omphroy, a daughter of two Jamaican immigrants, said in describing the moment the announcement was received.

"It was all Black women out there working under the tents," she said. "It was 98 degrees in August in South Florida, so it was too hot to cheer. But you could feel it, this sense."

That feeling stretches beyond the Jamaican-American community and the more traditional African American community, shared by those in South Florida with roots in Haiti, the Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago or Guyana. They comprise a growing and varied Black West Indian diaspora community, a little-discussed but increasingly influential slice of the electorate of the nation's biggest swing state.

While exact numbers are hard to come by, census estimates and political studies peg the diverse Black community -- nicknamed the Caribbean Massive by some -- at more than 2.5 million, including hundreds of thousands of Florida voters. That's crucial in a battleground state where elections are often decided by less than a percentage point.

FL is not a battleground state.
Posted by orrinj at 8:34 AM


Scientists Turn Normal Red Bricks into Electricity-Storing Supercapacitors (Becky Ferreira, August 11, 2020, Vice)

Bricks are about as basic as architectural materials can get, yet these simple building blocks have hidden powers that can be leveraged to provide electricity, according to a new study. 

Scientists modified a common red brick--the same kind you'll find on sale for under a dollar at your local hardware store--so that it could power a green LED light. This proof-of-concept for a "smart brick" reveals that brick technology, which dates back thousands of years, can be tweaked to have futuristic applications, including electrical conductivity and sensing capabilities. The results were published on Tuesday in Nature Communications.

"We have created a new brick that can be incorporated into your house that has the functionality of storing electrical energy," said study co-author Julio D'Arcy, assistant professor of chemistry at Washington University in St. Louis, in a call. 

"We are thinking that sensing applications is a low-hanging fruit for these bricks," he added.  

The Green New Deal timelines are too conservative.
Posted by orrinj at 8:29 AM


A Republic, If You Can Keep It (Randall Smith, August 14th, 2020, Imaginative Conservative)

What I simply cannot understand is why every school, college, and university in the nation is not requiring courses on the Constitution and The Federalist Papers. How does anyone graduate from high school or college without having a required level of understanding of the text of the Constitution? I am not talking about some modern understanding of how the Bill of Rights should be applied--we can leave arguments about "incorporation" of rights through the Fourteenth Amendment and all discussions of the "penumbras" and "emanations" to a later date--but a solid, foundational course on the basic structure and form of the Constitution.

Could you build respect for Shakespeare without reading his texts? So too, who would be so foolish as to imagine that young Americans (and our guest students from other countries) could learn to love and appreciate the Constitution if they have little or no understanding of it?

Comedian Jay Leno used to do a comedy bit on "The Tonight Show" asking young adults questions about some basic facts of American history and government. How many branches of government? Who is the Secretary of State? How many Senators from each state? Everyone would laugh uproariously as person after person failed to answer even the simplest questions. This isn't funny anymore. It's tragic. And the tragedy is playing out across the nation every day.

So, if a rich person or foundation wanted to "make a difference" (and they all say they do), might I suggest funding courses on the Constitution and the Founding documents in every high school, college, and university in the country?

It's what public education is for: Religion, morality and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.  As employment disappears and suburban moms stop demanding that school just be a job training program we can restore the original mission.

Posted by orrinj at 8:26 AM


Huge Crowds Continue Russia Protest Over Arrest of Former Governor (VOA News, August 15, 2020)

Huge crowds took to the streets of the Russian city of Khabarovsk Saturday in continued protests following the arrest of former governor Sergey Furgal.

Since his arrest on July 9, residents have demonstrated daily in the city, with attendance significantly increasing on weekends.

"I do not agree with this government's course, this is a criminal government, they rob our cities, our regions," said Elvira, a protester. "I'm against Moscow. All evil comes from the Kremlin."

Posted by orrinj at 8:20 AM


UAE-Israel deal will not advance peace in Middle East: Mandla Mandela (Azad Essa, 14 August 2020, Middle East Eye)

The grandson of anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela slammed Israel and the United Arab Emirates' plans to normalise relations, saying anyone who believes the pact will advance peace in the Middle East is living in a "fool's paradise".

Mandla Mandela, a leading member of parliament and chief of the Mvezo Traditional Council, said "legitimate peace could only come from full recognition of the Palestinians' fundamental human rights".

"Trump, Netanyahu and their lackeys in the Middle East can sign peace deals with all whom they like, but history will judge them harshly just as it has assigned the apartheid regime in South Africa to the dustbin of history," he said on Friday.

All the Arab dictators are celebrating the deal because Israel provides cover for the denial of self-determination to their own citizens. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:15 AM


The Revolution of Bernard Bailyn: The eminent historian, who died last week at 97, helped put ideas back in the center of the study of early America. (DANIEL N. GULLOTTA , AUGUST 15, 2020, The Bulwark)

Early in Bailyn's career, the reigning academic orthodoxy--inspired by Progressive Era historians like Charles Beard--held that the American Revolution was hardly revolutionary and that the complaints of tyranny coming from the patriots were really propaganda to disguise and defend their economic self-interest. Bailyn disagreed: He had spent years studying the pamphlet literature produced by the colonists, and saw in their writings genuine conviction.

Bailyn noticed in these texts deep discourses on the nature of power, fear or even paranoia about liberty and tyranny, and any number of conspiracy theories. He traced the pedigree of these modes of writing and thinking back nearly a century. The Whig radicals and the "country" opposition literature that could be found in English pamphlets during the days of the Glorious Revolution created the ideological and rhetorical lenses through which the American colonists would interpret the crises with Britain in the 1760s, like the clash over the Stamp Act and the stationing of British troops in Boston.

As Bailyn put it in the foreword to his most acclaimed work, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution (1967), "Study of the pamphlets confirmed my rather old-fashioned view that the American Revolution was above all else an ideological, constitutional, political struggle." At its core, the American Revolution was formed, fueled, and fought with ideas; ideas that would have implications for and effects on the American people and the republic they would establish. Through what Bailyn imaginatively called the "contagion of liberty," these ideas would spread and allow other ideas concerning the abolition of slavery, the disestablishment of religion, and the expansion of democratic rights, to take root and grow.

Posted by orrinj at 8:11 AM


Posted by orrinj at 8:10 AM


Posted by orrinj at 7:49 AM


The Political Noir for the Age of Assassination (KYLE SMITH, August 14, 2020, National Review)

Warren Beatty plays Joe, an investigative reporter who serves as the era's version of a private eye, adopting fake personas and getting in a barroom brawl with a cop who calls him a girl for having shaggy hair. He is present for the murder of a politician in Seattle's Space Needle and at first dismisses his hysterical ex-girlfriend's claim that people who were present at the murder are being systematically eliminated in fake accidents. This element weakens the movie with its implausibility; the conspirators seem likely to attract far more attention for this elaborate, murderous cover-up than for the initial crime, which came off beautifully for them. A panel of mandarins has declared that one lone assassin, who conveniently was killed on the spot, carried out the killing. The audience knows something no one in the film has grasped: that there was a second assassin, who escaped the scene.

As Joe finds himself a target, he discovers a shadowy outfit called the Parallax Corporation that distributes a questionnaire designed to locate and encourage damaged men with psychotic tendencies whose energies might be steered to murdering on demand. Joe pretends to be a potential assassin and awaits recruitment. This leads to a sequence that should be as renowned as the brainwashing film in A Clockwork Orange: a nightmare reel that is meant to assess Joe's sympathies to its demon vision. For the audience it's a harrowing silent movie that summarizes everything dark and disturbing about the American soul, a twisted newsreel from hell, a cry from the throats of diseased and feverish souls like Lee Harvey Oswald's that is far more disturbing than anything in Chinatown's horizon of corruption. Pakula follows up this knockout sequence with another superbly crafted scene, in which Joe, without saying a word, discovers and attempts to foil an airline bombing. For 17 breathless minutes in the middle of the film, Joe essentially says nothing as Pakula keeps dialing up the tension.

Today the airplane scene carries information that wasn't apparent in the Seventies: that America's assassination problem was really just a security problem, which in turn was a naïveté problem. Joe dashes onto a plane the way you'd catch a bus, without even giving his name, then pays for his ticket in cash while aboard. A bag is on the plane that has not gone through a security screening and was dumped by a passenger who never boarded the plane. The defining noir mood of all-polluting evil is far more devastating in The Parallax View than in Chinatown because its shadowy forces control the historical narrative instead of just fattening their wallets in a municipal water deal. Parallax is taut and lean, and it's pure cold dread, lacking anything as campy as Faye Dunaway's unintentionally comical "She's my sister and my daughter" shriek. The two consecutive set pieces in the middle of the movie, the dizzying fight on the roof of the Space Needle, the twinned Warren Commission parodies, and Joe's dash for an illuminated doorway are all superbly realized, some of the most haunting images of Seventies cinema.

Such is the mastery of Pakula, and his cinematographer Gordon Willis, that even a scene of Beatty's Joe on the move outside a skyscraper drips with unease. The building -- 600 South Commonwealth Avenue in Los Angeles -- is one of those featureless glass boxes that had recently come to define office districts in cities across the country. Its flat, unreadable surface is a visual analogue to the theme of the movie: anonymous corporate power behind unreadable facades plotting unanswerable schemes. 

One of the easy ways to make money in a college town (especially one with a Medical School) is to be a guinea pig in academic studies.  The Daughter has been banking off of them for years and last Fall we both did one where they stick you in an MRI machine, show you film clips and measure your reactions.  I told her I felt like I was being programmed to assassinate someone and she, of course, did not get the reference, so we watched Parallax.  The similar scene freaked her out, but what really blew her mind was when he just hopped on the plane and bought the ticket onboard.  


Posted by orrinj at 7:24 AM


The Three Best and Worst Ideas of the Crisis (Veronique de Rugy,  June 12, 2020, AIER)

The second worthy idea for policy is to continue to free civil society from all the rules, regulations, and bad incentives that get in the way of us as individuals helping one another not only through the market process but also through charitable giving, churches, and other nonprofits. The most moving of the many different responses to this pandemic are the ways that people and companies went the extra mile - or two! - to help one another. 

For instance, companies changed their business model to supply food for low-income families, as well as the likes of hand sanitizers, face masks and other needed goods to their communities. And let's not forget the ways that companies, because of the globalization of science, have organized and collaborated to study the virus and to search vigilantly for a vaccine or a cure.

Unsurprisingly, regulations got in the way of much of this private initiative. And while some of these regulatory obstructions were removed, many remain that will get in the way next time around. We must get rid of all of these barriers so that businesses and everyone can more freely and better adapt and innovate whenever the next crisis comes around-whatever that crisis is.

The final worthwhile idea is the brainchild of my colleagues Patrick McLaughlin, Matt Mitchell, and Adam Thierer. They propose creating a commission similar to the Base Realignment And Closure. This new commission would identify and study all the rules revised or suspended during the current crisis and then make recommendations for each rule to be terminated or reformed, thereby crafting "a plan and timetable for automatically sunsetting or comprehensively reforming those policies or programs as part of a single reform package." 

They call it the Fresh Start Initiative.

That third step has always seemed like the most worthwhile Constitutional Amendment to add, just require that every law and regulation sunset regularly and need re-approval by Congress.  But, even before you get there, we need the Court to restore Congressional control over the Administrative state--an area where Justice Gorsuch is a real leader.   It is fine to let Executive Branch departments propose rules and regulations but they need to be proposing them to Congress for approval--all of them--otherwise we do not have a system of republican liberty. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:17 AM


Gender Is What You Make of It: Margaret Mead, Ruth Benedict, and the relationship that changed social science. (CHARLES KING, AUGUST 5, 2020, Nautilus)

For Mead and Benedict, social theory was a tool for making sense of the world, but it could also be a lever against your own predicaments. To do anthropology well, you had to alienate yourself from everything familiar, to take a slow train toward another way of seeing reality. The payoff was a liberating and original way of viewing your own society, denuded of its specialness and its constraints. And if you had always felt somehow out of kilter in your own culture--an "abnormal" or a "deviant," an "invert" or a "mixed type," as Benedict would later put it in her writings--you might come to understand why your own life had been such a struggle.

"I believe every person of ordinary sex endowment has a capacity for diffuse 'homosexual' sex expression," Mead wrote to Benedict in 1933, this time from a new field site in New Guinea. "To call men who prefer [a] different expression 'feminine' or women ... 'masculine,' or both 'mixed types' is a lot of obfuscation." Everything was to some degree potentiality, until it got channeled in a specific direction by circumstance and the rule-scape into which one was born. Mead had seen all of this at work among people she met in the field--the "deviants" who lived perfectly satisfactory lives when a given society made room for them--and she could see it in herself, in the hidden yearnings and desires she shared with Benedict. She was now pursuing a new line of thought that would be "the climax of the work I've done this last year," she told Benedict, "a combination of anthropology and reviewed biography."

It's just autobiography.

Posted by orrinj at 7:04 AM


'Antifa' website cited in conservative media attack on Biden is linked to -- wait for it -- Russia (Hunter Walker, August 12, 2020,Yahoo News)

At his press briefing Wednesday, President Trump, as he usually does, called for a question from Chanel Rion, the chief White House correspondent for the conservative One America News network, which has at times replaced Fox News as the president's favorite news outlet. Rion's question had nothing to do with COVID-19 or the economic recovery Trump had been boasting about, but instead brought up an obscure website, [...]

Records for "" in the domain name database show the site was registered in the Russian Federation from 2013 through last July. Starting last November, the site's registration was moved to Panama, The website has always been anonymously registered and its owners could not be reached for comment. 

August 14, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 10:38 PM


UN Security Council votes to let Iran arms embargo expire, rejecting US demands (EDITH M. LEDERER, 8/14/20, Times Of Israel)

The Trump administration received support from only the Dominican Republic.

He leaves behind no evidence that he ever existed... (Well, besides whatever Vlad has on tape.)

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Republican Reaction To Kamala Reveals Same Old Pathologies (Joe Conason, August 14 | 2020, National Memo)

From former George W. Bush administration flack Ari Fleischer, and sundry other self-styled white experts on African American affairs, comes the suggestion that Harris is somehow not truly Black (or at least not Black enough). Those old racial dog whistles were blown when Barack Obama first ran for president, too, because his mother was white and he grew up in the home of his white grandparents. Does anyone believe that Fleischer -- a ludicrous figure on his best days -- knows what will "excite" Black female voters, as he put it?

African Americans supposedly won't embrace Harris because her father was from Jamaica and her mother from India. Indeed, according to the pardoned felon and provocateur Dinesh D'Souza, Harris is really white because one of her ancestors was a white slaveholder.

Again, this is a profoundly idiotic jape. Where would Kamala Harris' paternal forebears have originated other than Africa? She is an American of African descent. And how many other Black Americans, like Harris, have a white slaveholder somewhere in their ancestry? Many millions, surely, and like them, that fraction of her lineage is tiny.

The plain truth is that like so many Americans, Harris is proud of the ethnic variety in her background. And like many Black Americans of mixed heritage, she has chosen to identify strongly with the Black community throughout her life. It isn't a contradiction but represents what David Dinkins, the first Black mayor of New York City, likes to call "the gorgeous mosaic."

The unappetizing tableau of Republican race baiting wouldn't be complete without a reversion to "birtherism" -- in this case, fake concern over Harris' eligibility for the presidency based on her parents' immigration status at the time of her birth. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump requests mail-in ballot for Florida primary (EVAN SEMONES, 08/13/2020, Politico)

The day before publicly opposing funding to accommodate an expected surge in Americans voting by mail in this year's presidential election, President Donald Trump requested a mail-in ballot to vote in Florida's upcoming primary.

In fairness, he's an old white male, not one the people he has to stop from voting.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Oregon State Police Pull Out of Portland, Say DA Won't Prosecute Protesters (JEFFERY MARTIN, 8/13/20, Newsweek)

Oregon State Police (OSP) withdrew approximately 100 officers from their duties of protecting federal property during protracted periods of civil unrest in Portland on Thursday.

Change has to be forced.  It does nicely show how the Blue are only in it for themselves.

August 13, 2020

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 I knew that the reality was much more complicated and dangerous. Trump had colluded with the Russians, but not in the sophisticated ways imagined by his detractors. I also knew that the Mueller investigation was not a witch-hunt. Trump had cheated in the election, with Russian connivance, as you will discover in these pages, because doing anything--and I mean anything--to "win" has always been his business model and way of life. Trump had also continued to pursue a major real estate deal in Moscow during the campaign. He attempted to insinuate himself into the world of President Vladimir Putin and his coterie of corrupt billionaire oligarchs. I know because I personally ran that deal and kept Trump and his children closely informed of all updates, even as the candidate blatantly lied to the American people saying, "there's no Russian collusion, I have no dealings with Russia...there's no Russia." 

The time to testify nearing, I asked the sergeant-at-arms for a few minutes of privacy and the room was cleared. Sitting alone, my thoughts and heart racing, I had the first panic attack of my life. I struggled to breathe and stand. The pressure was too much; I had contemplated suicide in recent weeks, as a way to escape the unrelenting insanity. Reaching for a seat, I started to cry, a flood of emotions overwhelming me: fear, anger, dread, anxiety, relief, terror. It felt something like when I was in the hospital awaiting the birth of my daughter and son, with so many powerful and unprecedented emotions welling up in anticipation. Only now I was that child being born and all of the pain and blood were part of the birth of my new life and identity.

Trying to pull myself together, I went to the private bathroom and checked my eyes to see if they were bloodshot or puffy. To my relief, they weren't. I splashed my face with cold water and felt a calm coming over me, and then a surge of confidence and adrenaline. I had pled guilty to multiple federal crimes, including lying to Congress, but I was there to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. I knew that Trump and the Republican House members would want me to hesitate, falter, show weakness, even break down. They wanted me to look unreliable, shifty, and uncertain about the truth and myself. This was blood sport and they wanted me to cower. I wasn't going to give them the satisfaction, I decided. I was going to nail it.

"Showtime," the sergeant-at-arms called out, opening the door. "You're on Mr. Cohen."

One deep breath and I stepped into the hallway, into a crush of photographers and TV cameras and the craziness of wall-to-wall national obsession. I made my way alone through the jostle and shove of the surging crowd as I experienced the out-of-body sensation of seeing myself on television screens walking in to testify. It was truly bizarre to be at the epicenter of American history at that moment, to personify so many fears and resentments, to be the villain or savior, depending on your point of view, to speak truth to power in an age when truth itself was on trial. There I was, watching myself on TV, the Michael Cohen everyone had an opinion about: liar, snitch, idiot, bully, sycophant, convicted criminal, the least reliable narrator on the planet.

So, please permit me to reintroduce myself in these pages. The one thing I can say with absolute certainty is that whatever you may have heard or thought about me, you don't know me or my story or the Donald Trump that I know. For more than a decade, I was Trump's first call every morning and his last call every night. I was in and out of Trump's office on the 26th floor of the Trump Tower as many as fifty times a day, tending to his every demand. Our cell phones had the same address books, our contacts so entwined, overlapping and intimate that part of my job was to deal with the endless queries and requests, however large or small, from Trump's countless rich and famous acquaintances. I called any and all of the people he spoke to, most often on his behalf as his attorney and emissary, and everyone knew that when I spoke to them, it was as good as if they were talking directly to Trump.

Apart from his wife and children, I knew Trump better than anyone else did. In some ways, I knew him better than even his family did because I bore witness to the real man, in strip clubs, shady business meetings, and in the unguarded moments when he revealed who he really was: a cheat, a liar, a fraud, a bully, a racist, a predator, a con man.

There are reasons why there has never been an intimate portrait of Donald Trump, the man. In part, it's because he has a million acquaintances, pals and hangers on, but no real friends. He has no one he trusts to keep his secrets. For ten years, he certainly had me, and I was always there for him, and look what happened to me. I urge you to really consider that fact: Trump has no true friends. He has lived his entire life avoiding and evading taking responsibility for his actions. He crushed or cheated all who stood in his way, but I know where the skeletons are buried because I was the one who buried them. I was the one who most encouraged him to run for president in 2011, and then again in 2015, carefully orchestrating the famous trip down the escalator in Trump Tower for him to announce his candidacy. When Trump wanted to reach Russian President Vladimir Putin, via a secret back channel, I was tasked with making the connection in my Keystone Kop fashion. I stiffed contractors on his behalf, ripped off his business partners, lied to his wife Melania to hide his sexual infidelities, and bullied and screamed at anyone who threatened Trump's path to power. From golden showers in a sex club in Vegas, to tax fraud, to deals with corrupt officials from the former Soviet Union, to catch and kill conspiracies to silence Trump's clandestine lovers, I wasn't just a witness to the president's rise--I was an active and eager participant.

To underscore that last crucial point, let me say now that I had agency in my relationship with Trump. I made choices along the way--terrible, heartless, stupid, cruel, dishonest, destructive choices, but they were mine and constituted my reality and life.

Posted by orrinj at 4:37 PM


Israel and the UAE Just Made Peace. Is It About Iran--Or Turkey? (Matthew Petti, 8/13/20, National Interest)

Israel will establish diplomatic relations with the United Arab Emirates and hold off on the U.S.-backed plan to annex part of the Palestinian territories, all three countries announced Thursday.

The UAE and Israel have long cooperated on countering Iranian influence, but the latest move portends more cooperation on other issues, including the growing Turkish-Qatari alliance.

Posted by orrinj at 4:27 PM


Texas Democrats see a winning formula in Kamala Harris. Will she bring suburban women and Black voters to the polls?: State Democrats see her as someone who can excite key voting groups but who won't alienate more moderate voters. (ALEX SAMUELS, AUG. 12, 2020, Texas Tribune)

This year the once-reliable Republican stronghold of Texas is approaching swing state status. A June 3 poll by Quinnipiac University gave Trump a 1-percentage-point lead in the state. A July poll by the same university gave Biden a 1 point lead over Trump.

Though Harris' selection may have eroded any hope for progressives that Biden would choose someone from the Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren-led wing, others in the party are hoping Harris can get more suburban women to the polls and can help hone Biden's pitch to Black voters, a bloc that needs to turn out in strong numbers if Democrats are going to have a chance in the state.

Harris is the daughter of immigrants; her father is from Jamaica and her mother is from India. By picking her, Democrats argue, Biden may have given the party's most loyal voters a reason -- beyond animosity toward Trump -- to work for and elect the ticket.

"The Black, Hispanic and South Asian communities have been engaged in the political process for quite a number of years," said state Sen. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston. "These communities were largely already there for Biden, but this is going to solidify that support. These communities aren't just casting votes, but they're going to get out there and work."

Posted by orrinj at 4:25 PM


Most Americans Don't Trust Cops Much, a New Gallup Poll Reveals: The results reflect the impact of increasing publicity about police abuses. (JACOB SULLUM | 8.13.2020, reason)

Most Americans do not trust cops much, according to new poll results that put public confidence in the police at a record low level. From 2019 to 2020, Gallup reports, "confidence in the police fell five points to 48%, marking the first time in the 27-year trend that this reading is below the majority level."

Since Gallup began asking the question in 1993, the share of American adults who said they had "a great deal" or "a lot" of confidence in the police has ranged from 52 percent to 64 percent. In the latest poll, which was conducted in late June and early July, that number fell to 48 percent. Meanwhile, 33 percent of respondents said they had "some" confidence in the police, while 17 percent said "very little" and 2 percent said "none."

The decline in confidence, which follows nationwide protests triggered by George Floyd's death at the hands of Minneapolis police on May 25, is especially striking when compared to the trends for other institutions. From 2019 to 2020, confidence in the medical system and the public schools rose by 15 and 12 points, respectively. Confidence in small businesses and organized religion also rose substantially (by seven and six points, respectively), and even Congress rated slightly better this year than last (rising from 11 percent to 13 percent confidence).

Posted by orrinj at 1:27 PM


Voters See Harris as More Moderate Than Trump or Pence (ELI YOKLEY, August 13, 2020, Morning Consult)

While President Donald Trump and his re-election campaign have sought to brand Sen. Kamala Harris, the newly named Democratic vice presidential candidate, as a radical liberal, that framing is being met with some initial skepticism among voters, new Morning Consult/Politico polling shows.

The poll, conducted the day after former Vice President Joe Biden selected the California Democrat as his running mate, found that voters placed Harris just to Biden's ideological left -- and to the right of where voters placed Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in a Morning Consult poll conducted early this year.

The Trump campaign's attempt to frame Harris as a radical who would be the one actually pulling the strings in a Biden administration also faces another roadblock: Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are perceived as more extreme than either candidate on the Democratic ticket and, by a smaller margin, are further from voters' ideal candidates, according to another ideological test conducted by Morning Consult last month.

The Wednesday poll of 1,990 registered voters, which had a margin of error of 2 percentage points, also found that Harris' policy record -- including her support for raising taxes on the rich and placing restrictions on gun ownership, as well as her implementation of racial bias training for police officers while serving as San Francisco's district attorney -- inspired the most positive reception.  

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Trump leans into off-the-wall race-baiting in remarks about American suburbs as Biden's electoral fortunes rise (Lauren Frias, 8/13/20, Business Insider)

President Donald Trump has become reliant on decades-old racist tropes in a feeble attempt to bolster support for his campaign, as presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden continues to rise in the polls.

In a press conference on Wednesday, the president railed against fair-housing regulations, labeling such a policy an "invasion" in the American suburbs, and saying this "invasion" would happen if Biden and newly-selected running mate Kamala Harris were elected.

"They're going to destroy suburbia. And just so you understand, 30+% of people living in suburbia are minorities -- African American, Asian American, Hispanic American," Trump said during the press conference. "The number's even higher; they say 35, but I like to cut it a little lower."

Posted by orrinj at 5:24 AM


The Democratic Platform Fight Shows It's Still Obama's Party (BRANKO MARCETICAUGUST 4, 2020, In These Times)

Few process­es are giv­en more impor­tance, yet are as arcane and opaque, as the writ­ing of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty plat­form. Osten­si­bly the pol­i­cy agen­da of the next Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­dent (and the par­ty as a whole), the plat­form is the result of hours of intense debate and nego­ti­a­tion between some­times con­tentious fac­tions of com­pet­ing polit­i­cal inter­ests. It is also, more often than not, writ­ten by the winners. 

This year, those win­ners aren't only for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden and the Demo­c­ra­t­ic estab­lish­ment -- but the Oba­ma wing of that establishment.

Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma installed his labor sec­re­tary, Tom Perez, as the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Com­mit­tee (DNC) chair in Feb­ru­ary 2017. A close look at Perez's nom­i­nees to the 2020 plat­form com­mit­tees sug­gests the par­ty will adhere to Obama's incre­men­tal­ist vision of pol­i­tics, one that stands in stark con­trast to the bold push for change advo­cat­ed by run­ner-up Sen. Bernie Sanders (I‑Vt.) and his supporters. 

Now, with the Sanders-Biden uni­ty task forces hav­ing wrapped up and issued their rec­om­men­da­tions, what hap­pens from here is in their hands. One Wall Street advi­so­ry firm is already declar­ing a vic­to­ry for cor­po­rate Amer­i­ca, call­ing the 110-page doc­u­ment ​"a very suc­cess­ful effort by Biden and his team to con­trol the nar­ra­tive and pol­i­cy direc­tion, while mak­ing just enough con­ces­sions to the pro­gres­sive wing to avoid an open rift in the party." 

The flight of non-racist Republicans to the Democratic party will only further cement its neo-liberalism.
Posted by orrinj at 4:57 AM


Have Female Reporters Got Trump on the Run? (Jack Shafer, 8/10/20, Politico)

It starts with a reporter, usually a female reporter, asking President Donald Trump hard, tenacious questions at a news conference. Trump's jaw seizes up, rattled and dumbfounded by the questions that he can't or won't answer, he abruptly ends the presser by saying, "Thank you, very much" and stalking out of the room.

Trump threw such a fit on Saturday when CBS News reporter Paula Reid launched a volley of questions about why he once again took credit for passing a veterans program that the Obama administration pushed through in 2014. In late July, the same fight-or-flight response turned to flight again when CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins chased Trump with pointed, persistent questions about his retweets of a fringe doctor's theories that masks were useless and hydroxychloroquine cured Covid-19. "OK, thank you very much everybody," Trump said as he backed off, truncating the news conference. [...]

Jonathan Karl, chief Washington correspondent for ABC News and the recipient of Trump abuse--"You're a third-rate reporter," he told Karl in an April briefing--tells me that the trigger for Trump's walk-offs appears to questions in which a reporter fact-checks him. That's abundantly true in the Reid, Collins and Jiang instances. For somebody who has told at least 20,000 lies in the course of his presidency, Trump seems to flinch hardest when confronted with his own mendacity. There may be something about being contradicted in a group setting like the briefing that sets him off. As we saw in his recent one-on-one interviews with Chris Wallace and Jonathan Swan, he's able to contest their exacting fact-checks without completely losing it. Group settings must make him more vulnerable to humiliation, hence his expectation that the world receive his words as the uncontested law, no matter how batty those words are.

Trumpies might think that avoiding direct and extended conflicts with detail-minded reporters during the pandemic lends his administration an edge. They might even think shutting down the pressers on no notice make him look like a bad-ass with his base. But I doubt these tongue-tied tantrums have such an effect. And so does Karl. "The walk-off is a surprising display of weakness--he allows the reporter to have the last word, ending the press conference by asking a question the president appears unable to handle," he says.

Posted by orrinj at 4:52 AM


Newly Obtained Trump-Kim Letters May Reveal More on Unlikely Relationship  (William Gallo, August 13, 2020, VOA)

"Kim describes the bond between the two leaders as out of a 'fantasy film,' as the two leaders engage in an extraordinary diplomatic minuet," the Amazon description said.

Even as U.S.-North Korea nuclear talks broke down, Trump has frequently insisted he continues to enjoy a "great relationship" with Kim and that the two often exchange personal letters. At one point, Trump said he and Kim "fell in love."

August 12, 2020

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Left wing rankled by choice of Harris for VP (HOLLY OTTERBEIN, 08/12/2020, Politico)

"We might be looking at 12 years of neoliberal power at the top of the Democratic Party because of the specter of a very young and ambitious -- as most politicians are -- person on the ticket," said Norman Solomon, co-founder of the left-wing group "That' s a real fear."

Posted by orrinj at 4:54 PM



Robert Parker introduced Susan Silverman in the second Spenser novel, and a lot of her conversations with Spenser focused on each person's need for freedom and desire for a reliable companion. Because Parker wrote dozens of Spenser novels, there were a lot of these conversations, and because Susan was a psychologist, these conversations tended to sound like those from 1970s encounter groups. Each person listened to the other, and each person's emotions were validated in warm and witty repartee. Readers, though, as evidenced in letters to the author and in blog posts that continued long after Parker's death, did not necessarily want to see these conversations. They flat out didn't want to see Susan. Spenser could coexist with Hawk, a laconic soldier of fortune, but many Parker fans called Susan "insufferable" and "unbearable" and wished she would vanish so that Spenser could take care of business, get the upper hand, thwart conspiracies, and bust heads.

It's no coincidence that A Savage Place is his best book, sending him to CA without his support system.
Posted by orrinj at 4:34 PM


Trump's Campaign Ads Run on Chinese State Media YouTube Channel (Mark Bergen and Eric Newcomer, August 12, 2020, Bloomberg)

U.S. President Donald Trump's campaign is inadvertently funding Chinese state media outlets and entities tied to the Kremlin through automated advertisements on YouTube, according to a study of thousands of videos on the Google service.

Posted by orrinj at 4:10 PM


Hundreds of Portland protesters will see their criminal cases dropped as DA announces plan to 'recognize the right to speak' (Maxine Bernstein, 8/11/20, The Oregonian/OregonLive)

"What we're doing is recognizing that the right to speak and have your voice heard is extremely important," Schmidt said. "If you're out there committing violence, you're damaging property, those cases are going to be prosecuted. If you're a person who is out there demonstrating and you get caught up in the melee, those are the kinds of cases that we're talking about."

His statements came during his first news conference at the Multnomah County Courthouse since he took over Aug. 1 as the county's top prosecutor, running on a platform of progressive reform to reshape the criminal justice system.

Schmidt was surrounded by four Black leaders from Portland who are part of his 15-person transition team, a rare display of public collaboration between community members and a Multnomah County district attorney, especially one just days into his new job.

The changes, he said, reflect his recognition that people taking to the streets are deeply frustrated by over policing and disparate treatment of people of color and that his office doesn't want to further perpetuate the deep-seated problems.

Schmidt said many of the people arrested over 75 days of consecutive daily demonstrations have little to no criminal histories and prosecuting them would cause unnecessary harm.

"This policy acknowledges that centuries of disparate treatment of Black and brown people have left people with deep wounds,'' he said. "This policy recognizes in order to advance public safety, we must not only prevent crime but we must also promote economic and housing stability, educational opportunities, strong family and community relationships, mental and physical health and build trust with everybody in our community."

Posted by orrinj at 1:58 PM


Trump filed "fraudulent" financial information about overseas golf clubs to US government: watchdog (IGOR DERYSH, AUGUST 12, 2020, Salon)

President Donald Trump filed "fraudulent" documents to the U.S. government inflating the value of his golf clubs in Ireland and Scotland, according to a left-leaning government watchdog group.

The American Democracy Legal Fund called on Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance and the FBI to investigate whether Trump broke the law by filing false financial disclosure documents, according to a letter obtained by Politico.

Posted by orrinj at 1:52 PM


Charlie Parker at 100: Like Mozart, he transformed an art form and his music has never stopped (HOWARD REICH, AUG 10, 2020, Chicago Tribune)

[I]t's critical to remember that his instrumental prowess and musical breakthroughs were not the result of innate genius alone. Unlike the prodigy Mozart, Parker -- born Aug. 29, 1920 -- came to music comparatively late, as a teenager, struggling to play alto and baritone saxophones in Kansas City, Missouri, joints.

"I was doing all right until I tried doing double tempo on 'Body and Soul,'" he recalled of an early session at the High Hat, at 22nd and Vine. "Everybody fell out laughing. I went home and cried and didn't play again for three months. Even before that time, I tried playing a job at the Orchid Room with my friend Robert Simpson, and they threw us out."

Such humiliations may have driven Parker to try to attain a kind of perfection on alto saxophone. Like trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie's stratospheric solos or pianist Art Tatum's all-over-the-keyboard wizardry or vocalist Ella Fitzgerald's phenomenally fleet and unerring scat, Parker's work reached technical and expressive heights not matched before or since.

The first time pianist-bandleader Jay McShann encountered Parker, when the saxophonist was still a teenager in the 1930s, McShann couldn't believe his ears.

"I had just gotten to Kansas City a couple weeks before, and I happened to be coming through 12th Street, when I heard this sound I simply hadn't heard before," McShann told me in 1990. "I immediately had to go in and see who it was, and it was Bird, though that's not what anyone called him. So I went right up to him and said, 'Man, where have you been? I thought I had met all the cats in Kansas City.'

"And Bird said, 'No, you haven't met me. I just got back to town. I live here, but I've been down in the Ozarks with George Lee's band. I wanted to go down there to do some woodshedding."

McShann soon hired him and was startled at his artistic evolution.

"He was the blowing cat in the band, developing so fast you couldn't even measure his potential," McShann said. "I can remember once when we were having rehearsals, Bird told me: 'Man, I can't make rehearsals tomorrow because I need to go do a little woodshedding. That old John Jackson sitting next to me is making me look bad.'

"All I could say was, 'What do you mean?' Because Bird already was doing things I never heard anybody else doing. Although there were plenty good alto players around - Benny Carter, Willie Smith - Bird was revolutionizing everything. He was coming up with things nobody else did; and the more he blew, the more he came up with.

"But Bird insisted: 'I've got to go off and brush up on my reading, because old J.J. is blowing rings around me.' ... Sure enough, a few nights later, when we're playing Kansas State University, we started out on this new arrangement we had been over three or four different times. And Bird cut right through it - on his first time. He could do anything he wanted. He would take a motif and expand on it and keep on expanding and expanding."

Parker wasn't merely embellishing familiar melodies in the swing tradition of the day. He was transforming them, taking snippets of a tune and building new musical structures upon it. Harmonically, he was venturing into what musicians call ninths, elevenths, thirteenths, tritones and whatnot, finding new melodic possibilities in those rarefied realms.

Suddenly jazz was sounding different than before - more rhythmically volatile, more harmonically ornate, more turbulent and mercurial and surprising.

Posted by orrinj at 11:24 AM


Kanye flops among Black voters (MAYA KING and ALEX ISENSTADT, 08/12/2020 , Politico)

But Democrats aren't sweating West at this point -- and Republicans don't view him as a boon to their cause, either. For good reason: In a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, West garnered 2 percent support overall among registered voters, 7 points behind the "no opinion" option. His support among African American voters is just as meager -- 2 percent -- and Biden's 9-point national lead over Trump is unmoved with or without West on the ballot.

Posted by orrinj at 11:19 AM


'Good Boy': Bodycam Footage Shows Police Ordering Dog to Attack Black Man Kneeling With Hands in Air (KATHERINE FUNG, 8/12/20, Newsweek)

The Salt Lake City Police Department has launched an internal affairs investigation into Jeffrey Ryans' arrest after body camera footage shows a police officer ordered his dog to attack the 36-year-old Black man, who was already kneeling on the ground with his hands in the air.

Posted by orrinj at 11:15 AM


Trump calls Georgia GOP candidate who embraces QAnon a 'future Republican Star' (MAX COHEN, 08/12/2020, Politico)

"Congratulations to future Republican Star Marjorie Taylor Greene on a big Congressional primary win in Georgia against a very tough and smart opponent," Trump wrote on Twitter. "Marjorie is strong on everything and never gives up - a real WINNER!"

In June, POLITICO uncovered videos where Greene disparaged Black people, Muslims and Jews, prompting House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and others in the GOP to denounce the candidate for Congress in Northwest Georgia.

It's the one trait all his supporters share.

Posted by orrinj at 10:28 AM


Trump planned to campaign with the slogan 'Promises Kept' -- but has shortened it to just 'Promises' (Sky Palma, 8/12/20, Raw Story)

Writing in the Los Angeles Times this Wednesday, Noah Bierman and Eli Stokols take a look at how President Trump's 2020 campaign is shaping up. According to them, Trump had planned to run on the slogan "Promises Kept," but has instead shortened the message to one word: Promises.

Other than the damage to the GOP, by February 2021 it will be like he never existed.

Posted by orrinj at 10:25 AM


Without This Woman, I Wouldn't Be The Senator I Am Today (Kamala Harris, Feb. 4, 2019, Bustle)

Mrs. Shelton showered us with her Southern grace and hospitality, not to mention her delicious pound cake and flaky biscuits. We grew incredibly close to her children. As kids, we'd pretend that we were all going to marry the Jackson 5 -- I wanted to be with Tito. (Love you, Tito!)

She was one of the smartest people I've ever known, and she lived by the belief that you always lend a hand to those in need. The Sheltons devoted themselves to ensuring that neighborhood kids got off to the best possible start in life.

Their day care center was small but welcoming, with posters of leaders like Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, and Harriet Tubman on the wall. At Mrs. Shelton's, the first George Washington I learned about was George Washington Carver. We still laugh about the first time Maya heard a classroom teacher talk about President George Washington and she said proudly, "I know him! He's the one who worked with peanuts!"

Even as we grew older and moved away, Mrs. Shelton remained an enduring and encouraging presence in my life.
On Sundays, we'd pile into the back of Mrs. Shelton's station wagon along with other kids, on the way to the 23rd Avenue Church of God. When we got restless sitting in the pews, Mrs. Shelton would dig into her purse for hard candies to calm us down.

Mrs. Shelton would bring her Bible to church every Sunday. Sitting alongside her, I was introduced to the teachings of that Bible. My earliest memories were of a loving God, a God who asked us to "speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves" and to "defend the rights of the poor and needy." This is where I learned that "faith" is a verb, something we must live and demonstrate through our actions.

Even as we grew older and moved away, Mrs. Shelton remained an enduring and encouraging presence in my life. When I started working in the Alameda County District Attorney's Office, it was Mrs. Shelton's kitchen that I'd return to when I wanted a Southern home-cooked meal and a welcoming hug. When I faced off against big bankers who didn't seem to appreciate the character and values of struggling homeowners, I thought of the Sheltons' front yard, so lovingly fertilized and watered and cared for.

And when I took the oath of office to be attorney general of California, and later, a United States senator, it was on Mrs. Shelton's Bible that I laid my hand and swore to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. In office and into the fight, I carry Mrs. Shelton with me always.

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Joe could kill a lot of birds with one stone if he tasked Ms Harris with a complete cleansing and reorganization of the security services: Justice, FBI, DEA, ATF, ICE, CIA, Homeland Security, etc.  Not only are reorganization, cuts and depoliticization needed, but it would resonate in the social justice and small government communities and it would give her some of the executive experience she's going to need badly when Joe steps down. It also would put her in charge of co-ordinating the Trump prosecutions.
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Does pro-progress, techno-optimism have a place in American politics? (James Pethokoukis, August 11, 2020, AEIdeas)

Nuclear war theorist Herman Kahn provided at least partial inspiration for film director Stanley Kubrick's maniacal Dr. Strangelove. (The character's accent, at least, was likely based on that of German emigres Henry Kissinger or Wehrner Von Braun.) Kubrick had read Kahn's 1960 treatise "On Thermonuclear War" and met with him several times when planning the 1964 black comedy. That unforgettable cinematic depiction and interpretation of Khan-ism -- a nuclear conflict between the US and USSR was not "unthinkable" -- if not necessarily the man himself, helped cement Kahn's historical reputation as a dangerous Cold Warrior.

But the 1970s detente era saw the second act of Kahn's career, that of a futurist. At the very time the professional long-term forecasting industry was taking a pessimistic turn fueled by environmental catastrophism, this thinker of dark, unthinkable thoughts stood out as a sunny purveyor of techno-capitalist optimism. Rather than a few minutes before nuclear midnight, dawn was always just breaking in a world of abundance led by a recharged Reaganite America, a view he distilled in his 1983 book, "The Coming Boom." (Liberals were dismissive and, it turns out, wrong. The period from 1983 through 2007 has been called The Long Boom because of its strong and steady economic growth. It was also the period that saw the rise of Silicon Valley as the nation's and world's tech core.)

That same year, just a few months before his death, Khan joined with several other right-of-center thinkers in assailing the eco-pessimist "Global 2000 Report" that had been commissioned by the Carter administration. Anyone who had read another Kahn book, "The Next 200 Years," would hardly be surprised at Kahn's reaction. He and his co-authors argue that "because of the evolution of knowledge and technology, resources are increasing rather than fixed. More technology and more capital are vital. ... Enough resources will be available at reasonable costs so that reasonable rates of growth can be achieved. ... Current levels of absolute poverty will decrease almost everywhere. Thus, in this view, all things considered, the long-range outlook is quite good." [...]

Is there a place for such pro-growth, future-oriented, techno-optimism in American politics today?

The reason more don't embrace such optimism is because it is rather frightening as regards the change it will impose on the culture.  The capacity to create ever more wealth with ever less labor input could hardly be more disruptive. And the fact that said wealth will therefore not lend itself to redistribution via wages means rethinking everything.

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Team Trump assails 'Phony Kamala,' while privately acknowledging her appeal (ANITA KUMAR, 08/11/2020, Politico)

Republicans, who have found little success in tarnishing Biden, will now try to damage Harris by describing her as a failed presidential candidate who didn't generate excitement in her own party. Most of Trump's attention on Harris during the Democratic primary was about her performance in the race, and he returned to that theme Tuesday at the White House to recall her poor showing in the campaign.

Privately, some Republicans acknowledged that Harris, the first Black female candidate on a major party ticket and daughter of Indian and Jamaican immigrants, would help Biden win over women and people of color. She will be the first woman, first Black and first Asian American vice president if elected. [...]

In addition to attacking her for being liberal, Republicans highlighted her record as a prosecutor -- which now appears out of step with the Democratic Party after the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police -- though that could contradict their message that she's too soft on crime. 

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A hard path for Susan Collins and 5 other takeaways from the BDN's Maine poll (Michael Shepherd and Jessica Piper, August 11, 2020, Bangor Daily News)

Democrats are leading in Maine's major races, according to a Bangor Daily News-Digital Research poll conducted in late July and early August.

House Speaker Sara Gideon held a 5-point lead over Sen. Susan Collins among likely voters in the closely watched U.S. Senate race. Freshman Rep. Jared Golden and former Vice President Joe Biden were up by even larger margins among registered voters in the poll, though Biden and President Donald Trump were virtually tied in the 2nd District.

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Florida Republicans Send Dire Warning to Party--Change Immigration Policy or GOP Will Die (RAMSEY TOUCHBERRY, 8/12/20, Newsweek)

"The party needs to understand what America will look like in 10 to 20 years and stay relevant," said former Florida Republican Party Chairman Al Cárdenas, a Cuban-American. "I don't think we're doing a good job on policy, tone, content and inclusiveness."

So far, the Republican operatives say their forewarnings have fallen on deaf ears.

John Rowe, chairman emeritus of Exelon Corporation and a longtime GOP donor, was more blunt about what's at stake.

"The Republican Party has no future in Florida unless it starts reaching out more definitively to Latino groups and other immigrant groups," Rowe said. "There's a real disconnect between hardened conservative voters and the economic needs of the state."

If we don't revert to the Reagan/Bush/Bush openness to immigration we deserve to die.

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The pandemic is speeding up automation, putting jobs in question (JONATHAN VANIAN, August 11, 2020, Fortune)

Forced to tighten their belts financially by the coronavirus pandemic, businesses are increasingly using software that automates back-office tasks.

The technology handles repetitive duties like filling in numbers in a spreadsheet or matching invoice data to payment orders. The idea, of course, is for companies to save money by reducing the number of workers they need to handle clerical work.

Although the technology, called robotic process automation, or RPA, has existed for years, recent advances in machine learning and natural language processing have made it possible for it to do more complicated tasks. That includes deciphering financial jargon in PDF documents, analyzing that data, and then using it to fill in information in spreadsheets, which is helpful for cataloging invoices, among other tasks.

Mihir Shukla, CEO of Automation Anywhere, which sells RPA software, pointed to the financial industry as among the many adopting the technology. He cited unspecified banks that are using the technology to help process the flood of small business loans that were handed out by the federal government. 

"It would have taken two years to change 6 million records without the bots," Shukla said. 

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Omar Among Winners in Tuesday US Primaries (VOA News, August 12, 2020)

U.S. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar won her Democratic primary election Tuesday, defeating a well-funded challenger. 

Voters in Minnesota's fifth congressional district backed Omar with about 58% of the vote compared to 39% for Antone Melton-Meaux. 

Turns out hating her for being a female black Muslim isn't determinative.

August 11, 2020

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At Least 12 Cities Are Defunding Their Police Departments (Jemima McEvoy, Aug 11, 2020, Forbes)

At least U.S. 12 cities have cut funding from police department budgets or decreased officer numbers with several more in the process amid a national reckoning over systemic racism and police brutality, according to a Forbes tally.

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Biden picks Kamala Harris as VP nominee (CHRISTOPHER CADELAGO, 08/11/2020, Politico)

Joe Biden has selected Sen. Kamala Harris to be his running mate, elevating a charismatic blue-state senator, former prosecutor and onetime 2020 primary rival who has built a reputation as an unyielding antagonist of the Trump administration.

Harris, the daughter of immigrants from Jamaica and India, was the wire-to-wire frontrunner for Biden's No. 2 job. Her experience as a battle-tested presidential candidate, her efforts leading major law enforcement offices and her political track record of three election wins in California helped her overcome a crowded list of contenders.

Harris will be the first woman, first Black and first Asian American vice president if elected. And Biden's barrier-breaking pick of her comes at a time of racial reckoning in the country, plunging one of the best-known women of color in politics into a contest against President Donald Trump, who has stoked racial divisions in the White House and on the campaign trail.

Biden prioritized choosing a running mate with whom he was "simpatico," as he frequently said, and his months-long search narrowed the list to a handful of women the campaign believed could help energize Democrats in the homestretch of the campaign. In Harris, Biden is hoping to combine both of his priorities, finding a thrilling campaigner as well as a long-term governing partner.

The reaction of the Left to her pick will make the case for her.

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In 200 Years, Half of the Planet's Mass Could Be Made of Digital Bits in 'Invisible Crisis' (JASON MURDOCK, 8/11/20, Newsweek)

A scientist building on the theory that "bits" of information have mass says the world is facing an "invisible crisis" as the growth of data is unstoppable.

A new academic study revealed today, titled "The Information Catastrophe," suggests that if "bits" of information have very small quantities of physical mass, projections indicate digital content could be equal to roughly half of Earth's mass by 2245.

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THE CHURCH OF DONALD (profanity alert):

Viral Video Seemed To Show BLM Storming A Church. The Real Story Is Much Darker. (Anne Helen Petersen, 8/09/20, BuzzFeed News)

[L]ike any piece of local media that goes viral on a national level, the video is missing years -- in truth, decades -- of context. "It's wild that the national story is that there's a bunch of Marxists attacking Christians in the street," one local, who asked not to use her name because of her employment affiliation, told me. "Everyone here knows that this is our Westboro Baptist." (Grace Baptist Church and its pastor declined multiple requests for an interview).

The day of the video, the church was hosting its second AR-15 "raffle" in two days: In the middle of a neighborhood stricken with gun violence, the church was giving away one of the deadliest guns on the market. The Black Lives Matter protesters were invited inside by the church's pastor, John Koletas, a self-proclaimed "bigot" who has preached against interracial marriage, defends the use of the n-word, and believes that Black people, as descendants of Ham and Canaan, are cursed by God. He thinks Black History Month is "communism and Marxism month." He calls Black Lives Matter protesters "savages." He places a pork product -- a ham or hot dogs -- at the door, and requires all church attendees to touch it, supposedly to ward off would-be jihadists. He abhors feminists and gay people. He hates Catholics and thinks Muslims shouldn't be allowed in the country. He mocks sexual abuse victims and the #MeToo movement. And videos of Koletas preaching these beliefs are readily available on the church's Facebook and YouTube pages.

Grace Baptist is not the sort of Baptist church most people would associate with the denomination. It's an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church, better known as IFB -- a movement that broke off from the Baptists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in order to preserve their more conservative beliefs.

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Winter is coming: Why America's window of opportunity to beat back Covid-19 is closing (HELEN BRANSWELL, AUGUST 10, 2020,  STAT)

The good news: The United States has a window of opportunity to beat back Covid-19 before things get much, much worse.

The bad news: That window is rapidly closing. And the country seems unwilling or unable to seize the moment.

Winter is coming. Winter means cold and flu season, which is all but sure to complicate the task of figuring out who is sick with Covid-19 and who is suffering from a less threatening respiratory tract infection. It also means that cherished outdoor freedoms that link us to pre-Covid life -- pop-up restaurant patios, picnics in parks, trips to the beach -- will soon be out of reach, at least in northern parts of the country.

Unless Americans use the dwindling weeks between now and the onset of "indoor weather" to tamp down transmission in the country, this winter could be Dickensianly bleak, public health experts warn.

"I think November, December, January, February are going to be tough months in this country without a vaccine," said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Diseases Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

It is possible, of course, that some vaccines could be approved by then, thanks to historically rapid scientific work. But there is little prospect that vast numbers of Americans will be vaccinated in time to forestall the grim winter Osterholm and others foresee.

Human coronaviruses, the distant cold-causing cousins of the virus that causes Covid-19, circulate year-round. Now is typically the low season for transmission. But in this summer of America's failed Covid-19 response, the SARS-CoV-2 virus is widespread across the country, and pandemic-weary Americans seem more interested in resuming pre-Covid lifestyles than in suppressing the virus to the point where schools can be reopened, and stay open, and restaurants, movie theaters, and gyms can function with some restrictions.

...but the physical damage has proved far worse.

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THE FUTURE OF DRIVING (Randal OToole 08/10/2020, New Geography)

A new study from accounting firm KPMG predicts that auto travel in the United States will be 9 to 10 percent less after the pandemic than it was before. Telecommuting, says the report, will lead to a 10 to 20 percent reduction in commuting by car while on-line shopping will lead to a 10 to 30 percent reduction in shopping trips.

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What Are the Chances Trump Could Actually Go to Jail?New York state legal experts--and one of the president's biographers--weigh in. (James Bruno, August 11, 2020, Washington Monthly)

[N]ew York has a real chance at putting Trump behind bars. The state has jurisdiction over most of his properties and operations relating to his 2016 presidential campaign. Crucially, states also are not subject the U.S. Department of Justice's rule that a sitting president may not be prosecuted for federal crimes. Trump, therefore, is stripped of his four-year kryptonite shield if he is re-elected. A state indictment of a sitting president, though historically unprecedented, is entirely possible. His DOJ-Roy Cohn, Bill Barr, is constitutionally powerless to intervene.

That should make Trump uneasy, especially as New York Attorney General Letitia James ramps up her own investigations. "We will use every area of the law to investigate President Trump and his business transactions and that of his family," she declared after taking office two years ago.

At the same time, Vance's subpoena appears to go beyond obtaining financial records relating to alleged pre-election hush money payments to silence two women, Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. Both of the women claim to have had affairs with Trump. Information gleaned from the DA's inquiry could expose tax cheating and money laundering as well as bank and insurance fraud, both of which are felonies.

Johnston told me he's confident that Vance already has Trump's New York tax filings. Even though the IRS and state tax authorities share tax information on citizens and business entities, it's unclear whether he also has the president's federal returns. The DA is seeking Trump's financial records from his accounting firm Mazars USA in addition to Deutsche Bank--to compare that data with what he already possesses, looking for corroborating information, according to Johnston.

"Trump has a well-documented history as a tax cheat and for hiding business records," Johnston said. "This is garden variety tax fraud, a straight-up tax scam that could easily be a felony."

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Trump 'Would Invite' Putin to G7 as Intel Says Russia Aids His Re-election (BRENDAN COLE, 8/11/20, Newsweek)

President Donald Trump has said that he would consider inviting Vladimir Putin to the G7 summit in the U.S., amid opposition from the group to Russia's readmission, and after U.S. intelligence services reported Moscow is helping his re-election campaign.

August 10, 2020

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Terrorizing Protesters: Federal Immigration Officers in Portland (Paul Moses, July 27, 2020, Commonweal)

Federal law enforcement officers in Portland, Ore., stand behind a metal fence at a federal building during a protest against racial inequality and police violence July 25, 2020. (CNS photo/Caitlin Ochs, Reuters)
During a Supreme Court argument in 2018, Justice Sonia Sotomayor bluntly declared that it was "lawlessness" for the government to jail immigrants arrested at the border indefinitely without a bond hearing. Her five conservative colleagues on the court thought otherwise, and ruled that the plain language of the federal immigration law allowed it.

One consequence of President Donald Trump's order to send federal immigration enforcers to street-level duty in Portland, Oregon, is that Americans will get a better sense of the constitutional netherland in which these agents normally operate. In a short time, their conduct has already prompted investigations by the inspectors general of the Homeland Security and Justice departments. A federal judge issued an order on July 23 barring the federal agents "from arresting, threatening to arrest, or using physical force directed against any person whom they know or reasonably should know is a Journalist or Legal Observer...unless the Federal Defendants have probable cause to believe that such individual has committed a crime." And Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum filed suit seeking a court order barring federal agents from unlawfully detaining Oregon residents, a request that a judge denied July 24 on jurisdictional grounds. In court documents, Rosenblum's office challenged the Department of Homeland Security over "a federal strategy to terrorize Portland protestors, presumably in an effort to quell ongoing protests." 

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As Trump falters, Democrats and Biden eye an elusive prize: Texas (Joseph Ax, 8/10/20, Reuters) 

In recent weeks, Joe Biden's campaign has aired television ads specifically aimed at Texans - the first time a Democratic presidential candidate has done so in a quarter-century, according to the state party - and made its first hires there.

Texas is among the states targeted by a $280 million fall advertising blitz the campaign unveiled last week, part of a broader strategy aimed at putting Republican-leaning states, including Georgia, Iowa and Ohio, in play ahead of the Nov. 3 election against the Republican Trump.

With polls showing Biden holding a national lead over Trump and effectively tied in Texas, Democrats say a concerted effort in the state could expand his viable paths to the White House. [...]

Democratic officials argue even a modest investment could pay dividends by forcing Trump to divert money from other states, while benefiting down-ballot candidates.

Democrats need to flip nine seats in the Texas state assembly to take control in 2021, when the state will redraw congressional district lines for the next decade. The state also has several hotly contested congressional campaigns as well as a potentially competitive Senate race.

Democratic state officials, state lawmakers and congressional members have pressed their case with the Biden campaign, according to interviews with multiple officials. Many point to Democratic Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke's unexpectedly strong finish in 2018, when he came within three percentage points of unseating Republican Ted Cruz.

The effort the GOP has to expand just to try and hold TX means Donald won't even be competing for the states he barely won last time.  

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Anti-Catholic Porn Producer Scammed Harvard Professor with Gospel of Jesus' Wife: A new book details the backstory behind one of the most shocking historical finds in decades--which turned out to be a fraud. (Candida Moss, Aug. 10, 2020, Daily Beast)

In her talk King claimed that the fragment was a fourth century copy of a second century text about the role of women in the church. Within weeks of the initial announcement in Rome a number of scholars (full disclosure I and my sometime co-author Joel Baden were among them) had publicly begun to question the authenticity of the small credit-card fragment of papyrus. While the world waited for scientific tests to be completed a small cluster of academics--including Christian Askeland, Andrew Bernhard, Francis Watson, Alin Suciu, and Mark Goodacre--began to pull at the threads of the document's significance.

The biggest red flags were the strange sloppy handwriting, the numerous grammatical errors in the text, and the similarities between it and a particular online edition of another early Christian Coptic text, the Gospel of Thomas. The chances that an ancient papyrus fragment would reproduce a typographical error made a millennium and a half later are incalculably small.

To make matters worse, little was known about the fragment's provenance, or history of ownership. It was something, King told Sabar, that she "hadn't engaged... at all." The donor who had approached King with the artifact insisted on anonymity and King allowed only a few details of its history to enter the public domain. An accurate and complete chain of ownership would have  been helpful in ascertaining the authenticity of the fragment and, more important, its legality (Since 2007 the American Society of Papyrologists has condemned the illicit trade in papyri).

The Gospel of Jesus' Wife debate persisted through 2014 with the publication of subsequent scientific data on the age of the papyrus and the ink used on it. Experts in the humanities decried it as an obvious forgery, while others, like King, heralded revelatory ink analysis. To the irritation of scholars on both sides, each new set of scientific testing elicited an avalanche of media speculation that Jesus was actually married. This was despite the fact that the most the fragmentary text could prove is that some people in the ancient world speculated about the romantic status of first century Judaism's most well-known bachelor.

In the end though, it was Sabar himself who would drive the final nail into the coffin. The provenance information that King had received was forged. Years of meticulous research and persistent interview requests eventually brought Sabar to the door of Walter Fritz, a 50-year-old Floridian who had emigrated to the U.S. from Germany. Fritz, a failed wannabe Egyptologist, originally hailed from Bavaria, where he had been raised by a single mother in a small town. Three weeks before King's announcement in 2012, Sabar discovered, Fritz had registered the domain name online using his personal information. Digging deeper, things started to take an unexpected turn.

This was not the only domain name owned by Walter Fritz.

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The Pandemic May Be Changing Your Personality, Psychologists SayAnd not necessarily in bad ways.  (JESSICA STILLMAN, 8/10/20, INC.COM)

But "while we may not have developed a collective 'lockdown personality,'" writes the BBC's Christian Jarrett, "we might have been changed idiosyncratically, dependent on our specific circumstances." For those lucky enough to avoid a traumatic lockdown experience, evidence suggests the disruption might actually bring about positive changes. 

"The lockdown might have turbo-charged a phenomenon known as 'The Michelangelo Effect,' which refers to the way we are more likely to develop into the kind of person we want to be if we're with a close romantic partner who supports and encourages us to behave in line with our aspirations - akin to a sculptor helping to reveal our ideal self," writes Jarrett. 

Like an encouraging partner, the enforced slowness and proximity to mortality of the lockdown may have acted as a sculptor, forcing us to look closely at our lives and chip away at all the ways reality fails to line up with our values and aspirations. 

Editor's Preface to the Time-Life Books edition of The True Believer

For Hoffer's hero is 'the autonomous man,' the content man at peace with himself, engaged in the present.  In Hoffer's book, this hero, nourished by free societies, is set off against 'the true believer,' who begins as a frustrated man driven by guilt, failure and self-disgust to bury his own identity in a cause oriented to some future goal.
They've looked closely and are justly appalled.

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The Trap of Pursuing Well-Being... And the Billion-Dollar Industry Behind ItGelong Thubten on Escaping "the Cultural Disease of Our Times" (Gelong Thubten, August 10, 2020, Lit Hub)

The well-being industry is worth trillions of dollars, and perhaps its growth is driven by people's sense of dissatisfaction. Of course it is important to take care of ourselves, but in striving to feel good we usually find that when we want something, the wanting leads us to want more. Consequently, our quest for greater well-being seems to be endless, leaving us feeling disappointed and incomplete. To better understand this, we can explore the psychology of happiness.

The search for happiness underpins much of what we do. We assume that if we "get what we want," then we'll be happy, but we often end up feeling as if something is missing. Maybe we don't really know what we want. We might get what we think we want, only to then find ourselves wanting something else, and so we start chasing again. Perhaps the problem lies in that constant search for happiness--the searching becomes a habit, leading to more searching. We are always looking for the next thing, and so nothing is ever good enough for us.

We usually assume that happiness comes to us from the world around us, but through such thinking we lose our power. Happiness is a state of mind. If we can transform our thoughts, we might discover that happiness was already there within us. Happiness comes when we stop searching for it. 

Quaint to imagine it unique to "our time"

August 9, 2020

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Trump makes an overtly racist appeal to white suburban voters but doesn't understand modern suburbia (ALEX HENDERSON, AUGUST 9, 2020, Alter Net)

Suburban areas in general are much more racially integrated than they were 40 or 50 years ago. In a 2016 report for the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy at New York University, Alan Berube (deputy director of the Brookings Institute) found that combined, blacks, Latinos and Asians comprised 35% of the suburban population in the United States.

In 2011, John Sullivan (a research associate at the Applied Research Center) found that more and more blacks were "moving from inner cities to suburbs. The proportion of the black population living in the biggest city of a given metropolitan area decreased in all 20 of the nation's largest metro areas in the past decade. For example, the percentage of the Detroit area's black residents living in the city of Detroit itself dropped by 16%. Other major cities home to large black populations, including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and Oakland, have all experienced large black population losses as well, as residents have left these places for suburbs or the South -- or both. Notably, southern metro areas top the list for national gains in suburban black residents."

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'I felt like my chest was on fire': Photo shows Dallas police officer shooting protester with pepper-ball gun (Aug. 9th, 2020, Dallas Morning News)

The photograph captures a police officer aiming a weapon at a woman. She is holding a purple phone. She has her hair in a top knot. She is wearing workout shorts.

The officer has just blasted her in the breast with a pepper ball. Smoke rises from her T-shirt. She clutches her breast.

In the background, officers are zip-tying two protesters facedown in the grass. Farther back, a protester holds up empty hands.

The scene unfolds along a highway access road on the western edge of downtown Dallas. Moments earlier, these protesters were walking across a grassy slope, moving away from shots they had heard coming from the highway, some 50 yards behind them, they say.

The image freezes time at 8:33 p.m. on Saturday, May 30, five days after the death of George Floyd. It captures the very dynamic that has driven millions of protesters to the streets across America: A white officer unleashing violence on a person of color.

Combined with other photographs and witness accounts, the image tells the story of how police stormed peaceful protesters who, in the end, were not prosecuted for anything. The chaos unfolded fast, lasting just under two minutes.

"Law enforcement" are the rioters.
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ISIS Captured Planes From Assad, But Couldn't Fly ThemOnly the regime managed actually to fly the planes, underscoring the inability of irregular forces to operate complex systems such as fighters. (David Axe, 8/09/20, National Interest)

Between 2013 and 2017 a small number of L-39 light attack jets at a Syrian air force base east of Aleppo changed hands several times. Syrian rebels captured them from the Syrian air force. Then Islamic State militants seized the planes from the rebels. Finally, forces loyal to the Syrian regime recaptured the L-39s.

But only the regime managed actually to fly the planes, underscoring the inability of irregular forces to operate complex systems such as fighters. all the more creditable because they posed us no threat.  It was purely disinterested.  But you could use national security hysteria to whip up support for it and, of course, the Right was on board to kill Muslims. That he managed it without any American losses makes it an even more teachable moment.

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Trump's presidency is a death cult: The fact that Trump and his supporters want us to tolerate preventable deaths from COVID reveals their true nature (SONALI KOLHATKAR, AUGUST 9, 2020, Economy for All:  Independent Media Institute)

When President Donald Trump was challenged by Axios national political correspondent Jonathan Swan to respond to the fact that, "a thousand Americans are dying a day" due to COVID-19, the president responded as though the grim tally was perfectly acceptable, saying, "They are dying, that's true. And it is what it is." While observers were aghast at the callousness of his statement, it should not have surprised us. Trump had warned that the death toll would be high, and he had asked us months ago to get used to the idea. In late March, the White House Coronavirus Task Force had projected that 100,000 to 240,000 Americans would die from the virus. Rather than unveil an aggressive plan to tackle the spread and prevent the projected mortality figures, the president had said, "I want every American to be prepared for the hard days that lie ahead."

The New York Times saw this warning as a contradiction to Trump's stance in February and early March when he had said that "we have it totally under control" and "it's going to be just fine." The paper seemed to heave a sigh of relief that a few weeks later, "the president appeared to understand the severity of the potentially grave threat to the country." But the report's authors failed to grasp that Trump is willing to accept anything--including mass deaths--in service of his political career.

In fact, mass death appears to be part of Trump's reelection strategy as per a July 30 Vanity Fair report on the administration's strategy to contain the pandemic. The investigative piece explained that Trump's adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner was part of a group of White House staffers that corresponded frequently to discuss the rapidly spreading virus. According to a public health expert who was described as being "in frequent contact with the White House's official coronavirus task force," one of the members of Kushner's team had concluded that, "because the virus had hit blue states hardest, a national plan was unnecessary and would not make sense politically." The unnamed expert told Vanity Fair, "The political folks believed that because it was going to be relegated to Democratic states, that they could blame those governors, and that would be an effective political strategy."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Axios interview reveals the real outrage of Trump's presidency (Jill Filipovic, Aug. 5th, 2020, CNN)

Trump ran to lead a party that had already accrued a base of racist Whites who liked that rhetoric. And he took the longstanding strategy that Atwater so bluntly laid out -- to couch racist politics in race-neutral terms -- and exaggerated it, often eliminating the subtext.

From claiming Barack Obama was born in Kenya to telling an African American audience to vote for him since they were poor and unemployed ("What the hell do you have to lose?") to fear-mongering about immigrants as "rapists" to retweeting White supremacists, Trump took the pervasive but often veiled racism of many in his party and pulled back the cover.

Many in his conservative audience, it turned out, loved it. After his election, he called the White supremacists at whose Virginia protest a woman was murdered "very fine people." For all of the hand-waving about the "economic anxiety" of the White Trump voter, it should have come as no surprise when researchers found that, actually, racial anxiety, xenophobia, and sexism were much larger motivators than finances.

Trump's presidency would be impossible without his base of overwhelmingly White, mostly male, less-educated and disproportionately older supporters. But he also wouldn't be in office without the great many Americans who claim to find him distasteful but voted for him anyway.

Many of them may say their moral compromise means more conservative judges (something Trump has indeed delivered), lower taxes (at least for the wealthy, it turns out), and an end of America playing global policeman (and, they complain, global bank). But they don't seem to think Trump's behavior in office is a deal-breaker: While the President's general approval ratings are in the toilet, 91% of Republicans approve of the way the President is doing his job, according to Gallup polling; just 4% of Democrats say the same.

Monsters don't make us; we make them. It is largely conservative White Americans, long subtly encouraged in their bigotries and entitlements by politicians seeking power, that made Donald Trump.

The tax stuff is a canard, which is why the poor pay almost none, but the rest is fair.  Killing W's immigration reform was pure racism and old white men only oppose welfare other than their own (SS & Medicare).

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


U.S. Emergency-Room Visits Plummeted 42% in April Thanks to Coronavirus Fears (Ethen Kim Lieser, 8/03/20, National Memo)

Perhaps even more troubling is the large drop in the number of patients getting routine screenings, especially in areas hard-hit by the contagion. 

According to models put forth by the medical research company IQVIA, they are anticipating postponed diagnoses of an estimated 36,000 breast cancers and 19,000 colorectal cancers. 

At Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach, California, scheduled mammograms have plunged by as much as 90% due to the pandemic. 

"When you see only 10% of possible patients, you're not going to spot that woman with early-stage breast cancer who needs a follow-up biopsy," Dr. Burton Eisenberg, executive medical director of the Hoag Family Cancer Institute, told California Healthline. 

The Trump Theorem actually applies here: cases are just a function of screening.  

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump walks out of his COVID relief press conference after a reporter pressed him (KEITH GRIFFITH, 8/09/20, DAILYMAIL.COM)

President Donald Trump has abruptly walked out of a press conference after a reporter fact-checked him on his dubious claim about signing a 'Veteran's Choice' bill.

Trump was taking questions from the press at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey after signing four executive orders on Saturday when CBS News White House correspondent Paula Reid pressed him.

'Why do you keep saying that you passed Veterans Choice?' Reid asked.

She was referring to Trump's earlier remark: 'I just signed two great bills for our veterans. We passed Veteran's Choice and Veteran's Accountability.'

As Trump tried to call on another reporter instead, Reid continued, 'You said that you passed Veterans Choice. It was passed in was a false statement, sir.'

Trump paused, then responded: 'OK. Thank you very much, everybody.' He then walked away from the podium as the song 'YMCA' played.

The gay accusation seems a bit much.

August 8, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 12:59 PM


Posted by orrinj at 11:18 AM


Identity Politics Conservatism: Conservative elites trying to come up with the next stage of Trumpism are out of touch with what Republican voters actually want. (JONATHAN V. LAST, AUGUST 8, 2020, The Bulwark)

I'm open to changing my mind--these are just theories, after all, and more evidence will accrue--but I am deeply skeptical of the Conservative Reformation Theory.

The other view--let's call it Identity Politics Conservatism until we come up with something better--is largely agnostic on questions of policy. Do these people want tariffs, or free trade? Do they hate socialism, or do they want the government picking winners and losers according to the national interest? Are they pro-life, or are the deaths of 160,000 people just something that "is what it is"?

The Identity Politics Conservatism theory would say that these people don't care a whit about the policies--they care about who is doing the policymaking. Like old-guard Leninists, their primary concern is: Who? Whom?

In case you're too young for Lenin, when you go from his original Russian--кто кого опередит?--his bon mot translates as "Who will overtake whom?" And in practice, this was more precisely carried out as "Who will obliterate whom?"

The logic of Identity Politics Conservatism suggests that all of this think tanking and speechifying is--at best--tertiary to what these voters care about. They do not want a new strategy for bringing tech giants to heel.

They want Lafayette Park.

But for the New Testament a case could be made that Identitarianism is a form of conservatism.  After all, the Old Testament is not just tribalist but elevates one tribe above all others by Divine right.

Conservatism, on the other hand--or at least Anglo-American conservatism--proceeds from Christ's acceptance of the gentiles as His people too.  This is best expressed in the American Founding text: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

That "all men" is the game-changer that separates us off from the European Blood & Soil Right and, indeed, from the Israeli Right.

Messrs. Last & Brooks may well be correct that the GOP will just deteriorate into a redoubt for elderly white men who want an identitarian institution of their own, but the demographics of such a turn mean that it would be an insignificant party.  

Moreover, while it is certainly true that the Right is hysterical about "who governs"--as seen in the explosion of racism against President Obama--it is not the case that they are unconcerned with policy.  They are united behind opposition to immigration, to civil rights, to affirmative action, etc. and in favor of maintaining the welfare programs that benefit older whites, as witness the Tea Party, a protest against not just a black president but their delusion that he might redirect their welfare money to minorities.

The reality of such a racist fringe party is that those they hate and fear will be the ones wielding the force in Lafayette Park.  

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Watchdog Firing Came Amid Probe of Trump's Friend, the U.S. Ambassador in London (DANIELLE BRIAN & NICK SCHWELLENBACH & ADAM ZAGORIN, AUGUST 07, 2020,  POGO)

President Donald Trump's abrupt firing of the State Department's top watchdog in May was likely motivated in part by a review into alleged misconduct by the U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom, Robert Wood "Woody" Johnson IV, a longtime friend of the president, sources told the Project On Government Oversight (POGO). The inspection report, which went to the London embassy for comment in late April, about two weeks before then-Inspector General Steve Linick's firing, has been sitting on the desk of his replacement--who unexpectedly announced Wednesday that he would be leaving his post Friday.

The inspector general review, first reported by CNN, raises new questions about Trump's sudden dismissal of Linick, one of several in the inspector general community of watchdogs who were removed while undertaking politically sensitive probes. They may also deepen skepticism of the shifting explanations Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has provided in recent congressional testimony about why Linick was fired.

According to POGO's sources, the watchdog's report into the allegations is complete and has for weeks been awaiting final approval by the acting inspector general, Ambassador Stephen Akard.

Steve Linick is one of several in the inspector general community of watchdogs who were removed while undertaking politically sensitive probes.

The State Department's Office of Inspector General examined allegations by U.S. diplomatic staff that Johnson, an owner of the New York Jets NFL team and an heir to the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical fortune, has made racist and sexist remarks in violation of anti-discrimination laws and rules.

According to a POGO source with knowledge of the operations of the London embassy, "Ambassador Johnson was concerned that if the report were published, it would be damaging to his reputation." The ambassador was concerned enough "that if he couldn't block it [the inspection report] he would need to rebut it," the source told POGO.

"The fact that Ambassador Johnson is given to sexist, inappropriate comments about women, and their appearance, is very widely known in the embassy, because his comments were on a weekly, if not daily basis," the source said. Johnson's racist comments were less frequent, but no less damaging. "They are more than just racially insensitive, they're also offensive," the source said.

Posted by orrinj at 9:30 AM


'Like Groundhog Day': Republicans fret over Trump's fading fortunes ( NANCY COOK, 08/08/2020, Politico)

Recent national polls show Trump trailing Biden by anywhere from 3 to 10 percentage points, with swing states like Florida, North Carolina and Pennsylvania increasingly up for grabs. Some Republican donors and outside groups are even focusing their attention away from the White House to holding on to the Republican majority in the Senate, according to three Republicans close to the White House. Several Trump allies acknowledge if the election was held today, Trump would likely lose.

"It is kind of like Groundhog Day," said one of the Republicans close to the White House. "You think it's better, but then it is not." [...]

Several White House and administration officials have also started to reach out to other Republicans to try to find jobs in the private sector as quickly as possible -- both because they feel their roles inside the White House have diminished and because there is consternation that they need to find new gigs in case Trump loses in November, drying up the market for Trump-connected aides. [...]

Some outside conservative groups and donors are increasingly turning their attention and money away from Trump and toward maintaining Republican control of the Senate. But longtime operatives say it will be impossible to divorce Trump's policies, proclamations and tweets from the fate of Republican senators, several of whom now occupy vulnerable seats in Colorado, Maine and Iowa.

"Back in the winter and spring, donors poured everything into Trump," said a second Republican close to the White House. "But now all they are thinking about is the Senate. The Senate is the Alamo right now."

How'd trying to hold the Alamo work out?

Posted by orrinj at 9:27 AM


After a Year of Investigation, the Border Patrol Has Little to Say About Agents' Misogynistic and Racist Facebook Group: The Border Patrol vowed a full accounting after ProPublica revealed hateful posts in the private Facebook group. Now congressional investigators say the agency is blocking them and revealing little about its internal investigation. (A.C. Thompson Aug. 5, 2020, ProPublica)

Brian Hastings, a top Border Patrol official, stared grimly at the television cameras.

It was July 1, 2019, and Hastings was facing down a scandal: News reports had revealed that Border Patrol agents were posting wildly offensive comments and memes in a secret Facebook group.

Agents had shared crudely manipulated images of men sexually assaulting Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat and frequent antagonist of the Border Patrol; joked about migrants who died while trying to enter the United States; and made racist insults about Central Americans. The group called itself "I'm 10-15," Border Patrol radio code for "aliens in custody," and included some 9,500 current or former agents.

Critics of the agency -- already concerned about the separation of migrant families and deplorable conditions in detention facilities -- saw the vulgar Facebook posts as further evidence that a culture of casual racism and misogyny was festering within the Border Patrol.

On national TV that day, Hastings vowed that any agent who engaged in online misconduct would be held accountable. "We take all of the posts that were put out today very seriously," said Hastings, who was then the chief of law of enforcement operations for the patrol and now oversees the Rio Grande Valley sector. "Each one of these allegations will be thoroughly investigated." The internal affairs unit of Customs and Border Protection, the agency that oversees the Border Patrol, had already opened an investigation, he said.

Within days, the horrified leaders of the powerful House Committee on Oversight and Reform announced a separate probe of the group, whose existence was first exposed by ProPublica.

But now, more than a year later, after one of the most sweeping internal investigations in the history of the agency, CBP has provided little new information about "I'm 10-15" or its efforts to address toxic attitudes within the ranks.

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Does Biden's running mate really matter? (Matthew Walther, August 8, 2020, The Week)

 In every election cycle we tend to overstate the importance of the number-two spot on the ticket. The truth is that it rarely matters; most voters have made up their minds long before such announcements are made, and even seemingly commonsensical gambits like choosing senators or governors from crucial swing states rarely has a discernible impact on the outcome of elections.

This was certainly true in 2016. (Find me the voter who said, "You know, I was pretty sold on this Trump character until the former secretary of state he called 'Crooked Hillary' chose a Playmobil caricature of a business-friendly centrist Dem from a formerly purple state to solidify the ticket. Changed my mind in an instant.") It will almost certainly be the case in 2020, when perhaps the single most divisive incumbent president in American history faces a former vice president. Voters have had more than enough time to make up their minds about these people. No one who was prepared to vote for Biden will re-evaluate because he chose a rising liberal senator instead of a fellow veteran of the Obama administration or vice versa.

Pick someone you think could replace you immediately.

Posted by orrinj at 9:15 AM


Israeli forces attack Palestinians protesting annexation in West Bank (New Arab, 8 August, 2020)

Israeli forces injured dozens of Palestinian protesters on Friday as they partook in an anti-annexation march in Kafr Qaddum town, east of Qalqiliya city in the occupied West Bank.

The occupying forces began shooting towards protestors marching against Israel's illegal move to annex large swaths of the West Bank, according to coordinator of the Local Popular Resistance Committee Murad Ishtiwi.

The Nationalist war on the citizenry differs little from place to place.

Posted by orrinj at 8:50 AM


On "You Didn't Build That" (Donald J. Boudreaux, August 7, 2020, AIER)

During a July 13th, 2012, campaign stop in Roanoke, Virginia, President Barack Obama (in)famously dispensed this tidy bit of information to successful businesspeople: "You didn't build that." Immediately, the president was misinterpreted. He was mistakenly said by many to have accused hard-working restaurateurs, intrepid founders of construction companies, and risk-taking financiers of Apple and other profitable corporations of not really building their enterprises. Yet what Mr. Obama in fact said is that successful business people could not possibly have become successful without the help of many others - including especially, in Mr. Obama's mind, government officials.

Mr. Obama is correct that no person's success in a market economy is literally "self-made." (The first person I encountered - it was decades ago - who explicitly identified the silliness of the "self-made man" myth is Thomas Sowell.) Mr. Obama is correct also that every business in America relies upon roads and bridges constructed by government, as well as upon other government projects such as state-supplied education and research funding.

Taxpayers Helped Apple, but Apple Won't Help Them  (Mariana Mazzucato, March 08, 2013, Harvard Business Review)

Over the years. U.S. taxpayers have been very good to Apple.

Many of the revolutionary technologies that make the iPhone and other products and services "smart" were funded by the U.S. government. Take, for instance, the Internet, GPS, touchscreen display, as well as the latest voice-activated personal assistant, Siri. And Apple did not just benefit from government-funded research activities. It also received its early stage finance from the U.S. government's Small Business Investment Company program. Venture capitalists entered only after government funding had gotten the company to the critical proof of concept.

Other Silicon Valley companies, like Google, have profited in a similarly immense fashion: Google's algorithm was funded by the National Science Foundation. Many of the "new economy" companies that like to portray themselves as the heart of U.S. "entrepreneurship" have very successfully surfed the wave of U.S. government-funded investments. Hence, one secret to Silicon Valley's success has been its active and visible hand, in stark contrast to the Ayn Rand/Adam Smith folklore often bandied about. [...]

[I]t's a capitalism impossible to conceive of without the U.S. government, which through DARPA and other initiatives stands out worldwide for its astoundingly positive track record in funding true innovation. This includes the government's most recent claim to fame, its steadfast financial support of (controversial) shale gas and fracking technologies, begun over three decades ago during the otherwise much-maligned Carter Administration.

Indeed, as the clean-tech sector demonstrates, the venture capital industry is proving itself more risk-averse than U.S. government agencies. The latter are the ones funding the capital-intensive and highest-risk projects. Even development banks in emerging economies, like China and Brazil, are doing more than Silicon Valley-type "entrepreneurs."

In a business context, the U.S. government is often portrayed as providing a safeguard against market failure. But that traditional understanding must be widened to include the active and often catalytic role which the U.S. government's risky investments have had for technology-based corporations. Elsewhere, I have called this role, which entails creating and shaping markets more than "fixing" them, "the entrepreneurial state."

Likewise, it's fun when folks pretend that the rapid development of a Covid vaccine is a tribute to our private sector, when the reality is the opposite: Fact Sheet: Explaining Operation Warp Speed.

Posted by orrinj at 8:26 AM


Trump downplays the warning from the US intel community that Russia is working to 'denigrate' Biden in the 2020 election (Bill Bostock, 8/08/20, Business Insider)

He's always been perfectly open about his collusion with Vlad and just challenged Republicans to hold him accountable.

Posted by Glenn Dryfoos at 7:25 AM


Happy Birthday, Benny!

August 7, 2020

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The Biggest Trump Financial Mystery? Where He Came Up With the Cash for His Scottish Resorts.: Donald Trump dumped $400 million into his clubs in Aberdeen and Turnberry. Now, lawmakers in Edinburgh want to investigate him for money laundering. (RUSS CHOMA, SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2020, Mother Jones)

His large expenditures in Scotland were notable because they came during a rocky financial stretch for Trump. The year before purchasing the Aberdeenshire estate, he was ousted as CEO of his thrice-bankrupted casino business; in 2008, he defaulted on a large Deutsche Bank loan tied to a development in Chicago.

Like other Trump wagers, his Scottish gamble has so far not worked out. Both resorts are bleeding millions annually. Meanwhile, he and his company have spent years viciously skirmishing with various locals and government agencies that resisted Trump's plans to build luxury housing on the fringes of the resorts, which the Trump Organization seems to view as vital to profitability.

If business was lackluster before, it's dismal now that the coronavirus pandemic has all but halted the Scottish golf season, at least as far as international travelers are concerned. To make matters worse, as Trump's hospitality empire grapples with the fallout of COVID-19, it also faces a series of maturing debts, loans amounting to nearly a half-billion dollars, which need to be paid down or refinanced over the next four years.

Recently, a new--and perhaps bigger--threat to Trump has emerged in Scotland. Scottish lawmakers are pushing to peer into Trump's finances using an anti-money-­laundering statute typically employed against kleptocrats, oligarchs, and crime kingpins. Their question: Where did the hundreds of millions Trump poured into his Scottish courses actually come from?

Posted by orrinj at 7:08 PM


U.S. Intelligence Says Republicans Are Working With Russia to Reelect Trump (Jonathan Chait, 8/07/20, New York)

In addition, the statement notes, "pro-Russia Ukrainian parliamentarian Andriy Derkach is spreading claims about corruption -- including through publicizing leaked phone calls -- to undermine former Vice President Biden's candidacy and the Democratic Party."

Derkach and his Russian allies despise Biden, who spearheaded the administration's efforts to reform Ukraine, reign in its oligarchs, and diminish Russian influence. They have attempted to depict Biden's reform efforts as a corrupt plot to enrich his son, Hunter.

Derkach has been working openly with Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

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Top US counter intelligence official formally announces Russia working to attack Biden, helping Trump win re-election (David Badash, 8/07/20, Raw Story)

"We assess that Russia is using a range of measures to primarily denigrate former Vice President Biden and what it sees as an anti-Russia 'establishment.' This is consistent with Moscow's public criticism of him when he was Vice President for his role in the Obama Administration's policies on Ukraine and its support for the anti-Putin opposition inside Russia," states National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC) Director William Evanina.

"For example, pro-Russia Ukrainian parliamentarian Andriy Derkach is spreading claims about corruption - including through publicizing leaked phone calls - to undermine former Vice President Biden's candidacy and the Democratic Party. Some Kremlin-linked actors are also seeking to boost President Trump's candidacy on social media and Russian television."

Posted by orrinj at 12:46 PM


Gun Lovers Should Be Thanking Tish James for Suing the NRA: In bringing the suit, New York's Attorney General has shown that the gun group has not only defrauded the American people, it's defrauded its own members. (Elie Mystal, 8/07/20, The Nation)

New York Attorney General Letitia James announced a blockbuster lawsuit yesterday calling for the dissolution of the National Rifle Association (NRA). The charges follow an investigation led by James's office into the NRA's alleged financial misdealings. The lawsuit accuses NRA leaders of violating state and federal laws and diverting millions of dollars meant for the NRA's operations into their personal coffers. Longtime NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre is a named defendant in the lawsuit, along with three other current or former high-ranking NRA officials.

The NRA, a nonprofit organization incorporated in New York State, has been suspected of corruption for some time. In 2018, accused Russian spy Maria Butina pleaded guilty to engaging in a conspiracy against the United States. Her vector for gaining influence in Republican circles allegedly came through the NRA. In 2019, former NRA President Oliver North was pushed out of the organization after losing a power struggle with LaPierre. North has alleged rampant corruption in the organization. 

James has accused LaPierre of "looting" the NRA, detailing extravagant expenses: a $17 million dollar personal retirement fund for LaPierre that he did not report to his board, private jets for his wife and niece, and trips to the Bahamas, paid for with NRA funds, to hang out on a private yacht named "Illusions"--which is what courts should have called LaPierre's constitutional theories. All told, James said the actions of LaPierre and others in leadership contributed to the loss of $64 million of NRA net assets in just three years. 
A potentially major breakthrough in the investigation occurred in February of this year when the NRA lost its case to prevent its former advertising agency, Ackerman McQueen, from releasing documents to New York's AG. 

As the top prosecutor in the state where the NRA is incorporated, James is in the best legal position to address the organization's alleged corruption. James, and James alone, has the legal authority to sue for the dissolution of the NRA, thanks to New York State's laws governing not-for-profit corporations. Here's the statute, NYCL Section 1101(a)(2):

The attorney-general may bring an action for the dissolution of a corporation upon one or more of the following grounds:...That the corporation has exceeded the authority conferred upon it by law, or has violated any provision of law whereby it has forfeited its charter, or carried on, conducted or transacted its business in a persistently fraudulent or illegal manner, or by the abuse of its powers contrary to public policy of the state has become liable to be dissolved.

If I may put that into language the NRA can understand: that statute contains enough firepower to take out Bambi's mom. 

Given the Right's IRS hysteria of the past few years, it's hard to argue they don't view fraud as an essential role of such organizations.

Posted by orrinj at 12:19 PM


Will Susan Rice Bring Even One More Vote to the Biden Ticket? No. (HAROLD MEYERSON, AUGUST 7, 2020, American Prospect)

As Joe Biden continues to ponder his vice-presidential pick, I think his primary criterion has to be electoral: whether that candidate will make it more or less likely that he will displace Donald Trump next January. Every other legitimate consideration pales alongside the need to oust Trump and install a government that is both democratic and Democratic.

One of the most salutary ways in which W was a revolutionary is that rather than making merely political calculations about his VP and cabinet he selected people who were capable for the job.  Dick Cheney added literally nothing to the ticket in electoral terms, he just happened to have experience governing the United States as a presidential chief of staff.  W, uniquely in modern times, picked someone capable of stepping in for him in case of crisis.  [The cabinet not only featured another chief of staff  but numerous former governors.]

Note that W acted so responsibly despite the fact that he was relatively young and extremely fit.  Joe Biden, to the contrary, is so old that he talks of himself as a transitional figure, a stop-gap waiting for a younger Democrat to succeed him.  That makes it all the more important that he choose a vice president who has actually governed and would be prepared to take over if events dictate Unfortunately he may have hemmed himself in by suggesting he'd choose a black woman.  Though one suspects he could finesse the question by announcing a partial cabinet that could include Kamala as AG, Susan Rice as chief of staff, Val Demmings at Homeland Security, Karen Bass at HHS, Tammy Duckworth at Defense, in some combination or another.

The two women most well-suited to the job of VP are governors Michelle Lujan Grisham and Gina Raimondo, with their executive experience, though you can make a coherent that Michelle Obama fits too, if you could get her to take it.  .  

Posted by orrinj at 12:08 PM


The Right Kind of Reparations (James Hankins, 8/03/20, Law & Liberty)

Readers of what has become the most compelling intervention in the contemporary reparations debate, Ta-Nehisi Coates' 2014 article, "The Case for Reparations," indicts local and state governments, north and south, as well as the Federal government, for many decades of racist legislation. He maintains that a great part of the persistent income gap between whites and blacks is a direct result of this legal discrimination. He argues that actual restitution should be paid, not only to the descendants of African slaves brought to America, but also to blacks injured by unjust enrichment at the hands of governments and corporations since the end of slavery. By so doing America will right a great wrong and allow African Americans, at long last, to lay aside their just resentment and integrate into American society as full members. It will allow white Americans aware of the evils in our past to feel that justice, at long last, has been done.

Coates' argument is almost Burkean in its appeal to intergenerational moral responsibility. He might well agree with Burke's famous dictum, "To make us love our country, our country ought to be lovely." Yet he is often attacked for being a radical Marxist, making demands that are unrealistic, divisive, and destructive of civil society. Many are eager to discredit his argument for reparations by equating it with the demands of the social justice mobs now on the streets, the activists calling for defunding the police and for a guaranteed minimum income, free health care, and housing for all African Americans--reparations through racialized socialism. Despite the sanction shamefully bestowed on such demands by media organs and many public officials, most Americans still have the good sense to recognize that enacting these measures would wreck the lives of both black and white citizens.

Yet many Americans continue to feel that we as a people need to make some kind of restitution for past discrimination. The difficulty with the reparations argument has always been practical, not moral. It lies in the questions, by whom? to whom? and how much? Who has the obligation to pay, who has a just claim to be paid, and how much of the relative poverty suffered by modern black Americans can be traced to the discriminatory practices of the past?

Educating young black men and women so that they can better profit from college is a much wiser use of public funds than educating future baristas in subjects of small value to society.

Most people who reflect on these questions thoughtfully will conclude that we as a people can never really make restitution for slavery and the racial discrimination of the past. The damages can never be calculated in monetary terms. Nor will we ever be able explain to the Chinese businessman in my neighborhood, a man who came to this country in 1956 to escape communism, why his taxes should go up to compensate African Americans, some of them now well off and college educated, for discriminatory housing policies in 1940s Chicago.

What we can do is consider policies that will both close the wealth gap between white and black Americans and increase the prosperity of all Americans. What holds poor African Americans back more than any other circumstance is the wretched quality of public schools in the inner cities. 

The housing policies to help black families get from the inner cities to suburbia are entirely separate issue.  Reparations, instead, ought to take the form of capitalizing black families, creating investment accounts with mutual funds so that they not only have wealth but a vested interest in the capitalist system that exploited blacks as capital.

Posted by orrinj at 12:05 PM


How falling solar costs have renewed clean hydrogen hopes (James Temple, August 7, 2020, MIT Technology Review)

US presidential candidate Joe Biden's climate plan calls for a research program to produce a clean form of the gas that's cheap enough to fuel power plants within a decade. Likewise, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and the European Union have all published hydrogen roadmaps that rely on it to accelerate greenhouse gas reductions in the power, transportation, or industrial sectors. Meanwhile, a growing number of companies around the world are building ever larger green hydrogen plants, or exploring its potential to produce steel, create carbon-neutral aviation fuel, or provide a backup power source for server farms.

The attraction is obvious: hydrogen, the most abundant element in the universe, could fuel our vehicles, power our electricity plants, and provide a way to store renewable energy without pumping out the carbon dioxide driving climate change or other pollutants (its only byproduct from cars and trucks is water). But while researchers have trumpeted the promise of a "hydrogen economy" for decades, it's barely made a dent in fossil fuel demand, and nearly all of it is still produced through a carbon polluting process involving natural gas.

The grand vision of the hydrogen economy has been held back by the high costs of creating a clean version, the massive investments into vehicles, machines and pipes that could be required to put it to use, and progress in competing energy storage alternatives like batteries.

So what's driving the renewed interest?

For one thing, the economics are rapidly changing. We can produce hydrogen directly by simply splitting water, in a process known as electrolysis, but it's been prohibitively expensive in large part because it requires a lot of electricity. As the price of solar and wind power continues to rapidly decline, however, it will begin to look far more feasible.

Posted by orrinj at 11:55 AM


The Long, Hot Summer of 1967: A Forgotten Season of Riots and Urban Unrest Across America (Sam Jacobs, 8/07/20,

It would be impossible to cover all of the rioting that occurred throughout the summer of 1967. All told, there were 159 riots that summer. The worst of these were in Newark, New Jersey and Detroit, Michigan. The riots left over 85 dead, over 2,100 injured and over 11,000 arrested. They also caused tens of millions of dollars in property damage.

The first of these riots was the Cincinnati riot of that year, which began in the Avondale region of the city, in response to the conviction of "Cincinnati Strangler" Posteal Laskey Jr. for a series of rapes and murders. Laskey's cousin, Peter Frakes, protested the decision and was arrested for blocking the sidewalk, in stark contrast to the protesters of today who are allowed to block off highways. The next day there was a protest in support of Frakes that spiralled out of control, quickly becoming an orgy of violence, destruction and looting that spread throughout the city.

Resulting in one death, 63 injured, 404 arrested and $2 million in property damage (over $15 million in 2020 dollars), the riot was only quelled when the National Guard was deployed.

Cincinnati was the first, but the two biggest riots were in Newark and Detroit.

Newark was one of the earliest and most extreme examples of white flight in the nation. Its manufacturing base had largely abandoned the city by the time that the riots began. The city had been on edge for a while, but things began to boil over in July 1967, after Newark white police officers John DeSimone and Vito Pontrelli beat black cab driver John William Smith, who they claimed assaulted them. A rumor began to spread that Smith was beaten to death and a crowd formed outside of the police station. Witnesses disagree as to what happened first - the crowd throwing things or the police emerging with hard hats and clubs.

The crowd demanded that Smith be moved to Beth Israel Hospital, a request granted by the police. That night there was a march to protest police brutality, during which an unidentified female smashed the windows of the police precinct with metal bars. Looting and firebombing of local businesses began soon after, with the looting of liquor stores being a predominant feature of the rioting.

Six days of rioting left 16 civilians, eight suspects, a police officer and a firefighter dead. There were 727 injuries (including 67 police officers, 55 firefighters, and 38 military personnel) and $10 million in property damage (roughly $77 million in 2020 dollars). Many believe that the city never fully recovered from the riots even to this day.

The riots in Detroit took place from July 23 to 28. At around 3:45 a.m., Detroit police broke up a party at a "blind pig" (unlicensed private drinking club). They expected to find only a few, but instead were greeted by an 82-person strong celebration of the return of two GIs from Vietnam. The police made the decision to arrest everyone there. A crowd began to gather to watch the raid. William Walter Scott III, the doorman and son of the organizer of the blind pig, later admitted to starting the riot by throwing a bottle at a police officer in his memoirs.

The next afternoon, the first fire was set at a grocery store. The local media tried simply ignoring the riots in an attempt to maintain calm. Tigers left fielder Willie Horton, who was born in Virginia but lived in and grew up in Detroit, drove to the center of the rioting and stood on his car in uniform, passionately imploring the crowd to stop the violence, but failed to do so.

Chaos began on the second day of rioting. There were 483 fires, with 231 incidents reported every hour, and a whopping 1,800 arrests in a single day. Hardy's drug store, a black-owned business known to fill prescriptions on credit, was one of the first to be burned to the ground. Indeed, the black business district was not spared. Firefighters were shot at as they attempted to put out fires. U.S. Representative John Conyers tried to address the rioters via loudspeaker out of his car, but had rocks and bottles thrown at him.

All told, there were at least 23 deaths and 696 wounded, with property damage pegged somewhere between $40 million to $45 million (between $300 and $350 million in 2020 dollars). Among those dead were 4-year-old Tanya Blanding.

The final riot in the Long, Hot Summer of 1967 was the Milwaukee riot, which left four dead, 100 injured and 1,740 arrested. This began after two police showed up to break up a fight between two black women, around which a crowd of 350 had gathered. The property damage was relatively scant because it was mostly confined to broken windows: it came in at around $200,000 at the time.

We wrote about our experience of that Summer a couple months ago.  Comparisons are obviously completely inappropriate, not just in terms of death and destruction but of long term effects.  Today's protests will have no long term impact on either gentrification or business re-development in urban downtowns. Police/political infrastructure is being radically remade, not the physical structure of the cities.

Posted by orrinj at 9:55 AM

Posted by orrinj at 9:47 AM


Is Trump's favorite golf buddy in election trouble? (GEOFF EARLE, 8/07/20, DAILYMAIL.COM)

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a golf partner and loyal defender of President Donald Trump, finds himself tied with his Democratic challenger in a new poll in his state.

Graham and Democrat Jaime Harrison are tied at 44 per cent in the latest Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday. It has 9 per cent of respondents undecided in the race.

The result comes as Trump leads Democrat Joe Biden 47 to 42 in the state in the same poll.

Posted by orrinj at 9:36 AM


Official: Some Parts of NH 'On Track for Containment' of COVID-19 (PAULA TRACY, 8/07/20,

Some areas of New Hampshire are "on track for containment" of COVID-19, particularly in the North and West, Trish Tilley told the Governor's Economic Reopening Task Force on Thursday.

Tilley, the deputy director of the state Division of Public Health, said the state is seeing a bump up in overall numbers from a few weeks ago but it is not a surge.

The areas where the state is seeing a bump up in new cases are in the south. The largest age cohort getting sick are residents in their 20s, she said.

The Harvard Global Health COVID-19 Risk and Suppression Chart for New Hampshire this week shows that Coos, with no cases, and Grafton, Cheshire, and Merrimack counties are on track for containment of the virus, she said.

Basically, it's only the region that cross-contaminates with MA that has any problem.

Posted by orrinj at 9:28 AM


Posted by orrinj at 9:22 AM


What's Left To Conserve? (MARTIN SKOLD AND J. FURMAN DANIEL,  AUGUST 7, 2020, The Bulwark)

There is, in fact, a historic opportunity for American conservatives to reclaim their core principles and build a winning political coalition. In the process, they can rebuild, rearticulate, and revive the American consensus about what our nation is, what it stands for, and where it can go.

What one is against can serve as the basis of what one is for. Indeed, as a conservative speaker pointed out to one of us in 2016, in the short to medium term, one can unite a squabbling party by pointing at something all of its factions find intolerable and reminding them that they oppose it. This, it was argued, was what Reagan had done in the 1980s and what Trump attempted to do and mostly failed.

It's quite debatable whether this was really the secret of past conservative coalitions' success, and whether the lesson is applicable now. The real key to Reagan's success may well have been the simple fecklessness of his, and his successor George H.W. Bush's, opposition, and the relative absence of partisanship that allowed for super coalitions to be built. But even if it is true, the limitations of this logic have become apparent.

Clearly, conservatives are going to need to articulate a real vision for the United States, and not just "stand athwart history yelling, 'Stop!'" They are, moreover, going to have to look past Reagan and abandon Trump. They need a new vision, and a chance to articulate it.

The good news, though, is that the excesses of the left and the vacuousness of Trump offer an opportunity to rebuild. Cancel culture, with its internet mobs, digitized harassment and slurs, nihilistic reverse racism, and attempt to shift the climate of intolerance it has created from the college campus to the boardroom is not a viable way forward for America. Indeed, given its origins in postmodernist deconstructionism and its characterization of the United States as irredeemably oppressive, it does not seek to be. The reaction against this over-reach by the postmodern left has come from all corners--from the campus free speech movement, to online contrarians, to left-libertarians, to liberals and former Hillary Clintonsupporters, to NeverTrumpconservatives, to moderate free-marketers--in addition to Trump supporters themselves.

A movement that can unite this many people across the political spectrum potentially signals the basis for a principled opposition. For conservatives who have historically styled themselves classical liberals, conserving the original liberal principles of America's founding, this is an opportunity. The challenge for conservatives is not simply to oppose, but to lead.

It must be emphasized: this will not save conservatives or Republicans this election cycle--not in net terms anyway. The Republican Party and the conservative movement are too tainted by Trump and too disorganized to do much more than tread water-if they are lucky. There is no winning this time, and, in fairness, there probably should not be. The question is how to lay the groundwork for a reboot, and what the conservative vision for America would look like in that case.

The Party will inevitably have to get back to W and compassionate conservatism: legalizing immigrants and reforming immigration; an Ownership Society that gives every American increased capital in the system; a pro-democracy foreign policy; taxing consumption; NCLB; etc.

Posted by orrinj at 9:05 AM


Right-wing media defanged by dissolving anti-Biden storylines (Neal Rothschild, 8/07/20, Axios)

 The data shows that for articles published about Biden since last fall by Fox News, Breitbart, Daily Wire, Daily Caller and Western Journal, articles about Biden's mental acuity, Hunter Biden and Burisma, and Tara Reade's sexual assault accusations have generated the most interactions on social media (likes, comments, shares).

But in recent months, that interest has dissipated:

Engagement on pieces about Biden's mental sharpness peaked in March and then even higher in June, but has decreased since then. Of the three topics, this has gotten the least combined interest.

Chatter about Hunter Biden serving on the board of a Ukrainian gas company peaked in October, then disappeared by March with a brief spurt in May.

Interactions on coverage about Tara Reade's allegations against Biden hit a crescendo in late April and early May -- reaching a higher peak than any other storyline -- before falling away by June.

Yeah, but hurting God will catch fire!

Posted by orrinj at 8:51 AM


The White Supremacist Roots of the Abortion Industry (R. C. VANLANDINGHAM, 8/07/20, Crisis)

Indeed, the Planned Parenthood founder was a racist eugenicist, a phrase coined by Charles Darwin's cousin Francis Galton, who wanted to put Darwin's ideas on evolution into practice by the selective breeding, sterilization, etc., not of dogs and horses but of humans. This science of eugenics was quite popular with WASP-type elites in Europe and the United States, but got a justifiably bad reputation when the full horrors of its aims were demonstrated by Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. The shocking images and stories of the Nazi brutality and genocide of Jews, Slavs, and others whom the Nazis considered less than human ended eugenics as a mainstream science.

But Sanger and her fellow American eugenicists were more subtle and less bloodthirsty than their counterparts in Germany, and thus were able to continue their eugenics plans after the war, though under the guise of helping the poorer populations. Instead of setting up death camps, Sanger placed birth control and abortion centers in neighborhoods comprised of what many WASP elites considered "undesirables," i.e., blacks, Jews, Catholics, and Slavs. Believing most black people to be mentally no better than an 11-year-old child, Sanger set up "The Negro Project" to reduce the black population growth in America. She even went so far as to recruit black ministers to lead their flocks to stop reproducing voluntarily.

Unfortunately for the eugenicists, the "weeds"--as Sanger referred to those she thought of as "unfit"--did not always stop voluntary reproduction. And when voluntarism failed, American eugenicists used the courts to sterilize the undesirables forcibly. Tens of thousands, and perhaps hundreds of thousands of people whom these elites considered unfit, usually people of color, were forcibly sterilized in the United States. Forced sterilization lasted all the way until the 1980s.

Do not be fooled by the seemingly less barbaric methods of eugenics employed in America; the end goals of the eugenicists in the United States were the same as those of their Nazi comrades in Germany--the elimination of the "unfit" to make way for the "fit." And, make no mistake, the Nazi eugenicists were comrades with American eugenicists. American eugenicists often travelled to Germany and German eugenicists came to the United States to exchange ideas and discuss their plans. In fact, Sanger even invited Eugen Fischer, the Nazi scientist whose writings on eugenics inspired Hitler's theories of the master race, to speak to her Birth Control League. Furthermore, in a speech delivered on March 3, 1938, meant to allay fears that forced sterilization might not safeguard the rights of the people, Sanger praised the Nazi sterilization system and the "1,700 special courts and 27 higher courts in Germany [set up] to review the cases certified for sterilization there." She assured the audience that courts in America would safeguard citizens' rights just like those in Nazi Germany. Of course, we all now know the truth about those German courts Sanger spoke of so fondly.

To Planned Parenthood's credit, the organization does not deny the uncomfortable truth of their founder's eugenics past, stating in a document on their website, entitled Opposition Claims About Margaret Sanger, that "Planned Parenthood acknowledges these major flaws in Sanger's views [about eugenics]--and we believe they are wrong." In that same document, however, Planned Parenthood couches Sanger's work to reduce the black population in the United States as "Outreach to the African American Community," and argues that leaders of the black community supported her work. Of course they did. She recruited them for the purpose of keeping what she called the "rebellious members" of the black community from realizing what was really going on. To be fair, Sanger wanted to get rid of the "unfit" people in all races, and she did not believe that all members of any one race were "unfit." But she did view the black community as having far higher numbers of unfit persons than the white community.

Undesirables (George Weigel, EPCC)

Sometimes, the veil slips.

It certainly did in a recent New York Times Magazine interview with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. There, in the course of relating her surprise at the Court's 1980 decision upholding the Hyde Amendment (which banned federal funding for abortion), Justice Ginsburg had the following to say about legal history, social policy, and political surprises: "Frankly, I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don't want to have too many of. So that Roe was going to be then set up for Medicaid funding of abortion."

Posted by orrinj at 8:34 AM


Was Canaan an improvement over Egypt? (Sarah C. Rudolph, AUG 6, 2020, Times of Israel)

After decades of anticipation, the Children of Israel are finally on the verge of entering the Promised Land. They've heard of its wonders, they've been severely punished for doubting its superiority, they've witnessed Moses lash out at the tribes of Reuben and Gad for asking to live adjacent to it instead of in its heart, and they've heard Moses' own devastation over God's decree that he wouldn't live to enter it himself.

And suddenly, in the middle of Moses' pep talk preparing them to cross the Jordan at long last and settle this fine specimen of geography, he offers a description that - on the face of it - could only serve to confirm their worst fears:

The land, to which you are coming to inherit it, is not like the land of Egypt, from which you left, where you would plant your seed and irrigate with your foot like a green garden. The land which you are crossing there to inherit it is a land of mountains and valleys; it drinks water as the rain of heaven. (Deut. 11:10-11)

So Egypt is "like a green garden," while the Promised Land is mountainous, relies on rain (not nearly as predictable as the Nile's overflow), and is apparently not like a green garden. simply a misunderstanding on their part: self-determination isn't supposed to be a rose garden.

Posted by orrinj at 8:27 AM


Ripping Down Trump's Phony 'Treason' Conspiracy (Joe Conason, August 07 | 2020, National Memo)

In countless tweets, Trump has accused former President Barack Obama of "spying" on him and his associates both during and after the election. It's the greatest scandal in American history, worse than Watergate, et cetera, et cetera! But Yates pointed out that neither Trump nor any of his aides was ever wiretapped or surveilled. Instead, the Justice Department was conducting a counterintelligence operation that targeted Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak.

That was how the FBI discovered and recorded Flynn's perfidious contacts with the Kremlin.

What Yates and her fellow prosecutors learned from those recordings was that the former general (once famously entertained by Russian President Vladimir Putin himself) had undermined U.S. sanctions imposed after Russia intervened in the 2016 presidential election. Those same recordings later showed that Flynn had deceived Vice President Mike Pence and other officials about his contacts with Russia. She testified that the probe continued because of the revelations about Flynn's subversion.

There was no attempt by the Obama administration -- including then-Vice President Joe Biden -- to direct the investigation to harm Trump or his incoming administration, she said. There was no effort to interfere with Trump's campaign using a falsified intelligence warrant. Such claims barely merit discussion, since it was Hillary Clinton's campaign, not Donald Trump's, that was undone by the public revelations about an FBI investigation.

Having established the basic facts, Yates bluntly rebuked the machinations by Attorney General William Barr to protect Flynn from the consequences of his acts -- which have enraged and embarrassed nearly every lawyer who ever served the United States. She contradicted Barr's weak claims exonerating Flynn of lying to the FBI, which the attorney general used to dismiss his guilty plea. And Yates didn't hesitate to point out the terrible consequences for the integrity of the justice system when the highest law enforcement officer uses his power to rescue the president's guilty accomplices.

Posted by orrinj at 8:15 AM


Trump Supports Housing Segregation--and So Do a Lot of White Liberals: The vast Black-white disparities in housing are the foundation of America's systemic racial inequalities, and white folks of all political stripes are loath to upset the status quo. (Kali Holloway, 8/07/20, The Nation)

"People have gone to the suburbs. They want the beautiful homes. They don't have to have a low-income housing development built in their community...which has reduced the prices of their homes and also increased crime substantially," Trump stated during a virtual rally with supporters. A day later in Texas, he picked up right where he left off. "I've seen conflict for years. It's been hell for suburbia. We rescinded the rule three days ago. So enjoy your life, ladies and gentlemen. Enjoy your life." The rule Trump rescinded was issued by the Obama administration in 2015 and required localities to track recurring issues around housing discrimination and create detailed plans for how to fix those problems. It aimed to strengthen the Fair Housing Act, the same anti-discrimination legislation the Justice Department sued Trump for violating in 1973. Almost 50 years after losing that case, he is still suggesting that whiteness should be the default measure of safety and affluence of a neighborhood while the mere presence of Blackness threatens both. The president says these kinds of overtly racist things partly because he believes them but also because--particularly when an election is on the line--they almost always work.

Even as the suburbs lean more Democratic than in the past, recent examples of white liberal NIMBYism prove that Trump knows precisely which anti-Black buttons to push. In Silver Spring, Md., as local officials consider proposals to eliminate exclusionary zoning policies that prevent more affordable housing from being built, residents have staged protests and taken to social media to register bitter complaints. ("I doubt that any of my neighbors want to stop living in their single family homes because an academic has told them it's racist to own a house with a large yard," one poster wrote.) Last year a group of wealthy homeowners in San Francisco launched a GoFundMe campaign to pay the costs of waging a court battle against a homeless services center slated to be built in their neighborhood. In Maplewood, N.J.--where, according to The New York Times, Black Lives Matter signs are a common lawn adornment--a group of Black parents had to file a lawsuit in 2018 to force the desegregation of district public schools. And in New York City, after learning their children would be rezoned to a majority African American school, white parents publicly worried about the danger posed by Black elementary schoolkids. The rezoning went forward as planned, but most of the white kids never made the transfer, presumably because their parents sought whiter learning environs.

These examples of liberal white racism are further borne out by data. In a 2009 study, researchers found white people indicated that, compared with integrated and all-Black neighborhoods, "all-white neighborhoods were most desirable." A report from Harvard published this January noted, "Despite parents' espoused support for integration, in districts where parents are actually given greater opportunities to choose schools, schools appear to become more segregated." The authors concluded that "many White, advantaged parents appear to determine school quality by how many other White, advantaged parents send their child to a school, without doing the legwork to determine what schools in a district are actually high-quality and a good fit for their child." Another report released early this year determined that "the 12 most politically progressive cities in the U.S. have significantly larger achievement gaps [between Black and white students] in reading, math and high school graduation than the 12 most politically conservative cities." Among those deeply blue places with the highest Black-white proficiency gaps are San Francisco, Seattle, Oakland, Portland, and Washington.

Left-Wing UC Berkeley Professor Doesn't Want Poor People Moving Into His Posh Neighborhood (Andrew Stiles, AUGUST 5, 2020, Free Beacon)

Robert Reich, a left-wing professor at the University of California Berkeley who served as labor secretary during the Clinton administration, is very concerned about income inequality. He urged Wall Street executives to "invest" in cities by funding low-income housing projects. He also praised a "promising initiative" to promote the construction of affordable housing units in San Francisco.

Reich is not so keen, however, on a proposal to tear down a dilapidated building in his Berkeley neighborhood and replace it with a 10-unit development that would include low-income housing.

Reich and some of his wealthy neighbors are imploring the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission to designate the dilapidated structure, known as the Payson House, as a Berkeley landmark in order to stop the proposed development. In a letter to the commission, Reich said the proposed housing units would destroy the "charm of an older era of Berkeley" and likened the developers' actions to "the illegal practices and corrupt politics of the late nineteenth century."

"If historic preservation means anything, it means maintaining enough of the character of an older neighborhood to remind people of its history and provide continuity with the present," Reich wrote. "Development for the sake of development makes no sense when it imposes social costs like this."

The cost being black neighbors.

Posted by orrinj at 8:12 AM


Trump is no longer 'loved nor feared' -- he's just become a 'joke': conservative (Tom Boggioni, 8/07/20, Raw Story)

"If the polls are to be believed, Trump is losing so badly that a good or bad interview isn't likely to be determinative. But while Trump's America will likely remain in awe of him at least until he officially becomes a loser, I am picking up on a psychological shift: The Other America is starting to view him as a joke," Lewis wrote before writing that the president's standing has fallen so far he is now "He is neither loved nor feared. Soon, he may even be pitied."

According to the columnist, the president is effectively being undermined by groups like the never-Trumper Lincoln Project, whose ads often ridicule the president, and it's working.

He's always been laughable; it's just that even he now hears the laughter.

Posted by orrinj at 7:48 AM


Sally Yates' testimony was devastating to Trump's 'Deep State' conspiracy theories (Matthew Chapman , 8/06/20, Raw Story)

"Former deputy attorney general Sally Yates provided as definitive an account as you are going to get regarding former national security adviser Michael Flynn, the Russia investigation and the politicization of the Justice Department during testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday," wrote Rubin. "Republicans have been so immersed in a false account of events and in conspiracy-mongering for a failed president that they seemed startled when Yates corrected them again and again."

Yates, wrote Rubin, argued seven main points: Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was not being surveilled; Flynn was only caught up because he was plotting to "neuter" sanctions against Russia with a surveilled Russian official; Flynn lied to Vice President Mike Pence about what he was doing; the FBI was running a counterintelligence investigation, not a criminal one; the FBI continued the investigation because they had evidence of Flynn's contacts with Russia; Flynn told material lies to FBI officials in the course of the investigation; and Attorney General William Barr's efforts to block the prosecution of Flynn were completely improper.

Posted by orrinj at 7:35 AM


'Dirty dossier' ex-MI6 officer Christopher Steele criticises the UK's 'inadequate' response to Russian political interference  (RORY TINGLE, 8/07/20, MAILONLINE)

In an interview with Conservative MP Damian Collins on the Infotagion podcast, Mr Steele said Britain had been too slow and 'wholly inadequate' in deterring and responding to Russian activity, while calling for a unified effort in preventing further attempts at disruption. [...]

'There are huge vulnerabilities that are created by democracy and by modern technology and we are not catching up quickly enough with how our adversaries are able to, and willing to, exploit those things without really strong retaliation and deterrence existing.

'It needs to be an organised counter-effort to make sure that this doesn't distort and disrupt our political life.'

Mr Steele said that Russian interference is 'designed' to push political debate to the extremes in order to undermine people's 'faith and trust' in democracy, adding Brexit was a clear example of how divided the country has become on what used to be consensus issues.

'The other thing I think it's designed to do in its modern form is create great polarity, great partisanship and divisions within political life, the likes of which we've not seen in democracies before.

'It's not just elections. I think its the way in which the political discourse and the political parties are kind of pushed out to the extremes and the consensus view on things like national security and the integrity of the United Kingdom and its defence which, in general in recent times have been pretty much consensus issues, there is now a definite attempt to shatter those and Brexit in a way ... was a classic case of that.

'I'm very concerned (in ensuring) national security issues can be bipartisan, and that we can keep our politics moderate and mainstream, for the most part, despite Russia and other foreign actors' attempts to polarise us.'

August 6, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 8:11 PM


In a Desperate Rant, Trump Nonsensically Says Biden Will 'Hurt God, Hurt the Bible' (PETER WADE , 8/06/20, Rolling Stone)

On Thursday in Ohio, Trump seemingly spewed whatever words entered his mind while attacking Biden on every conceivable topic. Before saying that Biden will "hurt the Bible" and "hurt God," Trump said his opponent will ruin just about everything.

Posted by orrinj at 7:56 PM


Donald Trump is losing the culture wars ( DAVID SIDERS, 08/06/2020, Politico)

The culture wars aren't working for Donald Trump.

His law-and-order rhetoric isn't registering with suburban voters. One of his leading evangelical supporters, Jerry Falwell Jr., was just photographed with his zipper down. Immigration isn't provoking the response it did in 2016, and NASCAR has spurned the president.

Even an attempt by a New York Democrat to take down the National Rifle Association -- a lawsuit announced Thursday by state Attorney General Letitia James -- looks unlikely to juice Trump's reelection hopes. [...]

Frank Miniter, editor in chief of the NRA publication America's First Freedom, raised the alarm for members in a column last week. Citing research by a firearms trade association, he lamented that "only 17% of gun owners in the survey said 'gun-related issues' were one of their three top policy areas going into this election (15% did say 'crime' and 18% said 'civil rights')."

The culture wars of old, said Paul Maslin, a top Democratic pollster who worked on the presidential campaigns of Jimmy Carter and Howard Dean, seem "miles away from where this election is right now."

Gun control and other cultural issues, he said, "are always a backdrop and a way for Trump to maintain his base. But again, his base is 42 percent. Where's the other 5 to 6 percent he needs going to come from?"

The Left long ago taught us that running against the American Founding doesn't work.  The Right can't do better with it.

Posted by orrinj at 7:26 PM


The Nonconformist: Over a lifetime of scholarship and public engagement, economist Thomas Sowell has illuminated controversial topics such as race, poverty, and culture. (Coleman Hughes, Summer 2020, City Journal)

Measured by his contributions to economics, political theory, and intellectual history, Thomas Sowell ranks among the towering intellects of our time. Yet, rare among such thinkers, Sowell manages never to provoke, in the reader, the feeling of being towered over. As Kevin Williamson observed, Sowell is "that rarest of things among serious academics: plainspoken." From 1991 until 2016, his nationally syndicated column set the bar for clear writing, though the topics he covered were often complex. "Too many academics write as if plain English is beneath their dignity," Sowell once said, "and some seem to regard logic as an unconstitutional infringement of their freedom of speech." If academics birth needlessly complex prose, editors too often midwife it. An editor, Sowell once quipped, would probably have changed Shakespeare's "To be or not to be, that is the question" to something awful, like "The issue is one of existence versus non-existence."

Consider Sowell's clear, brief explanation of the economic idea of "scarcity." "What does 'scarce' mean?" he asks in his layman's textbook, Basic Economics. "It means that what everybody wants adds up to more than there is." Not only is pointless complexity absent from Sowell's prose; so is the first-person perspective. The words "I" or "me" scarcely show up in his 30-odd books, but for his memoir, A Personal Odyssey.

To his critics, Sowell's writing style is severe. But to his fan base--which includes figures as different as Steven Pinker and Kanye West--it's a refreshing break from the self-absorbed drivel that frequently passes for cultural commentary nowadays. Pinker, a Harvard psychologist and leading public intellectual, named Sowell the most underrated writer in history. [...]

Sowell notes, too, the cases of a minority group with no political power nevertheless outperforming the dominant majority oppressing them. His favorite example was the successful Chinese minority in Southeast Asia. But he also has written about the Jews in Europe, the Igbos in Nigeria, the Germans in South America, the Lebanese in West Africa, and the Indians in East Africa. Perhaps the most striking American example is the Japanese. The Japanese peasant farmers who arrived on America's western coast in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries faced laws barring them from landownership until 1952, in addition to suffering internment during World War II. Nevertheless, by 1960 they were outearning white Americans.

Mr. Sowell is endlessly interesting, but one insight remains the most profound: what unites all those groups above is that they were immigrants.  African and Haitian immigrants to America likewise succeed at a high rate.  What makes the black underclass unique in America is not just its underperformance, but the fact that it was denied the immigrant experience as a jumping-off point.  It is in this sense that the damage of slavery has been permanent.  It is, implicitly, the argument for reparations.

Posted by orrinj at 6:28 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:12 PM


Facebook removes troll farm posing as African-American support for Donald Trump (Ben Collins and Kevin Collier, 8/06/20, NBC News)

Facebook removed hundreds of accounts on Thursday from a foreign troll farm posing as African-Americans in support of Donald Trump and QAnon supporters. It also removed hundreds of fake accounts linked to conservative media outlet The Epoch Times that pushed pro-Trump conspiracy theories about coronavirus and protests in the U.S.

Facebook took down the accounts as part of its enforcement against coordinated inauthentic behavior, which is the use of fake accounts to inflate the reach of content or products on social media.

There are too few to form a group.

Posted by orrinj at 1:28 PM


Republicans fear disaster in November (OLIVIA BEAVERS AND JULIEGRACE BRUFKE,  08/06/20, The Hill)
Republicans are privately fearing the worst possible outcome in November, one that could leave them without the White House or a majority in either chamber of Congress next year.

House Republicans face numerous, almost insurmountable obstacles: a cash shortfall against the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, 27 retiring lawmakers and a Republican National Committee that is more focused on reelecting President Trump and protecting the Senate GOP majority. They also need to pick up a net 17 seats to win back the House.

While Republicans noted the political landscape appears to change by the day, some are expressing a growing sense of doom.

"If the election were today, we would lose the House, the Senate and the White House," said one Republican source. [...]

[T]rump's unarticulated vision for a potential second term has made it difficult for GOP candidates to tell voters what they would be getting if they side with Republicans. And many voters don't like what they've already seen, particularly when it comes to the Trump administration's handling of the coronavirus.

Some GOP lawmakers who spoke to The Hill acknowledged that the president has failed to inject much-needed urgency into his pandemic response even as U.S. infection numbers approach 5 million, with nearly 160,000 dead.

"People are looking for reassurance ... Chaos worked great in 2016, [but] they don't want it in 2020," said one GOP lawmaker. "They want to know that we're trusting science and doctors on the questions here and they want to know we're going to get through it. There needs to be more FDR fireside chats and less Jerry Springer knockdowns."

Trump's rhetoric has alienated a key voting bloc that Republicans have sought to attract: suburban women. The president's recent attack on Deborah Birx, a leading member of the White House coronavirus task force, did not help that effort.

"Conservative women want to see empathy and compassion and don't like meanness. We are doing really poorly with married, white women," a GOP source said. "I do not at all understand the Deborah Birx attack at all -- not politically and not morally."

Republicans who are trying to court those voters also face a funding challenge. The campaign arm for House Democrats, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, held a $33 million advantage over the National Republican Congressional Committee at the end of June, making it harder for GOP candidates to get their message out to voters.

Some Republicans also see Trump pushing away elderly voters with his persistent attacks on mail-in voting. His supporters say that could hurt him in the long run since seniors, who generally skew Republican, are at high risk of contracting COVID-19 and are more likely to vote by mail.

Posted by orrinj at 11:38 AM


On Not Wanting to Rest Content (ANDREW DONALDSON, AUGUST 5, 2020, Ordinary Times)

[F]or some, George Floyd being a uncooperative, drug using suspect changes everything for them.

Rob Dreher, writing in The American Conservative a piece that has already had a title change, several apologies, and -- as of this writing -- 12 updates added to it by the author, came right out with the sentiment that George Floyd killed George Floyd:

George Floyd did not just resist arrest. He spent at least eight minutes gasping and shrieking and carrying on like a lunatic, all the while refusing frequent, entirely legitimate orders by police. I had been under the impression that they had brutalized him from the beginning, throwing Floyd to the ground and kneeing him in the neck. That's not remotely what happened. What happened is that these police officers gave Floyd chance after chance to obey. He was high on fentanyl and meth, though he denied twice that he was on anything, but his behavior was completely bizarre. Was it because he was high? Maybe. It might also be because he had four previous criminal convictions, and had done a prison stint for assault and robbery. What brought the cops in Minneapolis out that afternoon was that he was attempting to pass counterfeit bills in a local store. Floyd must have known that given his criminal record, he was going to be in a world of trouble over the fake currency...

George Floyd is dead today almost entirely because of George Floyd. (emphasis original to Dreher's piece) Watch that bodycam video above (it ends just as he is on the ground with Chauvin's knee in his neck), and tell me how there is any other reasonable conclusion? All he had to do was obey the police, who gave him chance after chance after chance. They did not come down on him hard, with the neck restraint, because he was black. They came down on him because he hysterically resisted arrest, for at least eight minutes.

The media's narrative is false. All the George Floyd riots, all the George Floyd protests, have been based on a lie. That lie, though, has become so fundamental to the left's narrative that disbelieving it will be impossible for countless people.

Watch the video. It really is shocking to realize how badly we have been misled by the media, by politicians, by celebrities, and by activists.

It's a nice neat package to use such reasoning. George Floyd had it coming, you see, and all the priors that were straining against the collars of restraint about the events surrounding his death can now break free. All the uncomfortable questions can now be safely put back in the box of status quo, with the lid sealed shut with a dismissive side eye at the media and others for stirring up an otherwise peaceful society. As long as the drugs, and bad decisions, and troubled mind of an individual is to blame, then the rest of us can remain content that it is someone else's problem. The facts have all now changed, the events were all wrong, all must go back to how it was before.

Except for the most important fact: George Floyd still died underneath three police officers, one of which was on his neck. They continued to hold him down for two minutes and fifty-three seconds after he stopped breathing with no urgency whatsoever to render aid. Somehow, we are to believe that the officers knowing he was clearly out of sorts is exculpatory when it is actually damning. Police officers were responsible for George Floyd from the moment they put their hands on him, and suspecting him to be high and behaving erratically should clue them in that a medical event could be imminent. Pre-existing conditions, drug use, erratic behavior, and resisting arrest did not lessen George Floyd's rights or the police officer's responsibility to protect them.

It's easy enough for any decent conservative to be anti-Trump; the difficulty they run into is the temptation to be anti-anti-Trump, just as decent liberals were so often seduced by the need to be anti-anti-Communist.  Realizing you are siding with people you had considered your opponents causes a frisson of panic.

Posted by orrinj at 11:26 AM


US suffers world's biggest jump in economic misery as COVID cases surge (Benjamin Winck, 8/06/20, Business Insider)

The US is projected to undergo the biggest increase in economic misery across 60 countries as the nation grapples with heightened unemployment and fresh coronavirus hotspots.

Bloomberg's Misery Index, which ranks major economies by inflation and unemployment expectations, shows the country sinking to rank 25 from rank 50 in 2020. Venezuela, Argentina, and South Africa held their spots as the world's most miserable economies.

It doesn't even measure the spiritual cost.
Posted by orrinj at 10:40 AM


A Rift Over Carl Linnaeus Shows We Shouldn't Idolize Scientists (BRIAN LOVETT, 08.06.2020, UnDark)

WE ARE LIVING through a period of cultural upheaval. Around the world, statues of iconic men who held racist beliefs and committed racial injustices are being ripped from their pedestals. The dull thud of metal bodies hitting concrete rings fresh in our ears, and many of us are still grappling with what these reverberations mean.

Statues of racists are monuments to the dregs of our society. Yet over time, their pedestals have crept so high that, for some people, it has become unthinkable that any scandal could justify their removal. Today, these memorialized men look down on us from high places that they do not deserve; the scandal is that society has for so long respected the inertia of their corrupting influence.

One such figure is the 18th century Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus. He devised binomial nomenclature, the ubiquitous system now used to scientifically classify organisms by genus and species. He then used his nomenclature to classify humans by "variety," ascribing inherently positive traits to lighter-skinned Europeans and negative traits to darker-skinned Africans and Asians, thereby laying a pseudoscientific foundation for racism that persists today. 

It is this inherent racism of Darwinism that forced even Stephen Jay Gould to repudiate it.

Posted by orrinj at 9:38 AM


Trump said US troops' presence in Middle East was 'single biggest mistake' in country's history (Middle East Monitor, August 6, 2020)

American President Donald Trump described the decision to send US forces to the Middle East as "the single biggest mistake" in his country's history.

American interventions have only been necessary because of the biggest mistake of the 20th Century, Wilson trading self-determination in the Middle East, etc. for his League.  Of course, the Right opposes Muslim democracy, so opposes helping realize it.

Posted by orrinj at 9:34 AM


NEK agency looks to embed social workers with police (Justin Trombly, Aug 5 2020, VT Digger)

A Northeast Kingdom social services nonprofit plans to resume a program to embed workers within regional law enforcement agencies, a move mirroring efforts across the state and the national discourse on policing.

Northeast Kingdom Human Services, the state-designed agency for mental health programs in the region, is looking to fill two positions in the new program, which began in early July. Those future workers will embed with the Vermont State Police barracks in Derby and the Newport Police Department.

The social services agency had already had partnerships with local law enforcement, in which social workers would respond to police calls, said Marcia Stricker, chief of clinical operations.

But the new program would place specialists directly within police departments, able to go with officers to calls.

The idea is twofold: The nonprofit's workers can de-escalate situations and can work with people afterward to prevent further police interactions when unnecessary. 

"They ride with them, they walk the streets with them, they'll check on individuals who may or may not be struggling," said Tonya Davis, emergency services program manager for the nonprofit. 

The danger is obviously that they will be captured by the institution, a danger which can be avoided via having both staffed through National Service.

Posted by orrinj at 9:27 AM


Trump Defied The 2013 GOP Autopsy. So Was It A 'Failure'? (Danielle Kurtzleben, 7/16/20, NPR Morning Edition)

When then-RNC chair Reince Priebus unveiled the report in 2013, he was frank: things had to change.

"If there's one message I want everyone to take away from here, it's this: we know that we have problems, we've identified them, and we're implementing solutions to fix them," he said.

Today, one of the autopsy's five authors thinks the fixes didn't work. Former Republican strategist Sally Bradshaw, who has since left politics and the party, calls the report "obviously a failure."

She declined to speak to NPR, but in an email she added, "My hope is that Trump will lose in November, Republicans will lose the Senate, and the GOP will be forced to rebuild with conservatives focused on the power of ideas."

The party is indeed in danger of losing power as a consequence of not having followed the autopsy's recommendations, according to Republican pollster Whit Ayres.

"For the most part, the Republican Party has done the opposite of what was recommended in the 2013 autopsy," he said. "That's part of the reason why so many rapidly changing demographic states are now in play for the Democrats that used to be solidly Republican -- states like Arizona and Texas and Georgia and North Carolina."

Trump found short-term success, he says, but at a cost, as America's electorate grows more diverse with every passing year.

"For the Republican Party to be successful in the long run. It's going to have to adapt to a changing America, not react against it," he added.

Posted by orrinj at 9:23 AM


Michelle Malkin is Attempting to Normalize White Supremacy (ADL, August 5, 2020)
Malkin's columns and books paint a picture of America under siege by enemies and outsiders. In 2002, she wrote her first book, Invasion: How America Still Welcomes Terrorists, Criminals, and Other Foreign Menaces to Our Shores, which painted immigrants as unwelcome enemies and criminals. In her 2004 book, In Defense of Internment: The Case for 'Racial Profiling' in World War II and the War on Terror, she defends both the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II and racial profiling of Arab and Muslim Americans after 9/11.

Her latest book, Open Borders Inc.: Who's Funding America's Destruction?, released in September 2019, focuses on her claims that churches and various nonprofit organizations are contributing to what Malkin sees as unfettered immigration to the U.S., which she believes is destroying the country. In the book, she blamed some mainstream conservatives for embracing the status quo on immigration, and criticized other groups spanning the political spectrum for facilitating increasing immigration to the U.S.

When discussing the book during a Facebook live promotional event, Malkin appeared alongside Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes.  When McInnes promulgated George Soros conspiracy theories, asserting the discredited claim that Soros, a child in Hungary at the time, was "not a Holocaust survivor" but rather a "Holocaust facilitator," Malkin agreed with him.

One month later, in an October 1, 2019, column attacking ADL, Malkin dismissed the violent and deadly actions by white supremacists at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017 by accusing "left" organizations of exploiting "the riots in Charlottesville, Virginia, as a means of demonizing all Trump supporters and nationalist activists while giving cover to antifa..."

In March 2020, Malkin's column about a speech she gave at a groyper conference that month reflected her bigoted views. She wrote, "America will look like the cover of Ilhan Omar's new book. It will look like the no-go zones of the Twin Cities. It will look like the serial predator-infested public schools in Montgomery County, Maryland. It will not look like this room. This is not conspiracy replacement theory. This is conspiracy truth." By this point, Malkin was echoing many of the views promoted by white supremacists, joining the battle against what they call "Conservative, Inc.," otherwise known as the mainstream conservative movement.

Posted by orrinj at 8:54 AM


This Bourbon Was Just Named The Best Value In All Of Whiskey--Get It While You Still Can (Brad Japhe, 8/06/20, Fortune)

After sipping through literally hundreds of whiskies, a panel of 16 judges (comprised of some of the most renowned names in the industry) placed Stagg Jr. at the top of that particular list. The straight bourbon out of Frankfort, Kentucky received an extraordinary mark of 98 for its pound cake and maple cream bouquet, weighty, spiced palate, and smoky, dark chocolate-drenched finish.

These tasting notes alone ought to elicit quite an attraction. And its score places it in elite company. But the kicker is that the bottle retails for just $49.99. Out of all spirits judged--a number in the thousands--just two other labels offer the same score or higher at a lower price. One was a $30 potato vodka from Boyd & Blair. The other was a Caribbean dark rum from George Bowman, retailing at $29.99.

Posted by orrinj at 8:48 AM

DEFUND THE POLICE (profanity alert):

Vermont City of Vergennes Tried to Confront Race and Policing--and It Imploded (Tim Teeman,  Aug. 06, 2020, Daily Beast)

Vergennes is also not alone in attempting, as a city or town, to contemplate civilian oversight of the police as one practical response to Floyd's death. Similar oversight has also been proposed in municipalities including Phoenix, Arizona; East Lansing, Michigan; Columbus, Ohio; and Somerville, Massachusetts.

Before the explosive council meeting of July 16 and the subsequent collapse of city government in Vergennes, Fritz and many residents had made clear their feelings that the police department, whose funding has increased by 156 percent in the last six years, needed to change. 

The foundation of their call was the 2017 report, Driving While Black and Brown in Vermont, which found marked racial disparities in how Black and Hispanic drivers were treated by police in the state.

Professors Stephanie Seguino (University of Vermont) and Nancy Brooks (Cornell University) conceived the study after the passing of a 2014 bill requiring all Vermont law enforcement agencies to collect traffic stop data in order to make it possible to identify and track any racial disparities in policing. Driving While Black and Brown in Vermont uses the first round of data that became available in 2016. 

The study found that at the state level, Black and Hispanic drivers were more likely to receive a citation once stopped than white or Asian drivers. The Black arrest rate was almost double the white arrest rate. Black drivers were four times more likely to be searched, subsequent to a stop, than white drivers. Hispanic drivers were almost three times more likely to be searched.

The authors wrote, "At the extreme is Vergennes, where Black drivers are stopped at a rate that is almost 3 times their estimated share of the county population, followed by Bennington, where the Black share of stops is almost 2.5 times greater than their share of the county population."

At a Vergennes police forum held in June that was open to the public, Chief Merkel said the statistics were "flawed," and claimed "transient" drivers using Route 22A which goes through the city had skewed the statistics.

In a follow-up report, published in 2018, the authors responded to the criticism. The 2017 data was not "systematically flawed," the authors claimed, as they re-analyzed their data according to the methodological querying of the cops. "The use of more rigorous statistical techniques therefore does not alter the nature of our 2017 findings."

The authors concluded: "These disparities should be of great concern to law enforcement agencies, communities, and legislators. While the disparities in no way suggest that agencies are intentionally profiling people of color, they do indicate the necessity for law enforcement to be self-reflective about their policing practices and to interrogate the role of implicit bias in decision-making."

At the June police forum, Merkel insisted, "We don't issue tickets by virtue of race or anything else. If you're speeding through town, you get stopped. Nine times out of ten we can't see who's driving the car until they're upon us."

Merkel said he felt "comfortable" with Vergennes' police officers "because I know them. That doesn't mean I accept it blindly and don't look into things. I do. I hold my guys accountable." He was "at a loss" to address how the department could cost less.

He said there were no people of color employed in the police department, and only one woman. "I take the best candidate," Merkel told the meeting. "Gender or race are not specific to me."

"Driving While Black and Brown in Vermont was a shocker to us," State Representative Lanpher told The Daily Beast.

"We looked at a mirror through the data and were not happy with what we saw. My response was to say, 'This is appalling, let's dig into the data.' What happened was the opposite: There was a retrenching by the police, and a defensiveness, which didn't help the situation at all, a response of 'We don't believe the data.'"

In 2019, there was a proposal to cut the city's police budget by a sum roughly equivalent to two police officers. Former mayor Fritz told The Daily Beast it had "decent support" among the city council but at the discussion Merkel and his officers had stood in the room, dressed in their uniforms.

Nothing expresses the Blue contempt for the citizenry better than the insistence that they not be subject to oversight.

Posted by orrinj at 8:39 AM


Why Blockading Would Have Been Better Than Bombing Japan (IVAN ELAND, 8/06/20, American Conservative)

Japan is an island, and by August 1945, the U.S. Navy had overwhelmingly crushed its Japanese counterpart. The U.S. Navy could have imposed a tight blockade around Japan's home islands, allowed a minimum of food, medicine, etc. in for humanitarian purposes, and simply waited for Japan to capitulate. This option would have saved hundreds of thousands of civilian lives and allowed the United States to have avoided stooping to the low regard for civilian life that its enemies exhibited on so many occasions.

However, a naval blockade of Japan would not have fulfilled perhaps the real purpose of the atomic bombs: demonstrating the power of the new weapon to a then ally and likely future enemy--the Soviet Union. President Harry Truman delayed testing of the atomic bomb until the Potsdam Conference with Winston Churchill and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, and comments were made at the conference that Truman wore the bomb ostentatiously on his hip to intimidate Stalin. However, it was morally questionable to drop powerful bombs on Japanese civilians, killing hundreds of thousands, merely to impress a possible future enemy with U.S. technology and power.

...but it would have saved millions of lives and untold misery had we dropped at least the second bomb on Moscow and changed the regime.  Failure to do so lost WWII.

Posted by orrinj at 8:24 AM


Biden Lead Over Trump Increases With Just 90 Days Until Election: Poll (JACOB JARVIS, 8/6/20, Newsweek)

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden's lead over President Donald Trump hit 10-points as the November election draws ever closer, in a recent poll.

Biden has consistently held a lead in polls in recent months, with a new Reuters/Ipsos survey finding 48 percent of registered voters asked intend to vote for the Democrat, compared to 38 percent for Trump.

The ceiling was always 42%; the only question is where the lower bound lies.

Posted by orrinj at 7:13 AM


A new poll shows Germans support Trump's removal of troops and want all US nuclear weapons to leave Germany as well (Adam Payne, 8/06/20, Business Insider)

However, while Trump sought to frame the removal of US troops as punishment for Germany, and while Berlin opposes the move, Germans support it and would like to see further reductions of US military presence, a poll found.

47% of respondents said they were in favour of the number of US troops in Germany being reduced, according to a YouGov poll for the German Press Agency published this week, with a quarter (25%) saying that all US troops should leave. Less than a third (32%) support the number of US troops in Germany staying the same or increasing.

There was even bigger public support for US nuclear weapons being removed from Germany.

The US currently stores 20 atomic bombs at the Büchel Air Base in Rhineland-Palatinate, southwest Germany. This is due to the the UN's "nuclear sharing" policy, which prescribes that European countries that don't possess nuclear weapons of their own should host weapons belonging to other countries as a means of deterrent.

66% of the 2,076 Germans who responded to the YouGov survey said they wanted all 20 bombs to be removed from Germany. Just 19% said they wanted them to stay.

Long past time to shut the foreign bases and mothball the military.  

August 5, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 9:16 PM


Low-Energy Trump (BRIAN KAREM  AUGUST 5, 2020, The Bulwark)

After this week's set of briefings at the White House, the Donald Trump presidency looks like it may end not with a bang, but with a whimper.

First Chris Wallace from Fox and then Jonathan Swain from Axios eviscerated Trump in interviews that not only exposed how unprepared Trump is for the long-interview format, but how unfamiliar and unrelatable he remains to facts.

He literally does not appear to understand them.

And his confusion now looks like exactly that: the confusion of a senior citizen who doesn't quite have a grasp on what's going on, not the bluster of a bully who is dominating the world around him.

On the bright side, he would pass a drug test on his own.

Posted by orrinj at 9:13 PM


New York prosecutors reportedly subpoenaed Deutsche Bank as part of an extensive investigation into Trump's business dealings (Sonam Sheth, 8/05/20, Business Insider)

The Manhattan district attorney's office subpoenaed Deutsche Bank as part of a wide-ranging investigation into President Donald Trump's business dealings, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

Prosecutors issued the subpoena last year and are seeking records that the president and his company, the Trump Organization, provided to Deutsche Bank, according to the report. Specifically, prosecutors asked for documents that could point to potential fraud. The bank complied with the subpoena and turned over Trump's financial statements and other records to investigators, the report said.

Deutsche Bank has been Trump's primary lender for over two decades and is at the center of several financial controversies related to his business practices.

Posted by orrinj at 6:56 PM


Economists show how welfare programs can turn a "profit": What happens if we consider welfare programs as investments? (SCOTTY HENDRICKS, 05 August, 2020, Big Think)

The study, carried out by Nathaniel Hendren and Ben Sprung-Keyser of Harvard University, reviews 133 welfare programs through a single lens. The authors measured these programs' "Marginal Value of Public Funds" (MVPF), which is defined as the ratio of the recipients' willingness to pay for a program over its cost.

A program with an MVPF of one provides precisely as much in net benefits as it costs to deliver those benefits. For an illustration, imagine a program that hands someone a dollar. If getting that dollar doesn't alter their behavior, then the MVPF of that program is one. If it discourages them from working, then the program's cost goes up, as the program causes government tax revenues to fall in addition to costing money upfront. The MVPF goes below one in this case.

Lastly, it is possible that getting the dollar causes the recipient to further their education and get a job that pays more taxes in the future, lowering the cost of the program in the long run and raising the MVPF. The value ratio can even hit infinity when a program fully "pays for itself."

While these are only a few examples, many others exist, and they do work to show you that a high MVPF means that a program "pays for itself," a value of one indicates a program "breaks even," and a value below one shows a program costs more money than the direct cost of the benefits would suggest.

After determining the programs' costs using existing literature and the willingness to pay through statistical analysis, 133 programs focusing on social insurance, education and job training, tax and cash transfers, and in-kind transfers were analyzed. The results show that some programs turn a "profit" for the government, mainly when they are focused on children:

Programs like child health services and K-12 education spending have infinite MVPF values. The authors argue this is because the programs allow children to live healthier, more productive lives and earn more money, which enables them to pay more taxes later. Programs like the preschool initiatives examined don't manage to do this as well and have a lower "profit" rate despite having decent MVPF ratios.

On the other hand, things like tuition deductions for older adults don't make back the money they cost. This is likely for several reasons, not the least of which is that there is less time for the benefactor to pay the government back in taxes. Disability insurance was likewise "unprofitable," as those collecting it have a reduced need to work and pay less back in taxes.

Posted by orrinj at 2:28 PM


Sally Yates testifies that Mike Flynn 'neutered' U.S. efforts to deter Russia and was 'covering up' his actions (GEOFF EARLE, 8/05/20, DAILYMAIL.COM)

'General Flynn had essentially neutered the U.S. government's message of deterrence,' she said, in reference to sanctions Obama slapped on Moscow as punishment for Russian interference in the presidential election. [...]

Yates called Flynn's conversations with Kislyak 'a very curious thing to be doing, particularly when the Russians have been acting to benefit President Trump, and then covering it up.'

Posted by orrinj at 2:27 PM


Will Tammy Duckworth be the first deist veep since Thomas Jefferson? (Steven Waldman, 8/05/20, RNS)

[D]eists were not atheists. Rather, they believed that reason was the path to spiritual knowledge and that nature itself offered the best proof of God's existence. Notably, Jefferson used the term "Nature's God" in the Declaration of Independence, and later wrote rhapsodically about the perfection of the universe, which proved that there must be "an ultimate cause, a fabricator of all things from matter and motion."

Tom Paine, the author of "Common Sense," was a deist, and at various points, both James Madison and George Washington used language that would suggest some sympathy.

Benjamin Franklin did declare himself to be a deist at one point. When he was a teenager, a Puritan elder tried to scare him away from deism, but the effort backfired. "Some books against Deism fell into my hands," he later wrote. "It happened that they wrought an effect on me quite contrary to what was intended by them; for the arguments of the Deists, which were quoted to be refuted, appeared to me much stronger than the refutations; in short, I soon became a thorough Deist."

But, it should be said, none of the Founders were pure deists. Classical deism imagined "a watchmaker God" -- a powerful deity who created the universe, and its rules, but then stepped away from the day-to-day management. Jefferson, Franklin and Washington all very much believed in the power of prayer and that God intervened in the affairs of people in general, and Americans in particular.   

While we don't know what flavor of deist Duckworth is, we can say that in some ways, it's actually a very modern formulation. At least 83% of Americans say they believe in God but only about 36% attend a house of worship weekly. Duckworth said, "I don't go to any particular religious institution."

Posted by orrinj at 2:09 PM


Posted by orrinj at 1:44 PM


Right-wing conspiracy theorists get (even more) unhinged as Trump's chances fade (AMANDA MARCOTTE, AUGUST 5, 2020, Salon)

Alex Jones of Infowars, who still has a sizable audience despite having been de-platformed by many major social media companies, shamelessly encouraged his audience last week to lash out with murderous violence against the left.

Jones claimed to have reports that "Maoists" (which is fringe-right code for anyone to the left of Republicans) are stockpiling "explosives and weapons and trucks loaded with ammonium nitrate and chlorine gas" in the cities in preparation to wage war against all true-believing Americans. So "the best thing to do in a defensive way," Jones said, "is kill as many of them as quickly as possible."

Jones of course insisted that he was only talking about "defensive" tactics and warned viewers about not "jumping first," but that rhetoric is mostly a weak attempt at ass-covering to disguise an effort to incite terrorist violence from the right.

For one thing, Jones is just making up the threat that his audience is supposed to be "defending" themselves against. No leftists are not stockpiling weapons or bomb-making materials, and there is no progressive conspiracy to wage war on right-wingers. For another thing, Jones painted a clear picture of the kinds of people he imagines killing as quickly as possible, specifically naming "the establishment perverts and pedophiles" who he believes run society, as well aspeople who "show up in black uniforms and burn down your local courthouse."

The former is a reference to Democratic politicians, whom far-right conspiracy theorists have been accusing, under the banner of "Pizzagate," of running a secret pedophile ring for at least the last four years now. The latter is a reference to Black Lives Matter protesters and anti-fascist activists, the vast majority of whom are peaceful. The right has been demonizing them as violent because of some graffiti and sporadic episodes of vandalism. Neither group is involved in a plot to kill conservatives (or anyone else), but by claiming that they, Jones is setting up a narrative clearly meant to incite or justify violent attacks. 

On the Christian right side of things, similar conspiracy theories about progressives are spreading. As Right Wing Watch has documented, popular Christian right activist Scott Lively has claimed that "Democrat-controlled population centers" will soon be burned to the ground, as part of an elaborate conspiracy by liberals to get out of paying pensions to police officers.

...but we ought to understand that they are decompensating because their big beautiful Nativist dream is over.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


After Uighurs Escape China, They Face the U.S. Asylum SystemUighur asylum seekers in Virginia thought they would be safe here. But new rules delay work permits, draining savings and risking survival. (MARCIA BROWN AUGUST 5, 2020, American Prospect)

The Trump administration's unabated assault on asylum is affecting Uighurs fleeing China.

In July, Mahire Alim's four year-old son had a toothache, and it wouldn't go away. Alim and her husband Adli Bekri* are Uighur asylum seekers who arrived in the U.S. in late February, fleeing both ethnic persecution and an encroaching pandemic. But they can't afford the medical care--at least $3,500--for their son's urgent dental treatment. They can't afford it because they can't work legally in the U.S.

The couples' asylum applications have been pending with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) since April 20, but according to two new asylum rules proposed by the Trump administration that will take effect August 25, they won't be eligible to apply for work permits this month. The first rule, experts have said, would fundamentally devastate the asylum system, drastically changing the very definition of persecution under the law. Under the second rule, an asylum seeker has to wait 365 days from the day they file their asylum application to apply for a work permit, up from 150 days. The rule also stipulates that, after they file their applications, the government no longer would have to process their application within 30 days; in theory, they could let the application linger indefinitely.

Notably, asylum seekers who cross the border illegally--not at a port of entry--are ineligible for work permits, "unless and until an immigration judge finds that they qualify for an exception." But the system set up by the administration also consigns asylum seekers who used all legal means to seek refuge to endless uncertainty and anxiety.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


August 4, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 7:36 PM


Hospitals saw fewer heart attacks and strokes as the coronavirus pandemic struck -- and nobody knows why (Christina Farr, 8/04/20, CNBC)

Covid-19 patients might have been flooding into emergency departments in the spring, particularly in states like New York. But for everything else -- heart attacks, strokes and other kinds of emergencies -- the numbers were down for many hospitals across the country. 

A new study collating data from five health systems in Colorado, Connecticut, Massachussetts, North Carolina and New York reported decreases in emergency department visits between 40 and 60 percent in the first four months of 2020, with the most rapid decreases in March. Prior research from the CDC found that in the 10 weeks after COVID-19 was declared a national emergency, emergency room visits "declined 23% for heart attack, 20% for stroke, and 10% for hyperglycemic crisis." The Department of Veterans Affairs has also reported similar findings about a precipitous drop in emergency room visits. 

Posted by orrinj at 1:30 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


US police used excessive force at least 125 times in the 10 days after the police killing of George Floyd, according to a new report (Charles Davis, 8/04/20, Business Insider)

Police forces in the US deployed excessive force against anti-racist protesters on no fewer than 125 separate occasions in the 10 days following the death of George Floyd, after officers knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes, according to a new report from Amnesty International. Abuses ranged from the unnecessary and unlawful use of tear gas and pepper spray to beatings and the indiscriminate firing of "less lethal" projectiles. the report says.

"The unnecessary and sometimes excessive use of force by police against protesters exhibits the very systemic racism and impunity they had taken to the streets to protest," Ernest Coverson, Amnesty International's end gun violence campaign manager, said in a statement.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Remembering John Lewis, and the Political Theology that Changed a NationIn the face of lesser challenges, we demonstrate less virtue. (David French, Aug 2, 2020, The Dispatch)

I touched on this on the weekend when Lewis died, but how many times in American life have we seen a better marriage of Christian belief and Christian behavior than the nonviolent resistance to segregation and Jim Crow in the American South? Remember Lewis's own words, from a 2004 interview:

During those early days, we didn't study the Constitution, the Supreme Court decision of 1954. We studied the great religions of the world. We discussed and debated the teachings of the great teacher. And we would ask questions about what would Jesus do. In preparing for the sit-ins, we felt that the message was one of love -- the message of love in action: don't hate. If someone hits you, don't strike back. Just turn the other side. Be prepared to forgive. That's not anything any Constitution say anything about forgiveness. It is straight from the Scripture: reconciliation.

In his legendary "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," Martin Luther King Jr. didn't just deliver a master class on the injustice of segregation, he also delivered a lesson in the method of nonviolence, of the graduated approach before he took to the streets. "In any nonviolent campaign," King wrote, "there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action."

And he appealed of course to scriptural principle and scriptural example:

One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.

Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was evidenced sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar, on the ground that a higher moral law was at stake. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks rather than submit to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire.

Moreover, it's important to remember that the civil rights movement's success was hardly assured. In other words, the fact that the tactics "worked" is not the reason they were justified. They were right regardless of the outcome. And they were pursued against great odds.

What looks inevitable in hindsight was anything but certain. In fact, if you were placing contemporary bets on a political outcome, would you guess that some version of a three-century status quo would prevail, or that the civil rights movement would achieve a legal revolution nearly on par with emancipation itself? 

At the same time, can we even recall a modern Christian political movement so consistent with the upside-down logic of biblical Christianity? To gain your life you must lose your life. Bless those who persecute you. Love your enemies. The last shall be first. 

In fact, the turning point of the movement came in 1963, in the Birmingham "Children's Crusade," when the least-powerful members of Southern society, the black children of Alabama, confronted Bull Connor's dogs and firehoses, and--finally--shocked the conscience of a nation chock full of Christians and moved it to take decisive legal and political action. 

That's what a Christian political theology looks like in action. Both ends and means are suffused with Gospel truth.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Research only confirms the reliability of the Bible (Dr Pieter J Lalleman,  04 August 2020, Christianity Today)

Gregory R Lanier has been surveying the printed editions of the Greek New Testament, from the publication of the first scholarly edition by Westcott and Hort in 1881, until today, and his latest research encourages us to have more confidence in the biblical text than the sceptics would allow.

Since 1881, many new manuscripts have been discovered and new text editions produced. In more recent years, the digitisation of the manuscripts of the Bible has been rapid, allowing more people to study the evidence.  Against this backdrop, you would expect the text of the New Testament to have been heavily revised as a result of all this work, but this is not the case at all.

What Lanier has found is that the similarity between the 1881 edition of the New Testament in Greek and the most recent editions is still over 98.5 per cent.  In other words, the newly discovered manuscripts, and the investment of thousands of hours of human labour, not to mention millions of pounds, have basically confirmed what many of us already knew - that we had a very reliable Bible text the whole time.

There is conformity in the quality of the main great manuscripts, Codex Sinaiticus, Codex Vaticanus and Codex Alexandrinus, meaning that if we simply printed the Greek text of Codex Vaticanus (dating to the fourth century), we would still have the correct Greek text.

Lanier has done the same comparison with scholarly editions of the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, and here too he concludes that the many new discoveries and the efforts of scholars over the last 100 years have only served to confirm the accuracy of Alfred Rahlfs' 1935 edition. 

There may be ever more new material, but it is basically establishing that we know the text well enough to have confidence in its closeness to the original.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


New FBI Documents From Mueller's Russia Investigation Reveal What Witnesses Said About Trump (Jason Leopold, Anthony Cormier, Zoe Tillman, August 3, 2020, BuzzFeed News)

These documents include five pages of Jared Kushner's FBI interview summary -- but all five are completely redacted. The FBI's notations indicate that much of the material relates to an ongoing law enforcement investigation. Senior Assistant Special Counsel Andrew Goldstein told Kushner that answering a question with "I don't recall" if he indeed did recall was considered a lie.

Interview summaries for former deputy national security adviser K.T. McFarland, former White House lawyer and senior Justice Department official James Burnham, and former Stone associate Randy Credico are also almost entirely redacted. McFarland and Credico's summaries include markings that indicate redacted information relates to ongoing investigations.

A chunk of the 412 pages of interview summaries relates to the special counsel's investigation of Roger Stone. That material had been withheld during Stone's prosecution, but now that it has ended -- with a 40-month prison sentence that Trump commuted -- the documents are being released. They are still heavily redacted.

The Biden/Harris prosecutions of team Trump are going to be delicious.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Navarro on TikTok: "The mothers of America" have to worry about China tracking their kids (Axios, 8/04/20)

White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said Monday that the Chinese-owned social media app TikTok poses a threat to privacy and national security, telling the Axios Re:Cap podcast, "Let's not downplay the threat here: the mothers of America have to worry about whether the Chinese Communist Party knows where their children are."

Privacy hysteria is a function of delusions of self-importance.  No one cares what you have to say. If Congress wanted to do something useful it could create property rights in the data we generate so folks like Tik-Tok had to pay us to harvest it.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Meet The New Puritan, Same As The Old PuritanToday's moral-political fanaticism belies the same centuries old, self-righteous desire to purify. (WILLIAM MURCHISON, 8/04/20, American Conservative)

Thomas Babington Macaulay, in his monumental History of England From the Accession of James II, fixes unsparing attention on the Puritan program of drilling "the minds of men into conformity" with their system of theology. They--the Puritans--were right. There was no profit in fooling around, or even arguing, with the losers who had everything so terribly wrong. 

"Churches and sepulchres, fine works of art and curious remains of antiquity," writes Macaulay, "were brutally defaced. The parliament resolved that all pictures in the royal collection which contained representations of Jesus or of the Virgin Mother should be burned. Sculpture fared as ill as painting...Sharp laws were passed against betting. It was enacted that adultery should be punished with death...Public amusements...were vigorously attacked."  Bear-baiting, said Macaulay, in a deservedly famous passage, "strongly stirred the wrath of the austere sectaries."   The Puritans hated the sport  "not because it gave pain to the bear, but because it gave pleasure to the spectators."  

Then there was the abolition, in 1644, of Christmas as a day for feasting and enjoyment.

Cupping our ears, we note some echoes. The burning of art depicting Jesus? The smashing of sculpture deemed offensive to current onlookers? Most of all, the snarling  contempt the puritans of the 17th century showed for beliefs not their own: here you might argue is the link between the desecration of churches hundreds of years ago and the  onslaught against the discoverer of America and the images celebrating his achievement.

It's why we're the most conformist people on Earth.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


New Emails Detail The Behind-The-Scenes Drama After The Justice Department Recommended A Lesser Sentence For Roger Stone (Zoe Tillman  & Jason Leopold, August 3, 2020, Buzzfeed News)

At 2:59 p.m. on Feb. 11, Aaron Zelinsky, one of the lead prosecutors in the criminal case against Trump ally Roger Stone, sent an email notifying his supervisor J.P. Cooney that he was withdrawing from Stone's case.

In an email one minute later, according to the time stamp, Cooney tried to stop him.

"I am not approving of you withdrawing from this case right now," Cooney wrote in one of a set of emails obtained by BuzzFeed News through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

Cooney was too late -- Zelinsky had filed his withdrawal from the Stone case with the federal district court in Washington. [...]

Zelinsky testified that a supervisor told him that the interim US attorney leading the office at the time, Timothy Shea, wanted to give Stone special treatment because Shea was "afraid of the president." [...]

After news broke that the prosecution team had withdrawn, Zelinsky received a message of encouragement from another assistant US attorney in Maryland, P. Michael Cunningham: "Very proud of you!"

"Thanks! Just doing what any of us would have done in the same circumstance," Zelinsky replied.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump demands feds get a 'very substantial' cut of any Microsoft-TikTok sale, doesn't explain how that's legal (The Week, 8/04/20)

President Trump signaled Monday that he is okay with Microsoft purchasing the U.S. part of TikTok, the Chinese-owned social media company he has threatened to ban, but it will cost . . . someone. First, he told reporters at the White House that if Microsoft or another U.S. company purchases TikTok by his Sept. 15 deadline, "a very substantial portion of that price is going to have to come into the treasury of the United States." 

Why would Donald care what's legal?

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


GOP Obsession With 'Big Tech' Is a Betrayal of Conservatism (Yates Wilburn, 8/04/20,  RealClearMarkets)

Congress made it clear in Section 230 that these platforms can't be held liable for users' misbehavior like a newspaper or a TV network would be for their content. Now, the President is directing a regulatory agency --- one that's supposed to be independent --- to directly and blindly subvert the clearly established will of Congress, rather than working with Congress to change the law they passed.

That's not to say that repealing or reforming Section 230 would be a good idea if Congress did it. There's a very simple reason Congress decided not to treat internet platforms like TV networks. TV networks, newspapers, radio, and other traditional media have an immense amount of editorial control over their content. Even massive networks like Fox News and newspapers like the New York Times produce a microscopic amount of content compared to platforms like Twitter. 

Expecting Twitter or Google to apply the same level of control over every single one of the BILLIONS of posts, comments, videos, reviews, and images that appear on their platforms every week is not only impossible, it's dangerous. 

Many conservative proponents of repealing Section 230 claim they want to stop Facebook, Twitter, and others from engaging in biased censorship...specifically censorship against them. These "conservatives" argue that these platforms are purposefully preventing conservative users from spreading their message for political purposes without consequence. 

Their solution? Repeal Section 230 and force the Facebooks of the world to prove that they aren't engaging in political censorship to a bunch of unelected bureaucrats who will have the power to mandate what sort of speech they can allow. Of course, as Lois Lerner will confirm, unelected bureaucrats are the pinnacle of impartiality. 

So obviously, these "conservatives" don't have much of a problem with censorship per se. Instead, rather than limit private censorship, they want to expand government censorship. We've clearly seen that in their joy over the idea of banning TikTok.

Failing that, many of them have taken a page out of Elizabeth Warren's book, attacking these private businesses for being too successful and calling for them to be broken up for operating as "monopolies". 

For the record, these politicians dragged FOUR companies to Washington to yell at them for being MONO-polies. MONO, as in ONE. Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and Twitter all face brutal competition, from both each other and from other up-and-coming companies, in nearly every field they operate in. Facebook is hemorrhaging users to platforms like Snapchat. Google and Apple compete with each other with their own smartphone operating systems.

Most ironically, Twitter is losing countless conservative users to a new, explicitly free speech platform called Parler. So, while these "conservatives" have been busy abandoning their faith in the free market and competition to solve their problems, the free market has gone ahead and started to solve it for them anyway.

Since their ideas can't compete in the marketplace, these guys see no alternative but to destroy it.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


August 3, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 7:42 PM


Gettysburg? The Liberty Bell? Trump Weighs R.N.C. Speech Options (Annie Karni, Aug. 3, 2020, NY Times)

A presidential address in front of the Gettysburg battlefield, or at the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. A speech from the first lady, Melania Trump, at Seneca Falls, N.Y., the cradle of the national movement for women's rights. Perhaps a stage for the warm-up acts built at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Posted by orrinj at 7:34 PM


We need to abolish race: Identity politics has revived racial thinking. It's time to move beyond it. (INAYA FOLARIN IMAN, 4th August 2020, spiked)

Thanks to the rise of identity politics and growing political polarisation, the politics of race has come to play an increasingly important role in mainstream public life over the past decade. The issues of race and racism now dominate the national conversation.

However, at the same time there is a growing opposition to the politics of race. Some writers and thinkers, like Kmele Foster or Thomas Chatterton Williams, are seeking to redirect the conversation about race. They don't want simply to oppose racism, or to critique identity politics. They want to do away with the notion of race altogether. Their rallying cry is, 'Abolish race!'.

Race abolitionism poses a challenge to both racism and modern forms of 'anti-racism'. It is predicated on several core claims. First, race abolitionists argue that the social construct of race is based on a taxonomy invented to create and reinforce racial hierarchies.


Posted by orrinj at 7:16 PM


There's No Real Definition Of 'Conservatism' And That's A Good Thing (BRADLEY J. BIRZER, 7/31/20, American Conservative)

When Russell Kirk, the father of post-World War II conservatism, attempted to explain the meaning of the movement, he counseled against any ironclad definitions. Taking a term from the tradition of the Roman Catholic Church (of which he was not yet a member in 1953), Kirk argued that one should define conservatism in terms of "canons" or tenets, rather than in terms of absolutes. In some writings, he offered four canons, in some five canons, and in some ten canons as he struggled with the meaning of conservatism. Most often, though, Kirk listed six.

One: a conviction that one God--most likely, for Kirk, the Stoic Logos in 1953, but the Trinitarian God of orthodox Christianity by 1964--rules over all things, transcends all things, and holds all things together. If we rely merely on the human understanding of reason, he continued, we end with the Cross, with the administering of hemlock, and with the naming of false goddesses. In essence, the Logos defines the universal.

Two: a love of the particular as a specific manifestation of the universal. In this, Kirk wrote, we should embrace an "affection for the proliferating variety and mystery of traditional life, as distinguished from the narrowing uniformity and equalitarianism and utilitarian aims of most radical systems." Each person, then, is a unique and unrepeatable reflection of the Logos and must be treated as such.

Three: that society demands variation in rank, class, and structure. Fearing radical egalitarianism, the conservative must uphold the excellence within each person and within each community, recognizing that thing of excellence as a leavening agent for the rest of the community and its members.

Four: that of all natural rights, the most important is property. If one does not own himself and take responsibility for his moral actions, he can never be expected to lead or even to live with another. Each person, in Kirk's view, is a moral agent, a manifestation of free will itself. Kirk also meant ownership of land and "stuff," but he mostly meant being morally and ethically culpable.

Five: a belief that tradition is the accumulated experience of humankind and, thus, the only real and efficacious laboratory of sociology that has ever existed. In this, the conservative recognizes the power of reason, but also its limitations. When combined with the first and second canons, one might state--with Plato, Cicero, and C.S. Lewis--that there is eternal reason (Logos), private reason (rationality), and the reasonableness of experience.

Six: a "recognition that change and reform are not identical, and that innovation is a devouring conflagration more often than it is a torch of progress." Here, Kirk is rather directly channeling Burke as he acknowledges that each generation may act in three different ways when inheriting the past. It may reject the inheritance, accept the inheritance, or reform the inheritance. Kirk, as did Burke, favored the latter course as it demanded that each generation see itself in continuity with all other generations, past and future. [...]

Is there an American conservatism? Yes...and, no. Harry Jaffa once stated that all American conservatism must be defined by its relationship to the American founding. He was certainly correct about this. The Judeo-Christian and Greco-Roman traditions as understood through the experience of Anglo-Saxon common law anchor our conservatism in the United States. We must never fail to ask, just what are we conserving? What matters most is how our traditions uphold (or not) the dignity and uniqueness of the human person. If our conservatism conserves that which is evil, false, and ugly, it is a failure, lower than mere misery. If such were the case, I'd be loath to embrace it as well.

I've been struck lately--reading Hillbilly Elegy and about Qanon, etc.--by the idea that what most separates the Right from conservatism nowadays lies in that Fourth Canon: belief in moral agency.    Trumpists need conspiracies to explain away the failure of their own agency.

Posted by orrinj at 7:04 PM


The Woke Left v. the Alt-Right: A New Study Shows They're More Alike Than Either Side Realizes (Zaid Jilani, 8/03/20, Quillette)

Researchers Jordan Moss and Peter J. O'Connor, both of the Queensland University of Technology, studied a group of 511 US residents, stratified according to age, gender, ethnicity, and employment so as to be roughly representative of the US population as a whole, with a view to examining the link between political attitudes and the so-called three "Dark Triad" personality traits: Machiavellianism, narcissism, and psychopathy. These are traits linked with toxic personality types, including those associated with manipulative, self-centered, and callous behavior. In an e-mail, Moss told me that he had noticed a change in the university climate. "I wanted to know why these ideas propelled the cultural conversation as much as it seemed... and decided to look into the psychological traits that these ideas manifest from," he told me.

The authors note that "the majority of research on personality traits and political constructs has focused primarily on mainstream political attitudes and behaviours. These studies often use unidimensional measures of left-right political orientation or simple two-dimensional measures of liberalism and conservatism." In light of the fragmentation of long-standing political coalitions in recent years, however, these simplistic models now seem inadequate. And so Moss and O'Connor chose instead to study three sets of attitudes "falling outside of the traditional continuum," designated by the researchers as (1) Political Correctness-Authoritarianism (PCA), (2) Political Correctness-Liberalism (PCL), and (3) White Identitarianism (WI). While the latter is a right-wing subculture (often known as alt-right), the first two are variants of leftist ideology. Both PCA and PCL are centered on protecting minorities from discrimination and criticism. But PCA adherents, unlike PCL counterparts, embrace "the belief that aggression and force are appropriate methods to achieve ideological goals."

The questionnaire relied upon by Moss and O'Connor contained dozens of questions. One section gauging PCA attitudes, for instance, asked respondents what level of punishment should be meted out to professors who use racist, sexist, or homophobic slurs, with answers ranging from "not punished" to "immediately dismissed" to "court trial." Another asked whether students accused of sexual assault should have the presumption of innocence.

What Moss and O'Connor found is that while right-wing adherents of WI and left-wing adherents of PCA are "thought to reflect opposing ends... of the political spectrum," they actually shared remarkably similar personality characteristics: "Our study indicates that an emerging set of mainstream political attitudes--most notably PCA, WI, are largely being adopted by individuals high in DT [i.e., Dark Triad traits] and entitlement. Individuals high in authoritarianism--regardless of whether [they] hold politically correct or rightwing views--tend to score highly on DT and entitlement. Such individuals therefore are statistically more likely than average to be higher in psychopathy, narcissism, Machiavellianism and entitlement." (The authors also supply a footnote to the effect that "we also ran all analyses controlling for the Big Five personality traits--Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, Neuroticism--to check whether effects of [Dark Triad] variables could simply be attributed to normal variation in personality. Our results confirmed that incremental validity of [Dark Triad] traits and Entitlement remained [statistically significant] for both WI and PCA when controlling for Big Five traits in addition to age, sex, education, and ethnicity.")

It's why they hate America generally, and the Founding in particular, which is universal rather than identitarian.

Posted by orrinj at 6:58 PM


A Line-by-Line Analysis of the Hilarious 'Case for Trump' (Jonathan Chait, 8?03/20, New York)

This masterpiece of anti-persuasion rewards careful study. I have reprinted every word of it below, interspersed with my comments.

President Trump's record of accomplishments is easy to compile.

Most significantly, he has brought the existential threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party into the sunlight. No more nice words. No more treating the Tiananmen Square massacre as a bug, not a feature. The light is on. Trump has pulled the cord.

It is astonishing that Hewitt begins his case by praising Trump for his moral clarity in denouncing the Chinese government. Trump of course has lavished dictators with praise, including, repeatedly, China. Of course every American president has had to deal with foreign dictators, but Trump has exceeded all of them in his habit of praising those dictators for (not despite) their authoritarianism. Trump congratulated Xi Jinping for extending his tenure ("He's now president for life, president for life. And he's great") and dismissing his overbearing control of protests in Hong Kong as a matter "between Hong Kong and China."

Trump is the only president, and the only prominent American I can think of, who actually praised China's crushing of the Tiananmen square protests. ("They put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength," he cooed in 1990.) The fact that, while unspooling his imaginary history of Trump as clear-eyed opponent of dictatorship, Hewitt goes out of his way to bring up Tiananmen almost suggests a guilty conscience he cannot fully repress.

Dude, that's not even the worst of it, Trump told China's president that building concentration camps for millions of Uighur Muslims was 'exactly the right thing to do,' former adviser says (David Choi and Sonam Sheth,  Jun 17, 2020, Business Insider)

Posted by orrinj at 6:48 PM


'He's scaring our own voters': Republicans run into a Donald Trump problem as they push mail voting (Joey Garrison, 8/03/20, USA TODAY)

As the Republican Party chairman in Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin, Rohn Bishop isn't just working to get President Donald Trump reelected by again carrying the Badger State.

He has his eyes down-ballot where Republicans in his mostly rural county fight to hold on to a congressional seat and reclaim a pair of state Senate seats. Amid a raging pandemic, that means encouraging the Republican base to request mail-in ballots for the election in November.

Bishop said he's encountered a recurring problem: Many Republicans are "skittish" about voting by mail. He pointed to strong anti-vote-by-mail rhetoric from Trump, who regularly assails mail voting as fraudulent and an attempt by Democrats to "rig the presidential election." This week, Trump tweeted that mail-in voting would lead to the "most corrupt election in our nation's history!"

Bishop fears it's putting Republicans at a disadvantage. 

"What the president is doing when he keeps saying that this mail-in balloting thing is fraudulent, he's scaring our own voters from using a legit way to cast your ballot," Bishop said. "We're kind of hurting ourselves, and I don't think that's the wisest way to go."

Posted by orrinj at 6:39 PM


"Transitioning" Procedures Don't Help Mental Health, Largest Dataset Shows (Ryan T. Anderson, 8/03/20, Heritage)

One of the first scholars to raise questions about the original study was Mark Regnerus, a professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin.

Writing at Public Discourse (the Journal of the Witherspoon Institute, which I edit), Regnerus praised the study for having such a robust dataset. But he pointed out oddities in the way the authors presented the results to the public, and which results the media touted.

For example, Regnerus highlighted that "the study found no mental health benefits for hormonal interventions in this population."

He also pointed out that in a dataset of 9.7 million people, the results of the original analysis the authors put forward hinged on the outcomes of just three people:

The study's trumpeted conclusion may hinge on as few as three people in a data collection effort reaching 9.7 million Swedes, 2,679 of whom were diagnosed with gender incongruence and just over 1,000 of whom had gender-affirming surgery.

Furthermore, Regnerus noted how small the impact of any given surgery was, that a clinic would need to perform 49 surgeries before they could expect a patient to benefit--hence the plural in the original paper's title: surgeries.

As Regnerus put it, "the beneficial effect of surgery is so small that a clinic may have to perform 49 gender-affirming surgeries before they could expect to prevent one additional person from seeking subsequent mental health assistance."

Given all of these concerns, why the media celebration of the study? Why the "consensus" among the medical elite that transitioning benefits patients? Why the claim that it's the only acceptable treatment?

Why are children being "transitioned"? And why are parents being told puberty-blocking drugs, cross-sex hormones, and surgeries are the only way to treat their children?

As I pointed out two years ago in my book, "When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment," the best therapies focus on helping people accept and embrace their bodies. Rather than attempting to do the impossible--"reassigning" bodies to line up with misguided thoughts and feelings--we should at least attempt what is possible: helping people to align their thoughts and feelings with reality, including the reality of the body.

It shouldn't surprise us that the results of this most recent study--and its correction--show that hormonal and surgical transition procedures don't bring the promised benefits. Even the Obama administration admitted that the best studies do not report improvement after reassignment surgery.

In August 2016, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid wrote that "the four best designed and conducted studies that assessed quality of life before and after surgery using validated (albeit non-specific) psychometric studies did not demonstrate clinically significant changes or differences in psychometric test results after GRS [gender reassignment surgery]."

What does that mean? A population of patients is suffering so much that these patients would submit to amputations and other radical surgeries, and the best research the Obama administration could find suggests that these surgeries bring them no meaningful improvements in their quality of life.

And sadly, such surgeries can have deadly consequences. In a discussion of the then-largest and most robust study on sex reassignment, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services pointed out: "The study identified increased mortality and psychiatric hospitalization compared to the matched controls. The mortality was primarily due to completed suicides (19.1-fold greater than in control Swedes)."

Posted by orrinj at 6:22 PM


Homeland Security Is Quietly Tying Antifa to Foreign Powers (Ken Klippenstein, Aug. 3rd, 2020, The Nation)

Last week, the DHS reassigned its intelligence chief after The Washington Post revealed that the agency had been compiling intelligence reports on American journalists and activists in Portland. In response to President Trump's executive order to protect monuments and other federal property, the DHS created the "Protecting American Communities Task Force," which sent DHS assets to Portland and other cities. The agency has found itself in transition under the Trump administration."They are always pressuring I&A for political reasons; it's been like that since the election," the former intelligence officer said.

This weekend, Politico reported that DHS Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli loosened oversight of I&A. Cuccinelli, at I&A's request, curtailed the requirement that the DHS's Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties approve I&A's intelligence products prior to distribution to law enforcement partners.

The intelligence report's executive summary states:

In June 2020, U.S. Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) National Targeting Center (NTC) Counter Network Division (CND) compiled CBP encounter data on individuals who returned from Syria and fought with the Yekîneyên Parastina Gel (YPG, translation: PEOPLE'S PROTECTION UNITS), and had some with reported ties to a U.S.-based ANTIFA (Anti-fascist) movement. CBP concerns about and interest in these individuals stem from the types of skills and motivations that may have developed during their time overseas in foreign conflicts.

These skills were also appreciated by the US military, which cooperated with the YPG in fighting ISIS for years. Last year, President Trump enraged many in the US military when he green-lighted a Turkish offensive against the Kurdish militia. Jim Mattis reportedly resigned as defense secretary in part because of what he considered a betrayal of our Kurdish allies.

The intelligence report describes over half a dozen people who traveled to Syria in order to fight alongside Kurdish factions--usually the YPG, but also other Kurdish groups like the PKK and the Peshmerga. Some of the individuals described have denied membership in antifa but variously identified with far-left causes. The DHS appears to define antifa broadly, to encompass various left-wing tendencies: "[A]ntifa is driven by a mixed range of far-left political ideologies, including anti-capitalism, communism, socialism, and anarchism." In two cases, evidence of antifa affiliation was limited to photos taken in front of an antifa flag. As the intelligence report itself notes, "ANTIFA claims no official leadership," raising questions about whether antifa even exists in any sort of operational capacity.

Posted by orrinj at 6:10 PM


Trump campaign sets 'money on fire' with ads in states he can't win (Emily Singer, August 3, 2020, American Independent)

The Trump campaign on Monday purchased $38,000 on ads just on Fox News in Washington, D.C., that will run from Monday through Aug. 16, according to Medium Buying, which tracks political ad buys.

That follows an earlier $38,000 buy in the same market for ads that ran from July 23 to July 28.

The likely audience for Trump campaign ads in such a reliably Democratic area is Donald Trump himself.

The campaign first started employing this tactic to mollify its candidate in late May, when it spent $400,000 to run ads on cable news networks in the Washington, D.C., media market as Trump began to worry about his reelection chances.

It has spent at least $476,000 on such ads.

Posted by orrinj at 6:01 PM


Voting with Their Feet: Children of High-Level CCP Officials Choose to Live Abroad (Ming Yang, August 03, 2020, Voice of America)

A recent article by an outspoken Chinese sociologist has gone viral on Beijing's tightly-controlled social media, sparking debates about the children of China's privileged class who choose to live overseas.

Zheng Yefu, a retired sociology professor from China's prestigious Peking University, wrote that although the Chinese Communist Party maintains its grip on power in order to better serve the ruling elite, their children are choosing to "vote with their feet," taking-up permanent residence in western countries. [...]

According to a report from the China-based wealth research firm Hurun Research Institute, more than a third of rich Chinese "are currently considering" emigrating to another country, for better education systems elsewhere and to flee the country's polluted cities and strict government, as well as protecting their wealth.

Posted by orrinj at 5:37 PM


Trump's Republican Party is defined by racism and those who tolerate it: GOP strategist: I've worked on winning Republican races across the South, and I've never seen a racist appeal like Trump's succeed. Why won't his party challenge him? (Stuart Stevens, 8/02/20, USA Today)

This 2020 campaign does not lack for big issues that impact every American: the worst public health crisis in 100 years, the highest unemployment since the Great Depression. This is a moment that uniquely calls out for strong presidential leadership. Most presidents would grasp that their fate lay with the public's view of their response and act accordingly.  

Not Donald Trump. It's clear his instinct is to make the 2020 election a cultural war, which in his interpretation is just a socially acceptable term for a race war. Why? How does this make any political sense? 

The answer is that it doesn't but it is what Trump wants to do. Steve Bannon liked to say of Trump, "Dude, he's Archie Bunker," but that seems overly generous. Archie had Meathead, who strongly disagreed with him and would argue. Trump has his children and a son-in-law who serve the same purpose in a Trump administration as the devoted Waylon Smithers does for his boss in "The Simpsons."

There is a need in Trump world to describe his erratic behavior and lack of discipline as some kind of brilliant hidden strategy because otherwise, you are left with the conclusion that he is a blithering idiot. Which, of course, Trump is, but he's an idiot with deep racial animosity that dates back decades. Now with his reelection campaign crumbling around him, Trump is lashing out trying to divide the country along racial lines.  

This isn't surprising. We shouldn't forget that Trump still says that the falsely convicted Central Park Five, African Americans he had said deserved the death penalty, are guilty despite exoneration. But what is shocking, if not surprising, is that the Republican Party is going along with Trump's strategy to model his campaign after Wallace's 1968 run for president. It reveals a combination of moral failure and political stupidity rarely evidenced by a major party. 

His hatreds are the only thing Donald has ever cared about and the Party's decision to tolerate, and even defend, him makes us the party of racism, at least at the national level.
Posted by orrinj at 4:21 PM

Posted by orrinj at 1:41 PM


Filing suggests Manhattan DA is investigating Trump for possible fraud (Fadel Allassan, 8/03/20, Axios)

The revelation comes less than a month after the Supreme Court paved the way for District Attorney Cy Vance's subpoena, ruling that presidents cannot be immune from investigation.

The filing suggests that Vance's investigation, which was believed to be examining hush money payments made by Trump's former fixer Michael Cohen during the 2016 election, is much broader in scope.

The myriad Trump prosecutions are going to be the 2024 primary, making AG the most desirable post in the Biden Administration.

Posted by orrinj at 1:39 PM


Senate under growing pressure to reach coronavirus relief deal (JOHN BRESNAHAN and MARIANNE LEVINE, 08/03/2020, Politico)

White House and Republican leaders on the Hill are desperately searching for some way to change the political dynamic surrounding the negotiations. With the pandemic spiking in many states, Trump trailing Democratic challenger Joe Biden in the polls, and Senate Democrats in reach of taking back control of the Senate, Republicans say they need to shift the debate somehow.

Posted by orrinj at 1:37 PM


Revolutionary Communist Party leader backs Biden (Stephen Dinan, 8/03/20, The Washington Times)

Bob Avakian, founder and leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party USA, told followers in an email Monday that ousting President Trump is too important a goal to miss, so they should vote for Democratic candidate Joseph R. Biden.

Mr. Avakian, a controversial figure who over the decades has backed violent fringe movements worldwide, said that means no protest votes for third-party or independent candidates. Mr. Biden must be the pick of the far left.

Posted by orrinj at 12:45 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump installs Islamophobe in senior Pentagon role after Senate won't confirm him (Emily Singer, August 3, 2020, American Independent)

Donald Trump skirted Senate nomination rules to place a bigoted retired general in a senior position at the Pentagon after it became clear even Senate Republicans would not confirm him.

That "even" is the damage the GOP has done to itself.
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'Shaking in Their Boots': Trump Wanted a Portland-Style Offensive in Chicago (Asawin Suebsaeng & Erin Banco, Jul. 23, 2020, Daily Beast)

In the week leading up to his announcement of a "surge" of hundreds of FBI, Justice Department, and Homeland Security personnel to Chicago, Donald Trump wanted a bigger, more public, more violent fight on the streets of the Windy City.  [...]

The president said he wanted something similar to what his administration has done in Portland, an ongoing melee between protesters and rioters and unmarked federal authorities. Trump has been closely monitoring the conflict--largely on his favorite channel, Fox News--and trumpeting it as a sign of his own supposed strength. [...]

"There was rarely a time I spoke to him about violent crime when two things didn't come up: Number One, that it's all happening in Democrat-run cities, with Chicago being shorthand for that kind of [blight]," said one former senior Trump administration official. "And Number Two, if it were up to him, we would return to the old days where it was eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-a-tooth--or we would forget about proportionality altogether. He would talk about lining up drug dealers and gang members in front of a firing squad... If it were solely up to him, that is how the country would solve crime in Democrat-run cities [such as Chicago and Detroit]."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Donald Trump defends his handling of coronavirus and demands schools reopen (KATELYN CARALLE, 8/03/20, DAILYMAIL.COM)

The survey, which was released Monday, shows that 64 per cent of parents do not want that option. Instead, 28 per cent want their children to remain in a full-time distanced or remote learning situation while the other 36 per cent want some sort of hybrid of in-person and remote classes.

This is a drastic change from the same poll taken through late May to early June - when students and parents were still coping with remote classes.

Then, only 7 per cent of parents wanted their kids to remain in full-time distanced learning and 56 per cent wanted full-time in-person classes to resume in the fall.

In the May 25-June 8 poll, 37 per cent of American parents said they wanted a hybrid.

...where he likes being whipped by Moms.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Donald Trump rails against 'illegal late night coup' in Nevada (EMILY GOODIN, 8/03/20,  DAILYMAIL.COM)

President Donald Trump on Monday railed against what he called an 'illegal late night coup' in Nevada that he characterized as an attempt to 'steal' the election as pundits warn it could take a week or more to know November's results thanks to mail-in voting.

Always bet on the Deep State.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Many Americans Are Convinced Crime Is Rising In The U.S. They're Wrong.: But their fear makes everyone less safe. (Maggie Koerth and Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux, 8/03/20, 538)

Over 10 years, from 1994 to 2004, the national Survey of Economic Expectations asked respondents to do just that. People estimated their risks for a whole host of bad-news life events -- robbery, burglary, job loss and losing their health insurance. But the survey didn't just ask respondents to rate their chances: It also asked whether those things had actually happened to them in the last year.

And that combination of questions revealed something important about American fear: We are terrible at estimating our risk of crime -- much worse than we are at guessing the danger of other bad things. Across that decade, respondents put their chance of being robbed in the coming year at about 15 percent. Looking back, the actual rate of robbery was 1.2 percent. In contrast, when asked to rate their risk of upcoming job loss, people guessed it was about 14.5 percent -- much closer to the actual job loss rate of 12.9 percent.

In other words, we feel the risk of crime more acutely. We are certain crime is rising when it isn't; convinced our risk of victimization is higher than it actually is. And in a summer when the president is sending federal agents to crack down on crime in major cities and local politicians are arguing over the risks of defunding the police, that disconnect matters. In an age of anxiety, crime may be one of our most misleading fears.

Take the crime rate. In 2019, according to a survey conducted by Gallup, about 64 percent of Americans believed that there was more crime in the U.S. than there was a year ago. It's a belief we've consistently held for decades now, but as you can see in the chart below, we've been, just as consistently, very wrong.

It's race, not crime that panics them.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


My father, George Soros, is white supremacists' favorite target. But they won't stop us (Alexander Soros, 7/31/20, NBC News)

The senseless killings of George Floyd and countless other Black Americans while in police custody have sparked the largest and most diverse mass protests in the history of the United States. You might think everyone would now be focusing on how to fix a system that has mercilessly subjugated, brutalized and killed Black and brown people in this country. But you would be wrong.

Instead of trying to come together and figure out how America can live up to its promise of equality for all, too many people prefer to stoke the flames of anti-Semitism. The wave of outrage over systemic racism has provoked anti-Semitic accusations that Jews -- specifically my father, George Soros -- are organizing the protests behind the scenes.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The federal pullback in Portland immediately brought calm to the anti-racism protests (Peter Weber, 8/03/20, The Week)

Sunday's crowd outside the federal courthouse in downtown Portland, the 67th straight night of anti-racism and police reform protests since the Minneapolis police killed George Floyd, appeared "relatively small," The Oregonian reports. But Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights drew the larger groups that have been congregating since President Trump sent in the federal agents in early July. Oregon State troopers have replaced the federal agents at the courthouse, under an agreement Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) reached with the Trump administration.

With federal agents off the streets, the protesters have refocused their efforts on systemic anti-Black racism and their longstanding issues with local policing. 

August 2, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 10:17 PM


With No Federal Agents on Streets, Portland Protests Turn Largely Peaceful (Alicia A. Caldwell, 8/02/20, The Wall Street Journal)

The Trump administration and Oregon's governor unveiled an agreement Wednesday for federal agents who had been deployed to defend the courthouse to draw back and be replaced by state troopers. The federal agents, who came from agencies including Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, were a flashpoint for conflict over the past two weeks.

They wore camouflage, numerical identifiers instead of name tags, and patches with their affiliation that were difficult for many to recognize. They used tear gas and projectiles such as flash bangs and rubber bullets and took some people they said were suspects off the streets in unmarked vans. Local and state Democratic officials said they didn't belong in the city. Some protesters threw things, including frozen water bottles, at them and shot fireworks at the courthouse, according to the federal government.

Since Thursday, the first night without federal law enforcement visible, protests that had been increasingly violent have been mostly peaceful. On Saturday, the mothers stood with their backs to the fence that had previously been graffitied and the scene of violent encounters as some protesters tried to climb over it. They led the crowd of thousands, including a group of drummers, in chants, including, "Black Lives Matter" and "Take it to the streets and [expletive] the police."

Tough time to be fa.

Posted by orrinj at 3:44 PM


Wait, Wasn't Peter Thiel a Libertarian?: The tech billionaire and his contrarian circle are developing new nationalist visions for America's future. (BRIAN DOHERTY, AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2020, reason)

Who is Curtis Yarvin, and what was this atavistic assertion doing under the aegis of Claremont, a staid conservative institution founded by disciples of the late political philosopher Harry Jaffa? The Claremont Review of Books, for most of its two-decade run, has been a polite repository for intellectual conservatism. Jaffa, for his part, had defended the legacy of Abraham Lincoln to many then-skeptical fellow conservatives while elevating the equality of man to near-mystical primacy in the American founding.

Claremont's web journal The American Mind, though, was launched in 2018 with a more provocative agenda: to "rethink the ideological framework of the American Right." The animating idea, founding editor Matthew Peterson explains, is that traditional right-of-center groups are out of touch: They don't even realize that their own staffs include "people under 35" who "fundamentally disagree with supposedly fundamental [classical liberal] tenets of their organization. No one wants to hear or deal with it. They want to stick their heads in the sand." A vibrant and ideologically adventurous new conservative movement, Peterson says, is "bubbling beneath the surface, or even online all over the place. We are not supposed to talk about these things or engage that movement?"

Yarvin is perhaps better known for the pen name under which he rose to internet fame in the late 2000s and early 2010s: "Mencius Moldbug." At his Unqualified Reservations blog, Moldbug, a software entrepreneur by day, unspooled head-spinningly long-winded "neoreactionary" screeds, wielding a broadsword of abandoned pre-Enlightenment wisdom against the squalid lies of equality, democracy, and the smothering tyranny of what he called the communist-progressive "Cathedral." Back then, the Cathedral ruled the discourse so totally and viciously that it wasn't prudent--perhaps wasn't even safe--to burden Moldbug's true identity with his brutally honest thoughts. But TechCrunch outed Moldbug as Yarvin in 2013, and in the Trump era he seems happy enough to publicly be himself.

Yarvin, a follower of the 19th century British polemicist Thomas Carlyle, is the type of outside-the-box thinker who argues that monarchy is inherently better than democracy, that street crime is more of a danger to his readers' lives than all of government's depredations, and that one of the worst sins of modernity is that people refuse to speak candidly about IQ differences across human types. Such notions are by no means new to the American right, but they feel fresh again in 2020 not only because libertarianism has made some inroads against conservative traditionalism over the last few decades but also because Yarvin's extreme anti-cosmopolitanism comes with a genuinely modern twist: He is connected, via friendship, venture capital, and at least some ideological affinity, with one of America's wealthiest and most controversial men, the tech tycoon Peter Thiel.

Thiel, whom the George Mason economist Tyler Cowen in 2019 called "the most influential conservative intellectual with other conservative and libertarian intellectuals," is co-founder of PayPal, the big data analytics firm Palantir Technologies, and the trailblazing venture capital group Founders Fund. The latter entity has funded Yarvin's software company Tlon, the company's CEO, Galen Wolfe-Pauly, told The Verge in 2017. Yarvin and Thiel watched the 2016 election results together, according to a BuzzFeed-obtained email exchange between Yarvin and alt-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos.

"Peter needs guidance on politics for sure," Yiannopoulos posited in one of the messages.

"Less than you might think!" Yarvin responded. "He's fully enlightened, just plays it very carefully."

Both Thiel and Yarvin trace the ruination of our tech, education, and governing culture to the dominance of progressive political correctness. Associates of Thiel say the financier does not consider himself "neoreactionary," though he did write as far back as 2009 that "I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible." That was the same year Yarvin, as Moldbug, wrote that "socialism and fascism produce a mix of substandard and disastrous results, for a simple reason: both originate in democracy, a precancerous growth always pregnant with some malignancy."

Prior to Donald Trump's presidential campaign, Thiel moved through the 21st century like a mysterious science fiction wizard of finance. He was, among other things, the first key outside investor in Facebook (a company on whose board he remains, albeit as a kind of loyal opposition), and he has pumped his V.C. winnings into such colorfully contrarian projects as private space travel, new floating countries, and the quest for human immortality. He paid for the lawsuit that bankrupted the web tabloid Gawker, encouraged kids to drop out of college by offering them prizes via his Thiel Fellowship program, and argued that the ultimate entrepreneurial goal was to create and control a monopoly. In short, he made himself the patron saint of the kind of libertarian-adjacent intellectual exercises that most normies find obscure and sometimes alarming.

Since striding on stage at the 2016 Republican National Convention to tout Trump as an agent for reversing American decline, though, Thiel and his ideas have graduated from the ideological margins to the vanguard of 21st century conservatism. He is now the wealthiest ally, if not quite the most generous funder, of the new conservative nationalist movement, becoming that rare radical right-winger whose dinner parties are covered by the establishment scorekeepers at Vanity Fair.

Sources within the national conservative space say they see no signs Thiel intends to become a financier, in the mode of Charles Koch or George Soros, of the new nationalist conservatism as a political cause. But the fact that the often-reticent Thiel has taken to speaking at national conservative conferences and writing gnomic essays in the Christian traditionalist journal First Things may say more about the depth of his engagement than does his check writing.

This new ferment involving and surrounding Thiel (a man who still occasionally refers to himself as libertarian) shows that ideas libertarians once thought were reasonably and blessedly settled on the right--that industrial subsidies and high tariffs make the world poorer while giving too much power to corrupt and inefficient governments, say, or even that people shouldn't be sentenced to forever reside on whatever land mass they happened to be born on--are now up for grabs.

...but it's certain that the top five includes First Things and Claremont.  (And, saddest, Ben Sasse.)

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'Hating Joe Biden doesn't juice up their base': Key swing state slips away from Trump (HOLLY OTTERBEIN, 08/02/2020, Politico)

Senior citizens and suburban voters are sinking President Donald Trump's campaign across the country.

But here in Pennsylvania -- home to one of the largest populations of residents age 65 or older and where suburbanites comprise more than half of the electorate -- their defection to Joe Biden is hurting Trump even more acutely.

It's a very big problem in a swing state that's central to his Rust Belt path to victory. Four years ago, Trump became the first Republican presidential candidate since 1988 to carry Pennsylvania, in part by winning older and suburban voters, as well as blue-collar white workers in ancestrally Democratic areas. Now, with less than 100 days till Election Day, surveys show those voters are eyeing something different yet again.

Joe Biden has an overall early lead in the state of 6 percentage points, according to RealClearPolitics' polling average, and has led Trump in all 12 public polls released since the beginning of June.

Folks on both sides have spent four years ignoring the central fact of the 2016 election: Donald lost to even the widely-despised Hillary by three million votes.  2020 was never going to be competitive.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Thomas Sowell Goes to Bat for Charter Schools. Whiffs (Glenn Sacks, August 02, 2020, Real Clear Politics)

Tellingly, the word "magnet" appears only once in "Charter Schools and Their Enemies," and it's a passing reference. In September, Assistant Secretary of Education Scott Stump visited the highly rated University High School, a magnet school in Tucson, Ariz., and mistakenly identified it as a charter. Even when corrected at a post-visit news conference, he insisted, "University High School is a charter school."

Whether applying to a magnet or a charter, pursuit of a school of choice is powerful evidence of a student's and family's commitment to education. Parents understand how important this selection effect is -- a recent study of New York City's public high school system found parents were more concerned about the quality of a school's students than the quality of the school itself.

Longtime charter advocate David Osborne acknowledges this. "Families have to choose charter schools, so kids with disengaged families are more likely to remain in district schools," he has written. "This gives charters an advantage."  

Frederick Hess, director of education policy studies at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, amplifies this point:

"There's a level of institutional hypocrisy here," he wrote. "Charter advocates say, 'No, no, no, we don't believe in (selective admissions),' but when you see a successful charter school, it's filled with families who are a good fit and who want to be there, and that's not possible when you have a random assortment of kids."

There is also a darker side to charters' test scores that Sowell ignores. According to Gordon Lafer, Ph.D., of the University of Oregon, who conducted an extensive study of charter schools, charters also benefit because they "exercise recruitment, admission, and expulsion policies that often screen out the students who would be the neediest and most expensive to serve -- who then turn to district schools."

An American Civil Liberties Union study of California charters and a nationwide Reuters investigation found admission policies helping charters exclude low-performing students to be widespread.

The most challenging students are often left for traditional public schools to educate. A study cited by Ravitch shows that "while 11 percent of students in the nation have disabilities, charters school enroll only eight percent." Sowell dismisses this as a difference of "three percentage points," and numerous charter supporters have echoed him. Actually, this data shows that public schools accept 38% more students with disabilities than charters.

Lafer found that while 28% of students in Oakland, Calif., go to charters, only 19% of its special needs students, 8% of its autistic students, and 2% of its students with multiple disabilities attend charters. The more troubled the students, the less likely they'll be in a charter school. Similarly, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, traditional public schools have 73% more English Language Learners than charters do. Moreover, charters are even less likely to have the lowest level ELL students.

As prominent charter supporter Robin Lake acknowledges, "In some cities, districts also face an increasing concentration of the students hardest and most costly to educate, those with severe special needs, those who speak little to no English, those with the most severe behavior and mental health challenges and the least parental support."

University of Colorado education professor Kevin Welner, director of the National Education Policy Center, explains, "The greatest determinants of [a school's] success are the raw materials - the students who enroll." Welner identified a dozen methods charters use to get the "raw material" they want - and avoid or discard what they don't.

Ms Ravitch was pretty devastating on EconTalk. Our ideology as free market conservatives simply doesn't align with the evidence.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Unfashionable Statesmanship of John Courtney Murray (Hunter Baker, 8/02/20, Kirk Center)

Most important, though, Murray was interested in what sort of a thing these religion clauses in the First Amendment really are. Are they fundamentally situated with some kind of religious or anti-religious object in view? Were some of the devout Protestants right to see the clauses as a theological matter? Did they operate, out of wise Christian conviction, to protect the garden of the church from the wilderness of the state and politics? Or was it the other way around? Did sober minded men erect the "wall" between church and state to hem in religious influence and prevent churches from seeking the power to force membership and extract tithes?

Murray declined to endorse either of these interpretations. On his reading, the establishment clause and the free exercise clause, taken together, are not "articles of faith." Rather, they are "articles of peace." The distinction is critically important. Were they articles of faith, then it might well be the case that American Catholics, highly relevant for Murray's purposes, would have to dissent. But Murray was convinced that it was wrong to "dogmatize" about the articles as many religionists and anti-religionists tended, and still tend, to do. The better course was to see them as a product not of the work of theologians or political philosophers, but instead as the fruit of the work of lawyers and statesmen.

Murray's insight liberates the First Amendment to do its work quite well for a pluralistic society. The religion clauses, then, are not a theology to be believed but rather a practical agreement. They make possible a unity based on obtaining a level of performance without agreement about ultimate ends. In other words, the articles of peace are aimed not at aligning our souls, but rather they attempt to make it possible for us to live together in harmony.

Reading the religion clauses as Murray does relates nicely to the organic history of the United States and its colonial existence that preceded the nation. He pointed out that church-state arrangements in the U.S. are at least as much the result of pluralism and distance from the European institutional centers as from political theory or religious conviction. The evangelical historian Mark Noll affirmed the same thing decades after Murray did. What made sense in American conditions was to find a way to live together. Without this necessity, Murray notes, the work of the theorists and religionists would likely have made for good literature, but precious little actual law.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


GOP: Trump Renomination will be Held in Private (Associated Press, August 01, 2020)

The vote to renominate President Donald Trump is set to be conducted in private later this month, without members of the media present, a spokesperson for the Republican National Convention said, citing the coronavirus.

Why not use that Moscow hotel room?

August 1, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 2:17 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:33 PM


Jonathan Edwards in a New Light: Remembered for Preaching: New England's most famous preacher and the Great Awakening.  (Marilynne Robinson, November/December 2014, Humanities)

The doctrine of original sin need not seem especially strange or fearsome. We know we all do sin inevitably as an aspect of our humanity, and therefore that we have excellent grounds for forgiving ourselves and one another. Our shared identity as children of Adam has different meanings in different contexts, often very humane, as for example when Calvin says that to hate any human being is to hate our own flesh. But Edwards is committed to an understanding that would find us damnable in the sight of God as inheritors of guilt incurred by a literal Adam. So Edwards has the problem of explaining within the terms of his tradition how the human race as a whole could be implicated in one primordial act.

His explanation is extraordinary. Edwards argues that humankind can inherit Adam's sin and its consequences because there is no reason intrinsic to reality for the world to exist as it does. The world's going on is not simply the turning of the wheels of an original creation, a following out of laws established in the beginning, but is in fact a new creation in every instant. So the world in every particular exists as it is the will of God to change or sustain it. God's creating effective identity between ourselves and our first parent is no more improbable than His maintaining the selfhood of every individual person. The felt continuity of history and memory is the consequence of the will of God as it manifests itself in this continuous recreation. Edwards likens all being to an image in a mirror. "The image constantly renewed, by new successive rays, is no more numerically the same, than if it were by some artist put on anew with a pencil, and the colors constantly vanishing as fast as put on. . . . The image that exists this moment, is not at all derived from the image which existed the last preceding moment." He might be interested to read current thought that suggests the universe is a kind of holograph.

He is arguing that there is no point in dismissively describing the ascription of Adam's sin to humankind as arbitrary when the whole of being is arbitrary, always a fresh assertion of God's will in creation. Within the bounds of His own great constancy, God is free. "The whole course of nature, with all that belongs to it, all its laws and methods, and constancy and regularity, continuance and proceeding, is an arbitrary constitution. In this sense, the continuance of the very being of the world and all its parts, as well as the manner of continued being, depends entirely on an arbitrary constitution: for it don't at all necessarily follow, that because there was sound, or light, or color, or resistance, or gravity, or thought, or consciousness, or any other dependent thing the last moment, that therefore there shall be the like at the next. All dependent existence whatsoever is in constant flux, ever passing and returning: renewed every moment, as the color of bodies are every moment renewed by the light that shines upon them; and all is constantly proceeding from God, as light from the sun." 

Posted by orrinj at 12:17 PM

Posted by orrinj at 9:46 AM


The Man Who Made Stephen Miller: Almost 20 years ago, anti-immigration activist David Horowitz cultivated an angry high-school student. Now his ideas are coming to life in the Trump administration. (JEAN GUERRERO, 08/01/2020, Politico)

In December 2012, with the Republican Party reeling from a brutal election that left Democrats in control of the White House and the Senate, the conservative activist David Horowitz emailed a strategy paper to the office of Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions.

Horowitz, now 81, was a longtime opponent of immigration and the founder of a think tank and a campus freedom-of-speech advocacy group. He saw in Sessions a kindred spirit--a senator who could reawaken a more nationalist fire in the Republican party. The person he emailed it to was a Sessions aide: Stephen Miller. Horowitz, who recalled the episode in an interview and shared the emails with me, had known Miller since the aide was in high school.

Horowitz encouraged Miller to not only give the paper to Sessions but to circulate it in the Senate. Miller expressed eagerness to share it and asked for instructions. "Leave the Confidential note on it. It gives it an aura that will make people pay more attention to it," Horowitz wrote. The paper, "Playing to the Head Instead of the Heart: Why Republicans Lost and How They Can Win," included a section on the political utility of hostile feelings. Horowitz wrote that Democrats know how to "hate their opponents," how to "incite envy and resentment, distrust and fear, and to direct those volatile emotions." He urged Republicans to "return their fire."

This hatred is the entirety of Trumpism.

Posted by orrinj at 9:23 AM


'To Start a War' author Robert Draper talks about the intelligence disasters that led Bush to invade Iraq (Anthony L. Fisher, 8/01/2020, Business Insider)

Robert Draper, a writer at large for The New York Times Magazine and a contributor to National Geographic, is the author of the new book "To Start a War: How the Bush Administration Took America into Iraq." Draper in 2008 published another book about Bush, "Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush," which covered the first six years of his presidency. 

In a phone interview with Business Insider Columnist Anthony L. Fisher, Draper talked about why he felt the time was right to revisit the greatest foreign policy catastrophe of modern times, Donald Rumsfeld's micro-managing megalomania, and who in the administration will Colin Powell never forgive. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Fisher: Such a catastrophic moment in recent American history, while not forgotten, is certainly not discussed nearly as much as one might expect. So what made you want to write this book now? 

Draper: This was sort of a case of unfinished business for me. I had done this biography of Bush's presidency while the Iraq saga was still unfolding. It was such a moving target that I didn't sufficiently cover it in that book. On top of that I also felt at pains to really unlock this central mystery of Bush's presidency, which is, why did he go to war at the time that he did against a country that had not attacked us? 

One would respect the opponents of the Iraq War more if they could be forthright in stating that they do not share W's interest in international law and the rights of the Iraqi people, because he could not have been any clearer about why he went to war with a dictator who had not attacked us President Bush Addresses United Nations General Assembly (George W Bush, September 12, 2002, The United Nations, New York, New York)

Twelve years ago, Iraq invaded Kuwait without provocation. And the regime's forces were poised to continue their march to seize other countries and their resources. Had Saddam Hussein been appeased instead of stopped, he would have endangered the peace and stability of the world. Yet this aggression was stopped -- by the might of coalition forces and the will of the United Nations.

To suspend hostilities, to spare himself, Iraq's dictator accepted a series of commitments. The terms were clear, to him and to all. And he agreed to prove he is complying with every one of those obligations.

He has proven instead only his contempt for the United Nations, and for all his pledges. By breaking every pledge -- by his deceptions, and by his cruelties -- Saddam Hussein has made the case against himself.

In 1991, Security Council Resolution 688 demanded that the Iraqi regime cease at once the repression of its own people, including the systematic repression of minorities -- which the Council said, threatened international peace and security in the region. This demand goes ignored.

Last year, the U.N. Commission on Human Rights found that Iraq continues to commit extremely grave violations of human rights, and that the regime's repression is all pervasive. Tens of thousands of political opponents and ordinary citizens have been subjected to arbitrary arrest and imprisonment, summary execution, and torture by beating and burning, electric shock, starvation, mutilation, and rape. Wives are tortured in front of their husbands, children in the presence of their parents -- and all of these horrors concealed from the world by the apparatus of a totalitarian state.

In 1991, the U.N. Security Council, through Resolutions 686 and 687, demanded that Iraq return all prisoners from Kuwait and other lands. Iraq's regime agreed. It broke its promise. Last year the Secretary General's high-level coordinator for this issue reported that Kuwait, Saudi, Indian, Syrian, Lebanese, Iranian, Egyptian, Bahraini, and Omani nationals remain unaccounted for -- more than 600 people. One American pilot is among them.

In 1991, the U.N. Security Council, through Resolution 687, demanded that Iraq renounce all involvement with terrorism, and permit no terrorist organizations to operate in Iraq. Iraq's regime agreed. It broke this promise. In violation of Security Council Resolution 1373, Iraq continues to shelter and support terrorist organizations that direct violence against Iran, Israel, and Western governments. Iraqi dissidents abroad are targeted for murder. In 1993, Iraq attempted to assassinate the Emir of Kuwait and a former American President. Iraq's government openly praised the attacks of September the 11th. And al Qaeda terrorists escaped from Afghanistan and are known to be in Iraq.

In 1991, the Iraqi regime agreed to destroy and stop developing all weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles, and to prove to the world it has done so by complying with rigorous inspections. Iraq has broken every aspect of this fundamental pledge.

From 1991 to 1995, the Iraqi regime said it had no biological weapons. After a senior official in its weapons program defected and exposed this lie, the regime admitted to producing tens of thousands of liters of anthrax and other deadly biological agents for use with Scud warheads, aerial bombs, and aircraft spray tanks. U.N. inspectors believe Iraq has produced two to four times the amount of biological agents it declared, and has failed to account for more than three metric tons of material that could be used to produce biological weapons. Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons.

United Nations' inspections also revealed that Iraq likely maintains stockpiles of VX, mustard and other chemical agents, and that the regime is rebuilding and expanding facilities capable of producing chemical weapons.

And in 1995, after four years of deception, Iraq finally admitted it had a crash nuclear weapons program prior to the Gulf War. We know now, were it not for that war, the regime in Iraq would likely have possessed a nuclear weapon no later than 1993.

Today, Iraq continues to withhold important information about its nuclear program -- weapons design, procurement logs, experiment data, an accounting of nuclear materials and documentation of foreign assistance. Iraq employs capable nuclear scientists and technicians. It retains physical infrastructure needed to build a nuclear weapon. Iraq has made several attempts to buy high-strength aluminum tubes used to enrich uranium for a nuclear weapon. Should Iraq acquire fissile material, it would be able to build a nuclear weapon within a year. And Iraq's state-controlled media has reported numerous meetings between Saddam Hussein and his nuclear scientists, leaving little doubt about his continued appetite for these weapons.

Iraq also possesses a force of Scud-type missiles with ranges beyond the 150 kilometers permitted by the U.N. Work at testing and production facilities shows that Iraq is building more long-range missiles that it can inflict mass death throughout the region.

In 1990, after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, the world imposed economic sanctions on Iraq. Those sanctions were maintained after the war to compel the regime's compliance with Security Council resolutions. In time, Iraq was allowed to use oil revenues to buy food. Saddam Hussein has subverted this program, working around the sanctions to buy missile technology and military materials. He blames the suffering of Iraq's people on the United Nations, even as he uses his oil wealth to build lavish palaces for himself, and to buy arms for his country. By refusing to comply with his own agreements, he bears full guilt for the hunger and misery of innocent Iraqi citizens.

In 1991, Iraq promised U.N. inspectors immediate and unrestricted access to verify Iraq's commitment to rid itself of weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles. Iraq broke this promise, spending seven years deceiving, evading, and harassing U.N. inspectors before ceasing cooperation entirely. Just months after the 1991 cease-fire, the Security Council twice renewed its demand that the Iraqi regime cooperate fully with inspectors, condemning Iraq's serious violations of its obligations. The Security Council again renewed that demand in 1994, and twice more in 1996, deploring Iraq's clear violations of its obligations. The Security Council renewed its demand three more times in 1997, citing flagrant violations; and three more times in 1998, calling Iraq's behavior totally unacceptable. And in 1999, the demand was renewed yet again.

As we meet today, it's been almost four years since the last U.N. inspectors set foot in Iraq, four years for the Iraqi regime to plan, and to build, and to test behind the cloak of secrecy.

We know that Saddam Hussein pursued weapons of mass murder even when inspectors were in his country. Are we to assume that he stopped when they left? The history, the logic, and the facts lead to one conclusion: Saddam Hussein's regime is a grave and gathering danger. To suggest otherwise is to hope against the evidence. To assume this regime's good faith is to bet the lives of millions and the peace of the world in a reckless gamble. And this is a risk we must not take.

Delegates to the General Assembly, we have been more than patient. We've tried sanctions. We've tried the carrot of oil for food, and the stick of coalition military strikes. But Saddam Hussein has defied all these efforts and continues to develop weapons of mass destruction. The first time we may be completely certain he has a -- nuclear weapons is when, God forbids, he uses one. We owe it to all our citizens to do everything in our power to prevent that day from coming.

The conduct of the Iraqi regime is a threat to the authority of the United Nations, and a threat to peace. Iraq has answered a decade of U.N. demands with a decade of defiance. All the world now faces a test, and the United Nations a difficult and defining moment. Are Security Council resolutions to be honored and enforced, or cast aside without consequence? Will the United Nations serve the purpose of its founding, or will it be irrelevant?

The United States helped found the United Nations. We want the United Nations to be effective, and respectful, and successful. We want the resolutions of the world's most important multilateral body to be enforced. And right now those resolutions are being unilaterally subverted by the Iraqi regime. Our partnership of nations can meet the test before us, by making clear what we now expect of the Iraqi regime.

If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will immediately and unconditionally forswear, disclose, and remove or destroy all weapons of mass destruction, long-range missiles, and all related material.

If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will immediately end all support for terrorism and act to suppress it, as all states are required to do by U.N. Security Council resolutions.

If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will cease persecution of its civilian population, including Shi'a, Sunnis, Kurds, Turkomans, and others, again as required by Security Council resolutions.

If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will release or account for all Gulf War personnel whose fate is still unknown. It will return the remains of any who are deceased, return stolen property, accept liability for losses resulting from the invasion of Kuwait, and fully cooperate with international efforts to resolve these issues, as required by Security Council resolutions.

If the Iraqi regime wishes peace, it will immediately end all illicit trade outside the oil-for-food program. It will accept U.N. administration of funds from that program, to ensure that the money is used fairly and promptly for the benefit of the Iraqi people.

If all these steps are taken, it will signal a new openness and accountability in Iraq. And it could open the prospect of the United Nations helping to build a government that represents all Iraqis -- a government based on respect for human rights, economic liberty, and internationally supervised elections.

The United States has no quarrel with the Iraqi people; they've suffered too long in silent captivity. Liberty for the Iraqi people is a great moral cause, and a great strategic goal. The people of Iraq deserve it; the security of all nations requires it. Free societies do not intimidate through cruelty and conquest, and open societies do not threaten the world with mass murder. The United States supports political and economic liberty in a unified Iraq.

We can harbor no illusions -- and that's important today to remember. Saddam Hussein attacked Iran in 1980 and Kuwait in 1990. He's fired ballistic missiles at Iran and Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Israel. His regime once ordered the killing of every person between the ages of 15 and 70 in certain Kurdish villages in northern Iraq. He has gassed many Iranians, and 40 Iraqi villages.

My nation will work with the U.N. Security Council to meet our common challenge. If Iraq's regime defies us again, the world must move deliberately, decisively to hold Iraq to account. We will work with the U.N. Security Council for the necessary resolutions. But the purposes of the United States should not be doubted. The Security Council resolutions will be enforced -- the just demands of peace and security will be met -- or action will be unavoidable. And a regime that has lost its legitimacy will also lose its power.

Events can turn in one of two ways: If we fail to act in the face of danger, the people of Iraq will continue to live in brutal submission. The regime will have new power to bully and dominate and conquer its neighbors, condemning the Middle East to more years of bloodshed and fear. The regime will remain unstable -- the region will remain unstable, with little hope of freedom, and isolated from the progress of our times. With every step the Iraqi regime takes toward gaining and deploying the most terrible weapons, our own options to confront that regime will narrow. And if an emboldened regime were to supply these weapons to terrorist allies, then the attacks of September the 11th would be a prelude to far greater horrors.

If we meet our responsibilities, if we overcome this danger, we can arrive at a very different future. The people of Iraq can shake off their captivity. They can one day join a democratic Afghanistan and a democratic Palestine, inspiring reforms throughout the Muslim world. These nations can show by their example that honest government, and respect for women, and the great Islamic tradition of learning can triumph in the Middle East and beyond. And we will show that the promise of the United Nations can be fulfilled in our time.

Neither of these outcomes is certain. Both have been set before us. We must choose between a world of fear and a world of progress. We cannot stand by and do nothing while dangers gather. We must stand up for our security, and for the permanent rights and the hopes of mankind. By heritage and by choice, the United States of America will make that stand. And, delegates to the United Nations, you have the power to make that stand, as well.

There is obviously no reason that isolationists of Right and Left should ever support going beyond our own borders and enforcing UN resolutions, fighting for the freedom of captive peoples or trying to stop genocide, but they ought to have the courage of those convictions as W had the courage of America's. While Mr. Draper does suggest that he would have pursued an alliance with Saddam instead of his removal, he does not reckon with any of the consequences that would have brought for the Kurds and Shi'a in particular.

Posted by orrinj at 6:45 AM


Conservatism Is Rooted In Natural Rights: If you want to understand it, look no further than the Declaration of Independence (JAMES PIERESON, 8/01/20, American Conservative)

Beginning in the 1970s, perhaps because of the bicentennial of the Declaration of Independence and, a dozen years later, of the U.S. Constitution, or because of the election of Ronald Reagan, conservatives began to focus more intently upon the nation's founding institutions, especially the Declaration with its ringing endorsement of natural rights. Historians and biographers such as Gordon Wood, Joseph Ellis, Richard Brookhiser, and others highlighted the distinctly American contribution to political theory in the Declaration, the Constitution, the Federalist Papers, and other writings emanating from the founding generation. Due in part to the growing relativism of the American Left, conservatives endorsed the absolute language of the Declaration, which left no doubt as to the truths upon which the nation was founded. Here was something of a change: conservatives began to embrace the natural rights philosophy of John Locke, an outlook that Kirk criticized as abstract, individualistic, and potentially radical. The new outlook represented a distinctly American version of conservatism, one that resonates well with the American public--and for that reason has contributed to the rise of conservatism as a popular movement. 

There is also the issue of Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War. Russell Kirk rarely mentioned Lincoln in The Conservative Mind, and did not parse the Lincoln-Douglas debates or Lincoln's wartime speeches, where Lincoln set up the struggle over slavery in terms of the natural rights delineated in the Declaration of Independence. The emergence of Lincoln as a conservative hero late in the 20th and early in the 21st centuries could not have been predicted based upon Kirk's book or the conservative mood of the 1950s and 1960s. This owes something to Harry Jaffa's pathbreaking book, The Crisis of the House Divided (1959), in which he showed that it was Lincoln and not his adversaries who were faithful to the Declaration and the Constitution--and to his many students who continue to raise the flag of Lincoln.

With the dust now settled, we can see in all this the emergence of a more distinctively American version of conservatism, based upon the Founding Fathers, the nation's founding documents, the writings and speeches of Abraham Lincoln--and, of course, the natural rights philosophy limiting government to a few important duties. This was an important corrective to (but not a repudiation of) the conservative writings of the early 1950s. It was also essential to the rise of conservatism as a popular political movement: before it could succeed politically, the movement had to embrace more forcefully the nation's founding philosophy of natural rights.

It was inevitable that the incorporation of the universalism of the Founding into conservatism would fracture the broader right. The only surprise was the percentage of white men who still refuse to adhere to the Founding ideals if it means sharing them with people of color and women.

Posted by orrinj at 6:41 AM


Portland protests continue Friday as police stay away for 2nd straight night (Piper McDaniel, 8/01/20, The Oregonian/OregonLive)

Clashes between police and protesters were absent Friday from downtown Portland for the second straight night, a sharp contrast to recent weeks that saw federal officers gas crowds nightly.

Posted by orrinj at 6:38 AM


This Carbon Emissions Law Actually Has Helped Kids Breathe: Avoiding childhood health impacts has resulted in savings of between $191 and $350 million. (EMILY PONTECORVO, 8/01/20,  Grist)

With Virginia and Pennsylvania clamoring to join, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, affectionately known as RGGI (pronounced "Reggie"), is becoming the coolest climate club on the East Coast. The program, which went into effect in 2009, places a cap on emissions from power plants across its 10 (soon to be 12) member states that tightens over time.

Carbon-wise, it's proven to be a big success: By 2017, RGGI had already surpassed its 2020 goal of reducing emissions 45 percent below 2005 levels. A new study published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives on Wednesday shows the program has been a boon to public health, too.

While RGGI is designed to reduce CO2 emissions, it inevitably leads to reductions in other pollutants from power plants, like nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide. These gases react with other compounds in the atmosphere to form tiny, inhalable particles that are dangerous to human health.

For the new study, the researchers looked specifically at the health benefits for children and babies of reducing this "fine particulate matter," as it's called. They estimated that from 2009 to 2014, RGGI prevented more than 500 cases of childhood asthma, 112 preterm births, 98 cases of autism spectrum disorder, and 56 incidences of low birthweight. They also found that the amount of money saved by avoiding these and other childhood health impacts amounts to between $191 and $350 million. Even better, these benefits were not limited to participating states but were spread across neighboring states as well.