September 30, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 6:26 PM


Biden Leads By 8 Percent in Only Poll to Give Trump Recent National Lead (AILA SLISCO, 9/30/20, Newsweek)

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is leading President Donald Trump by 8 percent in the latest edition of the only national poll to give Trump a lead during September.

A Rasmussen Reports poll released Wednesday found that 51 percent of voters said they would vote for the former vice president, compared to 43 percent for Trump. The survey found that 3 percent are undecided, while another 3 percent intend to vote for a third-party candidate.

Posted by orrinj at 6:23 PM


Judge Rules Donald Trump Admin Failed to Justify Robert Mueller Report Redactions, Orders DOJ to Publish (JEFFERY MARTIN, 9/30/20, Newsweek)

After receiving the initial report in March 2019, U.S. Attorney General William Barr redacted parts of the report, claiming that the concealed information was privileged. District of Columbia District Judge Reggie Walton announced in March that he would conduct an independent review of the complete Mueller report.

"Based on the Court's review of the unredacted version of the Mueller Report, the Court concludes that the Department has failed to satisfy its burden to demonstrate that the withheld material is protected by the deliberative process privilege," Judge Walton wrote in his Wednesday ruling.

Walton ordered the DOJ to publish previously redacted information involving Mueller's "deliberations about decisions not to prosecute" certain individuals. According to the ruling, that sort of information is not classified as privileged.

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 PM


Poll finds Trump, Biden in statistical dead heat in South Carolina (JONATHAN EASLEY, 09/30/20, The Hill)

A new poll finds President Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden statistically tied in South Carolina, which has not gone for the Democratic nominee in more than 40 years.

The Quinnipiac poll found Trump at 48 percent and Biden at 47 percent among likely voters in South Carolina, down from the president's 6-point advantage in the same poll from two weeks ago.

Posted by orrinj at 3:58 PM


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Compact Nuclear Fusion Reactor Is 'Very Likely to Work,' Studies Suggest (Henry Fountain, Sept. 29, 2020, NY Times)

Scientists developing a compact version of a nuclear fusion reactor have shown in a series of research papers that it should work, renewing hopes that the long-elusive goal of mimicking the way the sun produces energy might be achieved and eventually contribute to the fight against climate change.

Construction of a reactor, called Sparc, which is being developed by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a spinoff company, Commonwealth Fusion Systems, is expected to begin next spring and take three or four years, the researchers and company officials said.

Although many significant challenges remain, the company said construction would be followed by testing and, if successful, building of a power plant that could use fusion energy to generate electricity, beginning in the next decade.

This ambitious timetable is far faster than that of the world's largest fusion-power project, a multinational effort in Southern France called ITER, for International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor. That reactor has been under construction since 2013 and, although it is not designed to generate electricity, is expected to produce a fusion reaction by 2035.

Bob Mumgaard, Commonwealth Fusion's chief executive and one of the company's founders, said a goal of the Sparc project was to develop fusion in time for it to play a role in mitigating global warming. "We're really focused on how you can get to fusion power as quickly as possible," he said.

Posted by orrinj at 12:49 PM


Trump should correct his statements on White supremacists, GOP Sen. Tim Scott says (Kevin Breuninger, 9/30/20, CNBC)

Scott, the only Black Republican in the Senate, said, "White supremacy should be denounced at every turn. I think the president misspoke, and he needs to correct it."

He added: "If he doesn't correct it, I guess he didn't misspeak."

It may not be self-loathing, but it's at least self-deception.

Posted by orrinj at 12:43 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'Horrified' Republicans beg Trump to stop bashing mail-in voting as Democrats take 'astronomical' early lead (Travis Gettys, 9/30/20, Raw Story)

Democratic voters are requesting and returning mail-in ballots at a far higher rate than Republican voters so far in key battleground states, which could make it impossible for the GOP to hold on to the White House and their Senate majority, reported the Washington Post.

"It's astronomical," said one Republican strategist who's working on Senate races. "You see these numbers in a state like North Carolina, and how can you not be concerned?"

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Demographic Change Since 2016 Alone Could Be Enough to Defeat Trump (David Wasserman, September 23, 2020, Cook Political Report)

Four years ago, Donald Trump won the White House while losing the popular vote by 2.9 million to Hillary Clinton, thanks to a near-perfect geographic vote distribution that allowed him to win big Electoral College prizes by razor-thin margins. The key? Trump's unprecedented 37-point margin among white voters without four-year college degrees, who are especially influential in the Upper Midwest.

But as America becomes more diverse and college-educated, Trump's core demographic is steadily declining. In 2020, non-college whites are on track to make up about 43 percent of the nation's adult citizens, down from 46 percent in 2016.

Meanwhile, whites with four-year degrees -- who are trending blue and increasingly behave like a different ethnic group from non-college whites -- will make up 25 percent of adult citizens, up from 24 percent in 2016. And Blacks, Latinos, Asians, and other non-whites -- historically Democrats' most reliable supporters -- will make up 32 percent, up from 30 percent four years ago.

A new interactive collaboration by NBC News and the Cook Political Report finds that if 2016's turnout and support rates were applied to 2020's new demographic realities, Trump would narrowly lose Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin -- more than enough to swing the presidency to Joe Biden. And, Trump would lose the popular vote by about four points, roughly double his 2016 deficit.

If it chooses to be the party of old white men only the GOP is toast.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM

Mac Davis death: Legendary country songwriter behind multiple Elvis Presley hits dies aged 78 (Annabel Nugent, 9/30/20, Independent)

The Texan native was born in Lubbock in 1942. He first found fame working as a songwriter for Elvis Presley in 1969.

Davis is behind the lyrics to some of Presley's most memorable tracks such as "In the Ghetto", "Memories", "Don't Cry Daddy", and his posthumous hit "A Little Less Conversation".

Davis's songwriting catalogue also includes Glen Campbell's "Everything a Man Could Ever Need" and "Something's Burning" performed by Kenny Rogers and the First Edition.

While he is primarily known as a songwriter, Davis became a prominent country singer too. He earned a Grammy nomination with his 1972 song "Baby Don't Get Hooked On Me".

September 29, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 8:38 PM


Ibram X Kendi: when wokes and white supremacists agree (Fraser Myers, 30th September 2020, Spectator USA)

[W]hat should we make of Kendi's bizarre tirade against interracial adoption at the weekend? Is it racist or anti-racist? Responding to a picture of Trump's Supreme Court pick, Amy Coney Barrett, who has adopted two black children from Haiti, Kendi tweeted:

Some white colonizers "adopted" black children. They "civilised" these "savage" children in the "superior" ways of white people, while using them as props in their lifelong pictures of denial, while cutting the biological parents of these children out of the picture of humanity.

The language he employs sounds anti-racist - condemning a real historical ill. But the conclusion one surely has to draw from his reasoning is racist. How could anyone support this continued 'colonisation' of black children?

It turns out that white supremacists share a similar disgust with interracial adoption. 'Not wrong', concurred Richard Spencer. Yes, that is the same Richard Spencer who calls for the ethnic cleansing of America and the reconstitution of the European Union as a white racial empire.

Trumpism is just identity politics for crackers.

Posted by orrinj at 8:33 PM


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The Anglosphere holds the key to the future of international relations (John C. Hulsman, 9/29/20, CapX)

The Anglosphere is by far the oddest creature in today's great power jungle. The UK and the major English-speaking dominions of the former British Empire -- united by a shared tradition of English Common Law and the individual political and economic freedoms that flow from it -- are easy to overlook. However, allied with the US, the Anglosphere's institutional and geographical heterogeneity belies a practical geostrategic closeness that Brussels cannot begin to match.

Indeed, the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada act together so often that this most obvious of alliances is rendered almost invisible to the eye. The Anglosphere alliance is simply the most important foreign policy reality that no one is talking about.

In all of the major geostrategic contests in the last tumultuous century -- the First and Second World Wars and the Cold War -- much like a bickering Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, who nonetheless always came out shooting together, all the Anglosphere countries found themselves on the same side in every single contest. This record of strategic closeness is unparalleled, and it is not an accident.

Beyond marching in geostrategic lockstep on the big things, the Anglosphere economies are tightly bound together, while Anglo-Saxon economies have tended, over the past generation, to be more dynamic than their European counterparts, growing year-on-year at a much more robust rate.

The five already invest very heavily in each other's economies, which are densely interlinked. For example, the UK is the largest investor in US companies, with foreign direct investment amounting to $540bn. Likewise, the US is the primary investor in the UK, with accumulated stock of nearly $750bn.

Beyond geo-strategy and economics, in terms of intelligence matters the Anglosphere is already a superpower. The 'Five Eyes' amounts to the largest intelligence sharing consortium in the world. The US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand have openly and automatically shared signals intelligence since 1956, in turn targeting the Soviet Union, global terrorism, and now the rise of China.

Posted by orrinj at 2:38 PM


The Strangest Campaign in History? (VICTOR DAVIS HANSON, September 29, 2020, National Review)

Until mid August, Biden more or less stayed ensconced in his basement, campaigning by electronic projection. Not since James Garfield and William McKinley ran their 19th-century presidential campaigns from their front porches has an American presidential candidate simply abdicated from the campaign trail and remained inactive and almost mute.

Biden certainly does not weigh in on many issues. We have no idea whether as president he would join the Jacobin pack to pack the Supreme Court, push to end the Electoral College, enact the full Green New Deal, or seek statehood for Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C.

Does he unequivocally condemn the national rioting and looting? Would he reopen the border, stop deportations of illegal aliens, take down the new wall? Would Biden end fracking as part of his stated vow to phase out fossil fuels, as he has inferred in the past? Is China really a mere rival rather than an enemy? And if so, would he revoke Trump's China-rollback policy? He has bragged of his role in the Iran Deal -- would he bring that back? [...]

And what so far are the likely reasons that Biden went mute and invisible?

In a word, because he can.

The election has nothing to do with Joe Biden.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'I need to spread love with the gifts God gave me': funk master Steve Arrington returns  (Hanif Abdurraqib, Sep. 29th, 2020, The Guardian)

Arrington, 64, is no stranger to adaptation. His career as one of the greatest funk stars in the US began on the underground scene in nearby Dayton just as it began to take off in the mid-1970s. Arrington's older brother was in bands, and some of the best funk drummers of the era would come to the family home and play while a young Steve sat on the steps. They would give him permission to play on their kits when they weren't using them, and this is how Arrington drummed his way into bands throughout the area, most notably joining Slave in 1978 as a drummer before sliding in as a backup vocalist and eventually taking over as lead singer. [...]

Arrington's new album, Down to the Lowest Terms: The Soul Sessions, is out this week, his first solo output in more than a decade, and packed with a lineup of producers - including Knxwledge, J Rocc, Shibo and Jerry Paper - assembled by Peanut Butter Wolf, the founder of LA label Stones Throw. When I ask him about the journey to a new solo record, Arrington shrugs. "I had to find myself, on the long road in between Dayton and the South Side of Chicago," he tells me.

Arrington is a self-professed disciple of late bluesman Muddy Waters, and gathered a blues band in Chicago in 2009. When he wasn't touring, he made the road trip from Dayton to Chicago and back every week. "I had been in gospel. I needed that blues, and I needed that oo-wee blues," he says. "I had to go where Muddy took that little amp, and said, 'I'm about to rewrite this whole thing.'"

The word that Arrington continually uses when talking about this nine-year stretch is "absorption". He and his band didn't play clubs, even though they could have, and didn't record anything new. They just rehearsed old blues songs. Arrington walked the same streets Muddy walked, touched his hands to the same brick buildings. This, Arrington insists, is what he came to Chicago to get: making the dry, flat, six-hour drive every week to get closer and closer to a new version of himself, cast in the blues.

Before this pilgrimage, though, Arrington went on a search for God. In the 80s, he became a licensed minister, and in 1990, he stepped away from music altogether, resulting in a two-decade gap in his career. When I ask about his time away, he shrugs. "I come from a family of preachers and that's always been a part of my life," he begins. "My connection with the creator is important to me - but I am also very much influenced by the great John Coltrane, the great Carlos Santana, who taught me about the ways that the music and the spirit can come together. I go with my heart, always. In the 80s, my spirituality was coming front and centre, so I had to follow it. Then, after nearly 25 years, something hit me. I needed to get back into music and spread love with the gifts God gave me."

When Peanut Butter Wolf got in touch about making a new record, Arrington said: "Yeah, but I don't want to make a straight song record. I want to do this thing where all these different vibes that's been going on with me through the years, culminates into this whole new thing -" He pauses, and takes a deep breath before putting his hands over his chest. "It's only a soul record because all of the different chambers I've been able to get into in here. They're all alive now. I can deliver myself the way I've always wanted to."

This is palpable on Down to the Lowest Terms. Soulful, despite its title, is a swaggering, boastful funk track; Keep Dreamin' is an airy, tender R&B ballad that feels as if it could be from the 90s. On the mechanic and experimental You're Not Ready, Arrington's voice achieves an almost robotic whisper, a series of affirmations hummed in the background over bursts of lyric; in the chorus, the sounds flourish and collapse in on each other until something like harmony is achieved. The album is richly cohesive, despite no two tracks sounding alike, or even like they were born from the same ideas. You can hear those chambers Arrington mentions turning with the movements of each song.

An immediate takeaway is, plainly, how good Arrington's voice sounds through all he's demanding of it. "The connecting factor of it is my voice," he says, leaning into a confident smile. "In the way that Miles Davis did all these different things, but the connecting factor was the tone and the sound of his horn brought the pieces together - that's the way I see it with my voice." He is a technician in this way, explaining how being in Chicago allowed him to go into his deeper registers - "like body punching, like a Curtis Mayfield vibe, Chicago gave me that" - and then going into the pleasures of floating above ballads that he didn't know he could ascend to. "I'm also absorbing a lot of hip-hop flows in terms of sitting back on the beat, sitting front, and moving in and out of pocket," he says, weaving back and forth in his chair with excitement. "Things like that, that I've absorbed - I hear them showing up. But the essence of it is that Chicago vibe," described as having "just a little sludge in it".

In conversational moments like this, you see how suffused with music Arrington is. He clearly works with younger artists with admiration and excitement instead of ego, and is still such an eager listener - he can't wait to tell me about the rabbit hole of Chicago drill rap he went down, or how he hears the 80s in Kendrick Lamar's delivery. ("It's heavy - aggressive, like the guys I remember from the old days.") He's a student of not just himself, but of an entire musical ecosystem. There's a magic in these artists, who remain excited about being in the room, and it's why Down to the Lowest Terms sounds so fun.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


In praise of the military coupWhy, sometimes, military coups can be a force for good (Nigel Jones, 24 August, 2020, The Critic)

Although versions of coups by the Praetorian Guard in Ancient Rome can be cited, most historians date the beginning of the modern coup to 1851, when President Louis Napoleon Bonaparte of France emulated his uncle and seized power in Paris, jailing political opponents, censoring the media, and dispersing dissenters with a "whiff of grapeshot". That coup led to the French Second Empire: the "Belle Epoque" of liberal social legislation, Baron Hausmann's reconstruction of Paris, huge cultural achievements and attempts to export Napoleonic progressive ideas to Italy and Mexico.

Though they stink in the nostrils of stable democracies, coups may well be a preferable last resort in countries drowning in corruption or disorder whose armies see themselves as the guardians of national pride, with military discipline being an essential component of efficient action. Although successful coup makers often succumb to corruption and the temptation to be tyrants themselves, military regimes - in contrast to communist ones - are generally of short duration, and usually fulfil their promise to restore democracy in short order.

As armies embody such conservative values as order, hierarchy, tradition and patriotism, military coups are usually thought to come from right of the political spectrum. But that is by no means always the case. Of early twentieth-century coups, undoubtedly the most long lasting in its malign influence was the Bolshevik coup in St Petersburg in 1917 ushering in seventy years of terror, repression, starvation and mass murder.

Although some of these regimes were repressive and reactionary, they were arguably preferable to the alternatives

In stark contrast, reactionary coups in Germany such as the 1921 Kapp Putsch and Hitler's 1923 Beerhall putsch utterly failed, and when the Nazis came to power in 1933 it was by their manipulation of the impeccably democratic institutions of the Weimar Republic. The 1930s was the decade of military or army-backed dictators in Europe: Horthy in Hungary; Metaxas in Greece; Antonescu in Romania; Pilsudski in Poland; Mannerheim in Finland; Franco and Salazar in Iberia. Despite the savagery of the Civil War that followed his only half successful 1936 coup, Franco gave Spain thirty-five years of unprecedented stability and economic progress and craftily resisted Hitler's attempt to lure Spain into the Second World War as an ally. The same applied to Salazar's Portugal until the regime he founded was ousted by Europe's last (to date) military coup: the leftist "Carnation coup" of April 1974.

Although some of these regimes were repressive and reactionary, they were arguably preferable to the available alternatives: chaos or communism. 

September 28, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 7:03 PM


Voters Pick Joe Biden Over Donald Trump in 18 of 19 Presidential Traits, Poll Says (EN TARBOUS ON 9/28/20 , Newsweek)

Voters feel Biden is more honest than Trump, with 48% saying the Democratic challenger tells the truth versus 29% for the president and 23% undecided, according to the poll's results.

When it comes to pocketbook issues, major concerns for everyday Americans in a year of rollercoaster unemployment and financial upheaval, 45% of voters in the survey said Biden can get the economy going again, as opposed to 41% for Trump, with 14% undecided. [...]

A majority of respondents, 51%, said that Biden "cares about people like me," compared to 34% saying Trump did so, with 15 % responding they don't know which candidates most embodies that characteristic, according to the survey's results. [...]

In the Redfield & Wilton survey, 50% of voters said Biden understands the problems afflicting America, compared to 37% for Trump, and with 13% saying they don't know. . Likewise, 50% said Biden is willing to work with the other party where possible to 32% who said Trump, with 18% "don't know" responses.

Posted by orrinj at 4:35 PM


Posted by orrinj at 3:02 PM


Trump Tax Returns the 'Rosetta Stone' for Understanding His Corruption, Michael Cohen Says (JACOB JARVIS ON 9/28/20, Newsweek)

"Donald Trump's financial records are the Rosetta Stone for understanding the depth of his corruption and crimes," he said.

"The more it is unraveled the more he will unravel. It's the reason he's fought so hard to keep it under wraps."

In regards to the consequences of releasing the information, Cohen said he thinks the president fears a "massive" tax bill or potentially being accused of tax fraud.

Cohen suggested the president may not be able to afford the cost of tax debt or penalties which might come if more details emerge.

"Trump doesn't have the cash liquidity available to pay the tax debt, interest and penalty he will now be forced to pay," he said.

Posted by orrinj at 2:59 PM


Hydrogen is at a 'tipping point' with $11 trillion market set to explode, says Bank of America  (Pippa Stevens, 9/27/20, CNBC)

After decades of false starts, hydrogen technology is poised to take off as falling production costs, technological improvements, and a global push toward sustainability converge, according to Bank of America. The firm believes this will generate $2.5 trillion in direct revenue -- or $4 trillion if revenue from associated products such as fuel cell vehicles is counted -- with the total market potential reaching $11 trillion by 2050.

Posted by orrinj at 2:56 PM


Redfield voices alarm over influence of Trump's new coronavirus task force adviser (Monica Alba, 9/28/20, NBC News)

Dr. Robert Redfield, who leads the CDC, suggested in a conversation with a colleague Friday that Dr. Scott Atlas is arming Trump with misleading data about a range of issues, including questioning the efficacy of masks, whether young people are susceptible to the virus and the potential benefits of herd immunity.

"Everything he says is false," Redfield said during a phone call made in public on a commercial airline and overheard by NBC News.

Redfield acknowledged after the flight from Atlanta to Washington that he was speaking about Atlas, a neuroradiologist with no background in infectious diseases or public health. 

Posted by orrinj at 2:46 PM


New revelations in leaked Trump campaign documents show Brad Parscale lied to Congress (Sarah K. Burris, 9/28/20, Raw Story)

[David Carrell]  cited Channel 4 News which cited a Trump campaign data leak, exposing how 3.5 million Black Americans were listed as "Deterrence" in an effort to get them to not vote.

When Parscale testified to Congress, Rep Jackie Speier (D-CA) asked Parscale if the campaign targeted people like "white men."

"I did not target by race specifically in GOTV and/or persuasion efforts," Parscale testified under oath.

The new leaked data revealed that Parscale lied.

He was also asked, "Did you participate in a voter suppression operation targeting African Americans? "

Again, he lied, saying, "no."

Sunday, Parscale barricaded himself inside his Ft. Lauderdale home with an arsenal of weapons claiming that he would kill himself.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Study Reveals Sapiens Copulated the Y Out of Neanderthals (ASHLEY COWIE, 9/26/20, Ancient Origins)

Early human interbreeding  with our "cousins" the  Denisovans and Neanderthals is an established fact but newly sequenced Neanderthal Y-chromosomes tell scientists that modern humans are the product of a complex history of interspecies sex. Neanderthals had lived in  Eurasia for more than 300,000 years, when our modern human ancestors left  Africa in the most recent wave some 60,000-70,000 years ago. When the two groups met in Eurasia around 45,000-years-ago they mated and a whole new kind of human was formed. Recent research confirms early human interbreeding but also provides evidence that makes our earliest encounters with both Neanderthals and Denisovans a much more complicated relationship.

That's just breeding, without the inter.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Six key findings from the New York Times' Trump taxes bombshell (The Guardian, 9/27/20)

Trump has a big bill to pay

The newspaper also reported that Trump is facing a major financial bill, as within the next four years, hundreds of millions of dollars in loans will come due. The paper said Trump is personally responsible for many of those obligations.

The paper reported: "In the 1990s, Mr Trump nearly ruined himself by personally guaranteeing hundreds of millions of dollars in loans, and he has since said that he regretted doing so. But he has taken the same step again, his tax records show. He appears to be responsible for loans totaling $421m, most of which is coming due within four years."

In a blunt summary of the problem, the Times speculated: "Should he win re-election, his lenders could be placed in the unprecedented position of weighing whether to foreclose on a sitting president."

Trump businesses profit from his presidency

The issue of whether Trump's businesses benefit from his position in the White House has been one of the long-running themes of reporting on the Trump presidency. The global nature of the Trump Organization and its portfolio of hotels, resorts and other interests has left Trump open to speculation that lobbyists, business leaders and foreign powers could spend money in them to try and peddle influence in the US.

The Times report on his tax returns is clear that Trump's businesses have indeed benefited from his political career.

"Since he became a leading presidential candidate, he has received large amounts of money from lobbyists, politicians and foreign officials who pay to stay at his properties or join his clubs," the newspaper reported, before detailing monies paid at his Mar-a-Largo resort in Florida, his Washington hotel and other locations.

September 27, 2020

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Trump Paid Just $750 in Income Taxes the Year He Was Elected, Report Says (Will Sommer, Sep. 27, 2020, Daily Beast)

Donald Trump paid just $750 in annual federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017, according to tax records obtained by The New York Times.

But even that low sum is more than Trump paid the government in other recent years, according to the Times. In 10 out of the last 15 years, Trump paid no federal income tax, citing mammoth losses. The bombshell report offers new insight into Trump's tax returns, which Trump has bucked presidential candidate tradition by refusing to release. [...]

The tax data also portrays Trump as financially pressed by loans and a tax dispute. Trump is personally liable for over $300 million in loans that have to be paid off over the next four years, according to the report, including a $100 million on Trump Tower in New York City. Trump is also embroiled in a tax refund fight with the IRS that could force him to pay more than $100 million.

The tax data also suggests that Trump has lowered his tax liability by paying daughter Ivanka Trump as a consultant for his businesses. The Times report flags $26 million in mysterious "consulting fees" made between 2010 and 2018, noting that some of the payments match payments Ivanka Trump has publicly disclosed.

Posted by orrinj at 5:37 PM


Universe works like a cosmological neural network, argues new paper (PAUL RATNER, 27 September, 2020, Big Think)

A computer neural network works via nodes, which mimic biological neurons, processing and passing on signals. As the network learns new information, it changes, giving certain nodes more priority, allowing it to connect bits of information in such a way that next time in will know, for example, what are they key traits of a "zebra".

"We are not just saying that the artificial neural networks can be useful for analyzing physical systems or for discovering physical laws, we are saying that this is how the world around us actually works," writes Vanchurin in the paper. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:31 PM


Trump Paid Just $750 in Income Taxes the Year He Was Elected, Report Says (Martha Mercer & Will Sommer, Sep. 27, 2020, Daily Beast)

Donald Trump paid only $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and again in 2017, and none in 10 of the 15 years before that, according to two decades of taxe returns obtained by The New York Times.

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Roy C. Hammond, Soul Singer Best Known for Often-Sampled 'Impeach the President', Dead at 81 (Tonja Renée Stidhum. 8/25/20, The Root)

In the '70s, Hammond's songs were colored with political and social agitation such as the Vietnam War protest song "Open Letter to the President" and "Great, Great Grandson of a Slave."

Then, came his most impactful hit. Released in 1973, "Impeach the President" was the Honey Drippers' artistic way of advocating for the impeachment of then-president Richard Nixon during the infamous Watergate scandal (which led to his impeachment process). In addition to the song being especially timely these days, it has had quite the longlasting impact on the music industry. Even if you haven't heard the original, you most likely know those drums if you're a hip-hop head on any level.

Via Billboard:

The song's biggest impact, though, is in the booming drums cooked up by Hammond on the track, which have reportedly been sampled more than 600 times on hip-hop tracks, including on MC Shan's "The Bridge," Eric B and Rakim's "Eric B. is President" Kris Kross' "Jump," Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg's "The Chronic (Intro)," LL Cool J's "Around the Way Girl," Tupac Shakur's "I Get Around," The Notorious B.I.G.'s "Unbelievable" and J. Cole's "Wet Dreamz," as well as songs by Nas, Flo Rida, Digable Planets, Janet Jackson, N.W.A, Big Daddy Kane, Aaliyah, Run-DMC and the Jungle Brothers.

Posted by orrinj at 12:44 PM


'Help me': Lindsey Graham returns to Fox News to beg for money as poll shows him trailing Dem challenger (David Edwards, 9/27/20, Raw Story)

"I'm being out-raised 2-to-1," he continued. "Every Republican running in the Senate is being hit hard with all this money coming in from ActBlue. So if you want to help me, Five or ten bucks goes a long way." [...]

A poll commissioned by Democrats showed over the weekend that Graham is trailing challenger Jaime Harrison by two points, which is within the margin of error.

Posted by orrinj at 12:40 PM


Senate Dems ready tactics to muck up Supreme Court confirmation (ANDREW DESIDERIO, 09/27/2020, Politico)

Individual senators have been known to cause a procedural fracas here and there on the Senate floor -- but if Schumer develops a cohesive strategy and has the support of the entire Senate Democratic Caucus, it could quickly become one of the most disruptive series of delay tactics in recent memory.

Even Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who voted to confirmed Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and is considered the most conservative Senate Democrat, is on board with Schumer's initial effort. He was quick to justify Schumer's use of the two-hour rule, which halted committee business last Tuesday.

"Hell, we don't do anything around here anyway, we've got plenty of time to do meetings," Manchin said. "They can reschedule."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Burke's Mannered Economics: a review of Commerce and Manners in Edmund Burke's Political Economy by Gregory M. Collins (John Grove, 9/27/20, University Bookman)

Burke placed great emphasis on the limits of human knowledge--on our inability to precisely define or fully understand the complex social phenomena that comprise our communal existence. This was true of his economic thought as well.

Any reader of Burke should know of his aversion to egalitarian levelling: The Revolutionaries' "goal of establishing social and economic equality," Collins describes, "was a futile quest to create a perfect society in an imperfect world." But less radical attempts to impose determinate economic outcomes through governmental policy partook of a similar spirit. For example, in attempting to establish set, fair wages or prices, economic policies overlooked the extent to which the complex fabric of economic life is not susceptible to simple answers.

A market economy can do what the detached statesman often cannot--distill various needs, preferences, and interests in a way that is most mutually beneficial. Outcomes based on the interaction between real human beings with real needs in real, distinct circumstances can capture the "fluid and intuitive agreements, practices, and understandings between flesh-and-blood human beings" that "cold bureaucratic rules" cannot. As Collins describes it when discussing Thoughts and Details,

A free market in grain permitted Englishmen and women to make economic decisions based on their private desires unique to their particular circumstances. The competitive price system reflected the infinite fluctuations of production and consumption. And the preservation of supply and demand laws enabled farmers and laborers to make contingent employment arrangements based on their shifting preferences.... Such fluid activity in the market exemplified the many dimensions of social life that could not be measured by a ruler.

Collins further connects such a view of markets to Burke's broader political thought by pointing to the famous line in Reflections: "The nature of man is intricate; the objects of society are of the greatest possible complexity; and therefore no simple disposition or direction of power can be suitable either to man's nature, or of the quality of his affairs."

This appreciation of markets is remarkably parallel to Burke's appreciation of accumulated tradition and experience in politics--both display a preference for the aggregate results of collective human endeavors over the abstractions of philosophy or policy. And, as Collins stresses on several occasions, Burke believed any economic policy ought to be firmly grounded on carefully observed empirical reality, so as not to disrupt or undermine the natural economic forces already at work.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Between the economy and coronavirus pandemic, Biden keeps his advantage nationally: POLL (Gary Langer, September 27, 2020, ABC News)

Biden's 54%-44% advantage over Trump in a two-way contest precisely matches the last national ABC/Post poll in mid-August.

September 26, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 6:29 PM


How Biden continues to eat into Trump's base (Harry Enten,9/26/20,  CNN)

Trump is winning by about 21 points among Whites without a college degree in an average of those polls. That may seem like a lot, but remember that Trump led among this group by about 30 points in the final pre-election polls in 2016.

Keep in mind, we're making an apples-to-apples comparison here. Even if the polls are off by a similar margin as they were in 2016, this exercise takes that into account. There's real movement going on here among Whites without a college degree.

This 9-point or so shift is even more impressive, when you keep in mind that there's been a change of less than 4 points overall toward Biden compared to where Hillary Clinton was at the end of 2016.

In other words, there has been a disproportionate shift toward Biden among White voters without a college degree.

These voters make up the majority of voters in key Rust Belt (Great Lake) battleground states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. All of these were states Trump won by less than a point in 2016.

Not surprisingly, Biden's position in these states has significantly improved from where Clinton ended up. He's got a 5- to 7-point advantages in all of these states.

Posted by orrinj at 6:10 PM


Is This Professor 'Putin's American Apologist'? (Jordan Michael Smith, Nov. 15th, 2017, The Chronicle Review)

Gorbachev's affection for Cohen's ideas -- and for Cohen himself -- turned a lowly scholar of the Russian Revolution into an intellectual VIP who sat in meetings with heads of state. Eric Alterman, a journalism professor at Brooklyn College and a Nation columnist who has known Cohen for decades, calls Bukharin and the Bolshevik Revolution "one of the most consequential books of the past century." It realized "the dream of all writers to have an effect not only on world leaders but also on history itself."

But these days, Cohen is better known for his views on a different Russian leader. In his columns and media appearances in recent years, he has become perhaps the most prominent defender of Vladimir Putin. "Putin is not a thug," he declared on CNN. "He's not a neo-Soviet imperialist who's trying to recreate the Soviet Union. He's not even anti-American." The defense extends to the U.S. president, who has had some nice things to say about Putin. "The number-one threat to the United States today," Cohen told Fox News, is the continuing investigation of Trump's ties to Russia: "There is no evidence there was any wrongdoing."

Perspectives like that have attracted the ire of a wide array of critics. Writing in The New Republic, Isaac Chotiner called Cohen "Putin's American apologist." Jonathan Chait in New York magazine labeled him a "dupe" and "a septuagenarian, old-school leftist who has carried on the mental habits of decades of anti-anti-communism seamlessly into a new career of anti-anti-Putinism." Cathy Young in Slate said Cohen was "repeating Russian misinformation" and "recycling this propaganda." And there are many others who share those views, even at the magazine his wife runs.

Cohen's ideas about Russia, which once got him invited to Camp David to advise a sitting president, now make him the most controversial expert in the field. His enemies and friends ask the same question: What happened to Stephen F. Cohen?

When Bukharin and the Bolshevik Revolution was published, détente between the United States and the Soviet Union was well underway. But Russian studies was still dominated by the view that the Soviet Union was a totalitarian state, immune to reform because the logic of total control was embedded in the Soviet DNA. "The Western view [is] of Stalinism as the only outcome of Bolshevism," Cohen wrote.

His book exploded that notion. It showed that Bukharin, a Marxist theoretician and member of the Russian Communist Party, offered a programmatic Soviet alternative to the Stalinism that eventually triumphed. "It was a huge statement," says Eugene Huskey, a political scientist at Stetson University. Bukharin and the Bolshevik Revolution did what scholarly history should do: Use primary source materials to revise the understanding of the past. But it had obvious implications for the present and future as well. If the Soviet Union had become a tyrannical regime as an accident of history rather than as the inevitable end of a deterministic ideology, then perhaps reform was possible.

The book might have remained merely well regarded if not for Gorbachev. For those Russians looking for an alternative between capitalism and Communist dictatorship -- and members of Gorbachev's cabinet were foremost among those who were -- Bukharin and the Bolshevik Revolution suggested one. "During the years of perestroika, many of my acquaintances were literally engrossed in reading his book," Gorbachev wrote in an essay that was included in an anthology featuring 35 prominent Russian political, cultural, and media figures marking Cohen's 70th birthday. "I remember that this book, which in many respects resonated with the social changes of that time, became a best seller in the Soviet Union."

...who managed to be an apologist for both the USSR and Vlad.  The world does owe him a debt of gratitude though because of the manner in which his dupehood played out.  By convincing Gorbachev that there was nothing wrong with Leninism, that Stalin led the Revolution astray, Mr. Cohen  helped get him to loosen censorship, immediately triggering the onslaught of Russian critics who buried Lenin as Stalin's equal in evil. The Revolution could not withstand the openness and promptly fell, even though Gorbachev tried launching a counter-coup. Mr. Cohen may have just acquired a taste for apologizing for evil.

Posted by orrinj at 5:54 PM


Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court nomination puts a spotlight on charismatic Catholicism (Mathew Schmalz, 9/26/20, Bloomberg0

Catholic charismatics practice forms of Pentecostalism that embrace the belief that individuals can receive gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Modern Pentecostalism in the United States began on Azuza Street in Los Angeles.

Starting in 1909, African American pastor William J. Seymour led a congregation in the city that claimed to have received miraculous gifts from God, such as prophecy and the power to heal. The movement came to be known as Azuza Street revival.

Members of the Azuza Street congregation believed that they had been given the same blessings as those received by the disciples of Jesus. According to the Bible's Acts of the Apostles, on the Pentecost - the Jewish Shavuot harvest festival 50 days after Passover - the Holy Spirit came down in the form of flames over the disciples' heads. Afterward, it is believed, the disciples were able to speak in languages they did not know in order to proclaim "the wonders of God."

In Christianity, the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity and is associated with God's action in the world.

These Pentecostal teachings went on to influence the Catholic charismatic movement that initially took hold in the U.S. in the 1960s.

During a 1967 prayer meeting at Dusquesne University in Pittsburgh, a group of students and professors spoke about special "charisms," or gifts, received through the Holy Spirit.

According to firsthand accounts, faculty were deeply influenced by two books from the Pentecostal tradition, "The Cross and the Switchblade" and "They Speak with Other Tongues."

Similar experiences of the Holy Spirit were later reported at prayer meetings at the University of Notre Dame and the University of Michigan.

From these beginnings, the Catholic charismatic movement has spread throughout the world.

For Catholic charismatics, the central experience is "the baptism of the Holy Spirit." The baptism of the Holy Spirit differs from the traditional Catholic infant baptism with water. Adults baptized in the Holy Spirit have their faith reborn and strengthened by members of the congregation laying their hands on them.

Often a sign of baptism of the Holy Spirit is "glossolalia," or "speaking in tongues." Speaking in tongues refers to using an unintelligible language, which is often interpreted by someone else in the congregation.

Posted by orrinj at 11:47 AM


A Friedman doctrine‐- The Social Responsibility Of Business Is to Increase Its Profits (Milton Friedman, Sept. 13, 1970, The New York Times Magazine)

IN a free‐enterprise, private‐property system, a corporate executive is an employee of the owners of the business. He has direct responsibility to his employers. That responsibility is to conduct the business in accordance with their desires, which generally will be to make as much money as possible while conforming to the basic rules of the society, both those embodied in law and those embodied in ethical custom. Of course, in some cases his employers may have a different objective. A group of persons might establish a corporation for an eleemosynary purpose--for example, a hospital or school. The manager of such a corporation will not have money profit as his objective but the rendering of certain services.

In either case, the key point is that, in his capacity as a corporate executive, the manager is the agent of the individuals who own the corporation or establish the eleemosynary institution, and his primary responsibility is to them.

Needless to say, this does not mean that it is easy to judge how well he is performing his task. But at least the criterion of performance is straightforward, and the persons among whom a voluntary contractual arrangement exists are clearly defined.

Of course, the corporate executive is also a person in his own right. As a person, he may have many other responsibilities that he recognizes or assumes voluntarily--to his family, his conscience, his feelings of charity, his church, his clubs, his city, his country. He may feel impelled by these responsibilities to devote part of his income to causes he regards as worthy, to refuse to work for particular corporations, even to leave his job, for example, to join his country's armed forces. If we wish, we may refer to some of these responsibilities as "social responsibilities." But in these respects he is acting as a principal, not an agent; he is spending his own money or time or energy, not the money of his employers or the time or energy he has contracted to devote to their purposes. If these are "social responsibilities," they are the social responsibilities of individuals, not of business.

What does it mean to say that the corporate executive has a "social responsibility" in his capacity as businessman? If this statement is not pure rhetoric, it must mean that he is to act in some way that is not in the interest of his employers. For example, that he is to refrain from increasing the price of the product in order to contribute to the social objective of preventing inflation, even though a price increase would be in the best interests of the corporation. Or that he is to make expenditures on reducing pollution beyond the amount that is in the best interests of the corporation or that is required by law in order to contribute to the social objective of improving the environment. Or that, at the expense of corporate profits, he is to hire "hard core" unemployed instead of better qualified available workmen to contribute to the social objective of reducing poverty.

In each of these cases, the corporate executive would be spending someone else's money for a general social interest. Insofar as his actions in accord with his "social responsibility" reduce returns to stock holders, he is spending their money. Insofar as his actions raise the price to customers, he is spending the customers' money. Insofar as his actions lower the wages of some employees, he is spending their money.

The stockholders or the customers or the employees could separately spend their own money on the particular action if they wished to do so. The executive is exercising a distinct "social responsibility," rather than serving as an agent of the stockholders or the customers or the employees, only if he spends the money in a different way than they would have spent it.

But if he does this, he is in effect imposing taxes, on the one hand, and deciding how the tax proceeds shall be spent, on the other.

This process raises political questions on two levels: principle and consequences. On the level of political principle, the imposition of taxes and the expenditure of tax proceeds are governmental functions. We have established elaborate constitutional, parliamentary and judicial provisions to control these functions, to assure that taxes are imposed so far as possible in accordance with the preferences and desires of the public-- after all, "taxation without representation" was one of the battle cries of the American Revolution. We have a system of checks and balances to separate the legislative function of imposing taxes and enacting expenditures from the executive function of collecting taxes and administering expenditure programs and from the judicial function of mediating disputes and interpreting the law.

Here the businessman--self‐selected or appointed directly or indirectly by stockholders--is to be simultaneously legislator, executive and jurist. He is to decide whom to tax by how much and for what purpose, and he is to spend the proceeds--all this guided only by general exhortations from on high to restrain inflation, improve the environment, fight poverty and so on and on.

The whole justification for permitting the corporate executive to be selected by the stockholders is that the executive is an agent serving the interests of his principal. This justification disappears when the corporate executive imposes taxes and spends the proceeds for "social" purposes. He becomes in effect a public employe, a civil servant, even though he remains in name an employee of private enterprise. On grounds of political principle, it is intolerable that such civil servants--insofar as their actions in the name of social responsibility are real and not just window‐dressing--should be selected as they are now. If they are to be civil servants, then they must be selected through a political process. If they are to impose taxes and make expenditures to foster "social" objectives, then political machinery must be set up to guide the assessment of taxes and to determine through a political process the objectives to be served.

This is the basic reason why the doctrine of "social responsibility" involves the acceptance of the socialist view that political mechanisms, not market mechanisms, are the appropriate way to determine the allocation of scarce resources to alternative uses.

One of the modern innovations that best illustrates the dangers of which Friedman spoke is the benefit corporation.  This construction is essentially a reaction to Ben & Jerry's determining that they had to accept a Unilever buyout because the terms were so obviously lucrative for the shareholders. By becoming a benefit corporation a board and management can essentially see to it that "stakeholders" are designated, whose interests can be taken into account to thwart the best interests of the shareholders.  A particularly unfortunate application of this law occurs in employee-owned companies, where the diminution of shareholder power--the only shareholders being employees--makes the very designation a lie.   

Posted by orrinj at 11:37 AM


Amy Coney Barrett Deserves to Be on the Supreme Court (Noah Feldman, Sep. 26th, 2020, Bloomberg)

I disagree with much of her judicial philosophy and expect to disagree with many, maybe even most of her future votes and opinions. Yet despite this disagreement, I know her to be a brilliant and conscientious lawyer who will analyze and decide cases in good faith, applying the jurisprudential principles to which she is committed. Those are the basic criteria for being a good justice. Barrett meets and exceeds them.

I got to know Barrett more than 20 years ago when we clerked at the Supreme Court during the 1998-99 term. Of the thirty-some clerks that year, all of whom had graduated at the top of their law school classes and done prestigious appellate clerkships before coming to work at the court, Barrett stood out. Measured subjectively and unscientifically by pure legal acumen, she was one of the two strongest lawyers. The other was Jenny Martinez, now dean of the Stanford Law School.

When assigned to work on an extremely complex, difficult case, especially one involving a hard-to-comprehend statutory scheme, I would first go to Barrett to explain it to me. Then I would go to Martinez to tell me what I should think about it.

Barrett, a textualist who was working for a textualist, Justice Antonin Scalia, had the ability to bring logic and order to disorder and complexity. You can't be a good textualist without that, since textualism insists that the law can be understood without reference to legislative history or the aims and context of the statute.

Martinez had the special skill of connecting the tangle of complex strands to a sensible statutory purpose. She clerked for Justice Stephen Breyer, who also believes in pragmatically engaging the question of what a statute is actually trying to do in order to interpret it.

In a world where merit counts, Barrett and Martinez would both be recognized as worthy of serving on the Supreme Court. If a Democratic president with the support of a Democratic Senate asked me to recommend a current law professor for the bench, Martinez would be on my short list.

...give it less to rule on.

Posted by orrinj at 11:30 AM


Richard Hooker: A Forgotten Father Of National Conservatism: At a time of tumult in England, he successfully defended a revolution against revolutionaries (BRAD LITTLEJOHN, 9/23/20, American Conservative)

It should not surprise us, then, that the heart of Hooker's Laws is a sustained meditation on epistemology: what can we know? What can't we? And why are we always so determined to claim to know more than we really can? Hooker was no skeptic, to be sure, and certainly not in matters of religion. He would have had little patience with the epistemological demolition crew that was to appear over the following century: Descartes, Hobbes, Locke, and their followers. Hooker begins his Laws with a profound meditation on the eternal law of God, the changeless and transcendent union of the good, and the truth that anchors all morality and guides all of history. He speaks at length of the fixed laws of nature and reason that brook no contradiction and declares his firm confidence in the timeless truth of Scripture and the way of salvation it reveals. 

But he was keenly aware of the chasm separating these changeless norms of nature from the changing conditions of human society. While we might aspire to share the changeless eternity of God, for now we must plot our halting course through the realm of mutability. Law is not amoral; it must be ordered toward the basic moral ends that reflect the realities of human nature. But even as we keep these ends in view, our paths toward them will never look identical in two different times or places.

For this reason, we can be grateful, says Hooker, that the natural law is not merely "mandatory, showing what must be done," but also "permissive, declaring only what may be done; or else advisory, revealing what is most prudent for us to do." The task of human law is to take these three strands and weave them into a fabric strong enough to guide a society toward its common good and supple enough to respond to new insights and new challenges. 

This process is, of course, fraught with uncertainty. Hooker thus invites us to steer our course "whichever way greatest probability leads," as determined by an attentive study of human nature. Hooker models such attention in the penetrating Preface to his Laws, where he acutely traces the paths by which idealistic reformers gain the allegiance of disaffected masses and fall prey to ever more wayward flights of self-delusion. Such delusion arises from misplaced self-confidence, the claim to a unique insight into the "cause of all the world's ills" and to a unique program promising "a comprehensive solution to all these problems." Every age will have to cope with its share of deluded utopians, but the framers of law, Hooker argues, must resist this temptation and have the humility to be guided by the wisdom of others. 

Hence arises the conservative respect for tradition. When it comes to law-making, the wisdom that is gleaned from long study of human nature is indispensable. Good lawmakers will recognize that much more than one lifetime is needed for such wisdom. Tradition, for Hooker, is simply the accumulated wisdom of centuries, which we would be foolhardy to ignore: "Neither may we in this case lightly esteem what hath been allowed as fit in the judgment of antiquity, and by the long continued practice of the whole Church; from which unnecessarily to swerve, experience hath never as yet found it safe." We rightly respect the wisdom of the aged, who "for the most part are best experienced, least subject to rash and unadvised passions."We ordinarily trust their judgments above those of the young, simply because they have had more opportunity to gain knowledge of the world. Just so on the larger stage of history: although age-old beliefs and customs are certainly fallible, they are less likely to steer us wrong than newly hatched schemes and intellectual fads. 

Human laws and institutions, then, rest upon a foundation of tradition, experience, and trial and error. Beneath these, to be sure, is the deeper bedrock of transcendent moral order, but only the long, hard work of human reason and ingenuity can adapt this order to the needs of each society. While law as such carries divine sanction, the authority of particular laws rests chiefly on human authority. Though imperfect and uncertain, such authority is, for Hooker, sufficient. "If we labor to defend such authority as far as the truth will bear, let no one think that we are wasting time on something trivial"; without it, every social, religious, and political institution will crumble before the leveling forces of reform-turned-revolution. 

Yet we must be equally careful not to defend this authority further than the truth will bear. "We all tend to fall in love with our own ideas, and when others contradict them, this only fans our love into a flame and makes us all the more eager to contend, argue, and do everything we can on their behalf." Thus it is that political schemes that might have begun as very sensible ideas are elevated to the level of dogma, brooking no contradiction. Indeed, it was just such confusion of human and divine law in the medieval Catholic Church that lay behind the Protestant Reformation. Many Protestants were prepared to consider many of the trappings of the medieval church, from liturgical customs to papal prerogatives, as plausible policies resting on human authority and potentially suited to the edification of the church; but they resisted the insistence that such customs could acquire the binding force of divine law, to be imposed on every nation by a global super-sovereign. 

Posted by orrinj at 11:11 AM


What Would Cicero See in American Governance Today?: Before the Rise of Caesar, the Roman Statesman Predicted How the Spread of Lawlessness Could Destroy a Republic (Edward Watts,  SEPTEMBER 23, 2020, Zocalo Public Square)

Cicero set De Re publica in the year 129 BC, a dramatic moment when Romans, for the first time in centuries, had begun to confront the consequences of political violence. In 133 BC, a mob had killed the tribune Tiberius Gracchus after he used a combination of threats and extra constitutional measures to push through a series of land reforms. Four years later, the damage from Tiberius's recklessness had become clear, but Rome still had a chance to mitigate it. So Cicero chose this moment to stage a dialogue in which the age's most prominent politicians, jurists, and thinkers debated the nature of an ideal constitution and questioned what would become of their Republic after "the death of Tiberius Gracchus had divided one people into two factions."

Cicero emphasized that Tiberius's tactics of intimidation and his willingness to disregard law set Rome on a very dangerous course. "If this habit of lawlessness begins to spread," he explained, it "changes our rule from one of justice to one of force." This made Cicero "anxious for our descendants and for the permanence of our Republic."

Cicero's fear grew in part out of what he believed the Republic to be: community property of Romans, who were bound together not by race or ethnicity but by a shared sense of justice and fidelity to law. Law, Cicero wrote, provided the foundations for just interaction between citizens. It established the channels through which political decisions passed. And, because Rome was a representative democracy in which citizens elected leaders and voted on the legislation they proposed, Cicero argued that the Roman Republic could last forever if it remained governed by law and administered vigorously by its citizens.

A state governed by violence had much dimmer prospects. At best, such a state might sometimes "seem as if it was at peace" because "men feared each other ... but no one was confident enough in his own strength" to challenge his adversaries. A sort of stable anarchy emerged, and a balance of fear was the only thing that held back citizen violence. Such a polity was no longer governed by laws. It could not be considered a republic.

Posted by orrinj at 10:57 AM


Marilynne Robinson's Latest Novel Probes the Mysteries of Predestination and Grace: Jack Boughton, the wayward pastor's son, is a central character. So is Jesus. (TIMOTHY LARSEN, SEPTEMBER 21, 2020, Christianity Today)

John "Jack" Ames Boughton is a wayward preacher's son who always seems to find himself close to Christians. He often feels the need to let them know he is actually an atheist. His Christian acquaintances, however, somehow don't feel the need to take his confession at face value.

Perhaps Jack bears some blame for this ambiguity. He talks about his "atheist soul"--a soul he suspects has been predestined (he definitely believes in predestination) for perdition (he is definitely not a universalist). Yet he still seeks out Christian worship, pastoral counsel, and even a hoped-for blessing. He loves to play hymns on the piano. He is also a habitual thief, liar, drunkard, and--in his own unflinching self-assessment--a "confirmed, inveterate bum." But perhaps that is just another way of saying that he starts from the same place we all do, as a son of the old Adam.

Jack is the fourth in a series of novels by Marilynne Robinson. It follows Gilead (2004); Home (2008), which adds Jack's perspective to the events of Gilead; and Lila (2014), all of which were lauded by critics and readers alike.

Robinson is widely considered among the greatest American novelists writing today. She has also emerged as one of America's leading public intellectuals. Many of her addresses and essays have been collected in resonant volumes such as The Death of Adam (1998), When I Was a Child I Read Books (2012), The Givenness of Things (2015), and What Are We Doing Here? (2018). Barack Obama is such an admirer that while he was president, he did an interview with Robinson that appeared in The New York Review of Books.

Posted by orrinj at 10:46 AM


Symbols of Cosmic Order: a review of Paleolithic Politics by Barry Cooper (Graham Mcaleer, 9/18/20, Law & Liberty)

The first part of Cooper's book introduces the intellectual background to Voegelin's claim that human nature is unchanging. Unchanging both because we cannot escape the anxiety that we are suspended over a metaphysical abyss and on account of our encounter with the transcendent, an order not of human making. Stretched between chaos and cosmos, politics is an effort at order imposed to stabilize, its symbolizations a reply to metaphysical precariousness. Political symbolizations--the Assyrian king as ruler of the four quarters of the earth, the Marxist realm of freedom, or the liberal contract--helps anxiety turn to trust. A politics whose symbols invokes the cosmos does this effectively, but there is a cost. It is to the benefit of human dignity and personal freedom that Greek philosophy and Judeo-Christian revelation mightily compounded the complexity of thought (the mind-bending Trinity, a case in point) and weakened the social compactness of cosmological myth.

The second and greater part of Cooper's book is a long survey of paleolithic research told with verve and full of arresting paleolithic discoveries. The majority of the book is not about political theory and is best read as a big data set backing up Voegelin's theory of consciousness. This is part of the book's significance. New paleolithic finds always garner a lot of media attention but Voegelin worried the significance of the science was missed without a philosophical anthropology able to illuminate politics. The question keeps arising to what degree Neanderthals were the same as early humans, and whether early humans were just like us, but the idea of sameness is fraught, all too easily framed by our own egalitarian anxieties. To capture the spirit of Voegelin's worry, Cooper relays a funny exchange at a conference when the famous head of philosophy at the London School of Economics, Ernest Gellner, accused an archeologist of doing bad philosophy, only to have the archeologist quip back that until philosophers take a serious interest in paleolithic science archeologists have no choice but to be poor philosophers.

Like Voegelin, König rejected the progressive theory of history in which early peoples were primitive and brutish. The progressive theory led academics to initially reject as inauthentic the wall art discovered in caves at Altimira, Spain, for the polychrome drawings were held to be too sophisticated a technique for cave men. Worse, since the cave drawings were beautiful by contemporary standards it was believed impossible they could have been done 36,000 years ago. The progressive theory, which posits a smooth glide to ever more sophistication, buckles when confronted with the findings from the Cosquer cave. The entrance to this cave is under the sea and was discovered by a local diving instructor, Henri Cosquer. The route in was perilous and other divers hearing of the discovery drowned. Researchers had to receive diving training and be guided into the cave by French naval divers. Even then, bizarrely, academics thought the cave a fake. The cave sits ill with progressivism for there are clear indications that the original drawings were scratched out by later inhabitants who painted over the original beauty with other beautiful images peculiar to their own brand of magic and belief.  

A point made in the book is that contemporary research is tending to think of Neanderthals as basically human. Only in the last decade was it established that humans and Neanderthals interbred and it was long held that the two were quite different because Neanderthals had no nonutilitarian or decorative objects. This is no longer tenable: the Neanderthal Tata Plaque dates to some 100,000 years ago! For Cooper, all this is evidence for the reach of Voegelin's political thought. To my mind, consistent with Voegelin, there is an important implication for natural law and Aquinas's claim that human nature has an original religious orientation.

PODCAST: Cave Art (BBC In Our Time, 9/24/20)

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss ideas about the Stone Age people who created the extraordinary images found in caves around the world, from hand outlines to abstract symbols to the multicoloured paintings of prey animals at Chauvet and, as shown above, at Lascaux. In the 19th Century, it was assumed that only humans could have made these, as Neanderthals would have lacked the skills or imagination, but new tests suggest otherwise. How were the images created, were they meant to be for private viewing or public spaces, and what might their purposes have been? And, if Neanderthals were capable of creative work, in what ways were they different from humans? What might it have been like to experience the paintings, so far from natural light?


Alistair Pike
Professor of Archaeological Sciences at the University of Southampton

Chantal Conneller
Senior Lecturer in Early Pre-History at Newcastle University


Paul Pettitt
Professor of Palaeolithic Archaeology at Durham University

Posted by orrinj at 10:39 AM


The Surprising Conservatism of Ruth Bader Ginsburg: The late Supreme Court justice often deployed classically conservative reasoning, sometimes in service of progressive causes. (KIMBERLY WEHLE, 09/20/2020 , Politico)

When President Bill Clinton put her on the Supreme Court in 1993, Ginsburg already had a formidable record as a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. According to a 1993 archive from Congressional Quarterly Almanac, "[Judge] Ginsburg was known as a restrained and fair-minded judge who did her homework and then some." She was "considered moderate to conservative on criminal issues and business law," relatively progressive "on issues such as free speech, religious freedom and separation of church and states," and more liberal on "civil rights and access to the courts." In the wake of Justice Clarence Thomas' tempestuous confirmation hearings two years before, Ginsburg was easily confirmed by a Senate vote of 96-3.

For non-lawyers, such political grades ascribed to judges by outsiders might signal personal penchants rather than an intellectually honest approach to hard legal questions. Deemed "the most important woman lawyer in the history of the Republic," Ginsburg did urge courts to draw a once-novel conclusion about the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which forbids government from "deny[ing] to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws": that it should operate to stop arbitrary laws based on gender.

Note that "person," "equal," and "protection" are all terms the Constitution does not explicitly define. Absent a constitutional amendment--which takes an affirmative vote of two-thirds of both houses of Congress and ratification by three-quarters of the states--these words are among many in the Constitution that the Supreme Court must ultimately define. (Congress can provide legislative definitions, but the high court can strike those down.) Because the constitutional text is vague, for many years the Equal Protection Clause was read to tolerate laws that effectively deprived women of the same opportunities men enjoyed in all realms of public life. That narrow, male-only reading of the Constitution allowed the government to ban women from working as lawyers or bartenders, for example. It prevented women from serving on juries or lifting more than 15 pounds on the job. Through her work as a lawyer and jurist, Ginsburg prompted the Supreme Court to read the Equal Protection Clause to constrain arbitrary legal constraints on people of all genders.

Is this a radical, leftist idea? Would a more conservative approach have confined the meanings of "person," "equal," and "protection" to the prevailing understanding of those terms in 1868, when the 14th Amendment was ratified amid post-Civil War Reconstruction? Some judges, lawyers and scholars would argue that only the original public meaning is relevant even today. But in 1868, Webster defined the word "protection" to include numerous meanings, including "[t]he act of protecting or preserving from evil, injury, or annoyance," as well as a slew of synonyms: "Preservation; guard; shelter; refuge; security; safety." Which of these would a conservative judge pick? Which would a liberal one choose? The fact that this exercise doesn't fit neatly into political definitions of liberal and conservative is something Ginsburg acutely understood.

You probably know what I'm getting at here: Many people--even some with a nuanced understanding of legal and constitutional interpretation--argue that "good" judges do not read anything into the Constitution, but stick to its plain language (so-called "textualists" or "originalists), and "bad" judges treat the document as a blank slate on which to craft a wish list for social reform (so-called "living constitutionalists"). Ginsburg defied this false dichotomy by routinely applying conservative analytic principles in the service of causes that might be considered politically liberal. Yet troublingly, this false dichotomy has become de rigueur in our national conversation about presidential candidates and potential Supreme Court picks. It is corrosive.

For Ginsburg, adherence to procedure, principles of federalism, judicial independence and ensuring that government does not wield arbitrary power over regular people were hallmarks of her jurisprudence. This list is not stereotypically progressive. If anything, it has marks of conservatism.

On what remains perhaps the most sensitive constitutional question of our time, whether the Constitution protects against government's interference in a woman's decision to medically terminate a pregnancy, Ginsburg was critical of the court's decision in Roe v. Wade, which lodged abortion rights--rather precariously, it turns out--as a matter of privacy under the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment. 

Posted by orrinj at 10:30 AM


Murder Most Foul (P. D. James, Paris Review)

In my own reading it wasn't the puzzle which most intrigued me and I sometimes think that fewer readers watch for every clue, note every twist in the plot, and sniff happily after every red herring than we writers imagine. My younger daughter, reading my latest book, merely comments: "It can't be him or her; you like them too much", and I suspect that most of us guess the murderer more through our knowledge of the author, his style, prejudices, and foibles, than through close attention to every detail of the plot. We are pitting our wits primarily against the writer, not his villain or his detective.

So if correctly guessing the identity of the murderer isn't always the chief attraction, what is? Perhaps it is the age-old and universal pleasure provided by a well-told story with a beginning, a middle, and an end, a tale which takes us into a world in which we know that wrong will finally be righted, the guilty exposed, the innocent vindicated, and human reason will triumph. Perhaps is it the frisson of vicarious terror and danger as we sit safely by our fireside or pull the bedclothes more comfortably under our chin. Above all, in our increasingly violent and irrational world--in which so many of our societal problems seem insoluble--the mystery offers the psychological comfort of a story, based on the premise that murder is still the unique crime, that even the most unpleasant character has the right to live to the last natural moment, and that there is no problem, however difficult, which cannot be solved by human ingenuity, human intelligence, and human courage. I suspect that these are some of the reasons why I enjoy mysteries. Perhaps they are also the reason why I choose to write them.

Posted by orrinj at 10:17 AM


This Nation Under God: Murray's We Hold These Truths: 1960 and Today (Richard M. Reinsch II, 8/02/20, University Bookman)

Murray begins his argument about the American Proposition by rooting it in the Declaration of Independence as interpreted by the statesmanship of Abraham Lincoln: "It is classic American doctrine, immortally asserted by Abraham Lincoln, that the new nation that our Fathers brought forth on this continent was dedicated to a "proposition." That proposition is both theorem and practice rooted in the truths we hold as Americans that "all men are created equal." As such, it is planted in a realist epistemology that there are truths about man's God-breathed dignity, we know them, and we make them the basis of our government. The Proposition has multiple parts that come under stress in different times, and we must constantly prove it to be true. Lincoln vindicated "all men are created equal," doing so most poignantly in the Gettysburg Address. This part wasn't merely under stress, but actively denied with bullets.

Murray's full account of the Proposition notes that we are crucially a nation under God. There is no hint in the American tradition of political atheism, no connection between our constitutionalism and the autonomy of man and reason found in the French Revolution. By stating in our Declaration of Independence that there is truth beyond politics that imparts meaning to our politics, that is, the sovereignty of God, America recognizes the freedom of the soul to pursue truth unhindered by government. Government stands, ultimately, limited by the providence of God. Lincoln's phrase, "This nation under God," is American doctrine at its best, Murray says.

The Proposition receives further content from "Constitutionalism, the rule of law, the notion of sovereignty as purely political and therefore limited by law, the concept of government as an empire of laws and not of men." Murray notes that these are ancient doctrines America has received that were "planted in the British tradition at its origin in medieval times." This formal content undergirds public deliberation among the various communities and groups within America and it must be guided by that deliberative purpose to preserve civil peace and freedom or it slides into decadence.

What should be reached through this deliberative process is a consensus that shapes how the country will handle the political and economic choices it faces. The consensus builds on the Proposition and is not a discussion about ends--free economy, republican government, individual liberty, associational life--but about the means that will best realize these ends. Murray says that when the ends are in dispute then you can be sure that the political order is tottering. This consensus is not ideological or formulaic; it does not produce coin-in-slot, turn-the-handle results. It is also not fixed but capable of growth as new circumstances and factors emerge and demand new responses. Decay of the consensus can occur if deliberation breaks down under the influence of ideological parties or barbarism, both of which make political dialogue impossible.

Contra Judge Barrett, it has been the role of American Catholics to force the Church to accept democracy, capitalism and protestantism, not to follow.

Posted by orrinj at 9:51 AM


The reason Supreme Court vacancies are getting so heated is because Congress can't get anything done, according to one legal expert (Tyler Sonnemaker, 9/26/20, Business Insider)

Over the years, Republicans and Democrats have both claimed to have precedent and political norms on their side -- only to reverse their positions when the circumstances around a vacancy flip.

"Politics has been part of the nomination and confirmation process from the very beginning," Ilya Shapiro, a constitutional law scholar at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, told Business Insider.

"George Washington had a nominee rejected. About half of our presidents have trouble filling seats for one reason or another," Shapiro said.

But in recent decades, there have been more heated fights over nominees such as: Clarence Thomas, who Anita Hill had accused of sexual harassment; Abe Fortas, whose opponents alleged cronyism on the part of President Lyndon B. Johnson, who nominated him, also during an election year; and Robert Bork, whose conservative views on issues like civil rights and gender equality prompted liberal backlash that ultimately tanked his nomination.

Tom Goldstein, editor of the popular site SCOTUSblog, told NPR in 2012 that things really escalated after Bork, saying it "legitimized scorched-earth ideological wars over nominations at the Supreme Court, and to this day both sides remain completely convinced they were right."

Shapiro said there are two related factors that help explain why vacancy battles today are so incendiary: the Supreme Court and executive branch becoming more powerful -- and therefore more politically important -- and increasingly polarized political parties.

"The centralization of power in Washington and within the federal government is skewing the power towards the executive branch and administrative agencies as Congress doesn't resolve political differences or culture clashes or policy views," he said. Instead, Congress "passes broad legislation that ultimately agencies have to implement, and then they get sued, and that gets thrown to the court."

Indeed, as both Trump and Obama have made greater use of unilateral executive actions in the face of gridlock or partisan opposition in Congress, there has been a growing trend of attorneys general banding together to sue federal agencies.

With a reliable majority on hand to keep the other two branches within the Constitutional guardrails there's no longer any excuse for conservatives to vote for Donald.  On the other hand, there's strong motivation for Democrats to restore republican norms within those branches, particularly restoring the power of Congress by reining in the administrative state, which just transfers power from the Legislative to the Executive.  

Posted by orrinj at 8:51 AM


The Director of Cuties on Whether She Would Do Any of It Differently (KOVIE BIAKOLO, SEPT 26, 2020, Slate)

Kovie Biakolo: Cuties premiered at Sundance in January, where it was warmly received and even won an award for your direction. Did you imagine at any point that once the film was set to premiere to a wider audience at Netflix that it would garner the sort of controversy that it has?

Maïmouna Doucouré: I of course had hoped that it would have prompted a debate on the hypersexualization of preadolescents. But never in my dreams had I imagined that my point of view would become so misinterpreted.

Are there any lessons here for yourself, given that Cuties is your first feature film, as well as perhaps other directors, specifically Black directors, regarding the differences between festival reception and wider release to the general public?

I was not under the impression that there would be a big difference between the presentation of the film at the Sundance Film Festival or festivals in general, because at Sundance, the audience was American, and they reacted like all other audiences in other countries. They understood what I was saying with my film, especially because of the subject. Of course the film is set in France and in Paris, but it is a universal subject that concerns all societies and all countries. I think that the most important thing to bear in mind is to be as honest as possible with one's view and opinion. You have to be very sincere. That's why I became a filmmaker--because I wanted to have a gaze on the world and hopefully change it for the better.

I think that what has happened [with regard to the backlash] depends on the fact that the reaction was triggered because somehow the message was delivered in the wrong way; they didn't get the message right. And most of the people who protest have not taken the time to watch the film from beginning to end.

One of the things that was clear to me is that you were depicting how early girls really start to be aware of their sexuality and what their body means in society, in addition to portraying how young girls are thus hypersexualized. Do you think, however, there were different directional choices you could have made, in some of the more explicit dancing scenes, for example, as well as other scenes?

My cinematic starting point in this film was to become myself as an 11-year-old again, and to make all of us take on her gaze--the 11-year-old little girl--in order for the audience and myself to try and experience that stage in life when you try to build your own identity in today's society. My choice was not to judge the kids, but also never to take on an adult gaze on them, so that I am able to understand the complexity of the feelings and emotions in the process of transformation that you experience at that age with the tools that our present society gives us. And what is quite obvious to me is that those girls [in the film] are not aware of the meaning of that kind of dance. In their own eyes, it is just a way to become more popular, to get more likes from social network, and to win the contest.

My aesthetic take, aesthetic perspective is to hold a mirror in front of the world so that we as adults are able to see what we have created, what is our responsibility towards our children, in the way we have brought them up.

Posted by orrinj at 8:40 AM


Catholic Judges in Capital Cases (Amy Coney Barrett, John H. Garvey, 81 Marq. L. Rev. 303 1997-1998)

To anticipate our conclusions just briefly, we believe that Catholic judges (if they are faithful to the teaching of their church) are morally precluded from enforcing the death penalty. This means that they can neither themselves sentence criminals to death nor enforce jury recommendations of death. Whether they may affirm lower court orders of either kind is a question we have the most difficulty in resolving. There are parts of capital cases in which we think orthodox Catholic judges may participate-these include trial on the issue of guilt and collateral review of capital convictions. The moral impossibility of enforcing capital punishment in the first two or three cases (sentencing, enforcing jury recommendations, affirming) is a sufficient reason for recusal under federal law.  [...]

In modem Catholic teaching, capital punishment is often condemned along with other practices whose point is the taking of lifeabortion, euthanasia, nuclear war, and murder itself. It is sometimes said that consistency requires no less-that respect for life in all these cases is a seamless garment. [...]

Judges cannot-nor should they try to-align our legal system with the Church's moral teaching whenever the two diverge. They should, however, conform their own behavior to the Church's standard. Perhaps their good example will have some effect.

Handmaid, meet petard.
Posted by orrinj at 8:14 AM


Why Is Funny? How America Lost Its Sense of Humor (Robert Lynch, 9/25/20, Quillette)

The best supported scientific explanation for why we laugh is called "incongruity theory" and the superiority theory is now considered by most humor researchers to be wildly implausible. Incongruity theory proposes that humor occurs when a contradiction violates our expectations. When identified, it alters our perspective and produces laughter. In the language of standup comedy, the set-up creates the expectation and the punchline violates it. The Onion often puts them both in a headline, such as "School Bully Not So Tough Since Being Molested." This joke not only illustrates a key distinction between the superiority and incongruity theories, it also highlights the often subtle distinction between the subject and the target of a joke. While the superiority theory presumes that the joke is making fun of people who are either bullied or molested, incongruity theory suggests that the humor lies in the conflict, and surprising relationship, between being both a victim and a perpetrator at the same time. In the latter interpretation, the schoolyard bully is being restored to his rightful status by someone who holds the lowest rung in our society--the child molester. George Meyer, writer for The Simpsons, encapsulated incongruity theory when he said that appreciating humor is "like seeing in two dimensions and then opening the other eye or looking through a View-Master and suddenly seeing in three." Research showing that humor can help to undermine cognitive biases, identify faulty logic, and detect mistaken reasoning lends support to this intuition.

My research with the evolutionary biologist Robert Trivers has shown that more self-deceptive people laugh less. This finding builds on incongruity theory and indicates that our ability to detect humor is inhibited when we lie to ourselves. Humor often involves identifying contradictions and revealing new perspectives, which suggests that the less you are in touch with reality, the less likely you are able to identify that something is amiss. This is because rational thought often depends on the ability to view a situation from multiple angles to get a less biased overview. If you are practicing self-deception and blocking out certain angles, however, you will fail to see the contradiction and therefore fail to enjoy the humor when these viewpoints are challenged. Leslie Savan, writing for the Nation, has speculated that Donald Trump is likely to be highly self-deceptive because he is almost never seen laughing. But what's good for the goose is also good for those on the other side of the political spectrum, and I would make the same point about some of my colleagues in the cultural anthropology department whose apparent inability to detect any sort of humor gave me the idea for the study in the first place.

Note that this too is superiority theory.

Posted by orrinj at 8:10 AM


Federal judge wants to see more evidence on Justice Department's handling of Strzok, Page texts (Katelyn Polantz, 9/26/20, CNN)

A federal judge on Friday questioned the Justice Department's decision to release text messages between former FBI employees Lisa Page and Peter Strzok and signaled that she wants to see more evidence about whether political influence played a role. [...]

It's the second time this week a judge has allowed an FBI official's lawsuit against the Justice Department to continue unfolding in the courts.

On Thursday, a judge ruled former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who was fired a day before his scheduled retirement for "lack of candor," could also move toward gathering evidence about his firing, which he too says was politically motivated and unfair.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson, handling the Strzok and Page cases on Friday, called out several sworn statements from top Justice Department officials, including former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, that appear to contradict one another about the DOJ's decisions to make Strzok and Page's text messages public.

AG is the plum job in the Biden Administration.  

Posted by orrinj at 7:57 AM


PODCAST: Simon de Montfort and England's First Revolution (BBC History Extra, 9/26/20)

In a talk that she delivered at our 2019 BBC History Magazine History Weekend in Winchester, historian Sophie Ambler tells the story of Simon de Montfort's doomed rebellion against King Henry III in the 13th century.

...than Sharon Kay Penman's Falls the Shadow.--a useful reminder that, in the Anglosphere, History was Ending centuries before we figured out the capitalism component.

Posted by orrinj at 7:54 AM


Wall Street is shunning Trump. Campaign donations to Biden are five times larger (Matt Egan, September 25, 2020, CNN Business)

President Trump is promising four more years of low taxes, light regulation and a laser-focus on the stock market. Yet professionals on Wall Street are shunning Trump and funneling staggering amounts of money to his opponent.

The securities and investment industry donated just $10.5 million to Trump's presidential campaign and outside groups aligned with it, according to a new tally by OpenSecrets. It has sent nearly five times as much cash, $51.1 million, to Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

September 25, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 10:15 PM


Federal judge removes acting Bureau of Land Management director after finding he has served unlawfully for 424 days (Kyle Feldscher and Andy Rose, 9/25/20, CNN)

"Pendley has served and continues to serve unlawfully as the Acting BLM Director," Morris wrote in his opinion. "His ascent to Acting BLM Director did not follow any of the permissible paths set forth by the U.S. Constitution or the (Federal Vacancies Reform Act). Pendley has not been nominated by the President and has not been confirmed by the Senate to serve as BLM Director."

Posted by orrinj at 10:12 PM


Posted by orrinj at 10:09 PM


Bill Barr has 'brought shame' on the Justice Department, says US prosecutor (Charles Davis, 9/25/20, bUSINESS iNSIDER)

Attorney General Bill Barr "has brought shame" on the US Department of Justice, a current federal prosecutor wrote in a highly unusual public call-out, decrying "the unprecedented politicization of the officer of the attorney general."

"The attorney general acts as though his job is to serve only the political interests of Donald J. Trump," James D. Herbert, assistant US attorney for the District of Massachusetts, wrote in a September 24 letter published by The Boston Globe. "This is a dangerous abuse of power."

Posted by orrinj at 10:05 PM


The false link between Amy Coney Barrett and The Handmaid's Tale, explained (Constance Grady, Sep 25, 2020, Vox)

To be absolutely clear: People of Praise is not an inspiration for The Handmaid's Tale, and the group does not practice sexual slavery or any of the other dystopian practices Atwood wrote about in her novel. But the argument over whether or not the two are connected reflects the deeply contentious atmosphere in which Barrett's nomination to the Supreme Court will occur -- and the immense symbolic weight The Handmaid's Tale carries in American popular culture.

Two coincidences led to the idea that there is a People of Praise-Handmaid's Tale connection. The first coincidence is that the People of Praise once had a religious rank called "handmaid." As reported by the New York Times in 2017, People of Praise members are all accountable to a personal adviser. Those advisers offer guidance on major life decisions, including, per the Times, "whom to date or marry, where to live, whether to take a job or buy a home, and how to raise children." And these advisers used to be called "heads" when they were men and "handmaids" when they were women. They have since been renamed "leaders."

The second coincidence is that when Margaret Atwood explained her Handmaid's Tale inspirations to the New York Times in 1987, she described one of them as "a Catholic charismatic spinoff sect, which calls the women handmaids." Atwood did not at the time name the sect, so when her quote resurfaced in 2020, it was very easy for some readers to think, Well, People of Praise is a Catholic charismatic spinoff sect that calls the women handmaids, so there you go. Accordingly, on September 21, Newsweek reported that People of Praise was one of Atwood's inspirations for The Handmaid's Tale.

Asked about her inspiration for The Handmaid's Tale by Politico as the controversy heated up, Atwood said she wasn't sure which group she was talking about in 1987. Her archive of work and research is at the University of Toronto, where she can't currently access it due to Covid-19 restrictions. But she's on the record as going through her Handmaid's Tale archives for journalists plenty of times in the past, and during those interviews, she's always cited People of Hope, a different Catholic charismatic spinoff that calls women handmaids.

Posted by orrinj at 6:46 PM


QAnon an old form of anti-Semitism in a new package, say experts (BEN SALES, 20 September 2020, JTA)

Scott Wiener, a California state senator, has been barraged with anti-Semitic attacks online, including one falsely accusing him of promoting "Jewish pedophilia."

A Republican congressional candidate, Marjorie Taylor Greene, appeared to accuse George Soros and the Rothschild family of being involved in a cabal of Democratic pedophiles. On Twitter, she has repeatedly called Soros, a Jewish billionaire, of being an "enemy of the people."

On September 11, a Facebook group's post claimed that an Israeli company knew about the 2001 terrorists attacks in advance.

These smears have at least one thing in common: They come from followers of QAnon, the vast -- and patently false -- theory that Democrats across the country are running a secret cabal to abduct and abuse children, harvest their blood and defeat Donald Trump.

Posted by orrinj at 5:52 PM


The 9 discarded ballots were tossed because Republicans won their lawsuit requiring them to not be counted: report (David Badash, 9/25/20, Raw Story)

"Because these ballots were returned in envelopes similar to absentee ballot requests, elections officials opened them," The Washington Post reports. "If the ballots weren't then enclosed in another envelope which shielded the actual vote being cast, they may have been considered 'naked ballots,' a term used to describe mail ballots returned without the voter's intent being protected.

The Trump campaign and the Pennsylvania GOP in a lawsuit argued that "naked ballots" should not be counted. They won that lawsuit. These nine ballots appear to be "naked ballots," and that appears to be the reason they were thrown out.

Posted by orrinj at 5:33 PM


'Why Bother?': Pelosi Suggests Biden Skip Presidential Debates (BRITTANY BERNSTEIN, September 25, 2020. National Review)

"Not that I don't think he'll be excellent," she continued. "I just think that the president has no fidelity to fact or truth and, actually in his comments the last few days, no fidelity to the Constitution of the United States."

Incumbent presidents almost always lose the first debate.

Posted by orrinj at 5:26 PM


Posted by orrinj at 5:06 PM


100 online courses from Coursera are $0 now through December 31 -- here's a list of all the classes open for free enrollment (Mara Leighton, 9/25/20, Business Insider)

Online-learning site Coursera is offering 100 classes for free from now through December 31, 2020, to support access to online education for those who are social distancing in an effort to prevent spreading the novel coronavirus. 

The free courses span many categories, including mental health and well-being, career development, cloud technology, language learning, and understanding public health and global emergencies. They vary in aspirations as well, from developing new skills for a promotion or career switch to academic to personal or family practical planning. They're also catered to a variety of demographics, from high school and college students to adults. Most hail from universities, like Yale, Stanford, and the University of Pennsylvania, but a handful are offered by companies such as Google and Amazon.

Posted by orrinj at 5:01 PM


Trump camp hopes normalization pacts translate to Jewish support at polls (ELANA SCHOR and JACK JENKINS, 9/25/20, AP)

Jewish American voters have leaned Democratic for decades, but Republicans are hoping the recent steps toward normalized relations between Gulf states and Israel -- which US President Donald Trump vigorously touted earlier this month -- bolster his appeal to Jewish voters.

Posted by orrinj at 1:44 PM


Catholic and evangelical voters fleeing Trump due to his lack of 'basic kindness': NBC (Tom Boggioni, 9/25/20, Raw Story)

Now that Christian voters have watched him in action for nearly four years, Pagitt claims his "organization has found in an extensive survey of religious voters in five swing states that Trump's unkindness is correlated with significant defections from the president."

"Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin have seen an 11 percentage point aggregated shift in support among evangelical and Catholic voters toward Joe Biden and away from Trump compared to 2016, according to our online poll," he wrote, saying his numbers are mirrored by a recent Fox News Poll. Pointing out that his poll, "surveyed a representative sample of evangelicals and Catholics across gender, race and age within each state," Pagitt explained how his poll was conducted by comparing perceptions of both candidates when it comes to the seven virtues: kindness, generosity, humility, chastity, modesty, diligence and patience.

"Across all the virtues measured -- on average, 50 percent of respondents rated Biden as more virtuous than Trump, and 39 percent rated Trump as more virtuous than Biden, with the largest gaps emerging around the virtues of humility and modesty (28 points and 22 points in Biden's favor, respectively)," ex explained. "Across the seven sins -- lust, sloth, greed, wrath, gluttony, envy and pride -- on average, 51 percent of respondents rated Trump as more sinful than Biden, and 37 percent rated Biden as more sinful than Trump, with the largest gaps emerging around the sins of pride and anger (29 points and 26 points in Biden's favor, respectively)."

Posted by orrinj at 1:41 PM


Democrats to Propose Bill Limiting Supreme Court Justice Terms to 18 Years (MAIREAD MCARDLE, September 25, 2020, National Review)

House Democrats are planning to introduce a bill next week that would limit the terms of Supreme Court justices to 18 years instead of their current lifetime tenure, just as President Trump prepares to announce a nominee to fill the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's seat.

The bill, the Supreme Court Term Limits and Regular Appointments Act, was spearheaded by lead sponsor Representative Ro Khanna, a California Democrat, who is expected to introduce the bill next week, along with cosponsors Representatives Joe Kennedy III and Don Beyer.

"It would save the country a lot of agony and help lower the temperature over fights for the court that go to the fault lines of cultural issues and is one of the primary things tearing at our social fabric," Khanna said in a statement.

Posted by orrinj at 1:34 PM


The Political Philosopher Who Predicted Our Age of Hypocrisy (JOSHUA KEATING, SEPT 25, 2020, Slate)

The near-constant accusations of hypocrisy may be a warning sign that something is deeply rotten in U.S. politics. The political theorist Judith Shklar warned 40 years ago about the dangers of a "pattern of ideological politics in which charges of hypocrisy are exchanged with unbroken regularity." She described a form of politics in which rather than arguing over principle, political factions instead tried to prove that their opponents didn't actually believe their own principles. Her message is well worth remembering today.

Born in 1928 in Latvia, her family fled to Canada when she was a child--escaping both the Nazis and the Soviets. She later moved to the U.S. to study, and became a leading political theorist at Harvard. While less remembered than fellow liberal giants of political theory of her era like Isaiah Berlin and John Rawls, her vision of a "liberalism of fear"--in which preventing cruelty, and the fear it creates, by both public and private actors, is the primary goal of liberal politics, has been garnering some renewed attention lately.

In her 1982 book, Ordinary Vices, she makes the case that cruelty is the primary sin of politics, but also devotes a series of essays to several competing political "vices," including hypocrisy.

Shklar doesn't defend hypocrisy, exactly, but sees it as inevitable. The supposed egalitarianism of our society, she writes, "does not arise from sincerity. It is based on the pretense that we must speak to each other as if social standings were a matter of indifference." She continues: "Our manners are just as artificial as those seen at Versailles in Moliere's day, but they are infinitely more democratic."

In her view, democratic debate itself requires us to be a bit hypocritical. It's less important that we have genuine respect for people with whom we fundamentally disagree than that we act as if we do, and conduct ourselves as if those views are worth of respect.

To Shklar, accusing an opponent of hypocrisy in the course of a political debate is a form of "psychic warfare" meant to "collapse his self-image."

"And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables"

Posted by orrinj at 9:26 AM


Hydrogen-powered passenger plane completes maiden flight in 'world first' (Anmar Frangoul, 9/25/20, CNBC)

The next step of the HyFlyer project will see ZeroAvia work toward carrying out a flight of between 250 and 300 nautical miles from the Orkney Islands, an archipelago located in waters off the north coast of mainland Scotland. The plane on this flight will use hydrogen-fuel cells. It's hoped this trip will happen before the end of 2020.

The news on ZeroAvia's flight bookends a week in which European aerospace giant Airbus released details of three hydrogen-fueled concept planes, saying they could enter service by the year 2035.

The designs, named ZEROe, differ in size and style, but are all meant to be zero-emission, using hydrogen as their primary source of power.

One of the designs offers a radical vision of how airplanes could look in the years ahead. Carrying as many as 200 passengers, the "blended-wing body" concept would see wings "merge" with the aircraft's main body.

While the widespread adoption of hydrogen power in aircraft is still some way off, land-based forms of transport are already using the technology, albeit on a small scale. Hydrogen buses have been introduced to the U.K. capital of London, for example.

Elsewhere, European firm Alstom has developed the Coradia iLint, a train that harnesses fuel-cell technology to turn oxygen and hydrogen into electricity.

According to the company, it can reach speeds of up to 140 kilometers per hour (87 miles per hour), is low-noise and "emits only steam and water."

Posted by orrinj at 9:24 AM


Feds air FBI agent's gripes about Flynn probe (KYLE CHENEY and JOSH GERSTEIN, 09/25/2020, Politico)

A 13-page summary of an interview with Flynn case agent William Barnett, made public in a court filing by prosecutors just before midnight Thursday, also revealed that the veteran agent harbored deep doubts and skepticism about the merits of the investigation into Flynn's potential ties with Russia -- at least in its early stages -- and questioned the Mueller team's tactics in the broader probe of the Trump campaign's contacts with Russians, known as Crossfire Hurricane.

Though Barnett said he repeatedly expressed those doubts to colleagues and superiors -- and says he feared groupthink and a "get Trump" attitude was driving the investigation forward -- he continued to be included in the work of Mueller's attorneys during sensitive interviews.

He damns his own theory of the case.

Posted by orrinj at 9:17 AM


WHY WRITERS ARE ALWAYS IN PURSUIT OF THE MALTESE FALCON: Ninety years later, the draw of Hammett's mysterious bird statuette remains strong, especially for writers. (GORDON MCALPINE, 9/25/20, Crime Reads)

The Maltese Falcon may be thought of as a novel by Dashiell Hammett published in 1930 or as a trio of film adaptations produced between 1931 and 1941 (the middle of the three being a comedic mess renamed "Satan Met a Lady" and the last being the John Huston/Humphrey Bogart classic). Additionally, the Maltese Falcon may be thought of as the statuette itself--an objet d'art of legendary repute and incalculable financial value. Or the Maltese Falcon may be regarded in terms of the narrative purpose it serves in the story; that is, to use a term popularized by Alfred Hitchcock to stand for any object that entices characters and drives plot, a "MacGuffin." Unattainable, perhaps, but irresistible. A great part of the enduring appeal of the Maltese Falcon is the ineffable quality these varied references suggest. For this reason, I demur when it comes to grounding the Falcon with any one definition, volunteering instead only to share here what the Maltese Falcon has come to mean to me and what I suspect it may represent for many other authors as well, even if they have never given a single thought to the mythical black bird.

Some years ago, I came across a quote from Dashiell Hammett in a 1934 edition of the New York Evening Journal that changed the direction of my own writing. "All of my characters are real," Hammett said. "They are based directly on people I knew or came across."

The proper reading is that the author wished he had the moral courage of his hero, who grassed on the criminal.

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Bring Civics Back to the Classroom (DOUG DUCEY, September 25, 2020, National Review)

Decades of neglected civics education have resulted in widespread ignorance of America's history and founding principles.

Margaret Thatcher once said, "European nations were made by history. The United States was made by philosophy. Unique among all nations, the United States knows precisely when and exactly why it was founded."

Today, that may be changing. Survey after survey shows that Americans have a dismally poor understanding of the founding principles underpinning our nation.

Only one in four Americans can name all three branches of government. Seventy percent don't know that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land.

It gets worse. According to a jaw-dropping survey recently commissioned by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference), nearly two-thirds of young adults don't know that 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust. Nearly a quarter said they believed that the Holocaust was a myth, or it had been exaggerated, or they weren't sure.

What's more, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which regularly issues national report cards on such topics as civics, geography, and U.S. history, found that three-quarters of eighth-graders were unable to demonstrate a proficient understanding of democratic citizenship, government, or American constitutional democracy.

For elected officials, education leaders, parents, and concerned citizens everywhere, these statistics should be a call to action. Our democracy depends on an engaged and informed citizenry. We need a swift intervention -- which begins with the family and is solidified in the classroom.

Suburban mothers have, understandably, driven the trend towards making education mere job training, but with the declining likelihood that their kids will even be able to get jobs, it's an especially good time to return schools to emphasizing civics, as a healthy republic requires.

Posted by orrinj at 8:49 AM


Posted by orrinj at 6:25 AM


Fox News won a court case by 'persuasively' arguing that no 'reasonable viewer' takes Tucker Carlson seriously (Sonam Sheth, 9/25/20, Business Insider)

The judge agreed with Fox's premise, adding that the network "persuasively argues ... that given Mr. Carlson's reputation, any reasonable viewer 'arrive[s] with an appropriate amount of skepticism' about the statements he makes."

Posted by orrinj at 6:15 AM


Two key numbers that make battery storage better bet than gas peakers (Giles Parkinson, 25 September 2020, Renew Economy)

In the US, even with cheap gas, most major utilities are deciding that battery storage is a better bet to meet peak demand problems that gas generators. In Australia, many utilities are leaning the same way, although not the federal government and its wholly owned Snowy Hydro.

If the gas plant proposed for Liddell is a peaking plant - and no one in Australia is seriously considering a "baseload" replacement due to the cost of gas - then it's likely to be rarely used. And when it is used, it will be very expensive.

That's where battery storage comes in as a battery option. AGL has recognised this and hailed the "dawn of the battery era", and is rapidly recalibrating its plans as it recognises the increasingly compelling case for big batteries.

This is driven not only by the anticipated fall in the cost of battery storage (Tesla pointed to a more than 50 per cent reduction over the next three years at its long awaited Battery Day), but also the development of markets that enable battery storage to be properly rewarded for the multitude of services that it can deliver.

September 24, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 10:10 PM


Trump's former Coast Guard chief endorses Biden, cites 'insurgency' on the Constitution (LARA SELIGMAN, 09/24/2020, Politico)

President Donald Trump's former four-star head of the Coast Guard is speaking out on his decision to endorse Joe Biden, saying it's due to an "insurgency" on Americans' constitutional rights that has occurred on the commander in chief's watch.

Retired Adm. Paul Zukunft, who stepped down as commandant of the Coast Guard in June 2018, is one of almost 500 former national security leaders who signed an open letter released Thursday questioning Trump's fitness for command.

Posted by orrinj at 10:06 PM


Nearly Half of Suburban Voters Support Joe Biden, Poll Says (DANIEL VILLARREAL, 9/24/20, Newsweek)

Anew poll shows Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden leading Republican President Donald Trump among suburban voters by 46 percent to 39 percent, a margin of 7 points.

The finding is significant as suburban voters are traditionally considered as more conservative. In 2016, Trump won the country's overall suburban vote by five percentage points. The demographic was crucial to his victories in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

This new poll also contradicts Trump's own claim of support amongst suburban woman, as have two other recent polls.

If he can't even hit his 42% ceiling in the suburbs this gets super ugly.

Posted by orrinj at 10:03 PM


Steele dossier sub-source was suspected of spying for Russia, DOJ reveals (ANDREW DESIDERIO and KYLE CHENEY, 09/24/2020, Politico)

The declassified footnote states that Steele's primary sub-source "was the subject of an FBI counterintelligence investigation from 2009 to 2011 that assessed his/her documented contacts with suspected Russian intelligence officers." It does not, however, say what the FBI ultimately concluded about the sub-source, who has been publicly identified in the New York Times and other outlets.

after years of arguing his sources must have been peripheral, the Right concedes their value.  This gang really can't shoot straight.

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Attorney General Bill Barr loses effort to block Andrew McCabe from suing for retaliatory firing (Sarah K. Burris, 9/24/20, Raw Story)

In a lawsuit against the Justice Department, McCabe alleged that the firing was retaliation after improper political interference by President Donald Trump.

"It was Trump's unconstitutional plan and scheme to discredit and remove DOJ and FBI employees who were deemed to be his partisan opponents because they were not politically loyal to him," the complaint alleges.

If it's a court case it must be a ruling against Donald.

Posted by orrinj at 4:43 PM


Trump's own FBI director shoots down his bogus conspiracy theories about mass voter fraud (ALEX HENDERSON, SEPTEMBER 24, 2020, AlterNet)

During his testimony, Wray told Democratic Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan, "We take all election-related threats seriously, whether it's voter fraud, voter suppression -- whether it's in person, whether it's by mail. And our role is to investigate the threat actors. Now, we have not seen, historically, any kind of coordinated national voter fraud effort in a major election, whether it's by mail or otherwise."

Posted by orrinj at 4:36 PM


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South Korea Has COVID Under Control. Here's What Daily Life Looks Like Now (Katie Way, September 24, 2020, Vice News)

We spoke with Junhyup Kwon, a writer with VICE World News living in South Korea, about what life is like in a country where COVID-19 has been less of a challenge to control. 

VICE: Hi Junhyup! Thank you for taking the time to talk to me. Are you back in the VICE office? 

Junhyup Kwon: Hi Katie! I still work from home--everyone here in the VICE office still works from home. I currently live in Anyang, which is a satellite city of Seoul, South Korea. Some companies already lifted their work-from-home system, and some companies still let their employees work from home. Many of my friends or work from home. 

Before, it was not really common in Korea to work from home, because our work culture puts a lot of importance on the relationship between colleagues. I think that's the biggest challenge for a lot of people, because there is not a big difference from life now to normal life before the pandemic.

That's really interesting to hear. What kind of COVID-19 prevention measures are impacting daily life right now?

Now, the only thing is that we cannot travel abroad, but still, many people travel within the country and go on vacation. In the beginning, there was a stigma, but it has been already more than six months, because we experienced this from February. Right now, there are no big restrictions here--everything is open, we just wear masks and practice social distancing. 

It's not as hard as the SATs, Donald.

Posted by orrinj at 12:48 PM


White Supremacists Top Terrorist Threats Within U.S., Wolf Says (Josyana Joshua and Daniel Flatley, September 23, 2020, Bloomberg)

President Donald Trump's nominee to lead the agency in charge of curbing domestic terrorism told senators that White supremacists have become the "most persistent and lethal threat" to the U.S. from within the country.

"White supremacist extremists, from a lethality standpoint over the last two years, particularly when you look at 2018 and 2019, are certainly the most persistent and lethal threat when we talk about domestic violent extremists," said Chad Wolf, who has been heading the Department of Homeland Security in an acting capacity since late last year.

The response is notable considering that Trump and Attorney General William Barr have sought to portray the nation as besieged by "left-wing" agitators fomenting violence in protests over racial injustice.

Posted by orrinj at 10:52 AM


Posted by orrinj at 10:00 AM


Trump Ally: Kelly Loeffler Offered Trump $50 Million to Help Get Her Opponent Out of the Race (Lachlan Markay, Sep. 24, 2020, Daily Beast)

A leading congressional ally of President Donald Trump alleged last week that Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) threatened to withhold financial support for the president's re-election effort unless he helped get her top Republican opponent out of the race.

According to Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Loeffler or her representatives approached the Trump campaign and offered to spend tens of millions of dollars on Trump's behalf. But that financial support would only come, Loeffler's team supposedly said, if Trump helped convince Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) to drop his Senate bid. Gaetz supports Collins and was speaking at a campaign event.

Posted by orrinj at 9:42 AM


Fatah, Hamas say deal reached on Palestinian elections (AFP, 9/24/20)

Gaza rulers Hamas and their rivals in the occupied West Bank, Fatah, have agreed to hold the first Palestinian elections in nearly 15 years, officials from both sides told AFP on Thursday.

Polls will be scheduled within six months under a deal reached between Fatah leader Mahmud Abbas and Hamas political chief Ismail Haniyeh.

"We have agreed to first hold legislative elections, then presidential elections of the Palestinian Authority, and finally the central council of the Palestine Liberation Organization," said Jibril Rajub, a senior Fatah official.

The last Palestinian parliamentary elections were held in 2006 when Hamas won an unexpected landslide.

We should have welcomed the victory by Palestine's democratic party and aided them in establishing their inevitable nation.

Posted by orrinj at 9:39 AM


Volkswagen Revives the Spirit of the Beetle With the Electric ID.4: The new SUV hopes to win over Americans by being too practical to ignore (ALEX LAUER, 9/24/20, Inside Hook)

[V]olkswagen thinks the ideal family car is a compact SUV that seats five, features ample storage space and offers inoffensive design, which is what you get with the new ID.4. While "inoffensive" may sound like a dis, it's more about how Volkswagen's first vehicle in its new electric era in the States falls squarely between the space-age design of Elon Musk's Tesla (the spartan, touchscreen-focused interior is sometimes off-putting to mainstream drivers) and the if ain't broke don't fix it ethos of previous mainstream offerings like the Chevrolet Bolt or Nissan Leaf.

In terms of performance and price, it also finds itself in the middle ground of the current electric market, despite Volkswagen's attempt to frame the ID.4 as unique in its appeal "to millions, not just the millionaires." It offers an estimated 250 miles of range, which is solid even for people who won't have a charger at home -- as Renna notes, that's about how many miles the average American drives in a week, and probably lower because of the pandemic -- even if that's about the same as the Bolt or base Tesla Model 3.

Meanwhile, the MSRP of $39,995 for the ID.4 Pro may not sound super affordable at first glance, but that figure is only $1,300 over the average new vehicle price in the U.S., according to Kelley Blue Book, and the federal electric car tax credit of $7,500 has the potential to put it in competition with other compact SUVs, not just electric ones.

Posted by orrinj at 9:30 AM


California Gov. Newsom Signs Order Banning New Gas-Fueled Cars by 2035 (BRITTANY BERNSTEIN, September 24, 2020, National Review)

The order, which directs the California Air Resources Board to craft a phase-out plan that would ultimately require 100 percent zero-emissions personal use and dryage vehicles in the next 15 years, is an attempt to push consumers in the nation's largest car market toward electric vehicles in hopes of reducing emissions that most scientists say contribute to climate change.

Other agencies will be directed to help create zero-emission vehicle charging stations, and the order will also mandate medium- and heavy-duty trucks to be zero-emission by 2045 where feasible.

"Of all the simultaneous crises that we face as a state...none is more forceful than the issue of the climate crisis," Newsom said. "What we're advancing here today is a strategy to address that crisis head on, to be as bold as the problem is big."

Fifteen countries have implemented similar policies, while nine states, including New York, currently follow California's ZEV standards.

The Newsom administration estimates the move would cut greenhouse gas emissions by 35 percent and nitrogen oxide emissions by 80 percent. 

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said on Tuesday that it would take an estimated 15 years of all-electric sales to eliminate most internal combustion engine cars from the road. Zero emissions vehicles include battery-electrics as well as vehicles that run on hydrogen fuel cells.

Manufacturers follow their markets.

Posted by orrinj at 9:23 AM


Saudi exiles form opposition party, call for peaceful change (Deutsche-Welle, 9/24/20)

A group of exiled Saudi dissidents announced Wednesday the formation of a new opposition party, within hours of Saudi Arabia's King Salman addressing the UN General Assembly and urging it stand firm against rival Iran.

Saudi dissidents located in Britain, the US, Canada, and elsewhere, and led by London-based human rights defender Yahya Assiri, said their new party aimed "to institute democracy as a form of government in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia."

In its statement, the dissident the National Assembly Party (NAAS) asserted that "the government constantly practices violence and repression, with mounting numbers of political arrests and assassinations."

In exchange for Iran demilitarizing the Sunni/Israeli dictatorships ought to be required to transition to self-government.

Posted by orrinj at 8:35 AM


Outsized support from women has Biden ahead or competitive in Iowa, Georgia, and Texas, poll finds (The Week, 9/24/20)

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is leading President Trump by more than 7 percentage points in national polling averages, but as Trump showed in 2016, winning the Electoral College is what gets you elected. Well, "Trump is on the defensive in three red states he carried in 2016," The New York Times reported Thursday morning, unveiling new Times/Sienna College polls of likely voters in Iowa, Georgia, and Texas.

Thanks to "a wall of opposition from women," the Times reports, Trump trails Biden by 3 points in Iowa, is tied with him in Georgia, and is ahead by 3 points in Texas, and the Democrats are competitive in those states' Senate races as well.

Posted by orrinj at 8:30 AM


Dynamic tattoos promise to warn wearers of health threats  (Carson J Bruns, 9/24/20, The Conversation)

In the sci-fi novel "The Diamond Age" by Neal Stephenson, body art has evolved into "constantly shifting mediatronic tattoos" - in-skin displays powered by nanotech robopigments. In the 25 years since the novel was published, nanotechnology has had time to catch up, and the sci-fi vision of dynamic tattoos is starting to become a reality.

The first examples of color-changing nanotech tattoos have been developed over the past few years, and they're not just for body art. They have a biomedical purpose. Imagine a tattoo that alerts you to a health problem signaled by a change in your biochemistry, or to radiation exposure that could be dangerous to your health.

You can't walk into a doctor's office and get a dynamic tattoo yet, but they are on the way. Early proof-of-concept studies provide convincing evidence that tattoos can be engineered, not only to change color, but to sense and convey biomedical information, including the onset of cancer.

Posted by orrinj at 8:28 AM


Posted by orrinj at 8:19 AM


Boosted unemployment benefits didn't incentivize Americans to stay jobless, Fed study shows  (Ben Winck,  Sep. 24, 2020, Business Insider)

In a new study, economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco found that expanded unemployment benefits had little-to-no disincentive effect on unemployed Americans' efforts to be rehired. 
A new study from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco found that expanded unemployment benefits had little to no adverse effect on jobless Americans' job search efforts.
The $600-per-week expansion to unemployment benefits was a key tenet of March's CARES Act. The boosted insurance program offered millions of jobless Americans a temporary source of income as the coronavirus pandemic roiled the economy.

Yet the aid faced strong opposition before it was enacted and as some seek to reinstate the $600 buffer. Republicans and the Trump administration knocked the measure, saying the bolstered payments demotivated unemployed Americans from seeking work or accepting jobs.

Posted by orrinj at 8:15 AM


Republicans assure a peaceful transition of power after Donald Trump refuses to say if he would quietly go if he loses (KATELYN CARALLE, and GEOFF EARLE, 9/24/20, DAILYMAIL.COM)

Marco Rubio said Thursday that the U.S. government will swear in the President in January following a 'fair election' after Donald Trump refused to say Wednesday if he would peacefully give up his seat in January if Joe Biden wins the election.

'As we have done for over two centuries we will have a legitimate & fair election,' the Florida senator tweeted the morning after Trump made the questionable comments.

'It may take longer than usual to know the outcome,but it will be a valid one,' he continued, in a likely reference to mail-in ballots holding up the outcome. 'And at noon on Jan 20,2021 we will peacefully swear in the President.'

Biden was at a loss for words when asked how he felt about the president's comments.

'What country are we in?' the former vice president queried to reporters.

'I'm being facetious,' he clarified. 'I said, what country are we in? Look, he says the most irrational things. I don't know what to say.'

Mitt Romney lashed out Wednesday night on Twitter.

'Fundamental to democracy is the peaceful transition of power; without that, there is Belarus,' the Utah Republican said in reference to the European country experiencing mass protests as its president sought a sixth term and was secretly sworn in despite the opposition candidate claiming they received 60-70 per cent of the votes.

'Any suggestion that a president might not respect this Constitutional guarantee is both unthinkable and unacceptable,' Romney continued in his tweet. 

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Posted by orrinj at 7:48 AM


Not Many People Have Basements in California ...: Robert Graysmith visiting the home of Bob Vaughn in 'Zodiac' is David Fincher's most purely terrifying scene. Here's how it came together--and came to stay in the movie. (Jake Kring-Schreifels,  Sep 24, 2020, the Ringer)

On a wet September night in 1978, Robert Graysmith couldn't resist his curiosity.

A month earlier, the San Francisco Chronicle cartoonist had received an anonymous phone call regarding the identity of the Zodiac, the notorious Bay Area serial killer. "He's a guy named Rick Marshall," the mysterious voice told him at the start of an hourlong conversation. The killer's string of murders in 1969 had gone unsolved, but Graysmith suddenly had a new lead. According to the tipster, Marshall--a former projectionist at The Avenue Theater--had hidden evidence from his five victims inside movie canisters, which he'd rigged to explode. Before hanging up, the nameless caller told Graysmith to find Bob Vaughn, a silent film organist who worked with Marshall. The booby-trapped canisters, Graysmith learned, had recently been moved to Vaughn's home. "Get to Vaughn," the voice told him. "See if he tells you to stay away from part of his film collection."

After years spent independently entrenched in the open case, Graysmith dug into Marshall's history and found several coincidences. His new suspect liked The Red Spectre, an early-century movie referenced in a 1974 Zodiac letter, and had used a teletype machine just like the killer. Outside The Avenue Theater, Marshall's felt-pen posters even had handwriting similar to the Zodiac's obscure, cursive strokes. On occasional visits to the upscale movie house, Graysmith observed Vaughn playing the Wurlitzer and noticed the Zodiac's crosshair symbol plastered to the theater's ceiling. There were too many overlapping clues. He had to make a trip to Vaughn's house. "We knew there was some link," Graysmith tells me. "I was scared to death."

Almost three decades later, director David Fincher turned Graysmith's nightmarish visit into one of the creepiest movie scenes of all time. It takes place near the end of Zodiac, after Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) follows Vaughn (Charles Fleischer) to his home through the rain in his conspicuous, bright-orange Volkswagen Rabbit. Once inside, the mood quickly becomes unnerving. After disclosing that he, not Marshall, is responsible for the movie poster handwriting, Vaughn leads a spooked Graysmith down to his dimly lit basement. As the organist sorts through his nitrate film records, the floorboards above Graysmith creak, insinuating another's presence. After Vaughn assures his guest that he lives alone, Graysmith sprints upstairs to the locked front door, rattling the handle, before Vaughn slowly pulls out his key and opens it from behind. Graysmith bolts into the rain as though he's just escaped the Zodiac's clutches.

Posted by orrinj at 7:38 AM


How Climate Targets Can Help Economic Recovery (FRANCISCA TONDREAU, 9/24/20, Project Syndicate)

Chile is a good example. The government announced an updated climate pledge in April, together with a new climate bill that is currently before the National Congress. The updated NDC links climate action to sustainable development and a just energy transition. At its core is a commitment to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, and it is easy to see how the government's pandemic response can help to achieve this goal by accelerating the necessary transitions in the energy and transportation sectors.

But Chile's new NDC also shows another front where countries' economic recovery plans can receive a significant boost: nature-based solutions. The NDC demonstrates an understanding of the role nature can play in achieving carbon neutrality, as well as in adapting to the effects of climate change and recognizing the importance of creating and maintaining natural carbon sinks.

For starters, Chile's climate plan links ocean and climate health, while acknowledging the economic value of coastal ecosystems. We don't need to look far for an example of how healthy marine ecosystems support local economies. In Mexico, in the Gulf of California and the Baja California Peninsula alone, marine ecosystems generate $518 million in annual tourism revenues and directly account for at least 3,575 jobs. Given Chile's extensive coastline, the possibilities are much likely orders of magnitude higher. The NDC does not disappoint in this regard: It includes a commitment to turn 25% of its exclusive economic zone into a protected area. If properly implemented, this pledge would create new economic opportunities for the country.

The new NDC also significantly strengthens Chile's commitments regarding forests. The government has doubled its target for sustainable forests management and restoration from 100,000 hectares to 200,000 hectares by 2030. Likewise, it will plant 200,000 hectares of new forests (up from 100,000 hectares), of which at least 100,000 hectares will comprise permanent forest cover and at least 70,000 hectares will be native species. Finally, Chile has said it will cut emissions from deforestation and land degradation by 25% by 2030.

The link to economic growth (albeit understudied and underappreciated) is clear here as well. Pursuing these targets will enable governments to create a variety of jobs, including foresters, botanists, machinery operators, and laborers. And restored landscapes offer additional benefits. A 2016 study by the World Resources Institute found that in Latin America, reviving degraded lands would yield $23 billion in net benefits over a period of 50 years. On average, farmers who restore their land can earn an extra $1,140 per hectare in net economic value.

Posted by orrinj at 7:35 AM


'Sisi is the enemy of God,' chants on Egypt's fourth day of protests against his rule (MEMO, September 24, 2020)

Egyptian citizens demonstrated for the fourth day in a row yesterday evening, in response to Mohamed Ali's calls to take to the streets and unite against the ruling regime.

Throughout his rule, Al-Sisi's government has been accused of human rights abuse, including the systematic torture of political prisoners, extrajudicial killings, and the demolition of homes across the country.

He has also been criticised for his handling of Libya and the Renaissance Dam crisis.

Residents in Atfih district in Giza set fire to a security vehicle, reports Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.

Demonstrators chanted, "Get out Sisi."

Security forces shot at crowds in the Kafr Qandil area and used tear gas against them.

In the village of Al-Atf in Giza Governorate, south of Cairo, demonstrators chanted, "Leave and let our country see the light."

In Minya Al-Hayit, Fayoum Governorate, they said: "There is no God but God... Sisi is the enemy of God."

Posted by orrinj at 7:33 AM


'Wearing a mask is loving your neighbour' - Justin Welby (Christianity Today,  24 September 2020) 

In a Twitter post that drew some hostile responses, Justin Welby drew on Matthew 22:39 in which Jesus tells his followers that loving their neighbours as themselves is the second great commandment after loving God. 

Welby told his 153,000 Twitter followers that social distancing and wearing masks were some of the ways they could love their neighbour. 

"Wearing a mask is loving your neighbour. Keeping your distance is loving your neighbour. Washing your hands is loving your neighbourm," he tweeted.

"Let's keep loving our neighbours." 

Posted by orrinj at 7:03 AM


The Cheating Scandal That Ripped the Poker World Apart (BRENDAN I. KOERNER, 9.21.2020 , Wired)

MIKE POSTLE WAS on another tear. The moonfaced 42-year-old was deep into a marathon poker session at Stones Gambling Hall, a boxy glass-and-steel casino wedged between Interstate 80 and a Popeye's in suburban Sacramento. The September 21, 2019, game, which Stones was broadcasting to audiences via YouTube and Twitch, had attracted several top players to the casino's card room, a gaudily lit space done up like an Old West saloon. One pro from Las Vegas had flown in on a chartered jet with $50,000 in cash. Yet, as usual when he appeared on Stones' livestream, Postle was shredding the competition; he was the evening's chips leader by a comfortable margin.

Five hours into the show, a curious hand took shape. Like all games of Texas Hold 'Em, the most widely televised form of poker, the action began with each player receiving two face-down cards--the hole cards. Five community cards were then to be dealt face-up in three rounds, with opportunities for betting in between. The first face-up batch, called the flop, would consist of three cards. After that, the dealer would add a single card ("the turn") followed by one more ("the river"). Players would vie for the pot by assembling the best hands using their two hole cards plus any three from the shared array.

Even before the flop, though, seven of the nine players chose to fold. Postle, who'd been dealt the queen of diamonds and jack of hearts, pressed forward with the hand. His sole opponent would be Marle Cordeiro, a Las Vegas-based pro with a large social media following.

The flop contained the 8 of spades, 9 of diamonds, and jack of diamonds--a promising trio for Postle, who now had a pair (jacks) and was just a 10 away from a queen-high straight (8-9-10-jack-queen). There were two shared cards left to be dealt. The turn produced the relatively useless 4 of spades, after which Cordeiro placed a $600 bet.

Postle, his white baseball cap nearly concealing his eyes, clutched his right shoulder with his left hand as he mulled his options. Most seasoned players would call or raise in his situation: The statistical likelihood that his hand would yield a favorable monetary outcome was high enough to make proceeding to the river an easy choice. But Postle had an unorthodox style of play, and he often made decisions that his rivals deemed either wildly aggressive or inexplicably meek. Those instincts had served him well in recent months: He was in the midst of an epic winning streak--a "heater"--that had turned him into a local folk hero. He'd become such a force on Stones' livestream, in fact, that casino regulars had taken to calling him the Messiah and even God.

Postle spent half a minute in quiet contemplation, almost motionless in his black leather chair. Then, pursing his lips in resignation, he chucked his cards forward to fold.

Postle's surrender, though counterintuitive, turned out to be a canny move because Cordeiro was holding "the nuts"--poker slang for the most valuable hand. Her hidden hole cards were the 10 of diamonds and queen of spades, so she'd already secured a queen-high straight before the river; she had a 96 percent chance of maintaining her edge once all the cards were dealt.

Justin Kelly, one of the livestream's two commentators, gushed over the genius of Postle's eccentric play. "This is what I'm talking about people!" he exclaimed from his broadcast booth across the room. "Postle takes the weirdest lines and gets people to lay down huge hands all the time. But when he has top pair and a straight draw, he is able to just lay down against the nuts. Postle is just like a freak! He's just a freak of nature."

Kelly's co-commentator, 42-year-old Veronica Brill, did not share his sense of awe. She had been observing Postle up close for a while, both as an opponent at the table and a broadcaster, and she'd come to believe there was a nefarious reason for his success. For months she'd resisted mentioning her suspicions on the livestream, hoping that Stones would handle the matter behind the scenes. But the fold against Cordeiro struck her as so fishy that she could no longer keep quiet. Brill leaned back, gently shook her head, and took a half-step toward calling out God.

"It doesn't make sense," she said, her soft monotone tinged with mockery. "It's like he knows. It doesn't make sense. It's weird." Sounding caught off guard by his cohost's skeptical remarks, Kelly continued effusively--"Absolute insanity, guys!"--before managing to change the subject.

Late that night, as she drove in silence toward her Bay Area home, Brill turned the broadcast over and over in her mind. Her insinuation about Postle, though subtle, had the potential to cause a stir. Fellow players would gossip that jealousy had driven her to smear a more accomplished rival, a decent man who'd just come through a harrowing family drama. Gliding west on Interstate 80, Brill realized she had no choice but to commit one of poker's cardinal sins.

Posted by orrinj at 4:05 AM


Demographic shifts since 2016 could be enough to defeat Trump. (David Wasserman, 9/23/20, NBC)

The key? Trump's unprecedented 37-point margin among white voters without four-year college degrees, who are especially influential in the upper Midwest.

But as the U.S. becomes more diverse and college-educated, Trump's core demographic is steadily declining. In 2020, noncollege whites are on track to make up about 43 percent of the nation's adult citizens, down from 46 percent in 2016.

Meanwhile, whites with four-year degrees, who are trending blue and increasingly behave like a different ethnic group from noncollege whites, will make up 25 percent of adult citizens, up from 24 percent in 2016. And Black Americans, Latinos, Asians and other nonwhites, historically Democrats' most reliable supporters, will make up 32 percent, up from 30 percent four years ago.

Trumpism depends on keeping elderly white men alive and young white men ignorant.  He's doing pretty well with the latter but actively killing the former.

September 23, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 9:48 PM


"Political hit job": GOP's Biden report littered with debunked claims and "Russian disinformation" (IGOR DERYSH, SEPTEMBER 23, 2020, Salon)

Democrats expressed concerns during the investigation that Johnson's probe relied on Russian misinformation aimed at hurting Biden. The GOP report devoted 10 of its 87 pages to countering allegations that their probe had fueled a Russian disinformation effort.

Democrats said the Republicans advanced a narrative pushed by sanctioned pro-Russia Ukrainian lawmaker Andrii Derkach, who provided information to the committee. The report claimed that Johnson and Grassley "did not receive" and were "unaware of" the information sent by the lawmaker, arguing that "it is impossible that Derkach's efforts could have shaped the committees' investigation in any way."

But Politico noted that Johnson's allegations "mirror those pushed by Derkach." The Ukrainian lawmaker also met with Trump attorney Rudy GIuliani, who led the off-book investigation in Ukraine which ultimately led to Trump's impeachment.

Johnson also had contact with former Ukrainian diplomat Andriy Telizhenko, who worked for Blue Star Strategies, a lobbying firm that represented Burisma, and advanced the debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election to help Trump's Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

The report cited "confidential sources" nearly 100 times, whose identities remain unclear. Republicans also did not immediately release transcripts from witness interviews, instead only releasing selective quotes from the interviews.

Democrats slammed Republicans for withholding the transcripts. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., the top Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said releasing the report without simultaneously releasing the transcripts was a "direct violation" of rules that weakened "the committee's ability to effectively carry out its responsibilities on behalf of the public in the future."

Posted by orrinj at 5:53 PM


Pro-Trump governor who opposes mask mandates tests positive for COVID-19 (Matthew Chapman, 9/23/20, Raw Story)

On Wednesday, Missouri officials announced that Gov. Mike Parson and his wife have tested positive for COVID-19.

Posted by orrinj at 4:53 PM


A 'distressed' Birx questions how long she can remain on White House task force, sources say (Jim Acosta, September 23, 2020, CNN)

Birx has told people around her that she is "distressed" with the direction of the task force, describing the situation inside the nation's response to the coronavirus as nightmarish.

According to people familiar with her thinking, Birx views Dr. Scott Atlas, a recent addition to the task force, as an unhealthy influence on President Donald Trump's thinking when it comes to the virus.

"The President has found somebody who matches what he wants to believe," a source close to Birx said of her view of Atlas's relationship with Trump. "There is no doubt that she feels that her role has been diminished."

Birx believes Atlas is feeding the President misleading information about the efficacy of face masks for controlling the spread of the virus, the source said. Trump, whose rallies draw crowds of supporters who refuse to wear masks, has repeatedly mocked Democratic rival Joe Biden for using them.

The henchwoman gig got old, huh?

Posted by orrinj at 4:41 PM


Judge orders Eric Trump to testify in New York probe before election (Axios, 9/23/20)

The investigation was launched after the president's former personal attorney Michael Cohen testified to Congress that Trump inflated and deflated his net worth at various times in order to obtain tax benefits and more favorable terms for loans.

Posted by orrinj at 2:57 PM


The GOP's own star witness just blew up Trump's 'Hunterghazi' smear (Greg Sargent and  Paul Waldman, September 23, 2020, washington Post)

In reality, Burisma was not even being investigated at the time, and the vice president was working to oust that Ukrainian prosecutor because the prosecutor himself was corrupt.

That was the actual Obama administration policy, and this goal was backed by international institutions precisely because they had a stake in a corruption-free Ukraine. GOP senators were briefed by Obama officials about this policy at the time, including about the conditioning of foreign aid, and had no objections to it.

Kent himself -- that would be the Republicans' own star witness -- has now confirmed much of this, in testimony to the committee as part of the GOP's own investigation.

In that testimony, as the Democratic response to the GOP report details, Kent knocked down every key pillar of the GOP story line:

Kent debunked the idea that Burisma was protected from investigation, stating that "I did not witness any effort by any U.S. official to shield Burisma from scrutiny."

Kent debunked the idea that the U.S. effort to oust the Ukrainian prosecutor was about stopping an investigation into Burisma, flatly stating that it was not.

Kent confirmed that the quest for that ouster was about purging Ukraine of corruption, noting that "Ukrainian society" wanted the prosecutor gone because he was "protecting corrupt friends."

Kent confirmed that the conditioning of aid as leverage had nothing to do with Hunter Biden and that it originated with those involved in formulating "Ukraine policy."

Kent already testified to some of these points during impeachment. But now he offered it directly to the GOP investigation itself.

Posted by orrinj at 12:35 PM


Republican Inquiry Finds No Evidence of Wrongdoing by Biden (Nicholas Fandos, Sept. 23, 2020, NY Times)

An election-year investigation by Senate Republicans into corruption allegations against Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic presidential nominee, and his son, Hunter, involving Ukraine found no evidence of improper influence or wrongdoing by the former vice president, bringing to a close a highly politicized inquiry its leaders had hoped would tarnish President Trump's rival.

Posted by orrinj at 12:31 PM


Trump said Jews are 'only in it for themselves' and suggested they weren't loyal to America: White House officials (Brad Reed, 9/23/20, Washington Post)

[T]he president "has muttered that Jews 'are only in it for themselves' and 'stick together' in an ethnic allegiance that exceeds other loyalties."

Additionally, these sources say that Trump "has maintained that Black Americans have mainly themselves to blame in their struggle for equality, hindered more by lack of initiative than societal impediments," while also telling aides that he "could never understand" why first lady Melania Trump would ever want to visit Africa.

Grant the Right their objection to comparing Donald to Hitler: there's no doubt he'd have been happy to administer the Zyklon-B. (Or at least have his dad pay someone to stand in for him.)

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Senate Republicans release report on Biden-Ukraine investigation with rehashed information (Shane Savitsky, 9/23/20, Axios)

 The report ultimately fails to support one of Republicans' top claims about the Burisma affair -- that, as vice president, Joe Biden fought for the ouster of Ukraine's top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, to protect Burisma and his son from scrutiny on corruption issues.

In fact, European countries and international bodies had contemporaneously accused Shokin of failing to pursue corruption, including in the Burisma case, and wanted him fired.

The report also leans on a statement from senior U.S. diplomat George Kent that Hunter Biden's work in Ukraine was "very awkward" -- a sentiment he already expressed last year during President Trump's impeachment hearings.

Kent also told impeachment investigators that Joe Biden had done nothing wrong with his Ukraine work.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Amy Coney Barrett, controversial Catholic, re-emerges as potential Supreme Court pick (Jack Jenkins, 9/22/20, Religion News Service)

During her 2017 confirmation hearing to serve on the 7th Circuit Court, some pointed to a 1998 law-review article Barrett co-wrote with John Garvey, then her Notre Dame professor and now president of the Catholic University of America. The two argued that "Catholic judges (if they are faithful to the teaching of their church) are morally precluded from enforcing the death penalty."

This approach potentially challenges a mindset invoked by some Catholic politicians regarding intersections of faith and public policy -- namely, that one's personal faith should not, whenever possible, preclude one from performing a duty that stands to impact the general public. During Barrett's confirmation hearing, California Senator Dianne Feinstein zeroed in on her "previous speeches," insisting that religious dogma is not the same thing as law.

"The dogma lives loudly within you," Feinstein said to Barrett.

Address to the Houston Ministers Conference (John F. Kennedy, 12 September 1960)

I want a Chief Executive whose public acts are responsible to all groups and obligated to none--who can attend any ceremony, service or dinner his office may appropriately require of him--and whose fulfillment of his Presidential oath is not limited or conditioned by any religious oath, ritual or obligation. 

This is the kind of America I believe in--and this is the kind I fought for in the South Pacific, and the kind my brother died for in Europe. No one suggested then that we may have a "divided loyalty," that we did "not believe in liberty," or that we belonged to a disloyal group that threatened the "freedoms for which our forefathers died." 

And in fact this is the kind of America for which our forefathers died--when they fled here to escape religious test oaths that denied office to members of less favored churches--when they fought for the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom--and when they fought at the shrine I visited today, the Alamo. For side by side with Bowie and Crockett died McCafferty and Bailey and Carey--but no one knows whether they were Catholic or not. For there was no religious test at the Alamo. 

I ask you tonight to follow in that tradition--to judge me on the basis of my record of 14 years in Congress--on my declared stands against an Ambassador to the Vatican, against unconstitutional aid to parochial schools, and against any boycott of the public schools (which I have attended myself)--instead of judging me on the basis of these pamphlets and publications we all have seen that carefully select quotations out of context from the statements of Catholic church leaders, usually in other countries, frequently in other centuries, and always omitting, of course, the statement of the American Bishops in 1948 which strongly endorsed church-state separation, and which more nearly reflects the views of almost every American Catholic. 

I do not consider these other quotations binding upon my public acts--why should you? But let me say, with respect to other countries, that I am wholly opposed to the state being used by any religious group, Catholic or Protestant, to compel, prohibit, or persecute the free exercise of any other religion. And I hope that you and I condemn with equal fervor those nations which deny their Presidency to Protestants and those which deny it to Catholics. And rather than cite the misdeeds of those who differ, I would cite the record of the Catholic Church in such nations as Ireland and France--and the independence of such statesmen as Adenauer and De Gaulle. 

But let me stress again that these are my views--for contrary to common newspaper usage, I am not the Catholic candidate for President. I am the Democratic Party's candidate for President who happens also to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my church on public matters--and the church does not speak for me. 

Whatever issue may come before me as President--on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject--I will make my decision in accordance with these views, in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressures or dictates. And no power or threat of punishment could cause me to decide otherwise. 

But if the time should ever come--and I do not concede any conflict to be even remotely possible--when my office would require me to either violate my conscience or violate the national interest, then I would resign the office; and I hope any conscientious public servant would do the same. 

If a law is consistent with republican liberty and properly adopted, a judge could well choose not to enforce it because of their Church teachings, but ought to recuse or resign.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


New 3-D printing method could jump-start creation of tiny medical devices for the body (Ben P. Stein, 9/22/20, National Institute of Standards and Technology)

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have developed a new method of 3-D-printing gels and other soft materials. Published in a new paper, it has the potential to create complex structures with nanometer-scale precision. Because many gels are compatible with living cells, the new method could jump-start the production of soft tiny medical devices such as drug delivery systems or flexible electrodes that can be inserted into the human body.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The RNC is wiring cash to Texas. Is it a 2020 battleground? (ELENA SCHNEIDER, 09/23/2020, Politico)

Texas is more competitive this year than it's been in a generation. And even though Democrats have been talking about this coming for, oh, perhaps 20 years, Texas has flown far under the radar in 2020 as states more essential to the battleground map (like Wisconsin) or more gettable for Joe Biden (like Arizona) suck up all the attention.

But eyes would have popped if you traveled back to 2008 and told Texans, when Barack Obama lost the state by 12 points while winning nationally by 7 points, that the 2020 presidential contest in the state would be polling inside the margin of error. Yet even in 2016, President Donald Trump won Iowa by a larger margin than Texas, and in 2018, Democrat Beto O'Rourke lost to Sen. Ted Cruz by just 2.6 percentage points. The state's rapidly growing and diversifying cities and suburbs are chock full of college-educated voters, a core constituency Trump has struggled to hold within the GOP.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


I'm a conservative and I'm voting for Joe BidenTrump isn't a conservative (Jim Kolbe, 9/22/20, Arizona Daily Star)

The original meaning of the term conservative, as articulated by Edmund Burke, was the desire to conserve aspects of tradition and social stability as society moves forward. It is this conservative philosophy I have embraced from my earliest days in politics when I worked for Barry Goldwater. It has continued to be my guiding principle through service in the Vietnam War, as a state legislator and then representing Southern Arizona in Congress as a Republican for 22 years.

I remain a conservative today. And that's why I am casting my vote for Joe Biden.

I have five good reasons rooted in conservative philosophy that I believe argue for Arizona Republicans to reject Donald Trump and change the poisonous direction he has taken the party.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Top election forecaster shifts Senate races away from Republicans Lindsey Graham and Susan Collins (Roger Sollenberger, 9/23/20, Raw Story)

With the Senate poised to begin likely explosive confirmation hearings over President Donald Trump's nominee to replace former Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, top election expert Larry Sabato has swung his projection for two critical contests to the left. [,,,] 

Harrison, who served as a longtime congressional staffer, D.C. lobbyist and the first Black chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party, has pressured Graham by consistently out-raising the incumbent throughout the year. Reputable polls have reflected a dead heat.

Recent public polling has borne out the Harrison campaign's internal surveys over the summer showing a tight gap, according to Sabato's team. An early August Quinnipiac poll found the two tied at 44%, and another Quinnipiac survey last week showed a tie again last week at 48%.

Harrison's fundraising suggests the support of national resources and enthusiasm in addition to deep pockets. In August alone, Harrison raised more than $10 million; last week, his campaign claimed to have pulled in $2 million in two days. Further, Ginsburg's death has motivated left-leaning voters across the country, who have been pouring money into Democrat-backing groups, some of which will also help Harrison in his quest to unseat the man who oversaw the Kavanaugh hearings.

The Harrison campaign has attacked Graham as a Trump lackey, who has neglected his state in order to retain his proximity to power. Sabato's analysts said this closeness to Trump might prove prickly for Graham, who has tried to distance himself from the president amid the fallout from the administration's botched response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Jeff Van Drew, Trump-backing Congressman Who Quit Democrats for GOP, Is Losing Election: Poll (BRENDAN COLE, 9/23/20, Newsweek)

He said in the Oval Office at the time that Trump had his "undying support," and said of his new party: "I believe that this is just a better fit for me. This is who I am."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Tesla lays out path to an electric car cheap enough for most people (DAVID Z. MORRIS, September 22, 2020, Fortune)

At its heart, the plan is to vertically integrate a large portion of Tesla's battery production, "from mining the ore to the complete battery pack," as Musk put it. That control will allow for design and technology innovations that Musk says will dramatically slash costs for Tesla's cars. Tesla currently works with partners like LG and Panasonic to produce batteries, and it apparently won't end those relationships anytime soon. But it will dramatically expand its own battery production capacity, and, executives said, make those batteries for less than its partners do today.

Based on its various innovations, Tesla projects it can reduce the cost of its batteries by more than half within about three years (though Musk and Baglino didn't reveal much about Tesla's current production costs). The result, if Tesla's projections pan out, could fundamentally reshape the economics of car buying sooner than you think.

All you really need to know about how reactionary the Right has become is that cheap renewable energy represents a defeat in their eyes.  No wonder they're so hysterical when innovation is an enemy.

September 22, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 7:09 PM


My cancer might be back--and I wonder if unnecessary radiation caused it in the first place (CAROLYN BARBER, September 22, 2020, Fortune)

I was a 23-year-old investment banker, working ludicrous hours in New York and training for marathons on the side, when cancer first entered my life. In the three decades since, the disease has been perhaps not a constant companion, but certainly a ride-along. I did not always hear it; it was not always speaking loudly. But it was back there somewhere.

And now that there is a possibility that my cancer has returned, questions about some of the decisions my doctors and I made in those early days have resurfaced.

Was my radiation really necessary? Could we have more thoroughly discussed the poor base of research related to my type of cancer, and would knowing more about the uncertainties and potential long-term complications have made a difference in my choices?

Is the way we treated my cancer back then the reason I'm still here 30 years later, or is it the cause of the new nodules discovered in my neck? Both?

On a daily basis in the U.S., unnecessary medical tests, treatments, and surgeries actively harm patients at astounding rates. Physicians fail to adequately inform subjects about the downstream risk of procedures. The pharmaceutical and biomedical industries influence doctors' decision-making, actively bias major product research, pay key players to grease the skids for expanded sales, and ignore or obscure the harm some of their medicines and devices can do.

Posted by orrinj at 6:52 PM


House Democrats, Trump administration strike deal to avert government shutdown (Alayna Treene, 9/22/20, Axios)

Pelosi said Tuesday that Treasury Secretary Mnuchin had agreed to "increase accountability" in the farmer bailout fund in order to prevent it from being "misused for a Big Oil bailout." Pelosi also said Republicans had agreed to add nearly $8 billion in "desperately needed nutrition assistance for hungry schoolchildren and families."

Posted by orrinj at 1:43 PM


Syrians mock Assad regime's 'copycat' horse sculpture in Damascus (New Arab, 22 September, 2020)

A sculpture of a horse's head appeared in a major square in the Syrian capital Damascus last Saturday, only to be removed several hours later after widespread mockery on social media.

The sculpture, which was created by Syrian artist Husam Jannoud and placed in Malki Square in central Damascus, was virtually identical to another sculpture called "Still Water", which stands in Marble Arch in London and was created by British artist Nic Fiddian-Green in 2011. [...]

Even after the statue was removed, the mockery did not stop. Facebook users pointed out that officials from Bashar Al-Assad's regime had not realised that the sculpture was an imitation until after it was erected and pointed out on social media.

Posted by orrinj at 1:32 PM


Mel Gibson Is Reportedly Working on a "Passion of the Christ" Sequel (BONNIE STIERNBERG, Inside Hook)
Posted by orrinj at 1:23 PM


Arab autocrats stand to gain from Trump reelection (Deutsche-Welle, 9/22/20)

"Where's my favorite dictator?" US President Donald Trump reportedly asked while waiting for his Egyptian counterpart, former general Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, on the sidelines of the G7 summit last year.

It should come as no surprise that the billionaire-turned-president has spoken positively about autocrats across the world. He has described North Korea's Kim Jong Un as a "great leader" and called Russia's Vladimir Putin "a nicer person than I am."

Former top-ranking US officials have even described it as "dictator envy."

In the Middle East, where US foreign policy has played an active role in installing and deposing leaders, Trump's fondness for strongmen has translated into increasing tolerance for human rights violations, most notably in Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

"Arab leaders like el-Sissi are incredibly happy when they see a world power like the US led by a president who openly attacks the press, ignores human rights and governs by a populist agenda," said Amr Magdi of Human Rights Watch.

"It's no surprise that many Arab governments supported Trump in 2016, and they support him now."

Posted by orrinj at 1:21 PM


"It affects virtually nobody": Trump erases coronavirus victims as US death toll hits 200,000 (Aaron Rupar,  Sep 22, 2020, Vox)

"It affects virtually nobody," Trump said of the coronavirus. "It's an amazing thing."

By Tuesday morning, the disease had officially had killed 200,000 people in the US -- a number more than the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, the Afghanistan War, and the Iraq War combined -- and "affected" even more.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Rule of Law Leads To More Growth, Less Inequality (Sanjai Bhagat September 22, 2020, RealClearMarkets)

What drives economic growth? This has been a dominant concern for senior global leaders for ages. Adam Smith in Wealth of Nations provided an answer much earlier, "Commerce and manufactures can seldom flourish long in any state which does not enjoy a regular administration of justice, in which the people do not feel themselves secure in the possession of their property, in which the faith of contracts is not supported by law..."

Economic growth has three primary determinants: physical capital growth, human capital growth, and technological innovation. If individuals are less confident their private property rights will be enforced, they are less likely to invest in physical capital (business facilities, manufacturing plants and equipment) since physical capital can be expropriated. This expropriation can be led by the state if the country does not have rule of law, or if the rule of law does not enforce respect for private property rights. If a country has rule of law but does not enforce respect for private property rights, then expropriation can occur in the form of looting by non-state individuals using physical force and threat of armed violence on the owners of the physical capital. [...]

We obtain GDP per capita from the International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database, October 2019. Data on Rule of Law are from The Worldwide Governance Indicators, 2019 Update. Rule of Law reflects perceptions of the extent to which agents have confidence in and abide by the rules of society, and in particular the quality of contract enforcement, property rights, the police, and the courts, as well as the likelihood of crime and violence. We obtained an alternate set of data on country governance variables from The PRS Group's International Country Risk Guide (ICRG). Their Law and Order index is focused on their assessment of the strength and impartiality of the legal system, and the popular observance of the law. The Law and Order index ranges from 0 (poor governance) to 6(good governance). We use the GINI index constructed by The World Bank to measure income inequality.

Some salient examples of how Law and Order and GDP per capita are related:

In 1990, India's GDP per capita ranked it at the 15.0 percentile compared to the GDP per capita of the other countries in the world; its Law and Order index was at 1. In the early nineties, India liberalized its international trade and deregulated its industries; by 2015 its Law and Order index was at 4.5, and its GDP per capita rank was at 26.1 percentile. A more relevant way of looking at the data is that from 1990 to 2015, several hundred million Indians went from abject poverty to a quasi-middle class standard of living.

China's case is even more dramatic: In 1984 its Law and Order index was at 3, and GDP per capita rank was at 3.3 percentile. After extensive adoption of free market policies, its Law and Order index was at 4.5 in 2006 and its GDP per capita rank was 31.3 percentile. Again, a more relevant way of looking at the data is that from 1984 to 2006, almost a billion Chinese went from subsistence living to quasi-middle class standard of living.

Argentina enjoyed a GDP per capita rank of 64.9 percentile and Law and Order index of 5 in 1999. Subsequently, with changes in their political regime, greater regulation and less free markets, their Law and Order index in 2017 stood at 2, and the GDP per capita rank at 57.1 percentile.

Venezuela enjoyed a GDP per capita rank of 62.6 percentile and Law and Order index of 4 in 1999. Subsequently, first under Chavez and then under his successor Maduro they nationalized major industries, and significantly increased government spending. As oil prices fell, they resorted to printing money. This led to hyperinflation. Venezuela imposed price controls which led to severe shortages and social unrest. In 2017, Venezuela's Law and Order index was 1 and its GDP per capita rank was 37.6 percentile. While Venezuela's decline in GDP per capita is significant, it should be viewed in light of the shattered lives of the tens of millions of Venezuelans during the past two decades.

Russ Roberts and Lisa Cook discussed this from a different angle on EconTalk this week:

Lisa Cook on Racism, Patents, and Black Entrepreneurship (Econ Talk, Sep 21 2020)

How much has racism held back the U.S. economy?:  What would the country look like today if Black entrepreneurs and inventors had been welcomed and encouraged over the past century and a half? Economist Lisa Cook of Michigan State University talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about her research into the impact of racism, lynching, and segregation on Black inventors and entrepreneurs.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Is Trump a bigger socialist than Biden? (Shikha Dalmia, September 21, 2020, The Week)

[A]ccording to the free-market Competitive Enterprise Institute, two of whose staffers actually served on Trump's transition team, Trump has since reversed course. Its 2020 annual compendium of regulations, Ten Thousand Commandments, lamented: "Trump cuts, but Trump also adds."

The report based its conclusion on "Trump's proclivity to trade restrictions" and his "ad hoc zeal" for antitrust action against Big Tech. On the trade front, "the tariff man," as Trump proudly refers to himself, has demanded that America's trading partners pledge reciprocity in purchasing American goods as part of any trade agreement. That severely crimps the scope of these deals. Worse, in his MAGA (Make America Great Again) zeal, he issued twin executive orders last year mandating the use of American products in federal contracting and infrastructure -- apparently unperturbed that the resulting cost hikes in government projects are essentially a tax on Americans.

Meanwhile, using antitrust laws to challenge the alleged monopoly power of giant corporations was the province of Democrats. But thanks to Trump's personal animus toward Big Tech, CEI notes, he has "casually invoked antitrust action" against tech and telecom companies such as Amazon (whose founder publishes The Washington Post), Google, Time Warner, Facebook, and others. He created a technology task force last year with the express purpose of policing Big Tech. Even though few of its investigations have yielded fruit, the barely-veiled politicization of executive agencies has set a terrible precedent.

And then there's the president's record on immigration. Trump has used the regulatory state for aggressive labor market interventionism to advance his MAGA agenda. He has not spared the hitherto sacrosanct H-1B visa program for foreign professionals that even restrictionist conservative pundits believe is good for America. Even before COVID-19 hit, he had wrapped this visa in so much red tape as to make it virtually unusable. Now, he has just shut down the program along with virtually all immigration until the end of the year. Moreover, he has done so not to protect Americans from the pandemic, but from foreign competition. But there is no need for such affirmative action for natives, because immigrants often occupy sectors where Americans are either unwilling or unavailable to do the jobs.

By contrast, unlike Trump, Biden's rhetoric depicts immigrants not as an economic liability but as an asset.

September 21, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 9:16 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:22 PM

NUTSHELL VERSION (profanity alert):

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump's Ohio suburb slide signals peril in industrial north (THOMAS BEAUMONT and JULIE CARR SMYTH, 9/21/20, AP)

Ohio has long been a bellwether. No Republican has won the White House without carrying the state since the advent of the modern two-party system, and no Democrat has since 1960.

Trump is faring worse than four years ago in communities in essentially all suburban areas around Ohio, from its major cities to its several mid-size metro areas, more than a half-dozen Republican operatives tracking races across Ohio say.

Trump has slipped in suburbs to the east and west of Cleveland, where he narrowly edged Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016, they say. In the blue-collar suburbs of Youngstown, where Trump won by double digits, the same appears to be true.

In affluent suburbs, such as Dublin northwest of Columbus, 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney won by almost 20 percentage points. Four years later, Trump narrowly lost to Clinton. Less than two months before the 2020 election, Republicans were concerned about signs the trend in Dublin has continued, according to several GOP operatives following legislative and congressional races.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


With cash windfall, Biden adds GOP states to campaign map (BILL BARROW, 9/21/20, AP) 

Joe Biden is using a campaign cash advantage over President Donald Trump to add Republican-leaning Georgia and Iowa to his paid media footprint, bringing the Democratic challenger's television and digital battleground map to an even dozen states.

The expansion reflects Biden's newfound status as a fundraising behemoth and his campaign's longstanding promise to set up "multiple paths" to the 270 electoral votes required to win the presidency.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump's record in federal courts is the worst of any recent president -- as his administration loses case after case (Sarah Okeson, September 21, 2020, Raw Story)

The Trump Administration is losing case after case in federal courts. Even judges appointed by Republican presidents are ruling against Trump in most of the cases that have been filed by state attorneys general and other plaintiffs challenging actions taken by Trump agencies.

Administrations usually win 70% of the cases brought against them, but Team Trump has won only about 16% of the 132 decided lawsuits. These figures include 14 of 83 lawsuits about environment, energy and natural resources; seven of 53 lawsuits about deregulation; and 3 of 26 lawsuits about health.

When you let the Federalist Society run the judiciary operations you get conservatives, not Trumpists.
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'It's a big, big swing': Trump loses ground with white voters (DAVID SIDERS, 09/21/2020, Politico)

In Minnesota, where the contest between Trump and Joe Biden had seemed to tighten in recent weeks -- and where both candidates stumped on Friday -- a CBS News/YouGov survey last week had Trump running 2 percentage points behind Biden with white voters, after carrying them by 7 points in 2016. Even among white voters without college degrees -- Trump's base -- the president was far short of the margin he put up against Hillary Clinton there.

It's the same story in Wisconsin, where Trump won non-college educated white women by 16 percentage points four years ago but is now losing them by 9 percentage points, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll. In Pennsylvania, Biden has now pulled even with Trump among white voters, according to an NBC News/Marist Poll.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM



At a moment when the eyes of the nation are fixed on Black Lives Matter and the anti-racism struggle, it may seem odd to call attention to quiet breaches of America's ethno-racial dividing lines. A South Asian immigrant family moving into a predominantly white suburb; an African American promoted to a position with authority over white employees; or the celebration of a marriage between white and Mexican-American partners--events like these, which are now common in many parts of the U.S., don't appear to augur much social change. But their cumulative impact can be transformative.

Consider in this light the upper reaches of the workforce. During the 20th century, white Americans monopolized the highest-paying jobs. In 2000, nearly 85 percent of the baby-boom workers occupying the top quarter of occupations (ranked by annual salary) were white.

But, since the beginning of the new century--and as a consequence in part of the demographic decline in the numbers of young whites entering the labor market--the young adults starting these jobs have increasingly been non-white or Hispanic. (These figures are derived from the Census, so I use the Census term "Hispanic" in that context.) Now, one-third of the new job entrants are minorities. That means not just more persons of color with good incomes, but fewer whites in positions of authority--to decide who gets hired or promoted.

But there's a catch. The minority individuals benefitting from upper-level opportunity are predominantly from recent immigrant backgrounds--they are mainly Asian Americans, both immigrant and native-born, and U.S.-born Latinos. But the share of Black Americans in these good jobs has budged just slightly over time and hovers around 5 percent.

A similar disparity appears in the surging diversity at colleges and universities, which is likewise dominated by immigrant-origin minorities. The 2019 report of the American Council on Education highlights a steep rise in the number of Latino graduates--including a doubling of the annual number earning baccalaureates in 2004-14 alone. Correspondingly, the share of whites among graduates dropped from 73 to 64 percent in the same period. At elite universities, the white share of students has fallen sharply over several decades.

But for Black Americans, the decades of the new century have not brought such good news. Their college graduation rates grew strongly during the second half of the 20th century but have slumped recently. That same ACE report notes that Black students have relatively high rates of dropout from baccalaureate programs, and have the highest level of student indebtedness. At a time of rapidly growing diversity among college students, the stagnating fortunes of Black students are an unacknowledged crisis.

Properly considered, reparations are just a way to compensate American blacks for our depriving them of the normal immigrant experience, which is a springboard to the middle classes.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


I Am a Climate Optimist (PHILIP K. VERLEGER, SEPTEMBER 10, 2020, Niskanen)

[I] have come to recognize that one of the most critical assumptions underpinning the forecasts of global warming is wrong. The assumption concerns the fossil fuel industry. Soon it will be gone, at least in most if not all OECD countries. 

The oil, gas, and coal businesses are hurtling toward extinction in Europe, the United States, Canada, and much of Asia today. In many cases, the shareholder-owned companies have chosen to commit the corporate equivalent of suicide. In other cases, customers have turned their backs on these suppliers. Finally, investors are shunning the industry, effectively denying the firms the capital they require to keep operating. 

The industry's death can be seen in the equity markets. Forty years ago, the energy industry dominated the S&P 500. In January 1981, energy accounted for 29 percent of the index by market capitalization. As late as June 2008, energy's share was 17 percent at a time when oil prices were at $140 per barrel. Today, energy is the smallest sector in the S&P 500, accounting for 2.3 percent.

Drive in the final nail with consumption taxes.

September 20, 2020

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Majority of Americans report no confidence in Trump to confirm vaccine safety, effectiveness: POLL (Adam Kelsey, September 20, 2020, ABC News)

As President Donald Trump continues to tout the progress of coronavirus vaccine development, going so far this week as to promise delivery to everyone in the U.S. by next spring, a majority of Americans report having no confidence at all in him to confirm the safety of a potential inoculation, according to a ABC News/Ipsos poll released Sunday.

Fewer than 1 in 10 (9%) Americans have a great deal of confidence in Trump to confirm vaccine effectiveness with another 18% reporting only a "good amount" of confidence in the poll conducted by Ipsos in partnership with ABC News using Ipsos' Knowledge Panel. In contrast, 69% don't have confidence in the president vouching for a vaccine, including 16% saying "not so much" and 53% saying "none at all."

Posted by orrinj at 8:41 AM


Iowa Poll: Theresa Greenfield narrowly leads Joni Ernst in hyper-competitive Senate race (Brianne Pfannenstiel, 09/20/2020, Des Moines Register)

Democrat Theresa Greenfield leads Republican U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst by 3 percentage points in a Senate race that appears to be among the most competitive in the country.   

With just over six weeks to Election Day, the new Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll shows Greenfield leading 45% to 42% among likely voters. Another 3% say they would vote for someone else, 2% say they would not vote in the race and 7% are unsure.

Despite heavy campaigning and millions spent on television ads, the results are largely unchanged since June, when Greenfield led Ernst 46% to 43%. 

Running against an unpopular incumbent president, Ronald Reagan not only blew the race wide open in the final weeks but carried with him a notoriously week group of Senate candidates--the nominations were considered to have no value because the odds of winning were so long--who won seats that no one thought were competitive.  The question this year is not whether Democrats will win the races where they are ahead, but whether Republican incumbents who seem safe or safeish will lose too: not NC but SC; not IA but KS.. 

Why it could be a Biden blowout in November (Harry Enten, September 20, 2020, CNN)

A new ABC News/Washington Post poll from Minnesota finds Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden with a 57% to 41% lead over President Donald Trump among likely voters.

Two other Minnesota polls released over the last few weeks by CBS News/YouGov and New York Times/Siena College have Biden up by nine points.

What's the point: The Trump campaign has made a significant investment into turning Minnesota red, after Trump lost it by 1.5 points in 2016. The polling shows his efforts are not working. [...]

If you were to look at the polling right now, there's a pretty clear picture. Biden has leads of somewhere between five and eight points in a number of states Trump won four years ago: Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Those plus the states Hillary Clinton won get Biden to about 290 electoral votes.

If you add on the other states where Biden has at least a nominal edge in the averages (Florida and North Carolina), Biden is above 330 electoral votes.
View 2020 presidential election polling

That's not quite at blowout levels, but look at the polling in places like Georgia, Iowa, Ohio and Texas. We're not really talking about those places right now, even though one or both campaigns have fairly major advertising investments planned down the stretch in all four. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:09 AM


Fill the seat (Stephen L. Miller, September 19, 2020, Spectator USA)

The constitutional process unfolding as designed by the Framers is not a crisis -- no amount of tweets or New York Times opinion pieces can make it so. Nor can the celebrities making threats to take to the streets while never leaving their palaces; nor can antifa activists burning down businesses. Lululemon cosplayers will once more attempt to barnstorm elevators, just as they have done for the past four months in cities across the country. If you're the political side threatening violence if you don't get what you want politically, perhaps you should revisit your assertion that Mitch McConnell or the Republican party are the power-hungry fascists. If the ne'er-do-well Twitter punditocracy are looking for a scapegoat, might I suggest directing your ire toward former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, without whom we would not even be entertaining this 'crisis'.

The system is working as designed. Though it may have been Ginsburg's final wish to not fill her seat until after the election, it's not her call, with all due respect. Instead it falls to the people who voted for a Republican majority and a Republican president in 2016. The people threatening violence are the people without the constitution or guns on their side.

Mitch McConnell is exercising his constitutional authority, just as he did in 2016. Ultimately whether or not President Trump's coming nominee sits on the Supreme Court will be decided by a small handful of Republicans. Not Joe Biden. Not Hollywood. Not reporters on Twitter or millennial women on Instagram. On November 3, voters may choose a different path. The Constitution will endure regardless.

Happily, the Founders wrote it down,  so we know there is no constitutional reason that a Supreme Court justice should not be seated whenever the Senate approves a nominee, nor why the next Senate should not expand the Court and dispose of the filibuster.  The reason not to do all these things is prudential.  It seems an odd time for the GOP to elevate pure power over tradition at precisely the moment we're about to lose all our power nationally, but these are the guys we elected.  If they want to strip the coming Congress and Administration of all constraints we'll just live with the consequences. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:59 AM


The Enlightenment's Critics: a review of Critics of Enlightenment Rationalism edited by Gene Callahan and Kenneth B. McIntyre. (David Coates, 9/20/20, University Bookman)

This volume identifies the exponents of Enlightenment rationalism largely as the luminaries of the Parisian Enlightenment--Voltaire, Diderot, d'Alembert--and such fellow travellers as Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson. The ease with which such names are yoked together with Immanuel Kant leaves the reader feeling that too great a load is bearing the weight of this description. However, habits of thought characteristic of such Enlightenment rationalism are well-known, and the somewhat heterogenous cast have plenty of space to critique from every direction.

The tendency to seek for a single source of authority is the subject of those essays focussing on Isaiah Berlin and Michael Oakeshott. Berlin's repudiation of the triptych of monism is rehearsed: the assumption that for all questions there is a single answer, that there is an identifiable mechanism for discovering this answer, and that all answers are compatible with each other. Berlin found this approach characteristic of the phenomenalism of his contemporaries, the logical positivists, and believed this to be simply another recurrence of rationalist assumption which has repeatedly played itself out through history. His own emphasis on value pluralism, on the incompatibility of unrelated goods, can be seen as a rejection of this rationalist juggernaut.

For Oakeshott, the rationalist errs in assuming that the mind is an abstracted and independent tool, which can be applied at will to whatever material one wishes. Instead, Oakeshott argues, the mind is formed through interaction with the world, and undergoes an apprenticeship to a particular tradition of behavior through this interaction. It is a category mistake to abstract a particular idiom of conduct, such as the scientific method, and assume that same idiom holds equal value as an application to other spheres of life, such as politics or aesthetics. [...]

This collection features a broad range of thinkers, all of whom critique Enlightenment rationalism from difference perspectives. While some essays cluster round particular themes, there is a certain disunity in the presentation. The essay on Hayek stands out however, as a bridge between several of the themes of this book. His own critique of scientism is well-made, with particular reference to the two books he published in middle-life; The Counter-Revolution of Science, and The Sensory Order. Hayek denies the mind the ability to reduce the objects of sensory perception down to the level of purely objective categories, as our typology and means of stratifying experience come from modes of thought and experience which rely on our own socialisation. By extending his appreciation of the social nature of man, Hayek also deals with the dilemma identified in my introduction: if man's unaided reason is not an infallible source of authority, to what sources of authority can one defer instead?

Hayek's social theorising is indebted to the eighteenth-century tradition of the Scottish social theorists, such as David Hume and Adam Smith. For them, society and its practices develop according to a pre-Darwinian social evolution. Whether by superstition or accident, particular institutions or practices become habitual and codified, such as private property or the nuclear family. Societies succeed because these institutions and practices harness healthy and productive activity, and win out over time in consequence of trial and error. Consequently, there is a prescriptive authority in favor of that which exists, and traditions which have been inherited. This provides a guide in determining individual and social behavior. [...]

Edmund Burke is the subject of the first essay in this collection; the subject of one of the latter, Russell Kirk, was himself devoted to Burke's thought. Burke can be seen to almost book-end this collection, as he was both a defender of prescriptive authority and a moral crusader who ran roughshod over tradition-defended immorality. His long campaign to impeach Warren Hastings explicitly rejected the "geographical morality" in which different standards of behavior could be permitted: "The laws of morality are the same everywhere, and there is no action which would pass for an act of extortion, of peculation, of bribery and of oppression in England, that is not an act of extortion, of peculation, of bribery and of oppression in Europe, Asia, Africa, and all the world over."

For Burke, the standard that superintends over prescriptive authority was the moral imperative of Christianity, and this theme is taken up in the essay on T. S. Eliot, in which tradition provides the framework for activity and creativity, but is to be supervised and criticised by "orthodoxy."

Modernity can be described this simply: the faithful Anglosphere vs. Rationalist Europe.

September 19, 2020

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Education Department Investigating Princeton Because Its President Said the University Has Been Racist for Decades (ELURA NANOS, Sep 17th, 2020, Law & Crime)

Eisgruber's letter, however, also contained some biting self-criticism for Princeton; he bluntly acknowledged that the school, historically, has "intentionally" not been committed to diversity:

At a University that, for most of its history, intentionally and systematically excluded people of color, women, Jews, and other minorities, Princetonians-- from the oldest alumni to the newest undergraduates -- now take pride in the diversity of our community.

And he even went on to give specific examples of how systemic racism found its way into the halls of Princeton:

Racist assumptions from the past also remain embedded in structures of the University itself. For example, Princeton inherits from earlier generations at least nine departments and programs organized around European languages and culture, but only a single, relatively small program in African studies.

The DOE has responding by using Eisgruber's letter as a springboard into an investigation into the school's practices. Because Princeton has, for years, held itself out to students and parents as an institution committed to non-discrimination and equal opportunity education, Eisgruber's letter reportedly raised concerns that the university may have made illegally false and misleading claims.

As a result, the DOE wants to know precisely what evidence Princeton relied upon in deeming itself ripe for Eisgruber's racial mea culpa. In a September 16th letter, the DOE requested that Princeton supply a spreadsheet detailing everyone who was harmed as a result of Princeton's racial discrimination.  Eisgruber and others will be required to sit for interviews conducted under oath, and Princeton is required to provide written responses to related questions.

Who knew someone would take his ritual self-abasement seriously...

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Anti-Sisi protests erupt in Egypt's Suez ahead of planned demonstrations (New Arab, 19 September, 2020)

Protests erupted in Egypt's Suez city on Friday, local media reported, with dozens of demonstrators calling for the downfall of President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi days ahead of planned September 20 call for action.
Footage that emerged online showed protesters chanting against the president.

Chants including "We will not sleep, we will not rest, fall Abdelfattah, fall" and "We are not afraid, between us is September 20" echoed through the streets of the city, referencing a call to demonstrate by dissident Egyptian construction contractor Mohammed Ali.

A number of arrests were made at the site of the protests, according to local opposition television channel, Makameleen.

The sad thing is that the Trumpists are on Sisi's side 

Posted by orrinj at 8:16 AM


Biden's polling lead nears magic number (STEVEN SHEPARD, 09/18/2020, Politico)

Biden is much closer to the magic 50 percent mark -- both nationally and in key Electoral College battleground states. That puts Trump in a significantly worse situation, needing to not only attract skeptical undecided voters but also peel supporters away from Biden, whose poll numbers have been remarkably durable.

And the president is running out of time for both.

According to the latest RealClearPolitics average, Biden is sitting at 49.3 percent in national surveys and has a 6.2 percentage point lead over President Donald Trump. That's significantly higher than Clinton's 44.9 percent mark this time four years ago, which was good for only a 1 point lead.

It's the same story in many of the battleground states: Biden is at or within 2 points of majority support in enough states to lock down an Electoral College victory, compared with Clinton's low- to mid-40s scores in mid-September 2016 in the same states, some of which she would end up losing as late-deciding voters went decisively for Trump.

"One of the worries that kept me up at night in '16 was we just always felt like there was a bigger number of undecideds. And if they broke predominantly in a direction, then the whole thing could change," said Steve Schale, a Florida-based Democratic strategist and the executive director of a pro-Biden super PAC. "I don't think there was a single poll in Florida that had [Clinton] over 48 percent. I think that was the case in a lot of places."

It's a fundamental difference in Democrats' standing compared to this time four years ago. While Biden has not locked up the election, the path to victory that Trump took in 2016 is currently blocked.

Trump is mired in the low- to mid-40s -- roughly where he was four years ago. But this time, Trump is the incumbent president. And with fewer undecideds or voters poised to select third-party candidates, Trump is running out of time to improve his poll numbers and close the gap.

It's not magic, just American decency.

Posted by orrinj at 7:54 AM


The Ruth Bader Ginsburg Fandom Was Never Frivolous: The kitschy celebrations of the justice have always insisted, in their way, that the personal is judicial. (MEGAN GARBER, SEPTEMBER 18, 2020, THE ATLANTIC)

One of the themes of On the Basis of Sex, the Ginsburg biopic, is the question of cultural evolution. Is progress best made patiently, incrementally? Or is patience a form of complacency? An early scene finds Ginsburg, played by Felicity Jones, and her husband, Marty (played by Armie Hammer), at law school: He's in his second year; she's in her first. A professor quotes the legal scholar Paul Freund's observation about the Supreme Court: Its justices, Freund once said, "should never be influenced by the weather of the day but inevitably they will be influenced by the climate of the era."

That insight informs the film, which focuses on the work Ginsburg did--long before President Bill Clinton, in 1993, appointed her to the Court--to end gender-based discrimination in American case law. Weather versus climate: Ginsburg, as a jurist, is typically associated with the style of change that is slow and systemic and therefore, the argument goes, sustainable. The film makes a notably different claim. It celebrates Ginsburg, in the end, as a revolutionary. It finds her working with Marty--who was a brilliant tax attorney--to challenge one of the gendered assumptions embedded in the American tax code. The effort was at once pragmatic and radical. It was a means of taking on a widespread system that discriminated on, yes, the basis of sex.

"The film is part fact, part imaginative," Ginsburg said. "But what's wonderful about it is that the imaginative parts fit in with the story so well." Its screenplay was written by Ginsburg's nephew, Daniel Stiepleman. And it focuses on Ginsburg as a wife and mother as well as a jurist. It tells the story of Marty's diagnosis of testicular cancer, when both he and his wife were in law school. It details how Ruth cared for him through radiation therapy and helped him graduate. It emphasizes Ruth's relationship with her daughter, Jane, who admired Gloria Steinem and didn't realize that she was living with another feminist icon. Like many biopics, the film has the glossy veneer of hagiography--down to one of its final scenes, which finds Jones's version of Ginsburg walking up the steps of the Supreme Court Building, only to morph into the real Ginsburg doing the same. But On the Basis of Sex earns its accolades, in part because it echoes Ginsburg's own legal argument: It insists that you can't understand Ginsburg as a jurist if you don't understand her as a person. It challenges the notion that legal wisdom can somehow be separated from justices' humanity.

Ginsburg herself saw her life experience--the discrimination she faced, as a woman and a mother--as essential to her interpretation of the Constitution. She knew in her bones what it is to be seen, by other people and by the law, as less than. ("If you want to understand how an underestimated woman changed the world and is still out there doing the work," the introduction to the book Notorious RBG reads, "we got you.") She took for granted that wisdom is not a matter of separation from the facts of everyday life; wisdom comes from a deep acquaintance with those facts. "As we live, we can learn," she noted. She added: "It's important to listen."

But wisdom can stem from anger and indignation. "Notorious RBG," the meme--and, soon enough, the brand--sprang up as a result of one particular dissent: Ginsburg's reaction to the Court's 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder, which struck down provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. 

Ms Ginsburg was, by all accounts, a particularly decent person and colleague--as attested by her friendship with equally ideological Antonin Scalia.   But, like Clarence Thomas/Samuel Alito, in legal terms what has been lost is a reliable vote for one side, not someone who influenced the Court or its law. Note that she is celebrated for her dissents, not for any significant 5-4 opinions.  It is the pragmatists--Warren, Brennan, Roberts, Gorsuch, Kagan--who steer the Court.

A Milestone for Ruth Bader Ginsburg: For the first time ever, the justice had the honor of assigning a majority opinion for the Supreme Court. (MARK JOSEPH STERN, APRIL 18, 2018, Slate)

On Tuesday, Justice Neil Gorsuch voted with the Supreme Court's liberals to strike down the key provision of a statute that allows the expulsion of certain noncitizens. The ruling in Sessions v. Dimaya was notable for throwing a wrench into the federal government's deportation regime. It was also groundbreaking for another, less obvious reason: It marked the first time Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg assigned a majority opinion in her nearly 25 years on the high court.

This milestone is long overdue. Justices receive the power to assign opinions as they gain seniority: The most senior justice in the majority gets to assign the opinion of the court, an important task with ramifications for the outcome of the case. Seniority is determined by years of service, though the chief justice is always considered the most senior. That means Ginsburg is currently the fourth most senior justice, following Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Anthony Kennedy, and Justice Clarence Thomas.

Ginsburg became the most senior liberal justice after Justice John Paul Stevens retired in 2010. Yet whenever she's found herself in the majority in a 5-4 decision, another justice has been able to claim seniority. Occasionally, Roberts or Thomas joins the liberal justices. Kennedy, though, is usually the swing vote, and he likes to assign landmark progressive decisions--like the marriage equality rulings--to himself. If Justice Samuel Alito had given the liberals a fifth vote since Stevens' retirement, Ginsburg could've assigned the opinion. But in his 12 years on the bench, Alito has not once joined the liberals in a 5-4 ruling.

When Gorsuch cast his vote in Dimaya, he gave Ginsburg a novel opportunity--the power to assign the opinion of the court. And not just any opinion but a hugely consequential decision strengthening the Due Process Clause's guarantee against vague legislation. Ginsburg gave that task to Justice Elena Kagan, which is no surprise. Kagan is a brilliant writer who can thread the jurisprudential needle with eloquence and wit. She's a canny strategist with moderate instincts and a knack for coalition-building. Kennedy and Thomas have, respectively, assigned Kagan opinions in big cases involving juvenile life without parole and racial gerrymandering. She hit both out of the park, pushing the law leftward without alienating her right-leaning colleagues.

When writing a majority opinion, a justice isn't merely speaking for herself; she's speaking for "the court," effectively announcing the law of the land. When writing for a slim majority, she must often incorporate qualifications and concessions from her colleagues so she can retain their votes. We don't yet know whether Kagan and Gorsuch wrangled over the language of the opinion, though such disputation wouldn't be out of character for either. What we do know is that Kagan managed to hold onto Gorsuch's vote, drawing this punctilious, idiosyncratic justice's support for the bulk of her opinion.

Posted by orrinj at 7:35 AM


TV tonight: gruesome tales of the Australian outback (Ammar Kalia, 9/19/20, The Guardian)

Mystery Road

9pm, BBC Four

Aaron Pedersen returns as Indigenous Australian detective Jay Swan in this second series TV spin-off of Ivan Sen's feature films Mystery Road and Goldstone. Where Sen's films traded in a gritty, brutal vision of the Australian outback, the TV series takes a more procedural tone, laced with Pedersen's noir-referencing performance. In tonight's double bill, Swan is sent to the quiet coastal town of Gideon, where a decapitated body is found in the mangroves, leading him to suspect the presence of drug traffickers. 

It is entirely unsurprising that no film/series has ever fused those great American art forms, the Western and the noir, as well as this entry from Australia. Pedersen's star-making role was in the excellent series City Homicide.

Posted by orrinj at 7:29 AM


Taiwan Bids Farewell to 'Mr. Democracy' (Reuters, September 19, 2020)

 Taiwan bid farewell on Saturday to late president Lee Teng-hui, dubbed "Mr. Democracy" for ending autocratic rule in favor of free elections and championing Taiwan's separate identity from China.

Lee's memorial service took place in the shadow of Chinese war games, as did his election as Taiwan's first democratic leader in 1996. China claims the island as its own territory.

Lee was president from 1988 to 2000.

Lee's greatest act of defiance was becoming Taiwan's first democratically elected president in March 1996, achieved with a landslide following eight months of intimidating war games and missile tests by China in waters around the island.

Not only did Taiwan naturally evolve into a democracy but, having avoided Communism, it has a GDP per capita that is 2.5 times that of the PRC.

September 18, 2020

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Self-Interest Is Not Enough: Lincoln's Classical Revision of the Founding  (CAMERON HILDITCH, September 18, 2020, National Review)

For Lincoln, America, like Eden, could be maintained only by the willingness of the people to deny themselves certain pleasures; in particular, the pleasure of despotism, of ruling others without their consent. The great Lincoln scholar Harry Jaffa summed up the Great Emancipator's argument when he wrote that "if the pleasures of freedom come into competition with the pleasures of despotism, they cannot survive on the basis of their pleasantness alone." There is no guarantee that the self-interest of the citizen will always lead him to respect and defend the rights of others. The persistent practice of slavery was enough to demonstrate this. Lincoln maintained that there was no difference in principle between enslaving a white man and enslaving a black man. From this premise he reasoned that a local majority voting in favor of enslaving other men was something akin to a logical contradiction. By voting in favor of the proposition that human beings can be ruled without consent, they rendered their own majoritarian consent meaningless. This is why Lincoln rejected Douglas's central idea. Popular sovereignty can function only if the conviction that no man is to be ruled without consent is first affirmed. To use a phrase of the late Justice Robert Jackson, this commitment must be put "beyond the reach of majorities." Otherwise, popular sovereignty collapses under the weight of its own contradictions.

Lincoln's rejection of Douglas's strict democratic-libertarian model of freedom, with its emphasis upon choice in and of itself as the supreme political value, reveals a classical bent in his political thought. The idea that freedom means living under the right restraints, rather than the fewest restraints possible, is one we find in Greek philosophy and in the early Fathers of the Christian Church, not in Locke or Hobbes. And yet this, the classical understanding, is the model of freedom we find expressed and endorsed by Lincoln. The classical Christian understanding of human nature conceives of it as something toward which we move, not from which we come. Fallen and sinful man is, according to this view, in a profoundly unnatural state, judged by the standards of the ideal human being. This arch-human paragon might be Achilles to the Greeks, or Christ to the Christians, but either way, a standard is upheld.

Lincoln's conviction that slavery was profoundly unnatural must be understood in these terms. He does not argue that slavery isn't habitual or normative -- he was too great a student of history to think that. But its practice requires the abandonment of certain self-imposed restraints without which we cannot rise to the full height of our humanity. Without these restraints, we are little more than beasts. Thus it is for Lincoln that living according to one's nature means, first and foremost, living under the restraints of human equality. Throw off these restraints, and the exercise of a purely libertarian freedom by some amounts to nothing more than the abasement of the species.

This brings us to Lincoln's own "central idea," that "all men are created equal." The words, of course, are lifted from the Declaration of Independence, but Lincoln's interpretation of them is subtly different from Jefferson's. Our third president interpreted this statement in the conventionally pre-political Lockean sense: All men are created equal in the state of nature and then, faced with the threat of violent death, reluctantly form a government to protect themselves from their fellow men. It's essentially a negative formulation designed to create a permission structure for revolution when government oversteps the mark. However, as Jaffa observes:

Lincoln's interpretation of "all men are created equal" is not that it specifies the condition of man in a pre-political state, a highly undesirable state which marks the point at which men ought to revolt, but that it specifies the optimum condition which the human mind can envisage. It is a condition toward which men have a duty ever to strive, not a condition from which they have a right to escape. It is conceived as a political, not a pre-political, condition, a condition in which -- to the extent that it is realized -- equality of right is secured to every man not by the natural law (which governs Locke's state of nature, in which all men are equal) but by positive human law.

This is yet more evidence of Lincoln's classical revision of the Founding. Politics exists in order to allow citizens to better live according to their nature, and the great American insight into this nature is that "all men are created equal." Lincoln transfigured this great phrase from a pre-political stick with which to beat tyrants (as it was for Jefferson) into a classical political ideal toward which the citizenry has a duty to strive. "Equality" becomes for the United States what wisdom was for Athens and what martial glory was for Sparta. As an ideal it always escapes the conclusive grasp of Lady Liberty's outstretched arm, but she and her country are nevertheless exalted by her persistent and relentless reach for it. Not a perfect Union, but an "ever more perfect Union." Jaffa, once again:

The Declaration conceives of just government mainly in terms of the relief from oppression. Lincoln conceives of just government far more in terms of the requirement to achieve justice in the positive sense; indeed, according to Lincoln, the proposition "all men are created equal" is so lofty a demand that the striving for justice must be an ever-present requirement of the human and political condition.

There is, consequently, no room in the United States for politics, like those of Douglas, that deny the truth of universal human equality. Popular sovereignty is legitimate only within the proper constraints of human nature, and human nature is one, indivisible, and evenly distributed among all members of the species. According to Lincoln's carefully constructed arguments, those whose would deny this are the very definition of anti-American. They hold the country's "central idea" in contempt. that I saw a yard sign today that said just "E Pluribus Unum" but that's a partisan denunciation of Donald.  

Posted by orrinj at 2:53 PM


A former Trump official dreamed up a George Soros-funded 'coup' conspiracy that is spreading online (Molly Boigon, September 18, 2020, The Forward)

An essay written by a former national security adviser to President Trump about an impending Democratic coup tied to George Soros has swept online spaces popular with conspiracy theorists and QAnon believers, and also penetrated more mainstream publications over the last two weeks.

The Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a London-based think tank that studies extremism, reported in a newsletter released this week that the piece by Michael Anton, called "The Coming Coup?" was among the most shared links by communities trafficking in hate speech." This week, the article's main idea was picked up by conservative news sites like the Federalist.

Wait, Trumpism is Anti-Semitic?  Shocking....

Posted by orrinj at 11:53 AM


Knesset rejects bill to ensure full equality between all Israeli citizens (MEMO, September 18, 2020)

The Israeli parliament, the Knesset, has rejected a bill presented by Yousef Jabareen on behalf of the Arab Joint List intended to ensure full equality for all of Israel's citizens, regardless of their ethnicity or religious affiliation. [...]

"What I am proposing to you is first and foremost a peace treaty between the state and its Arab citizens, before addressing what is beyond its borders," Jabareen told the right-wing MKs who attacked his proposed legislation. "Peace with Arab citizens is realised when the state secures their equal status in their home."

The whole point of the new Axis is to thwart Muslim political rights.

Posted by orrinj at 9:52 AM


Proud Boys and paramilitary groups join hundreds of armed protesters outside Michigan Capitol (Travis Gettys, 9/18/20, Raw Story)

Hundreds of gun activists held an open-carry rally outside the Michigan Capitol to protest Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's policies.

About 1,000 demonstrators carried rifles and handguns outside the Lansing statehouse Thursday to protest a recent push to ban guns from the Capitol building and the Democratic governor's stay-at-home orders to prevent coronavirus spread, reported MLive.

Posted by orrinj at 9:49 AM


Aldi's $6 'Small Talk' red wine winning over shiraz 'snobs' (Rebekah Scanlan, AUGUST 24, 2020,

A self-confessed "wine snob" has raved about a $6 bottle of Aldi shiraz, even comparing it to more expensive drops from Penfolds. [...]

A premium Penfolds shiraz can sell for as much $220 a bottle depending on the vintage (the label is famous for its Grange wine) although it has cheaper options for less than $20.

Her post has sparked an outpouring of support from fellow wine drinkers who said it was a "fabulous" drink.

Posted by orrinj at 8:30 AM


U.S. Admits That 'Putin's Favorite Congressman' Offered Pardon to Assange If He Covered Up Russia Links (Jamie Ross, Sep. 18, 2020 , Daily Beast)

Lawyers representing the United States at Julian Assange's extradition trial in Britain have accepted the claim that the WikiLeaks founder was offered a presidential pardon on the condition that he would help cover up Russia's involvement in hacking emails from the Democratic National Committee.

AG is the kingmaker job in the Biden Administration.

Thanks, Chris!:

Speaking in confidence to a compatriot in late July 2016, Source E, an ethnic Russian close associate of Republican US presidential candidate Donald Trump, admitted that there was a well-developed conspiracy of co-operation between them and the Russian leadership. This was managed on the TRUMP side by the Republican candidate's campaign manager, Paul MANAFORT, who was using foreign policy advisor, Carter PAGE, and others as intermediaries. The two sides had a mutual interest in defeating Democratic presidential candidate Hillary CLINTON, whom President PUTIN apparently both hated and feared.

Inter alia, Source E, acknowledged that the Russian regime had been behind the recent leak of embarrassing e-mail messages, emanating from the Democratic National Committee (DNC), to the WikiLeaks platform. The reason for using WikiLeaks was "plausible deniability" and the operation had been conducted with the full knowledge and support of TRUMP and senior members of his campaign team. In return the TRUMP team had agreed to sideline Russian intervention in Ukraine as a campaign issue and to raise US/NATO defense commitments in the Baltics and Eastern Europe to deflect attention away from Ukraine, a priority for PUTIN who needed to cauterise the subject.

Posted by orrinj at 8:12 AM


Posted by orrinj at 7:54 AM


What Bill Barr Said and What it Means (Susan Hennessey, Benjamin Wittes, September 17, 2020, Lawfare)

As many attorneys general have before, Barr quotes Robert Jackson's famous 1940 address to the U.S. attorneys to note the dual nature of prosecutorial discretion. Prosecutorial discretion is, of course, essential to justice. This is true at the individual case level, in which mechanical application of the law to all people in all circumstances would itself produce injustice. It is also true at the policy level, where discretion allows for flexible and publicly accountable law enforcement. As we wrote in our book, "Unmaking the Presidency," prosecutorial discretion:

is what allows the justice system to be nimble, targeting drug cartel crimes in the 1980s and 1990s and shifting to terrorism and internet crimes in the subsequent decade. The law can be slow to change. The political system's enforcement priorities, by contrast, can shift much more quickly; think of how attitudes toward nonviolent drug offenses have changed over the past decade much faster than the laws on the subject. Prosecutorial discretion allows flexibility even in the absence of legislative change that can be slow and difficult. 

The paradox is that discretion brings with it the highest risk of abuse. As Jackson put it:

If the prosecutor is obliged to choose his cases, it follows that he can choose his defendants. Therein is the most dangerous power of the prosecutor: that he will pick people that he thinks he should get, rather than pick cases that need to be prosecuted. With the law books filled with a great assortment of crimes, a prosecutor stands a fair chance of finding at least a technical violation of some act on the part of almost anyone. In such a case, it is not a question of discovering the commission of a crime and then looking for the man who has committed it, it is a question of picking the man and then searching the law books, or putting investigators to work, to pin some offense on him. It is in this realm-in which the prosecutor picks some person whom he dislikes or desires to embarrass, or selects some group of unpopular persons and then looks for an offense, that the greatest danger of abuse of prosecuting power lies. It is here that law enforcement becomes personal, and the real crime becomes that of being unpopular with the predominant or governing group, being attached to the wrong political views...

Jackson is describing the evil of politically-motivated law enforcement, wherein the prosecutor wields the law to target the enemies of those in power and, conversely, to protect the friends of those in power. The challenge is how to best guard against this risk, while preserving necessary discretion. 

Barr insists that "political accountability--politics--is what ultimately ensures our system does its work fairly and with proper recognition of the many interests and values at stake. Government power completely divorced from politics is tyranny." And he complains that "in the decades since Justice Jackson's remarks, it has become fashionable to argue that prosecutorial decisions are legitimate only when they are made by the lowest-level line prosecutor handling any given case."

It is neither true that prosecutorial decisions are only legitimate when made by line prosecutors nor that it is fashionable to argue as much. The actual line of argument is that while concerns about accountability are heightened at the career level, the risk of politically-motivated abuse is heightened at the political level. 

This is why every attorney general is pressed during confirmation hearings to reassure Congress and the public that he or she will act as the chief law enforcement officer of the United States and not as the president's personal lawyer or hired gun. At his own confirmation, Barr himself pledged that he would not be "bullied" by the president or anyone else into doing anything he believed to be "wrong." 

And while Senate-confirmed officials bring to the table the legitimacy of political accountability, career officials bring the legitimacy of regular order, the department's traditions and knowledge of similar cases. Career prosecutors are governed by guidelines designed to guard against improper political considerations. Barr claimed in his speech that career prosecutors have political biases too--just not the political accountability for their actions--but the collective record of the career prosecutors of the department actually does stand for the relatively even-handed administration of justice in politically sensitive matters. 

Prior attorneys general have recognized the necessity of this legitimacy, particularly in cases that might touch on the interests of the president. The entire system of special counsel regulations--and the independent counsel statute before it--was created to preserve legitimacy in matters in which the attorney general and his appointees were unable to be impartial, in perception or in fact. And while line-level prosecutors do not have the final say, their professional judgments do carry presumptions of apolitical regularity. When attorneys general intervene in cases that might touch on the president's interests, they have traditionally done so very cautiously. They have recognized that it would profoundly damage their institution to be seen as doing the political errands of the president.

One might think that an attorney general would be especially cautious when serving a president with a documented history of publicly and privately directing the abusive prosecutions of political opponents. In February, Barr himself said that Trump's public tweets on cases including Stone "make it impossible for me to do my job." Under such circumstances, to make a cause out of the right of intervention, as Barr has done, is perverse in the extreme. 

Yet Barr, whatever may be in his heart, has elevated his ability to intervene in and supervise cases above any perception of apolitical justice. He would presumably counter that he is simply doing the right thing as he understands it, unrelated to Trump's political fortunes----indeed, Barr allies are pushing precisely this spin in media accounts. This would be easier to accept if Barr routinely interfered in cases and overturned the judgments of his subordinates in ways which occasionally cut in the perceived favor of the president, occasionally cut against, and often were wholly unrelated to the president's desires, tweets, and fortures. In such a scenario, Barr might be criticized as a micromanager, but it would be difficult to allege political abuse. 

But that's not the case. Barr does not routinely intervene in cases. He has selectively intervened in specific cases affecting Trump and, at least to our knowledge, always in the direction Trump has publicly urged. He doesn't even really try to pretend otherwise...

On the other hand, the Right can have no complaints when the Biden DOJ focusses on prosecuting folks like General Barr.

Posted by orrinj at 7:38 AM


Unconscious learning underlies belief in God, study suggests (Georgetown University Medical Center, 9/9/20, Science Daily)

Individuals who can unconsciously predict complex patterns, an ability called implicit pattern learning, are likely to hold stronger beliefs that there is a god who creates patterns of events in the universe, according to neuroscientists at Georgetown University.

Their research, reported in the journal Nature Communications, is the first to use implicit pattern learning to investigate religious belief. The study spanned two very different cultural and religious groups, one in the U.S. and one in Afghanistan.

The goal was to test whether implicit pattern learning is a basis of belief and, if so, whether that connection holds across different faiths and cultures. The researchers indeed found that implicit pattern learning appears to offer a key to understanding a variety of religions.

"Belief in a god or gods who intervene in the world to create order is a core element of global religions," says the study's senior investigator, Adam Green, an associate professor in the Department of Psychology and Interdisciplinary Program in Neuroscience at Georgetown, and director of the Georgetown Laboratory for Relational Cognition.

"This is not a study about whether God exists, this is a study about why and how brains come to believe in gods. Our hypothesis is that people whose brains are good at subconsciously discerning patterns in their environment may ascribe those patterns to the hand of a higher power," he adds.

"A really interesting observation was what happened between childhood and adulthood," explains Green. The data suggest that if children are unconsciously picking up on patterns in the environment, their belief is more likely to increase as they grow up, even if they are in a nonreligious household. Likewise, if they are not unconsciously picking up on patterns around them, their belief is more likely to decrease as they grow up, even in a religious household.

The study used a well-established cognitive test to measure implicit pattern learning. Participants watched as a sequence of dots appeared and disappeared on a computer screen. They pressed a button for each dot. The dots moved quickly, but some participants -- the ones with the strongest implicit learning ability -- began to subconsciously learn patterns hidden in the sequence, and even press the correct button for the next dot before that dot actually appeared. However, even the best implicit learners did not know that the dots formed patterns, showing that the learning was happening at an unconscious level.

It's not a question whether or not Creation is ordered, just whether you are capable of perceiving it.  

Posted by orrinj at 7:32 AM


Working-class roots, empathy on display as Biden commands town hall (JIM WATSON, WITH MICHAEL MATHES, 9/18/20, AFP) 

Biden, appearing energized as he handled participants' questions, also accused Trump of knowing the seriousness of the coronavirus threat early this year and hiding it from the nation.

"He knew it and did nothing. It's close to criminal," Biden said in one of several fiery criticisms of Trump.

"This president should step down," he added.

The 77-year-old candidate also used a populist inflection, framing the 2020 election between him and billionaire real estate mogul Trump as "a campaign between Scranton and Park Avenue."

Blue-collar Americans -- like the family Biden grew up in -- "are as good as anybody else," he said.

"And guys like Trump, who inherited everything and squandered what they inherited, are the people that I've always found a problem with -- not the people who are busting their neck."

The tough remarks appeared aimed at working-class white voters with whom he must do better if he is to win back swing states that went to Trump in 2016.

Biden also showed his famously empathetic side when speaking to questioners who had medical ailments, whose relatives died from Covid-19 or who were suffering financially.

"Thank you for what you do," he told a nurse who voted for Trump in 2016.

Posted by orrinj at 7:29 AM


Man 'asleep' in speeding self-driving car charged in Canada (AFP, 9/18/20)

The incident took place near the town of Ponoka in Alberta province, the local force said in a tweet on Thursday.

"The car appeared to be self-driving, travelling over 140 km/h with both front seats completely reclined & occupants appeared to be asleep," it said.

According to Canadian public broadcaster CBC, the car was an electric Tesla model set to autopilot and the man charged was 20 years old.

Realistically, autopilot is safer than a 20-year-old male.

Posted by orrinj at 7:08 AM


Michael Oakeshott and the Critique of Rationalism (Matt McManus, 9/17/20, Aero)

By far Oakeshott's most famous piece is his seminal 1962 essay "Rationalism in Politics," in which he argues against the scientistic conclusion that there are simply right ways to settle all moral and political questions: either by applying proper rules or by engaging in utility maximizing calculations. Many modern political doctrines, including liberalism and socialism--which have much in common--are tempted by this conceit. They discern universal natural rights, or the scientific "laws of motion" that govern history, and seek to apply them wholesale to very distinct communities with different traditions and practices. Practically, this leads to an emphasis on planning and organizing directed by rationalistic experts who apply their methods mechanically and with a disinterested attitude towards the communities they are impacting. The consequence is the gradual corrosion of traditions and practices which are seen as having little value to the rationalist eye, but in fact provide a tremendous sense of meaning to their practitioners. Indeed, Oakeshott sometimes seems to flirt with the Wittgensteinian point that, without being embedded in a distinct "form of life" that obeys its own internal logic, we cannot even make sense of the world.

There is a place for rationalism and planning, of course. A general leading a military campaign shouldn't dogmatically follow tradition and ignore calculations of cost and benefit. Nor should the head of a major corporation. Oakeshott's anxiety is that rationalism has become so epistemologically and morally dominant that it is gradually swallowing all alternatives. It is also discontented with pluralism in practice, even if it might be willing to countenance it in theory for the sake of rationalistic deliberation. This is because, in practice, there must be one correct way to organize the world. Oakeshott is stubbornly resistant to such claims, and posits conservatism as a natural corrective. This is because the conservative loyalty to "familiar relationships" and preference of the "convenient to the perfect" makes conservatives suspicious of the grandiose ambitions of planners who promise a utopia yet to come. They also have a deep attachment to traditional--rather than technical--knowledge, which contains forms of wisdom that the rationalist ignores or even disdains.

Every great English-speaking philosopher is a skeptic with regard to Reason.

Posted by orrinj at 6:59 AM


Pinochet's Economic Fascism (Jacob G. Hornberger, September 17, 2020, FFF)

The reality though is that Pinochet and the Chicago Boys did not bring libertarianism, free markets, or free enterprise to Chile. A genuine libertarian, free-market, free-enterprise system is one in which economic enterprise is free of all government control, regulation, or management, not one in which conservatives or conservative-leaning libertarians are the controllers, regulators, or managers of the economy. Libertarianism turns on abolishing welfare and regulatory departments and agencies. This is what a segment of the libertarian movement still doesn't get to this today.

What Pinochet and the Chicago Boys accomplished in Chile was more in the mold of what British rightwing ruler Margaret Thatcher achieved in Great Britain. Thatcher, not surprisingly, became a darling of not only conservatives here in America but also many conservative-leaning libertarians.

Were the Chicago Boys better central planners and better regulators than Allende's people? Undoubtedly. But in their rush to join and serve a brutal unelected military dictatorship that was rounding up, raping, sexually abusing, disappearing, and murdering thousands of innocent people, they blocked out of their minds that that's all they were -- "free enterprise" central planners and regulators. In fact, in a regime that wielded omnipotent dictatorial powers, Pinochet and his Chicago Boys didn't even abolish the minimum wage, much less Chile's central bank.

One of the most interesting aspects of the Pinochet regime was his approach to Social Security. Allende's approach to Social Security was like that of the American people. The system took money from young people and transferred it to seniors. In other words, classic socialism.

Pinochet's Social Security system instead permitted people to keep their own money but forced them to invest it in government-approved stock accounts.

Pinochet's Social Security system has also had a profound effect on the libertarian movement, a segment of which extolls such a system as libertarian, freedom, and free enterprise.

Alas, nothing could be further from the truth. Pinochet's Social Security system was nothing more than one based on the principles of economic fascism, a type of system that leaves property in private hands but then permits the government to direct and order how it is to be used.

We are all Third Way now.

September 17, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 7:03 PM


Posted by orrinj at 10:14 AM


Ford's making its electric F-150 a serious work truck in bid to set it apart from Tesla and GM pickups (Michael Wayland, 9/17/20, CNBC)

Ford Motor plans to differentiate its upcoming all-electric F-150 from expected pickups by Tesla and General Motors by building it for heavy duty hauling and towing rather than recreation.

"While all other electric pickups are competing for lifestyle customers, the all-electric F-150 is designed and engineered for hard working customers that need a truck to do a job," Kumar Galhortra, Ford President of the Americas and International Markets, said Wednesday during a media briefing.

Galhortra said it was important to Ford to retain the F-150′s reputation as a work truck when it rolls out its electric version in about two years. The F-150 and its larger siblings, collectively known as Ford's F-Series, have been America's best-selling pickups for 43 years and the nation's top-selling vehicle for 38 years.

Posted by orrinj at 10:10 AM


Bill Barr Just Said COVID Lockdowns Are Like 'Slavery' and Black Victims of Police Violence Are 'Props' (Paul Blest, September 17, 2020, Vice News)

Attorney General Bill Barr compared coronavirus lockdowns around the country to house arrest and said that, "other than slavery," the restrictions are the "greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history," during an appearance Wednesday at Hillsdale College.

"You know, putting a national lockdown, stay at home orders, is like house arrest," Barr told a friendly audience at the conservative Michigan school during a question and answer session. "Other than slavery, which was a different kind of restraint, this is the greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history." [...]

During the same appearance where he insisted that coronavirus lockdowns rank right behind slavery in terms of injustice, Barr also took the opportunity to again attack the Black Lives Matter movement.

"They're not interested in Black lives," Barr said. "They're interested in props, a small number of Blacks who are killed by police during conflicts with police -- usually less than a dozen a year -- who they can use as props to achieve a much broader political agenda."

In 2019, 250 Black people were shot and killed, according to the Washington Post's police shootings database, and that's not counting non-shootings such as George Floyd's death at the hands of Minneapolis police in May or Daniel Prude's killing in Rochester in March.

Gosh, why don't any blacks vote for Republican presidential candidates?

Posted by orrinj at 8:56 AM


New Hampshire median home price jumped 15% in August (Jeff Feingold, 9/16/20, NHBR)

The median single-family home price in New Hampshire jumped nearly 15%, rising to nearly $350,000 in August, according to the latest report from the New Hampshire Association of Realtors.

Driven by the continued shortage of inventory, those who put their homes on the market are getting what they ask for and a bit more.

Posted by orrinj at 8:26 AM


Israel normalisation deals reflect the rupture between repressive regimes and Arab societies (Nour Odeh, 9/17/20, New Arab)

[W]hile the US administration, Israel, the UAE, and Bahrain were keen on presenting these pacts as agreements between governments and peoples, the reality on the ground couldn't be further from the truth.

In fact, this audacious claim is also exposed as a fallacy by the reality in Egypt and Jordan, where decades after peace deals were struck normalisation between people remains strictly rejected and even forbidden by all cultural, academic, professional, and labour unions.

This ice-cold peace also often explodes into popular anger when the Israeli repression of Palestinians escalates.

UAE Foreign Minister Abdallah Bin Zayed spoke about developing a "warm peace" with Israel, even though his country has no political life or parties that can articulate such warmth. In fact, apart from government affiliated media - which is the only media allowed in the UAE - and government backers, the only statements out of the small gulf nation are those of anti-normalisation groups that fervently oppose the deal with Israel. 

Meanwhile, Bahrain's foreign minister hailed the agreement as an "historic step on the road to genuine and lasting peace, security and prosperity across the region, and for all who live there, regardless of religion, sect, ethnicity, or ideology." But this statement is belied by the tiny Kingdom's dismal human rights record against any and all opposition, especially against Shia citizens who constitute the majority of the population.
In fact, Freedom House's Index for 2020 gives the UAE and Bahrain a score of 17 and 11 out of 100, respectively. It is a score that reflects both countries' autocratic rule, which neither tolerates dissent nor allows for expression of opinion.

Human Rights Watch's World Report for 2020 describes the human rights situation in Bahrain as "dire," citing the banning of all independent media and opposition groups as well as the arbitrary revocation of citizenship, detention, and harassment of human rights defenders, journalists, and opposition leaders.   

The human rights organisation also criticised the UAE for showing "no tolerance for any manner of peaceful dissent", imprisoning human rights activists over social media posts, as well as employing mistreatment and torture against dissidents, some of whom remain in jail despite completing their prison sentences.

It was thus no surprise that the UAE warned citizens and residents of the country against challenging an imminent "sovereign decision" shortly before US President Donald Trump made the announcement of the normalisation deal with Israel. Abu Dhabi also arrested those who voiced opposition to the pact.

In Bahrain, opponents of the deal made their position clear immediately following the announcement, with human rights and anti-normalisation groups issuing strong statements and social media activists turning the #Bahrainis_against_normalization hashtag into a top trend on Bahraini twitter in Arabic and English.

Opponents also took to the streets to demonstrate and express their rejection of normalisation with Israel after the announcement and on the day of the signing ceremony. Dissidents outside Bahrain subsequently reported a security crackdown on protestors. 

These protests are in line with recent polls, which show that despite other social justice issues ranking high among priorities of the Arab public across the region, the majority remain opposed to normalising with Israel while it continues to occupy Palestinian and Arab land.

Using social media to express anger and unite with equally indignant Arabs was also significant, as recent studies indicate that this virtual space is where Arab youth and activists are coalescing, networking, and mobilising in the absence of political and civil liberties in their countries.
The fact is, Arab countries are predominantly young and mostly politically and economically disenfranchised. Their opinions and priorities are often dismissed by the regimes that rule over them, which are also ready to use heavy-handed measures to mute opposition to government policies. It's no surprise then that less than half of Arab youth believe their right to freedom of expression is guaranteed. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:03 AM


What a Post-Trump Conservative Coalition Should Look Like: Conservatism is dead. Long live conservatism. (SHAY KHATIRI  SEPTEMBER 17, 2020, The Bulwark)

Recreating the conservatism of 1955-1991 in the post-Trump era is not just tenable. Its good parts are useless and its bad parts should have never been there. The old model of conservatism served its purpose. It is gone, and that's just a fact that must be accepted.

But while that conservatism is gone, some of the truths for which it stood remain. The U.S. Constitution is the greatest governing document that man has created, and it is worth protecting. Individual liberty must be protected. The institutions of civil society, especially the family and organized religion, are necessary for a nation to function, as are traditions. Market economies are still the best way to prosper. America still occupies a unique place in the world as a guarantor of order and an inspiration for people everywhere who long for liberty.

A new coalition, whatever one might call it--the new right, the future right, the new Whigs, the liberals, the centrists--should still adhere to these five broad principles and apply them to the problems of today. And its litmus test for who should count as a conservative ought not to extend far beyond adherence to these five principles, creating a big tent for difference and compromise within the coalition, both of which are necessary for governing.

This new conservatism should also actively engage the issues of race and poverty--not only because it's electorally sensible to do so, but because it is just and proper. When some American schools are underfunded and overpopulated and look more like correction centers than schools; when many police departments routinely cover for racist cops; when racial disparities in health outcomes are only worsened by a global pandemic--well, it's all well and good to appreciate the enormous progress that America has made on race while acknowledging the great task remaining before us. The old conservative inclination to emphasize personal responsibility is fine, but only when childhood circumstances are taken into account and when those who have failed in the past are provided with opportunities to correct their mistakes.

Also, this new conservatism ought to engage with the concerns of young Americans to a greater extent than the defunct conservatism did. Younger Americans tend to be more favorable toward immigration and to be friendlier with non-white immigrants, including those without legal status, because they went to school and college with first- or second-generation non-white immigrants and are friends with them. Younger Americans care deeply about climate change. They are worried about the crushing burden of student-loan debt, especially when the value of college degrees seems to be decreasing. Again, both electorally and as a matter of good policy, a new conservatism should try to speak to these concerns.

This doesn't mean that a new conservatism should disregard working-class Americans. To the contrary, it should be more flexible in its market-orientation than before to address such concerns. The growing wealth and income disparities are real problems and, as arguably threats to democracy.

And, last, a new conservatism must emphasize statesmanship and liberal democratic values. That is to say, it cannot be a conservatism worthy of the name if it embraces the kinds of wicked and buffoonish characters the GOP has elevated in recent years or the kinds of reckless anti-democratic and illiberal politics they have practiced. And back up these convictions by boosting support for civic education in our schools.

The apex of these conservative principles was, of course, from 2001-2008--not coincidentally the GOP's electoral peak as well.  The Right was repulsed by W's focus on free trade; market-based welfare programs; inequality; racial justice; free immigration; and the extension of liberal democratic values to the Arab world and Africa.  

Posted by orrinj at 7:49 AM


The best books on Stoicism: recommended by Massimo Pigliucci (Interview by Nigel Warburton, 9/17/20, 5 Books)

Are there any new books about Stoicism that stand out for you as particularly interesting?

Yes, the past few years have seem quite a number of new entries! I'd start by mentioning Donald Robertson's How to Think Like a Roman Emperor, a philosophical biography of Marcus Aurelius, using key moments in the emperor's life to introduce readers to the principles and practice of Stoicism, updated on the basis of the author's experience as a cognitive behavioural therapist.

Then there is William Irvine's The Stoic Challenge, which uses a crucial tool in Stoicism -- what modern psychologists call the framing effect -- to change the way we think about setbacks. When something happens that is not according to your plans, like, you know, being stuck for months in your house because of a pandemic, reformulate the situation in your mind as a challenge issued to you by the universe. Keep track of how well you respond to the challenge, even using a self-scoring rubric, and when you judge the challenge to be over give yourself a thorough evaluation. There is very good empirical evidence that this actually helps significantly.

A third book I'd like to mention is John Sellars's Lessons in Stoicism, written by one of the foremost scholars in ancient and modern Stoic philosophy. It's short and organized around seven basic and highly useful concepts: the philosopher as doctor, what we control, the problem of emotions, dealing with adversity, our place in nature, life and death, and how to live together.

...Tom Wolfe's Man in Full.

Posted by orrinj at 7:44 AM


Republicans tell the truth about Biden probe: "It would certainly help Donald Trump win re-election" (IGOR DERYSH, SEPTEMBER 17, 2020, Salon)

Democrats accused Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., of abusing his position after he publicly admitted that his investigation into the party's presidential nominee Joe Biden would "certainly" help President Donald Trump's re-election chances. [...]

Democrats compared Johnson's admission to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's, R-Calif., 2015 boast that the Republican-led Benghazi investigation was aimed at hurting former presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's poll numbers.

Posted by orrinj at 7:37 AM


President Lincoln's Republican Party Was the Original Party of Big Government (Peter Balakian, September 17, 2020, LitHub)

Big government began with President Lincoln's Republican Party, which in fundamental ways is the progenitor of the modern Democratic Party of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Lincoln's party was not one of small, non-intrusive government, minimal taxation, traditional social mores, and white supremacy. It was the party of strong federal intervention and moral directive against the institution of slavery and Southern secession, the party of federally funded higher education, federally funded national transportation, and social welfare. The radical Republicans of Lincoln's Party with their reform zeal and moral interventionist vision would be to the left of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

Lincoln's administration gave us big government: first income tax, first national banking system, big bureaus like the Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Pensions, an explosion of government contracting for the war, Pacific Railroad Act for federally funded intercontinental railroad, the Morrill Act for federally funded higher education (the land grant universities that changed America).

Lincoln's administration and its legacy brought welfare to a persecuted and disadvantaged minority. It also issued the Emancipation Proclamation, Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery, Fourteenth Amendment guaranteeing constitutional rights for every citizen, Fifteenth Amendment guaranteeing suffrage, Freedman's Bureau to aid newly freed African Americans.

Geoffrey Perret's immensely readable bio of US Grant makes the case that we recall the General's administration as particularly corrupt simply because he was the first Executive to have to deal with the massively expanded state.

Posted by orrinj at 7:27 AM


Donald Trump accused of sexual assault by former model Amy Dorris (Lucy Osborne, 17 Sep 2020, The Guardian)

A former model has come forward to accuse Donald Trump of sexually assaulting her at the US Open tennis tournament more than two decades ago, in an alleged incident that left her feeling "sick" and "violated".

In an exclusive interview with the Guardian, Amy Dorris alleged that Trump accosted her outside the bathroom in his VIP box at the tournament in New York on 5 September 1997.

Dorris, who was 24 at the time, accuses Trump of forcing his tongue down her throat, assaulting her all over her body and holding her in a grip she was unable to escape from.

He's bragged that this is what he does.

Posted by orrinj at 6:06 AM


FAUSTIAN, FANTASIST, AND FRAUD: Freud: The Making of an Illusion by Frederick Crews (M. D. Aeschliman, Fall 2017, Modern Age)

Through a carefully documented chronological narrative of Freud's career, Crews succeeds in showing that from very early on Freud's ambition, egotism, and desire for money and fame led him to exploit "the ethical scientists and physicians of his era," whose professional standards of conduct he mimicked as and when necessary. He preyed on their research, sometimes using insights, arguments, and data without attribution or taking credit for research findings or arguments gleaned from others. Freud was also a predator of what he cynically called "goldfish"--the patients whom Crews describes as the "chronically agitated and fabulously wealthy ladies at the apex of Viennese Jewish society." Freud was a classic case of an upwardly mobile confidence man, perfecting techniques of deception that would continue throughout his life and would also characterize the inner ring of Freudians during the last twenty years of his life and since his death.

One of the main recurrent topics of this volume is Freud's use of cocaine, both as a private intoxicant and as a treatment for the ailments of his patients. Although he eventually recognized the drug's dangers, Freud, as Crews shows, was instrumental in causing or enabling the addiction of several colleagues, friends, and patients in an unscrupulous way that almost terminated his own career. Crews plausibly argues that many of Freud's boldly but covertly immoral actions--including concocting case studies that were actually personal fantasies and fictions--were the results of cocaine abuse. Despite Freud's ostensible skepticism regarding the occult, Crews compares his relationship to drugs to a satanic pact. "On April 30, 1884--Walpurgisnacht, or the folkloric night of supposed witchcraft and trafficking with the Devil," Crews tells us, Freud "tasted cocaine powder and imbibed his first .05 gram solution of it, marveling at its mood-elevating capacity. And from that night forward he would regard the drug as the most precious and restorative substance on earth."

Atheistic and contemptuous of his long-suffering wife's residual respect for her inherited Judaism, Freud descended into the deep, superstitious subjectivity of pagan German Romanticism. "On Walpurgisnacht in Goethe's Faust, Mephistopheles offers the hero a magical elixir that grants him both sexual and intellectual mastery," Crews points out. "Faust was already Freud's favorite work of serious literature, and it would remain so. The figure of Dr. Faust, risking his soul for freedom from ethical constraints that render the experience of other mortals so impoverished, would become central to his later self-conception as the founder of an anti-Christian science that could penetrate forbidden realms."

What could professional or moral standards mean to such a man? "Freud's enthusiasm" for cocaine, Crews tells us, "was boundless." Obsessed with self-flattering ideas of himself as a Nietzschean Superman, Freud was sure, within a month of first taking the cocaine, "that the 'magical remedy' [Zaubermittel] would prove to be his ticket to worldly success." Repeatedly experiencing its "emboldening" effects, "he had begun sending small amounts of it, along with commendations of its benefits, to his fiancée, to his sisters, and to trusted colleagues, who would presumably be encouraged to prescribe it to their patients for the alleviation of various complaints." Crews's description of the subsequent effects of cocaine on figures such as Freud's friend Fleischl are heartrending.

One of Crews's main arguments is that Freud was only minimally and even reluctantly a "scientist." Although his reputation rested on his carefully crafted self-portrait as a heroic yet ascetic man of reason, he actually despised the empirical habit of mind and the general canons of rationality that had informed educated people from Aristotle through Aquinas, Descartes, Samuel Johnson, Kant, and modern science. Not careful study but cocaine addiction was a key to Freud's own secret closet of obsessions, particularly his quasi-mystical self-conception. He seems to have loved irrationalist phrases such as "magical remedy" and "magical attraction" (zauberischen Reiz, which he used of a strong homophile attraction to Fleischl). The children of one of his wealthy, emotionally abused, and financially exploited patients saw him as an evil magician; the flattering identification of himself as a "magician" was one he was happy to develop among his own disciples. Crews depicts this group as a set of sorcerer's apprentices following the magic flute of an allegedly scientific pied piper.

Freud had little interest in people outside his charmed circle. He frequently expressed contempt for poor people who couldn't afford his expensive and lengthy services, seeing them as a Nietzschean herd or "massa damnata." "A Hippocratic sense that each human being deserves respectful treatment was never part of Freud's perspective," Crews writes. "Most people struck him as contemptible." Crews goes on to quote Freud's notorious letter to the Swiss Protestant minister-psychiatrist Rev. Oskar Pfister. "I have found little that is 'good' about human beings as a whole," Freud informed Pfister. "In my experience, most of them are trash."

Freud's attitude toward women, who provided the overwhelming majority of his cases, was similarly contemptuous and abusive. Crews's documentation of his behavior makes some of the most painful reading in this book. The allegedly happily married paterfamilias was in reality a domestic tyrant who ignored or abused his frequently pregnant wife (who bore him six children). Later he almost certainly deserted her sexually for her younger, sexier, live-in sister, Minna Bernays, with whom he took most of his holidays and for whom he probably procured a painfully botched abortion of a child they conceived. It is the story of a scoundrel and a megalomaniac, one styling himself, of course, "beyond good and evil."

It is inevitable that the intellectuals who set themselves in opposition to Judeo-Christianity propounded evil.

Posted by orrinj at 5:57 AM


The Indispensable Legacy of Gouverneur Morris (Tyler MacQueen, September 16th, 2020, Imaginative Conservatism)

His impressive accomplishments are a mere shadow of the statesmanship Morris displayed in the Constitutional Convention of 1787. While Madison recorded the proceedings of the Convention, it was Morris who seized the opportunity to become the dominating voice in Philadelphia. By the end of the Convention, he had given more speeches than any other delegate with a total of 173. Based on Madison's detailed account of the proceedings, one quickly discerns that Morris has had a much greater impact on American political institutions than what Americans give him credit for.

For instance, consider the concept of national union. In the Convention, Morris was the leading advocate for what he called a "national, supreme government." He rightly asserted that the loose confederation established by the Articles of Confederation could not successfully accomplish the very objectives proposed by the document (i.e., common defense, security of liberty, and general welfare). His solution, as a passionate nationalist, was a strong central government. As early as May 1787, he and Edmond Randolph took steps to propose the basic outline for a whole new polis which reflected his belief in a unifying federal power with constitutionally granted powers. "That a national government ought to be established, consisting of a supreme Legislative, Executive, and Judiciary."[2]

Morris believed that the best way to secure human liberty and prosperity is to bestow certain limited powers into a strong central government. Not only this, but he contended that the Americans were one people, not thirteen separate and independent peoples. As the author of the Preamble, Morris's most famous contribution to the final draft demonstrates his belief in a unified nation: We, the People of the United States of America.

Indeed, Morris's rhetoric and underlying philosophy was a powerful weapon in future political fights. When the Nullification Crisis of 1828-1832 came, two-thirds of the Great Triumvirate channeled Morris. As Daniel Webster declared in 1830, "Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable!" And again, twenty years later, when Henry Clay reiterated the points made at the height of the crisis. "This Union is my country. The thirty states is my country.... But even if it were my own state--if my own state, contrary to her duty, should raise the standard of disunion against the residue of the Union, I would go against her, I would go against Kentucky in that contingency as much as I love her."

The rebellion of the southern states in late 1860 and early 1861 forced Americans to consider the constitutionality of secession. Abraham Lincoln argued in his First Inaugural that nothing within the principles of the country and the Constitution proper allowed for dissolution of the Union. Tragically, war came shortly after, thereby fulfilling Morris's eerie prophecy at the Convention: "This country must be united.... If persuasion does not unite it, the sword will."[3] In many ways, Lincoln is heir to many of the great political ideas of Morris, having acquired them through his prolonged admiration of Clay.

The second and more volatile of the two is his deep faith in human equality and profound hatred of American slavery. A proud abolitionist from an early age, Morris always denounced slavery in the strongest possible terms. During the Convention, he aligned with other northern abolitionists such as Alexander Hamilton and declared that he could never agree with upholding domestic slavery. Bluntly, he deemed it to be a "nefarious institution. It was the curse of Heaven on the States where it prevailed."

They knew they were engaged in evil.

Posted by orrinj at 5:54 AM


Trump ad featuring Bernie Sanders as puppet master for Biden is anti-Semitic, 2 left-wing Jewish groups say (JTA, SEPTEMBER 16, 2020)

The ad, according to screenshots posted on Twitter, has Biden dangling like a marionette from strings that are wrapped around Sanders' fingers with text reading "Joe Biden: The radical left's puppet." Sanders, who challenged Biden from the left in the Democratic presidential primary, is Jewish.

IfNotNow and Bend the Arc said the ad perpetuates the anti-Semitic stereotype of Jews nefariously pulling the world's strings. The accusation that Biden is a puppet of the far left is a frequent one among Trump supporters, who often use images of Sanders to illustrate the argument.

"There's a long, dangerous history of Jews being scapegoated as all-powerful puppet masters," Bend the Arc tweeted Tuesday. "Trump is using this antisemitic lie to spread fear & division."

September 16, 2020

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Lindsey Graham in Dead Heat with South Carolina Senate Challenger (Josyana Joshua, Sep. 16th, 2020, Bloomberg)

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, a close ally of President Donald Trump, is in a dead heat with his Democratic opponent less than 50 days before the election, according to a Quinnipiac University poll of likely voters.

The poll also found Republican Senator Susan Collins is trailing well behind Democrat Sara Gideon in Maine, while in Kentucky Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell holds a significant edge over Democrat Amy McGrath 53% to 41%.

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GOP memo warns 'the Senate Majority is at risk' as Republicans struggle in four key states (Sky Palma , 9/16/20, Raw Story)

"Make no mistake: the Senate Majority is at risk. Beyond the four battleground states of Colorado, North Carolina, Arizona and Maine, Democrats are going on offense in historically red states like Montana, Iowa and Georgia," the memo continues. "They're even eyeing states like South Carolina, where [Democrat] Jaime Harrison just reported raising a staggering $10.6m in August alone."

The memo lists four states, Iowa, Montana, Georgia and Kansas, which generally trend red but are now in Democrats' sights.

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Correction: Transgender Surgery Provides No Mental Health Benefit: The American Journal of Psychiatry has issued a major correction to a recent study. The Bränström study reanalysis demonstrated that neither "gender-affirming hormone treatment" nor "gender-affirming surgery" reduced the need of transgender-identifying people for mental health services. Fad medicine is bad medicine, and gender-anxious people deserve better. (ANDRE VAN MOL, MICHAEL K. LAIDLAW, MIRIAM GROSSMAN AND PAUL MCHUGH, 9/13/20, Public Discourse)

A major correction has been issued by the American Journal of Psychiatry. The authors and editors of an October 2019 study, titled "Reduction in mental health treatment utilization among transgender individuals after gender-affirming surgeries: a total population study," have retracted its primary conclusion. Letters to the editor by twelve authors, including ourselves, led to a reanalysis of the data and a corrected conclusion stating that in fact the data showed no improvement after surgical treatment. The following is the background to our published letter and a summary of points of the critical analysis of the study.

It has been an open secret for some time that there is a crisis of irreproducibility of scientific studies in medicine and other fields. No less a figure than the Director of the NIH, Dr. Francis Collins, wrote that, "the checks and balances that once ensured scientific fidelity have been hobbled. This has compromised the ability of today's researchers to reproduce others' findings." For example, the National Association of Scholars reports, "In 2012 the biotechnology firm Amgen tried to reproduce 53 'landmark' studies in hematology and oncology, but could only replicate 6 (11%)." In 2015 an article was published in Science in which there was an attempt to replicate 100 studies from three well-known psychology journals in 2008. In the original studies, nearly all had produced statistically significant results, whereas in the study replications, only a little over a third produced similar significant results.

Perhaps nowhere in medicine and psychology is this problem of irreproducibility worse than in studies of people who claim to have a mismatch between their sex and their internal sense of being male or female.

Posted by orrinj at 8:21 AM


What ISIS Can Tell Us About QAnon (Mike Pesca, Sep. 15th, 2020, Slate)

For years, Clint Watts worked in the FBI in counterterrorism. He is the author of the book Messing With the Enemy: Surviving in a Social Media World of Hackers, Terrorists, Russians, and Fake News, and he joined me last week on The Gist for a two-part conversation about how his career and research inform his understanding of QAnon. A portion of that conversation is transcribed below; it has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Mike Pesca: If you were writing your book now, QAnon would have to be in it somewhere, if not mentioned then at least referenced in the subtitle.

Clint Watts: For sure. You know, it's interesting, I think it was probably right about the time the book came out [that] QAnon was really gaining steam. And I was on at MSNBC and probably talked to you about it. And it was like, "This is what I'm going to be more worried about over time,"--the idea that people can connect around any idea they choose and build it into a juggernaut. And that's really what's happened over the last three years. It's pretty remarkable. [QAnon has] become its own belief system in a way. For other people it's entertainment. For some, it's a conspiracy. But it's remarkable how it's really overtaken an entire body of people and grown. This is always the case when we're talking about social media influence: When do you know it's for real? It's when you see it enter the physical world, when there's physical manifestations of it. Boogaloo is one recently.

Right. So with this, we're seeing the first violent outbreaks, but also we're seeing people just claim fealty to it and winning Republican primaries, which is a little different from some ways that election hackers could cause mayhem, or from how an ISIS adherent could kill people. There's no one in the mainstream who would say, "I'm ISIS and I approve this message, vote for me."

You're right on target with it. And somebody had pointed out to me, they're like, "Oh, this is just like when the Tea Party or the progressives ..." I'm like, "No, no, no, man." I remember the Tea Party. They had a very specific policy agenda right around what they were going to advance. When you listen to QAnon, it is an alternative reality they're trying to advance. They're not trying to argue about what we're going to do with this country when they win, when it moves into the political space or what's going on in terms of the country. They're literally advocating that the government has a secret society. And then I ask, when they're running for office now--what is it you would do if you won? Could you imagine being inside government institutions? And once these people are elected, you're going to have to answer to these conspiracies? You're going to be called to testify maybe, or write up reports. I just cringe for the government employees that will have to deal with that kind of stuff here, maybe in the next year.

Posted by orrinj at 8:09 AM


Siberia: 18,000-year-old frozen 'dog' stumps scientists (BBC, 28 November 2019)

Researchers are trying to determine whether an 18,000-year-old puppy found in Siberia is a dog or a wolf.


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The $24,000 Toyota Corolla Hybrid is a thrifty fuel saver that'll leave you wondering why everyone isn't driving it (Matthew DeBord, Sep. 16th, 2020, Business Insider)

It's almost impossible to argue, ethically, against the 2021 Toyota Corolla Hybrid. An affordable, comfortable sedan with the king of reliability behind it, a bulletproof hybrid drivetrain steadily improved since its introduction two decades ago, and a fuel-economy rating of 52 mpg combined, all for a $23,400 base price? 


Don't care for four doors? Fine. Favor SUVs? Sure, OK. Want more rear legroom or a larger trunk? Gotcha.

You can obtain all those things, but that doesn't mean the Corolla Hybrid is losing any arguments. While the Honda Insight is predictably more fun to drive and slightly more stoutly built, and the Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid is priced nice ($23,200) and posts higher MPGs (58 combined), the Corolla joins the legendary crown nameplate with an equally legendary hybrid technology.

Simply put, the Corolla Hybrid is a majestic example of automotive engineering; all I could think about while driving it for a week was the privilege of experiencing this much ingenuity in one place. Few machines in human history embody the Japanese concept of "kaizen" -- continuous improvement -- more fully.

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Dilettantes and Connoisseurs: The Public Intellectual in the United States (Robert Daseler, SEPTEMBER 13, 2020, LA Review of Books)

THE POLITICAL AND CULTURAL ferment of New York City in the 1960s had been building for 30 years, since the Great Depression and the New Deal. While I don't intend to recapitulate here the successive ideological waves that continually altered the shoreline of the debate, it was conducted largely in the offices of the Partisan Review, a journal founded in 1934 as an anti-Stalinist but communist-influenced organ, and in one-bedroom apartments and coffeehouses in Brooklyn, Morningside Heights, and Greenwich Village. Almost all of the contending parties were exponents of one or another form of socialism.

By the time Irving Howe sat down to write about them, the New York intellectuals were a distinct breed, not to be mistaken for the academic careerists who populated English and philosophy departments in universities and colleges all across the prospering country. The latter wrote books for an audience of professors and graduate students; by contrast, the New York intellectuals wrote pithy articles to provoke debate among other New York intellectuals, and they created, in New York City, a hothouse environment that felt to its participants like something more (or less) than a debating society -- for their arguments were not static: most of the participants eventually renounced or slid away from their early enthusiasm for anti-Stalinist communism, and a few of them evolved, in the fullness of time, into political conservatives.

For a brief period -- from circa 1955 to circa 1975 -- the United States had a cadre of "public intellectuals" who spoke out in the press and on television to advance (or retard) one progressive program or another, fighting among themselves over which programs were worthiest of support. To be sure, the public intellectual in the United States bore only a faint resemblance to his or her counterpart in France, where such figures had deeper roots and a longer tradition. But, during the score of years I have designated, it was possible, occasionally, to turn on your television and watch William F. Buckley Jr. flick his serpent's tongue between his lips as he mixed it up verbally with one of his liberal guests -- Gore Vidal, James Baldwin, Norman Mailer -- on his weekly program, Firing Line. Buckley became an almost universally recognized public intellectual without really being an intellectual. 

It's no coincidence that today's intellectuals are the Nationalists, Integralists, etc.  The Right is the Left.

Posted by orrinj at 7:40 AM


Did the French Revolution cause Nazism?: If Louis XVI had hung onto his throne, Europe wouldn't have been overrun by tyranny (John Lewis-Stempel, September 15, 2020, The Critic)

All the great political woes of the modern era -- Communism, Fascism, and its German bier and swastika variant, Nazism -- have their tangled, bitter beginnings in the storming of the Bastille. The French Revolution was the taproot of Tyranny in our time. No French Revolution, no Marx, no Hitler. Voila!

The French Revolution began in 1789 as an Enlightenment experiment. In 1793, however, the Jacobins, led by Robespierre, tried to turn France into a Rousseauian theme park -- where the people were sans private possessions and sans self-interest, but were suborned to the state ("the general will") -- by destroying the rich. The Jacobins also wanted to export the 'benedictions' of Revolution via the barrel of a cannon. 

Sound familiar? Yes, it is the same millenarian collectivist philosophy of Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Mussolini, Hitler, Pol Pot, Osama Bin Laden. The accompanying praxis was, and is, murder. Mass murder. As Robespierre so delightfully put it: "We must smother the internal and external enemies of the Republic or perish with them...Terror is nothing but prompt, severe, inflexible justice; it is therefore an emanation of virtue." Before 1793, Europe  was no stranger to violence, but not until the French Revolution was murder used systematically to erase a designated internal enemy from its existence. The Jacobin's mass firing squads anticipated absolutely the Nazis' Einsatzgruppen.

The Jacobins desired "Year One," a cheerless utopia in which individual freedom was rescinded in the name of the commune, and where the people were dosed daily with propaganda to rid them of their vices -- such as the desire to own a home of their own ("Property is theft!"), to possess freedom of thought or to enjoy a private life. The Jacobins and their descendant mini-mes, in their thirst and thrust for absolute power, have disavowed all ordinary amusements. Hence the purist, monkish public image cultivated by Robespierre, Hitler, Mao, et al.

It could have been so different. In June 1791 Louis XVI was about to flee Paris in a fast carriage; at the last moment, MarieAntoinette (and her voluminous baggage) insisted on accompanying him, rather than travelling separately. Uxorious to the nth degree, the king agreed. Consequently, they took the big and literal slow coach instead of the speedy light one -- and were intercepted by revolutionaries a mere 25 miles from the safety of the Belgian border. The royal couple were then returned to Paris to be shortened by Madame Guillotine.

But in a parallel universe, there exist Les Annals Alternatives de la France and they tell of Europe's avoidance of the nightmare of tyranny: the right, fast route taken. The relevant extract follows.

Modernity consists of nothing more than the faith of the Anglosphere vs the Rationalism of the Continent. Avoiding the Enlightenment was the singular triumph of the English-Speaking world and a simple function of our ingrained skepticism.

Posted by orrinj at 7:33 AM

FLIGHT 1854:

The perils of Flight 93 democracy: When politics is all-out war, everyone's a loser (Oliver Wiseman, 11 September, 2020, The Critic)

Four years ago, the closest thing to the thinking man's case for Donald Trump came from Michael Anton, who famously characterised the 2016 race as "The Flight 93 Election" in a website-crashing essay for the Claremont Review of Books: "Charge the cockpit or you die. You might die anyway. You -- or the leader of your party -- may make it into the cockpit and not know how to fly or land the plane. There are no guarantees."

Hillary Clinton and the liberal establishment she represented had hijacked the country. Conservatives needed to do whatever it took -- including voting for Trump -- to wrestle back the controls.

Notwithstanding the poor taste in Anton's choice of metaphor (today, both Joe Biden and Donald Trump will commemorate the anniversary of 9/11 with a visit to the site where United Flight 93 crashed in the Pennsylvania countryside), it never struck me as especially apt. Where is the self-sacrifice in Anton's crass framing? What is the Flight 93 comparison other than a lurid repackaging of your willingness to ignore your preferred candidate's shortcomings as something more heroic?

Credit where it's due: the Trumpbots did seize the controls from us conservatives and crashed the GOP plane.

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Eugenics and the intellectual left: To what extent should we separate an artist's work from their period, character and ideas? (Michael Coren, 16 September, 2020, The Critic)

Shaw did indeed write, that, 'The only fundamental and possible socialism is the socialisation of the selective breeding of man" and, chillingly, "A part of eugenic politics would finally land us in an extensive use of the lethal chamber. A great many people would have to be put out of existence simply because it wastes other people's time to look after them." He lectured for the Eugenic Education Society, praised Stalin (naturally) the early Mussolini, and even Hitler as late as 1935. He abandoned most of all this in his old age but never made any formal apology.

He was also an incisive critic of imperialism, mercilessly exposed establishment hypocrisy, opposed war and oppression throughout his career, and cared passionately about actors and writers - the very people at RADA trying to expunge his name from their place of learning. And here's another challenge and even embarrassment for those who would remove the social engineers from the litany of the great and the good: many of their harshest opponents were not others on the left but, in Edwardian Britain and in the 20s and 30s, conservative Roman Catholic writers led by GK Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc.

In 1922 Chesterton wrote a book entitled Eugenics and Other Evils. He wrote that, "Eugenics itself, in large quantities or small, coming quickly or coming slowly, urged from good motives or bad, applied to a thousand people or applied to three, Eugenics itself is a thing no more to be bargained about than poisoning." He and Belloc, both arch-traditionalists and both responsible for some jarringly reactionary and anti-Semitic comments, nevertheless saw the policies of Shaw, Wells, Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, and the rest for what they were. These prolific authors and journalists were also surprisingly early opponents of the Nazis, principally because of the party's racist eugenics. Chesterton wrote of thousands of Jews being "rabbled or ruined or driven from their homes" by the Nazis, who "beat and bully poor Jews in concentration camps", and how, "I do indeed despise the Hitlerites."

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Where Did the Term "Hispanic" Come From?: "Hispanic" as the name of an ethnicity is contested today. But the category arose from a political need for unity. (Livia Gershon  September 15, 2020, JSTOR Daily)

The new "Hispanic" identity arose partly from the work of the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), a Chicano organization. The group modeled much of its work on Black civil rights organizing. But it had a problem. Where African-American groups were able to draw on census data to make public policy arguments about issues like Black unemployment, Mexican-Americans had no such data. The group, with other Chicano organizations, began lobbying the Census Bureau to collect specific data on Mexican-Americans.

At the same time, Mora writes, the bureau was also facing lawsuits charging that it undercounted minority groups, including Spanish speakers in big cities. It created a Spanish Origin Advisory Committee (SOAC), including Puerto Rican, Mexican-American, and Cuban-American activists and civic leaders.

Some Mexican-American and Puerto Rican committee members pushed for a new racial category, such as "Brown." But that was complicated by the diverse origins of Spanish speakers. Instead, the Census Bureau added an additional "Spanish Origin" or "Hispanic" category and experimented with additional ways to identify Latin American ethnicities. (It was forced to drop one question asking about Central American origins when a significant number of people living in the U.S. central time zone checked the box.)

Mora writes that the new census data allowed NCLR to make data-backed arguments about economic marginalization, not of Mexican-Americans but of Hispanics generally. The group's work followed the data. By the end of the 1970s, it was encouraging Puerto Rican and Cuban groups to become affiliates. Eventually, it changed its name to the more inclusive Unidos US.

While my colleagues and I are progressive on social issues, as researchers, we have to put aside our personal biases and render advice based on the best available empirical evidence. To examine the acceptance of "Latinx" our firm conducted a nationwide poll of Latinos using a 508-person sample that is demographically representative of Census figures, yielding a ± 5% margin of error with a 95% confidence interval.

We presented our respondents with seven of the most common terms used to describe Latinos and asked them to select the one that best describes them. When it came to "Latinx," there was near unanimity. Despite its usage by academics and cultural influencers, 98% of Latinos prefer other terms to describe their ethnicity. Only 2% of our respondents said the label accurately describes them, making it the least popular ethnic label among Latinos. [...]

So, what do Latinos want to be called? Consistent with past studies by Gallup and Pew Research, our poll found a plurality of respondents preferred the term Hispanic (44%) over Latino (24%). 

Progressives insisting on the term Latinx, which no actual Latino prefers, is like forcing slave names on an entire cohort.
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Nineteenth-Century Rappers, Corn Laws, and the Rise of Free Trade (Greg Rosalsky  November 13, 2014, JSTOR Daily)

[T]he best hip-hop, when you strip away the music, is just poetry. And 2Pac, like other brilliant rappers, used their poetry as a vehicle for change.

During the early-to-mid 1800s, a group of British poets similarly marshalled their talents for a purpose: to build a democratic movement against the "Corn Laws," a set of government policies sponsored by landowning aristocrats--the "one percent" of their day--to pad their pockets.

With protesters howling and wailing at the steps of British Parliament, the first consequential "Corn Law" was passed in 1815. The law aimed to keep the price of essential grains like wheat, barley, and oats high by blocking a flood of cheaper grains from abroad, inevitable as the war against Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte's France was drawing to a close.

The net effect of this law, known as the "Importation Act" of 1815, was not lost on average British citizens: it was a tax on the masses to benefit the few, immiserating the poor with higher food prices in order to serve a landowning oligarchy with a stranglehold over the government. As the bill wiggled its slimy way through the British House of Commons in March 1815, there were violent riots in the streets--and the government even deployed the military to protect legislators.

Despite popular opposition and organized resistance, not only did parliament pass the Importation Act, they maintained the policy for decades to come--keeping the cost of living high for British society in order to serve the politically powerful few.

The injustice of the Corn Laws--and the boneheaded economics behind it--inspired a generation of British intellectuals in the social sciences and arts who engaged in a war of words for reform. One of the leading poets of the day was Ebenezer Elliott--a "conscious rapper," if the nineteenth century ever had one. MC Ebenezer, a successful businessman and idealist based in Sheffield, penned a series of poems called the "Corn Law Rhymes," which were published in 1831 by the Sheffield Mechanics' Anti-Bread-Tax Society, an activist organization that he helped found.

Posted by orrinj at 6:55 AM


Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown struggled to speak with British accent in new film, despite being British (Adam White, 9/16/20, Independent)

Millie Bobby Brown struggled to speak with a British accent for her new Netflix film Enola Holmes, despite being British in real life.

The Stranger Things star portrays Sherlock Holmes's little sister in the mystery film, with Henry Cavill starring as the detective and Helena Bonham Carter as their mother.

Brown has said the performance was "really challenging" for her, as she was so used to acting with an American accent after years on Stranger Things.

"For the last five years I've been playing an American character in Stranger Things and I found it really challenging being British in this, even though I am a Brit," she told Radio Times.

September 15, 2020

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Let's Stop Shaming the SuburbsResearch shows that Americans are happy living there, and critiques that rely on outdated tropes are polarizing. (Samuel J. Abrams, 9/09/20, Dispatch)

Data from AEI's Survey on Community and Society--conducted before the COVID-19 pandemic--shows that socialization patterns were as high in the suburbs as city centers and that Americans rated suburbs as very desirable places to live. For instance, when respondents are asked about their satisfaction with the number of friends they have in their neighborhood, 72 percent of city dwellers and 72 percent of suburbanites say they are satisfied. This number ticks up for small-town residents (74 percent) and those in rural areas (75 percent).

Relatedly, when asked about how well one knows one's neighbors, 56 percent of urbanites say the know them well, but so do 48 percent of those in suburbs. When asked about feeling isolated from others, 37 percent of city dwellers say sometimes or often, which is not very different from suburbanites who feel lonely 39 percent of the time. Rural Americans felt the most isolated at 42 percent--which is again only a handful more than in suburbs. These are minor differences and if urban life is the benchmark, suburban life is anything but isolated and anti-social.

What about overall quality of life? In this case, while the numbers are still close, suburbanites show the highest overall satisfaction, with 87 percent rating their area as a good or excellent place to live. For city dwellers, it was 74 percent. (Small town and rural residents were in between those two.) Moreover, comparable numbers survey respondents in cities, suburbs, and towns all respond that local amenities--place to buy groceries, be social and entertained, and have a meal or a drink--are close by; only rural Americans are truly missing easy access to these local institutions. So, it is hard for me to accept statements that the suburbs are hellish, empty, and anti-social places considering huge numbers of Americans rank them a good places to live with ample resources and find that they are socially happy there. 

And, I should note, with the advent of COVID-19, suburbs are even more desired today. New survey data from AEI collected in the midst of the pandemic shows respondents finding the suburbs vastly more desirable, and their interest in cities plummeting. Just 13 percent of Americans today state that they would like to live in a city, while 29 percent of Americans said that they would ideally reside in a suburban area, 29 percent in a small town, and 28 percent said a rural area. 

When current urbanites are asked about city living, just 34 percent stated that they would like to remain in a city, while the rest were fairly evenly split among suburbs, towns, and rural areas. In contrast, majorities of those who reside in suburban and rural areas along with small towns all stated that that they would not move from their urban type. Cities are now out of favor across the board and the suburbs are not. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM

60-40 NATION:

Poll: Americans united on a slew of issues, despite contentious election season (CAITLIN OPRYSKO, 09/15/2020, Politico)

[T]he survey -- conducted for Harvard University's Carr Center for Human Rights and Institute of Politics and obtained by POLITICO ahead of its release -- found that more than 7 in 10 Americans believe they have more in common with one another than many people think.

It also found that most Americans hold an expansive view of their rights beyond those explicitly laid out in the Constitution, but which they say are under threat.

"Overall I think Americans want not to be divided as politics are forcing it to be, and that's probably the biggest message of this poll," said John Shattuck, director of the Carr Center's project on Reimagining Rights and Responsibilities in the United States and a former U.S. assistant secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.

"Division is not what most Americans are seeking," he added. [...]

The right to clean air and water, for example, was considered important by 93 percent of those surveyed; protection of personal data, by 93 percent; the right to a quality education, by 92 percent; racial equality, by 92 percent; affordable health care, by 89 percent; and the right to a job, by 85 percent.

Of 16 rights and values polled, a majority considered every single one either very or somewhat important to being American today.

Even issues like immigration (66 percent) and protecting a woman's right to choose and make decisions affecting her body and personal life (72 percent) -- typically viewed as highly divisive -- garnered bipartisan support, though with more of a partisan divide.

The survey found its biggest partisan gap on the issue of race and policing. Although more than 6 in 10 agreed that Black Americans and other racial minorities are targets of racism in policing, that total included 84 percent of Democrats compared with just 32 percent of Republicans.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Biden campaign adds more staff in Texas (Patrick Svitek, 9/15/20, The Texas Tribune)

Joe Biden's campaign is expanding its staff in Texas, bringing on 13 more people as the state continues to look competitive with just over seven weeks to go before the November election. [...]

For months, polls have pointed to a close contest in Texas between Biden, the former vice president, and President Donald Trump. While Biden's campaign has discussed Texas as competitive territory and made TV ad reservations here this fall, Trump officials continue to dismiss the notion that Biden will seriously contend in the historically red state.

Adding TX to his win column would just be gilding the lily for Joe, but he can tie the GOP and its money down there.
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Police Caused At Least 115 Head Injuries During Recent Protests (JORDAN CULVER, 09.15.2020, Undark)

AT LEAST 115 people were injured this summer when police shot them in the head or neck with so-called "less-lethal" projectiles at protests over racial injustice and police brutality, according to a report published Monday.

It's the most comprehensive tally of such injuries to date, with about twice as many victims as KHN and USA Today cited in a July examination of how police across the U.S. wielded the weapons to control crowds.

But Physicians for Human Rights, the organization that compiled the incidents, believes even its figures are an undercount because its analysis is based on publicly available data and excluded some reports without adequate evidence.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump alma mater says Biden plan would lead to more economic growth (STEPHEN GANDEL, SEPTEMBER 14, 2020, CBS News)

[T]he analysis, published on Monday, found that Biden's proposals on education, infrastructure and health care would largely pay for themselves. That would be in part by raising taxes, but also by boosting wages and lowering health care costs.

"If you got the U.S. on this path, you would lower the debt and raise GDP," said Richard Prisinzano, the director of policy analysis at the Penn Wharton Budget Model, a nonpartisan group at the top business school. "It is productive spending that Mr. Biden is proposing."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Nurse, detained migrant women say mass hysterectomies performed by ICE contractor in Georgia (The Week, 9/15/20)

Several legal advocacy groups filed a whistleblower complaint Monday alleging that an unusually large number of hysterectomies are being performed on detained migrant women at the Irwin County Detention Center (ICDC) in Ocilla, Georgia, run by the private prison firm LaSalle South Corrections to house Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees. A nurse who worked full-time at the facility until July and several migrant women interviewed by one nonprofit, Project South, said the women did not know why they were being sterilized.

"When I met all these women who had had surgeries, I thought this was like an experimental concentration camp," said one detainee who had spoken with five women given hysterectomies -- removal of all or part of the uterus -- between October and December 2019. "It was like they're experimenting with their bodies."

Totally not Nazism!

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs to Be Deposed in Seth Rich Case (Will Sommer, Sep. 14, 2020, Daily Beast)

Fox News star Sean Hannity was once his network's most prominent booster of conspiracy theories about murdered Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich, only stopping the rumor-mongering after Rich's grieving parents publicly begged him to knock it off. 

Now, Hannity will have to answer questions, under oath, about Fox's coverage of Rich's death. Hannity, along with Fox Business host Lou Dobbs and a host of Fox staffers, is set to be deposed in late October over the network's debunked reporting on Rich, which falsely claimed that he had leaked thousands of Democratic emails to WikiLeaks--a leak, they suggested, that led to his politically-motivated murder. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump ad asks people to support the troops. But it uses a picture of Russian jets.(DANIEL LIPPMAN and BRYAN BENDER, 09/14/2020, Politico)

The ad, which was made by the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, features silhouettes of three soldiers walking as a fighter jet flies over them. The ad first appeared on Sept. 8 and ran until Sept. 12.

"That's definitely a MiG-29," said Pierre Sprey, who helped design both the F-16 and A-10 planes for the U.S. Air Force.

September 14, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 5:41 PM


"I wouldn't be shocked": Why Joe Biden has an actual shot at winning deep-red Texas (ALEX HENDERSON, SEPTEMBER 14, 2020 , Salon)

"It's a majority minority state," Druke explains. "So, the state is about 41% white, 40% Hispanic, 13% black and 5% Asian. You would think, looking at those numbers, that the state is already Democrat. But here's the deal: the electorate in Texas is majority white -- about 55% of the electorate, in fact."

There are some nuances in the demographic figures that Druke cites. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the "41% white" is non-Hispanic whites, and the "40% Hispanic" includes some white Latinos -- for example, Sen. Ted Cruz. His father was from Cuba, and the 49-year-old senator was born Rafael Edward Cruz on December 22, 1970. Texas has its share of white Latinos, but at this point, non-Hispanic, non-Latino whites comprise only about 41% of Texas' population.

A big problem for Democrats in Texas, as Druke points out, is the fact that many of the state's Latinos don't vote.

According to Druke, "The Texas electorate is majority white in large part because Latinos only make up about a quarter of voters even though they're about 40% of the population . . . Turnout among Latinos, in general, is lower in Texas. Then, among those who do turn out, about a third reliably vote for Republicans. So, Texas is a very diverse state."

Druke goes on to cite some figures that illustrate the progress Democrats have been making slowly in Texas. The FiveThirtyEight pundit notes that in 2012's presidential race, Republican Mitt Romney won Texas by 16% -- whereas Trump won Texas by only 9% in 2016. And when Cruz was reelected in the 2018 midterms, Druke adds, he defeated Democrat Beto O'Rourke by only 2%.

"College-educated white voters," according to Druke, are making Texas more Democrat-friendly -- and only 30% of that demographic voted for Trump in Texas in 2016. Then, in 2018, Cruz won only 10% of college-educated whites.

Posted by orrinj at 5:38 PM


The Specter Haunting Marxism (Andrew Latham, September 14th, 2020, Imaginative Conservative)

[M]arx and Engels were racists, plain and simple. This claim goes far beyond the intellectual faults and fantasies laid out above. This is a claim that these two icons of the Left--these revolutionaries admired so unquestioningly by so many--were, in fact, racists in the plain sense of the word: They hated and loathed the racialized, immutably inferior, Other. They systematically attributed to racialized groups certain innate or biological character traits, then placed those groups on a hierarchical scale, with some being naturally inferior and others superior. They believed that those 'races' endowed with superior qualities were 'bearers of progress,' while those endowed with inferior ones tended to hold humanity back. In their fundamental assumptions regarding the human condition, historical progress, and the communist utopia, they were racists through and through.

In this, both Marx and Engels reflected and perpetuated the scientific racism of their time. This racism used skin-color variations to divide humanity into a limited number of races, each endowed with specific and immutable characteristics and ranked hierarchically, with white on top and black at the bottom. The 'inferior' races--the Indian, the 'Bushman or Australian Negro,' the Slav, etc.--were regarded either as degenerations from a single common race of humans (the monogenic view) or as independently evolving distinct skin-color races (the polygenic view). Whatever the sources of this racial differentiation, it was understood to be an immutable characteristic of the human race. Marx and Engels drank deeply at this racist trough.

Based on the historical evidence we have, this claim is simply incontrovertible. To be sure, the evidence of racism in the writings of Marx and Engels is scattered and haphazard. It is to be found in their private correspondence, works that went unpublished during their lifetimes, such as The German Ideology, and major published works such as Marx's Capital and Engels' The Condition of the Working Class in England. But, whatever the genre and however scattered the references, there is a consistency to their treatment of race. And it is this consistency that allows us to reconstruct their half-articulated 'theory' of race and lay bare the racist assumptions built into both their scholarly theories and their personal beliefs.

Let us begin with their views on the innate character of the races. First, Marx and Engels viewed the white race as the most evolved and its societies as the most advanced. Disturbingly, but undeniably, there is more than a hint of Aryanism their talk about relations of production and class struggle. By Aryanism, of course, I do not mean the 4th-century Christian heresy launched by the Alexandrian priest Arius. Rather, I am referring to the ideas of the 19th-century scholar A.J. de Gobineau as set forth in his manifesto, The Inequality of the Races. In this work, which was hugely popular and which set the stage for a 19th-century regrounding of racism in 'science,' Gobineau argued that all the most worthy ancient and modern civilizations were the creation of the white race, which was naturally at the apex of the world's racial pyramid, and was the driving force of human progress. It was Gobineau's writing that gave form to the already half-baked ideas of 'Aryan superiority,' then circulating in Europe--'Aryan genius,' 'Aryan creativity,' and 'Aryan blood'--that were ultimately to have such a murderous career both within and beyond their European birthplace. And it was Gobineau's ideas that, beneath a light mantle of historical materialist jargon, were to find their way into the collective thought-system of Marx and Engels. The white race was the vanguard of human development; the white working class, the agent of historical progress. All other races either had to submit to the redemptive ministrations of the white historical vanguard or be exterminated.

It is in this light that one must view Marx's and Engels' reference in A Contribution to Critique of Political Economy and elsewhere to 'civilized' and 'uncivilized' races. Similarly, it is impossible to make of Engels when he writes in The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, that the Germans are a 'highly gifted' branch of the Aryan race, or when he tries elsewhere to explain the Germans 'superior development' as a race, without reference to the ambient Aryanism of his time and place.

Posted by orrinj at 5:35 PM


Florida Latinos are being flooded with anti-Semitic conspiracy theories ahead of the election (BEN SALES, SEPTEMBER 14, 2020, JTA) 

Anti-Semitic conspiracy theories are spreading among Florida's Latino communities ahead of the presidential election, amplified by social media and messaging apps as well as respected mainstream outlets.

According to a report in Politico, much of the anti-Semitism stems from QAnon, the growing, false conspiracy theory that claims Democrats and the "deep state" run a pedophile ring and are working to take down President Donald Trump. Purveyors of the theory often traffic in classic anti-Semitic tropes, claiming that powerful Jews control the anti-Trump cabal.

The exact origin of the messages -- which are circulating in groups on WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned messaging app, or on social media -- is unclear. But they reflect both the themes in the QAnon theory and  rhetoric deployed widely on the right that urges voters to fear disorder if Trump is unseated.

Posted by orrinj at 2:31 PM


Trump campaign cancels ads in key battleground states amid poor fundraising - Biden expands buys (David Badash, 9/14/20, Raw Story)

The Donald Trump campaign has canceled millions of dollars in ad buys in critical battleground states, including Iowa, Nevada, and Ohio, while the Joe Biden campaign, after posting historic fundraising results, is expanding its ad buys.

Bloomberg News reports the Trump campaign "is scaling back its television advertising spending and in some cases abandoning it altogether for now in key states, facing a cash crunch brought on by huge investments in staff and operations."

Posted by orrinj at 2:25 PM


In exclusive interview, Trump slams Sisolak, defends indoor rally (Debra J. Saunders, 9/14/20, Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Trump said in his interview with the Review-Journal that he is not afraid of getting the coronavirus from speaking at the indoor rally.

"I'm on a stage and it's very far away," Trump said. "And so I'm not at all concerned."

Posted by orrinj at 12:14 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:06 PM


Police Tackled and Arrested an NPR Reporter to the Ground While She Was Doing Her Job (Trone Dowd, September 14, 2020, vice News)

Though police were initially quiet about the details of the arrest, the Sheriff's Information Bureau later claimed that Huang not only didn't identify herself as a member of the press, but accused her of interfering with a lawful arrest and refused to adhere to commands to back away, according to LAist.

But footage of the arrest shot both by a nearby ABC7 Eyewitness News crew and by Huang herself shows a different order of events. 

In one of many videos she posted on Twitter, Huang is seen filming officers following the protesters from a distance for an extended period of time without reprimand.

This continues until police begin arresting a protester and begin to walk him to a nearby police vehicle. Then, at least three different officers ask Huang to back up. In a second video, which Huang says was shot immediately afterward, the camera immediately falls to the ground as Huang is heard repeatedly telling the officers that she is a reporter and screaming for help. 

Footage shot by the nearby news crew shows at least five officers pinning her to the ground and handcuffing her. As officers stand her up and walk her to a nearby patrol car, Huang's press credentials can be seen hanging from around her neck. Another video shot by OnScene.TV shows Huang backing away from officers as they grab her and take her to the ground.

It is her job--showing the truth about their behavior--that they can't tolerate. A free press is their enemy.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Rudy Giuliani collaborated on smear of Joe Biden with "active Russian agent"Giuliani promoted false charges about Biden made by Ukrainian legislator who's now under U.S. Treasury sanctions (ROGER SOLLENBERGER, SEPTEMBER 14, 2020, Salon)

The sanctions target Andrii Derkach, a Ukrainian lawmaker who has ties to Russian intelligence that date back more than a decade. Treasury now accuses Derkach of running a "covert influence campaign" aimed at the 2020 U.S. presidential election since late 2019.

Giuliani met with Derkach last year in Ukraine in the former mayor's role as Donald Trump's attorney, during a trip aimed at digging up dirt on Joe Biden, then viewed as the Democratic frontrunner and now the party's presidential nominee. Derkach and Giuliani discussed the much-debunked allegations about Biden in a segment on One America News Network (OAN), which Giuliani replayed on his personal podcast this March.

According to the Treasury Department, Derkach was pushing "false and unsubstantiated narratives concerning U.S. officials in the upcoming 2020 presidential election" into U.S. media via press conferences, interviews and other statements.

His efforts include releasing edited audiotapes that purport to document improprieties by Joe Biden in his dealings as vice president with the Ukrainian government.

September 13, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 6:33 PM


Trump boasts about getting 'Bay of Pigs Award' - which doesn't exist (Martin Pengelly, 13 Sep 2020, The Guardian)

Attacking Joe Biden and seeking to exploit reports that his rival is struggling with Latino voters, Donald Trump boasted on Sunday of receiving "the highly honoured Bay of Pigs Award" from Cuban Americans in the battleground state of Florida.

Posted by orrinj at 6:24 PM


Scandinavia is Socialist and Other Leftist Myths Debunked (Kay C. James, 9/13/20, National Interest)

2. Denmark (or your favorite Scandinavian country) is a prime example that socialism works. 

The reality is, Denmark has a free-market economy that produces goods and services that the government then heavily taxes to finance an extensive welfare state. Denmark's prime minister once told a shocked Washington, D.C., audience: "I would like to make one thing clear ... Denmark is a market economy."

Like Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and Norway all rely on free-market capitalism to finance their expansive welfare systems.

...distributing that wealth is a political question.

Posted by orrinj at 6:18 PM

Posted by orrinj at 1:38 PM

AN IDEAL INCEL ANTHEM (profanity alert):

Trump Rally Gets Crowd Moving With "Macho Man" Despite Requests To Stop (JORDAN HOFFMAN, SEPTEMBER 13, 2020, Vanity Fair)

The legend goes that French producers Jacques Morali and Henri Belolo, visiting gay clubs in Manhattan's Greenwich Village, wanted to create a group celebrating that audience, inclusive of Blacks and Latinos. The recruitment ad for the campy phenomenon that became Village People read "Macho Types Wanted: Must Dance and Have a Mustache."

Their success wasn't just based on their "Tom of Finland meets a vocational guidance counselor's office" look. The catchy melodies and rump-shaking beats were beloved by all. "In The Navy," "Can't Stop The Music," and, of course, "Y.M.C.A." are classics for a reason, as is a track that amped up Donald Trump enthusiasts at a rally in Nevada on Saturday, "Macho Man."

Posted by orrinj at 1:35 PM


Biden ahead in Minnesota and Arizona, CBS polls indicate (DAVID COHEN, 09/13/2020, Politico)

A CBS News Battleground Tracker poll put Biden ahead of President Donald Trump in Minnesota among likely voters by a margin of 50 percent to 41 percent. There would be nothing unusual about a Democrat winning Minnesota; the last Republican presidential candidate to carry the state was President Richard M. Nixon in 1972.

Posted by orrinj at 1:29 PM


Fox News Poll Shows Americans Saying Biden Is More Mentally Sound Than Trump to Serve as President (BENJAMIN FEARNOW, 9/13/20, Newsweek)

Despite the Trump campaign and the president himself repeatedly questioning the mental acuity of Biden, a larger percentage of U.S. adults say they believe the Democratic presidential candidate has the traits best suited for the job. A slight majority of likely voters--51 percent--told Fox News they believe Biden, 77, has the "mental soundness" to be president, compared to 47 percent who say the same about Trump, 74.

Seems unfair, given that Donald has passed the test they gave him because his own doctors thought he was gaga.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'American History X.' His Nazi Pals Are Now Cops.: Frank Meeink was a top neo-Nazi who inspired Edward Norton's character in "American History X." He now speaks out against it--and says members of his old neo-Nazi crew became cops. (Marlow Stern, Sep. 13, 2020, Daily Beast)

In October of 2006, the FBI released an intelligence assessment titled, "White Supremacist Infiltration of Law Enforcement." Though the document--culled from FBI investigations and open sources--was heavily redacted, it reached a number of disturbing conclusions.

The assessment revealed that white supremacists "have historically engaged in strategic efforts to infiltrate and recruit from law enforcement communities"; that many of these white-supremacist infiltrators are known as "ghost skins" who "avoid overt displays of their beliefs to blend in"; and that the KKK have longstanding "ties to local law enforcement." These firm ties between white supremacists and law enforcement persist to this day. Last year, Reveal published an investigative series exposing the police's proclivity for Facebook hate groups and racist memes, and in late August, former FBI agent Michael German compiled an exhaustive report detailing the prevalence of "racism, white supremacy, and far-right militancy in law enforcement" and the federal government's non-existent response to it.

Links between white supremacists and law enforcement have been thrown into sharper relief in recent months following the killing of George Floyd, and numerous instances of curiously chummy behavior between police and far-right militiamen during the ensuing protests for Black lives.

Frank Meeink, once one of the most prominent neo-Nazis in the U.S.--and the inspiration for the character Derek Vinyard, played by Edward Norton in the 1998 film American History X--thinks he knows why.

"I know that there are neo-Nazis who I used to run with who are now cops," he tells The Daily Beast. "And that's just in my crew. Imagine how many neo-Nazis and white nationalists have been becoming cops? Three of the people in my crew alone became cops."

September 12, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 5:16 PM


'Loser in chief' Trump trolled by columnist for his 'gratifyingly dismal' record in the courts (Tom Boggioni, 9/12/20, Raw Story)

"These are not your previous Republican presidents' very conservative judges. Elliot Mincberg of the liberal group People for the American Way has identified more than 100 cases in which the position of Trump judges was so extreme that judges nominated by previous Republican presidents broke with them," Marcus wrote before adding, "But notwithstanding these eager foot soldiers in the conservative legal battle, the administration's record in the federal courts remains gratifyingly dismal."

According to political scientist Lee Epstein and law professor Eric Posner, when it comes to the Supreme Court the president, "has prevailed only 47 percent of the time ... a worse record than that of his predecessors going back at least as far as Franklin D. Roosevelt."

Trump fares even worse at the lower court level, Marcus explained.

"The New York University School of Law's Institute for Policy Integrity has calculated that just 14 percent of the Trump administration's regulatory actions were upheld against challenges in the lower courts -- the rest were blocked or withdrawn. Trump's recent predecessors have tended to win on regulatory matters at least 60 percent of the time," she wrote before returning to Trump's census case smackdown.

They are conservative; Donald is not.

Posted by orrinj at 1:32 PM


Posted by orrinj at 1:29 PM


Dakotas lead US in virus growth as both reject mask rules (STEPHEN GROVES and DAVE KOLPACK, 9/12/20,  Associated Press)

North Dakota and South Dakota lead the country in new cases per capita over the last two weeks, ranking first and second respectively, according to Johns Hopkins University researchers.

The states have also posted some of the country's highest positivity rates for COVID-19 tests in the last week -- nearly 22 percent in North Dakota -- an indication that there are more infections than tests are catching.

Infections have been spurred by schools and universities reopening and mass gatherings like the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, which drew hundreds of thousands of people from across the country.

"It is not a surprise that South Dakota has one of the highest (COVID-19) reproduction rates in the country," Brookings City Council member Nick Wendell said as he commented on the many people who forgo masks in public.

The Republican governors of both states have eschewed mask requirements, tapping into a spirit of independence hewn from enduring the winters and storms of the Great Plains. [...]

Noem, who has yet to appear at a public event with a mask, carved out a reputation as a staunch conservative when she defied calls early in the pandemic for lockdown orders.

But both governors face increasing pressure to step up their approach. North Dakota's average rate of test positivity has been nearly 22% over the last seven days, according to the the COVID Tracking Project; South Dakota's has been 17%.

Posted by orrinj at 11:48 AM


Dannehy Resignation Confirms Barr's Intent to Use Durham Probe for Political Ends (Liam Brennan, September 12, 2020, Just Security)

In the months leading up to Dannehy's resignation, Barr started making public statements strongly hinting that he might release a report on Durham's investigation before the 2020 election. The DOJ has longstanding norms against taking actions that may affect the outcome of an election. But Barr has erroneously reframed those norms and stated that Durham's activity falls outside of them. Dannehy's reported concern that there was pressure from Barr to release a report before the election makes the attorney general's actions appear to be what skeptics always feared they were - naked partisan ploys.

But the attorney general's partisan machinations are not the only take away from Dannehy's resignation. As former federal prosecutor Daniel Goodman first noted, DOJ prosecutors rarely resign in protest. Not only has Dannehy resigned, but all four of the prosecutors resigned from the case of Trump associate, Roger Stone,  after Barr intervened; one, like Dannehy, resigned completely from the DOJ (which freed him up to write an op-ed about the episode). The lead prosecutor in the case against Trump's first national security advisor, Michael Flynn, also withdrew after Barr's intervention. Moreover, the fact that Dannehy's colleagues are discussing her motivations with the press is indicative of the unrest in the Justice Department. Line federal prosecutors do not speak to reporters without authorization. It is against DOJ policy and their culture. Each individual action is surprising; taken together, they are wholly unprecedented.

Posted by orrinj at 11:16 AM


Trump lied about science (H. Holden Thorp, Science  11 Sep 2020)

This may be the most shameful moment in the history of U.S. science policy.

In an interview with Woodward on 7 February 2020, Trump said he knew that COVID-19 was more lethal than the flu and that it spread through the air. "This is deadly stuff," he said. But on 9 March, he tweeted that the "common flu" was worse than COVID-19, while economic advisor Larry Kudlow and presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway assured the public that the virus was contained. On 19 March, Trump told Woodward that he did not want to level with the American people about the danger of the virus. "I wanted to always play it down," he said, "I still like playing it down." Playing it down meant lying about the fact that he knew the country was in grave danger.

It also meant silencing health officials who tried to tell the truth. On 25 February, Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), said, "It's not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness." She was right and Trump knew it. But he shut her down. He also tried to control messaging from Anthony Fauci, the nation's foremost leader on infectious diseases. Trump's supporters insisted that Fauci and Messonnier were not being muzzled, but now we have clear evidence in emails that they were.

Trump also knew that the virus could be deadly for young people. "It's not just old, older," he told Woodward on 19 March. "Young people, too, plenty of young people." Yet, he has insisted that schools and universities reopen and that college football should resume. He recently added to his advisory team Scott Atlas--a neuroradiologist with no expertise in epidemiology--who has advocated for a risky and misguided course: somehow isolating the older and more vulnerable while allowing the virus free rein among young people. The opening of colleges and schools has accelerated the spread of the virus and will mean untold suffering among both students and the people to whom they are now spreading the virus. [...]

They have seen neither quality exhibited by their president and his coconspirators. Trump was not clueless, and he was not ignoring the briefings. Listen to his own words. Trump lied, plain and simple.

Donald thought your death could help him.

Posted by orrinj at 10:12 AM


Toots Hibbert's pure, powerful voice carried reggae to the world: By blending gospel and R&B into nascent reggae music, the late singer became a cornerstone of Jamaican culture alongside his peer Bob Marley (Alexis Petridis,  12 Sep 2020, The Guardian)

The Maytals had cut a swathe through Jamaican music in the 1960s and early 70s, releasing a succession of fantastic singles - Sweet and Dandy, Pressure Drop, Monkey Man, 54-46 That's My Number (later re-recorded as 54-46 Was My Number) and more - that had made them the country's biggest band. They had effectively named the genre they worked in with 1968's Do the Reggae. They had two songs on the soundtrack of The Harder They Come, the first reggae album to make commercial inroads in the US, and a great album of their own, Funky Kingston, in 1972. If Bob Marley stole their thunder, and he undoubtedly did, then it was as much about canny marketing as it was about the standard of their music - the way Island Records boss Chris Blackwell sweetened the Wailers' sound with British and American session musicians, or packaged Catch a Fire (1973) more like a progressive rock album than a product of Kingston.

Toots and the Maytals started life as the Vikings, with some of the singles they made after changing their name to the Maytals released as the Vikings or the Flames; their frontman-boosting shift in the late 60s to Toots and the Maytals was pre-empted by the fact that they'd already randomly deployed that name since 1965.

What never varied was the quality of their releases: tight harmonies and Hibbert's powerful lead, both of which increasingly demonstrated the influence of American R&B. While the Wailers' American guiding light was Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions, the Maytals seemed to be looking further south. There was a distinct hint of gospel about the harmonies, while, in a certain light, Hibbert's voice seemed not unlike that of Otis Redding.

Posted by orrinj at 9:30 AM


New Polling Confirms Americans Welcome Immigrants More Than Ever (Gabe Ortiz, September 12 | 2020, AlterNet)

"In 2016 voters were about evenly divided in the share saying that the growing number of newcomers strengthens American society," Pew said, finding that 46 percent of all voters agreed with the statement. Four years later, that number has now surged to 60 percent. Americans "across the political spectrum have shifted in a more liberal direction in this domain," researchers said.

Previous polling has similarly found that as the impeached president has spent years pushing horrible anti-immigrant policy after horrible anti-immigrant policy, Americans have been viewing immigration more and more favorably--and sometimes in historic numbers.

Gallup this past summer found that 34 percent of Americans wanted to see more immigrants welcomed to the U.S., "the highest support for expanding immigration Gallup has found in its trend since 1965," the organization said. "Meanwhile, the percentage favoring decreased immigration has fallen to a new low of 28 percent, while 36 percent think it should stay at the present level."

"This marks the first time in Gallup's trend that the percentage wanting increased immigration has exceeded the percentage who want decreased immigration," Gallup noted.

"Supporters of both major party candidates this year are more likely than 2016 supporters to have positive views of immigrants to the United States," Pew found.

Everyone wants Donald's old white men Replaced.

Posted by orrinj at 7:39 AM


Posted by orrinj at 7:27 AM


Catalonia and Spain Are Reaching the Breaking Point: The time to halt escalation was ten years ago. What might happen now? (Nick Ottens, 9/12/20, National Interest)

There are good reasons for Catalonia to become independent. This region of Spain, with a population of 7.5 million, has its own language and traditions. It has a long history of semi-detachment from the rest of the peninsula. The County of Barcelona was created in 801 by the Carolingians, when they pushed the Moors south. Barcelona joined the Kingdom of Aragon in 1137, which in turn merged with Castille to form Spain in 1479. Catalonia retained its autonomy until the War of the Spanish Succession, when it backed the losing pretender. Self-government was briefly restored in the 1930s, but Catalan nationalism was brutally suppressed by Francisco Franco, who went so far as to ban the Catalan language.

Yet those arguments seldom come up when I ask supporters of independence why they want to leave Spain. The first thing they usually mention is that Catalonia pays more into the Spanish treasury than it takes out.

Which is true, but not unusual. Bavaria is richer than other German states. California and New York pay more money to Washington DC than they get back. The Paris region accounts for almost a third of French economic output. Holland subsidizes the rest of the Netherlands.

Americans, Germans, the French and the Dutch accept those differences, because they feel part of one nation. Catalans and Spaniards don't.

California will similarly shear off eventually.  

Posted by orrinj at 7:15 AM


Voters have made up their minds (Neal Rothschild, 9/12/20, Axios)

A wealth of evidence suggests more Americans have made up their minds by this point compared with years past:

The conventions had practically no impact on the shape of the race: Biden's national polling lead (+7.5 per FiveThirtyEight's average of polls) is just a half-point smaller than it was a month ago.

Just 3% of likely voters said they didn't know who they'd vote for in a recent national Quinnipiac poll. The same percent of registered voters said they were undecided in a Monmouth poll this week.

An August poll by the Pew Research Center found that among those who preferred Biden or Trump, just 5% said there was a chance they'd change their minds.

Compare that to Pew's poll in August 2016, which found that 8% of Hillary Clinton's supporters said there was a chance they might vote for Trump. Similarly, for those who preferred Trump, 8% said they might vote for Clinton.

Even in the swingiest of swing states, most people's minds appear made up. Just 5% of Floridians say they might change their minds, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll.

The big picture: Trump's approval rating has held remarkably steady in the low 40s despite his impeachment, a pandemic, a trade war, rule-of-law crises, an endless barrage of damaging reporting and national reckonings on sexual assault, guns, immigration and race.

The election is just a test of his floor.

Posted by orrinj at 7:00 AM


Trump officials interfered with CDC reports on Covid-19 (DAN DIAMOND, 09/11/2020, Politico)

The health department's politically appointed communications aides have demanded the right to review and seek changes to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's weekly scientific reports charting the progress of the coronavirus pandemic, in what officials characterized as an attempt to intimidate the reports' authors and water down their communications to health professionals.

In some cases, emails from communications aides to CDC Director Robert Redfield and other senior officials openly complained that the agency's reports would undermine President Donald Trump's optimistic messages about the outbreak, according to emails reviewed by POLITICO and three people familiar with the situation.

CDC officials have fought back against the most sweeping changes, but have increasingly agreed to allow the political officials to review the reports and, in a few cases, compromised on the wording, according to three people familiar with the exchanges. The communications aides' efforts to change the language in the CDC's reports have been constant across the summer and continued as recently as Friday afternoon.

The CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports are authored by career scientists and serve as the main vehicle for the agency to inform doctors, researchers and the general public about how Covid-19 is spreading and who is at risk. Such reports have historically been published with little fanfare and no political interference, said several longtime health department officials, and have been viewed as a cornerstone of the nation's public health work for decades.

But since Michael Caputo, a former Trump campaign official with no medical or scientific background, was installed in April as the health department's new spokesperson, there have been substantial efforts to align the reports with Trump's statements, including the president's claims that fears about the outbreak are overstated, or stop the reports altogether.

Caputo and his team have attempted to add caveats to the CDC's findings, including an effort to retroactively change agency reports that they said wrongly inflated the risks of Covid-19 and should have made clear that Americans sickened by the virus may have been infected because of their own behavior, according to the individuals familiar with the situation and emails reviewed by POLITICO.

Caputo's team also has tried to halt the release of some CDC reports, including delaying a report that addressed how doctors were prescribing hydroxychloroquine, the malaria drug favored by Trump as a coronavirus treatment despite scant evidence. The report, which was held for about a month after Caputo's team raised questions about its authors' political leanings, was finally published last week. It said that "the potential benefits of these drugs do not outweigh their risks."

...Donald is also just as hellbent on killing Americans.

Posted by orrinj at 6:52 AM


Dated 1920, a Postcard Finally Gets Delivered (Johnny Diaz, Sept. 11, 2020, NY Times)

The postcard, faded and weathered, has a postmark dated Oct. 29, 1920, and a green stamp of George Washington, priced 1 cent.

Its message is written in cursive, its front shows a witch and a goose wearing a pumpkin on its head, and its address is to a Mrs. Roy McQueen in Belding, Mich. It took almost a century to be delivered.

The postcard's arrival this week has baffled Brittany Keech, the Belding resident who found it in her mailbox with some bills and junk mail, and set her off on a new mystery -- how to find the intended recipient, or any of the person's living relatives.

"When I first saw it, I thought, 'This is old,'" recalled Ms. Keech, 30, in an interview Thursday. "I was shocked. Why is this here all of the sudden?"

She added, "I would love to be able to get it to a relative who is alive."

The postcard is a personal family letter, providing the kind of quick update one might send in a text message or in a social media post today. It has a Halloween theme, featuring the gray-haired witch, the goose, an owl, a bat and cat with a broom. It also has a pun: "'Witch' would you rather be ... a goose or a pumpkin head?"

...Kris Kobach said this shows that when the mail-in ballots finally get delivered Donald will have beaten Hillary.

September 11, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 10:46 PM


Prosecutor resigns from Trump law enforcement commission, calls it 'intent on providing cover for a predetermined agenda' (Christina Carrega,  September 11, 2020, CNN)

One of the four leading prosecutors chosen to be on President Donald Trump's law enforcement commission resigned last week after expressing "serious" concerns that the intention of the commission was not to bridge the gap between communities of color and law enforcement.

Ramsey County, Minnesota, District Attorney John Choi submitted his letter of resignation on September 3 to Attorney General William Barr after his concerns about the work of the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice had not been not addressed since May.

Choi, a Democrat, said in his resignation letter that "it is now patently obvious ... that this process had no intention of engaging in a thoughtful and open analysis, but was intent on providing cover for a predetermined agenda that ignores the lessons of the past, furthering failed tough-on-crime policies that led to our current mass incarceration crisis and fueling divisions between our communities and our police officers."

Posted by orrinj at 9:41 PM


The Moral Project of Nietzsche's "Beyond Good and Evil" (Gordon Arnold, June 26th, 2019, Imaginative Conservative)

Nietzsche believes that the promotion of human greatness demands a new moral system that favors unique, particular perspectives instead of universalized dogmas.

Nietzsche suggests that the degeneration of Western morality began with the writings of Plato. He was responsible for moral dogmatism, "the worst, most durable, and most dangerous of all errors."[2] In his "invention of the pure spirit and the good as such," Plato created transcendent standards of morality and ultimately denied that personal perspectives should influence moral decisions.[3] Nietzsche critiques not only Plato but many modern philosophers for engaging in similar dogmatism by striving to demonstrate the existence of absolute moral truth. Spinoza, for instance, claimed to develop a moral philosophy based upon permanent "mathematical forms," while Kant spoke of the "categorical imperative."[4] These pretensions for absolutes and objectivity, Nietzsche argues, are deceptive and opportunistic. These philosophers were merely taking their own unique personal preferences and attempting to impose them upon everyone else by "proving" their universality. Nietzsche suggests that moral philosophers are not actually the disinterested, rational, and objective calculators that they believe themselves to be. Though they claim to reach their opinions only after the "self-development of a cold, pure, divinely unconcerned dialectic," they actually had their minds made up long before they wrote anything down.[5] Under the guise of "absolute truth" philosophers from Plato to Kant have universalized their personal preferences as eternal moral dogmas when they are no such thing.

Nietzsche labors to destroy the philosophic search for absolute moral truth, not because he is disinterested in morality, but because he desires that moral decision-making would take into account unique individual circumstances.

It is this elevation of the self makes modernity so repulsive. Of course, Nietzsche warred against objective truth for the obvious reason: since we already know what good and evil are, what's left for a philosopher to do?

Posted by orrinj at 5:42 PM


Older voters love Joe Biden: Retirees are a powerful voting bloc. Many are looking for stability from the White House. (Ella Nilsen, Sep 11, 2020, Vox)

[P]olls demonstrate that Biden is showing surprising strength among older voters throughout the country. Multiple national and state polls have found Biden running ahead of Trump with those 65 and older by double digits, including in a recent Quinnipiac University poll of Florida.

"I think it is noteworthy because it's a segment of the electorate we haven't done well with in more than a couple of years," Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) told Vox in a recent interview.

The last Democratic nominee to do so well with older voters was Al Gore, who narrowly won voters aged 50-64 and voters over 65 in 2000. Older voters are far more reliable than younger ones, so it matters if Democrats are gaining ground with the group. They were pivotal for Trump's 2016 election; he won seniors by 7 percentage points, and white seniors by even higher margins. A few months ago, Biden's campaign advisers told Vox that they considered even cutting into Trump's margins with seniors a victory.

"This is a group that was turning away from Trump even before the pandemic hit, but the pandemic has cemented them against Trump in a way," Monmouth University polling director Patrick Murray told Vox. Murray added that while older voters of color have long been with Biden, "It's older white voters where we're seeing the swing." [...]

National and battleground state polls alike show Biden strong with the 65 and older set. Some surveys show women driving that trend: A recent CNN poll found Biden with a 20-point lead among women. If a similar lead among women holds until November, it could be the largest gender gap between two candidates in decades.

"There's gender gap galore, that feeds everything," renowned Iowa pollster Ann Selzer, who recently released a national general election poll with Grinnell College, told Vox.

In Selzer's national poll with Grinnell College, conducted August 26 to 30, Trump led Biden with men over 65 by 17 percentage points (56 to 39 percent). Biden had a six-point edge on Trump with women over 65, earning 49 percent of support compared with Trump's 43 percent.

...they are old white men, a self-solving problem.

Posted by orrinj at 5:28 PM


Nora Dannehy, Connecticut prosecutor who was top aide to John Durham's Trump-Russia investigation, resigns amid concern about pressure from Attorney General William Barr (EDMUND H. MAHONY, SEP 11, 2020The Hartford Courant)

Federal prosecutor Nora Dannehy, a top aide to U.S. Attorney John H. Durham in his Russia investigation, has quietly resigned - at least partly out of concern that the investigative team is being pressed for political reasons to produce a report before its work is done, colleagues said.

Dannehy, a highly regarded prosecutor who has worked with or for Durham for decades, informed colleagues in the U.S. Attorney's office in New Haven of her resignation from the Department of Justice by email Thursday evening. 

Court-Appointed Amicus Curiae in Michael Flynn Case Repeatedly Tears into DOJ for Catering to the Whims of the President (MATT NAHAM, Sep 11th, 2020, Law & Crime)

The court-appointed amicus began by counting the ways justice shouldn't happen in the United States before saying those no-no's were "exactly" what's happened in the Flynn case:

To describe the Government's Motion to Dismiss as irregular would be a study in understatement. In the United States, Presidents do not orchestrate pressure campaigns to get the Justice Department to drop charges against defendants who have pleaded guilty--twice, before two different judges--and whose guilt is obvious. And the Justice Department does not seek to dismiss criminal charges on grounds riddled with legal and factual error, then argue that the validity of those grounds cannot even be briefed to the Court that accepted the defendant's guilty plea. Nor does the Justice Department make a practice of attacking its own prior filings in a case, as well as judicial opinions ruling in its favor, all while asserting that the normal rules should be set aside for a defendant who is openly favored by the President.

Yet that is exactly what has unfolded here.

Gleeson then said that there is "clear evidence" that DOJ's motion to dismiss is a "corrupt and politically motivated favor unworthy of our justice system." These machinations, Gleeson contends, are not out of U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan's reach to stop because there is a "live" Article III case or controversy. Sullivan promptly jumpstarted the Flynn case after the D.C. Circuit denied the defendant's motion for an extraordinary writ of mandamus (i.e., an attempt to force Sullivan to dismiss the case). Oral arguments have been set for Sept. 29.

The DOJ, Gleeson asserted, fell "short" when arguing that precedent proved Rule 48(a)'s "with leave of court" clause amounts to a rubber stamp that requires dismissal--with no wiggle room for judicial discretion.

"But the Government falls short in its apparent effort to wring from Fokker a categorical rule that this Court has no authority to review the exercise of discretion that led to the instant Motion to Dismiss. Fokker did not silently 'eviscerate[]' Ammidown, which it cited with approval," Gleeson's brief went on. "Nor did it impliedly sideline text, history, and decades of cases. Neither its holding nor its reasoning created an atextual asymmetry in Rule 48(a) by holding that courts may deny opposed motions--but may not deny unopposed ones. Fokker indeed described protecting defendants as the 'principal object' of the rule (not the 'exclusive object'), but it also stated that 'clear evidence' may overcome 'the presumption of regularity" that prosecutors enjoy in wielding their charging power."

And the government isn't entitled to the presumption of regularity in this decidedly irregular case, according to Gleeson. The government can not be granted license to lie about its rationales for dismissal by sidelining the judge entirely, he argued:

Every purpose served by the reason-giving requirement of Rule 48(a) would be gutted if the Government were free to mislead the Court, or to proffer explanations that do not withstand even cursory consideration, or to declare that the Court is powerless to even inquire about any of the Government's asserted rationales.

Posted by orrinj at 5:26 PM


Posted by orrinj at 5:23 PM


Bahrain emerging as flashpoint in Middle East unrest (Raymond Barrett, 2/15/11, CS Monitor)

The Al Khalifah family belongs to the Sunni sect of Islam and trace their origins to the Arabian peninsula but are a minority in the country. A majority of the population is Shiite, with strong links to Iran.

Furthermore, the powers that be have consistently practiced a form of sectarian apartheid by not allowing Shiites to hold key government posts or serve in the police or military. In fact, the security forces are staffed by Sunnis from Syria, Pakistan, and Baluchistan who also get fast-tracked to Bahraini citizenship, much to the displeasure of the indigenous Shiite population.

Unlike oil-rich Qatar, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain doesn't have petrodollars to spend on the cradle-to-grave welfare systems that have kept a lid on reform movements in those countries.

Christopher Davidson, a specialist in Gulf Affairs at the University of Durham in the United Kingdom, says the situation in Bahrain should be seen as a case of economic disenfranchisement magnified by underlying sectarian tensions.

"Post-oil Bahrain has unemployment and few opportunities for the young population," he says. "However, there is the added dimension of sectarian unrest, with the Shia majority population having historically been second-class citizens to the ruling Sunni elites."

there's basically an emerging axis of evil regimes that oppose democracy vs the Muslim democracies of the region.

Posted by orrinj at 4:59 PM


Posted by orrinj at 1:54 PM


Ex-judge says Trump "pressure campaigns" led to DOJ reversal in Flynn case (Orion Rummler, 9/11/20, AXIOS)

A retired judge appointed to review the Justice Department's motion to drop charges against former national security adviser Michael Flynn said on Friday that calling the agency's actions "irregular," which he did in June, "would be a study in understatement." [...]

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan had asked John Gleeson to present arguments for why the Justice Department's request to drop the case should be denied.

What he's saying: "In the United States, Presidents do not orchestrate pressure campaigns to get the Justice Department to drop charges against defendants who have pleaded guilty -- twice, before two different judges -- and whose guilt is obvious," Gleeson wrote.

"There is clear evidence that this motion reflects a corrupt and politically motivated favor unworthy of our justice system," he added.

AG is the best job in the Biden cabinet. 

Posted by orrinj at 9:36 AM


We studied what happens when guys add their cats to their dating app profiles (Lori Kogan & Shelly Volsche, 9/11/20, The Conversation)

In our study, we recruited 1,388 heterosexual American women from 18 to 24 years old to take a short anonymous online survey. In the survey, we presented them with photos of one of two young white men in their early 20s either posing alone or with a cat. To avoid biasing the women's responses, we randomly presented which photo they saw first. Each participant only rated one man, with and without a cat.

Each time the participants saw a photo, we asked them to rate the man pictured on several personality attributes, including his masculinity, femininity and dateability. We also asked the women if they defined themselves as a "cat person," "dog person," "neither" or "both."

Most of the women found the men holding cats to be less dateable. This result surprised us, since previous studies had shown that women found men with pets to have higher potential as partners. They also thought the men holding cats were less extroverted and more neurotic, agreeable and open. Importantly, they saw these men as less masculine, too.

Posted by orrinj at 9:22 AM


Democrats have huge edge in early voting with massive leads in number of ballots requested and leap among those who didn't vote in 2016 (GEOFF EARLE, 9/11/20, DAILYMAIL.COM)

Democrats have begun running up a lopsided advantage in early voting as well as absentee ballot requests, in an election what has seen an unprecedented split on voting strategy and furious attacks by the president on mail-voting.

The advantage is pronounced in the battleground states that will decide the election, and that are attracting candidate visits and a TV air war.

The differential in absentee ballot requests has hit three-to-one in Pennsylvania and North Carolina, two states that President Donald Trump won in 2016 that Joe Biden is hoping to strip back.

The advantage in the Keystone state has extended to ballot requests by people who didn't vote in 2016. A total of 175,000 Democrats who skipped 2016 have asked for ballots, more than double the number of Republicans, Politico reported. 

BREAKING NEWS: Hillary not on the 2020 ballot. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:24 AM


What Is Populism? The People V. the People (Pierre Lemieux, 9/11/20, Library of Economics and Liberty)

"Populism" has received many definitions and historical interpretations. Some analysts take it simply as a more active form or stretch of democracy, but this may underplay the existence of very different theories and practices of democracy. One analytically useful definition of populism was given by political scientist William Riker in his 1982 book Liberalism Against Democracy. He defines the essence of populism as a political ideal in which the will of the people ought to be public policy: "what the people, as a corporate entity, want ought to be social policy."

"The people" and "the will of the people" have long been invoked by populists of the right and populists of the left. Carlos de la Torre (University of Florida) summarizes the history of populism in Latin America (see his article of the Oxford Handbook of Populism, 2017):

I understand populism as a Manichaean discourse that divides politics and society as the struggle between two irreconcilable and antagonistic camps: the people and the oligarchy or the power block. Under populism a leader claims to embody the unitary will of the people in their struggle for liberation. [...]

Populists of the left and populists on the right invoke the same will of the people against each other. Populism is the people against the people.

Which brings us back to William Riker, who explained, on the basis of Arrow's Impossibility Theorem and social choice theory, that the "will of the people" simply does not exist. It does not exist because there is no "the people" to have a will like an individual has. The "will of the people" is a rhetorical device to exploit a large proportion of the individuals who are the only reality under "the people." The people's preferences cannot be aggregated into a sort of social superindividual without being either dictatorial or incoherent, which is the essence of Arrow's theorem. Those who pretend to represent the will of the people, from the French Revolution until 20th-century populist experiments, can only be authoritarian rulers, with or without the legal forms of democracy.

the autonomous man can be content that most elected leaders adequately represent the general will.

Posted by orrinj at 7:16 AM


As colleges opt for hybrid and online-only classes, parents and students look for a cheaper Plan B (Howard Gold, 9/11/20, mARKET wATCH)

That's prompted the people who pay the bills for this American rite of passage to reconsider whether a college education, especially in its current form, is worth the price. A recent poll taken by the financial services firm Edward Jones found that 36% of American adults are reconsidering their investments in higher education. Some 80% of those surveyed who are currently saving for college worry that students' education may suffer because of the lack of resources or social contact only in-person learning can provide.

Nearly a third of those surveyed said they were more likely to attend an online-only college rather than a traditional four-year college or university while one in five were contemplating getting a job or an internship and skipping college altogether.

In an interview, the firm's investment strategist, Nela Richardson, told me that these trends had been brewing for some time, as rising costs of education have eclipsed overall inflation and student debt topped $1.5 trillion.

"The cost of tuition has already been a thread in this narrative of, 'Is it worth it?'" she said. "Already there was a student debt overhang that was affecting people's perception of the value of education."

Then came the pandemic, which has "stripped away all the excess and we're left with the bare necessity," Richardson told me. "So, what is the bare necessity of education? What are you really paying for? If it can be delivered on an online model for the same price, what am I paying for?"

Posted by orrinj at 7:12 AM


Posted by orrinj at 6:42 AM


Why Trump Supporters Can't Admit Who He Really Is (Peter Wehner, 9/04/20, The Atlantic)

To understand the corruption, chaos, and general insanity that is continuing to engulf the Trump campaign and much of the Republican Party right now, it helps to understand the predicate embraced by many Trump supporters: If Joseph R. Biden Jr. wins the presidency, America dies. [...]

One does not have to be a champion of the Democratic Party to know this chthonic portrait is absurd. But it is also essential, because it allows Trump and his followers to tolerate and justify pretty much anything in order to win. And "anything" turns out to be quite a lot.

In just the past two weeks, the president has praised supporters of the right-wing conspiracy theory QAnon, which contends, as The Guardian recently summarized it, that "a cabal of Satan-worshipping Democrats, Hollywood celebrities and billionaires runs the world while engaging in pedophilia, human trafficking and the harvesting of a supposedly life-extending chemical from the blood of abused children." Trump touted a conspiracy theory that the national death toll from COVID-19 is about 9,000, a fraction of the official figure of nearly 185,000; promoted a program on the One America News Network accusing demonstrators of secretly plotting Trump's downfall; encouraged his own supporters to commit voter fraud; and claimed Biden is controlled by "people that are in the dark shadows" who are wearing "dark uniforms."

Trump believes his own government is conspiring to delay a COVID-19 vaccine until after the election. He retweeted a message from the actor James Wood saying New York Governor Andrew Cuomo "should be in jail" and another from an account accusing the Portland, Oregon, mayor of "committing war crimes." The president is "inciting violence," in the words of Maryland's Republican Governor, Larry Hogan. Trump defended 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, a supporter who is charged with first-degree homicide; and stated that if he loses the election in November it would be because it was "rigged." At the same time, the second-ranking House Republican, among other of the president's supporters, has shared several manipulated videos in an effort to damage Biden.

This is just the latest installment in a four-year record of shame, indecency, incompetence, and malfeasance. And yet, for tens of millions of Trump's supporters, none of it matters. None of it even breaks through. At this point, it appears, Donald Trump really could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose his voters.

This phenomenon has no shortage of explanations, but perhaps the most convincing is the terror the president's backers feel. Time and again, I've had conversations with Trump supporters who believe the president is all that stands between them and cultural revolution. 

No one has ever explained the Trumpbots better than Eric Hoffer, Editor's Preface to the Time-Life Books edition of The True Believer:

[H]offer's hero is 'the autonomous man,' the content man at peace with himself, engaged in the present.  In Hoffer's book, this hero, nourished by free societies, is set off against 'the true believer,' who begins as a frustrated man driven by guilt, failure and self-disgust to bury his own identity in a cause oriented to some future goal.
Their goal is a white-only America--preferably male-only for many of them.

September 10, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 7:58 PM


Posted by orrinj at 7:42 PM


Court blocks Trump's move to exclude undocumented immigrants from census (Orion Rummler, 9/10/20, Axios)

A three-judge federal court in New York on Thursday blocked the Trump administration's push to exclude undocumented immigrants from influencing congressional apportionment as determined by the 2020 Census.

Posted by orrinj at 4:17 PM


Portland mayor bans cops from using tear gas during protests (The Associated Press, September 10, 2020)

The mayor of Portland on Thursday police in Oregon's largest city to stop using tear gas for crowd control during the frequently violent protests that have racked the city for more than three months since the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Mayor Ted Wheeler, a Democrat, was tear gassed when he went to a demonstration against the presence of federal authorities dispatched to the city to protect federal property.

Posted by orrinj at 4:09 PM


3 Cops Caught on Video Punching and Restraining a Black Teen During an Arrest (Trone Dowd, September 10, 2020, vice News)

Three Louisiana cops caught on video restraining and repeatedly punching a Black 16-year-old during an arrest at a bowling alley are no longer on the beat while the department investigates.

The incident took place Saturday night outside Acadiana Lanes in Lafayette, shortly after a 911 call reported that someone in the vicinity was armed with a gun, according to the Lafayette Police Department. Sometime around 11:30 p.m., police arrived on the scene. The unidentified officers approached a pair of twin teenagers, later identified as Jabari and Gerard Celestine by their attorney Ron Haley Jr., as they were standing outside the bowling alley waiting to enter, as required by the state's COVID-19 safety measures.

Though it's still unclear what happened in the moments before onlookers started filming, Haley says one of the officers walked up to Jabari and began to read him his rights before placing handcuffs on him. His brother looked on and approached the officers, according to Haley.

On video, police are seen grabbing Gerard and taking him to the ground. In another video, two cops are seen restraining the teen as a third straddles him and throws punches to the teen's back before placing handcuffs on him. At least two other cops are seen standing in front of the scuffle as onlookers scream and plead with the police to let the kid go.

Posted by orrinj at 2:58 PM


Say yes to the world: On Nietzsche and affirmation (TOMASZ STAWISZYNSKI, 10 September, 2020, Big Think)

The sentence is: "God is dead."

It appeared for the first time in 1882, in The Gay Science by the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, one of the most important philosophers of modern times. But the world is familiar with it mainly from another of Nietzsche's works, perhaps his most famous, written a year later, Thus Spoke Zarathustra. This very strange, poetic text, full of unusual metaphors and lyrical inspiration, predicts the coming of a new era. Its prophet is to be the eponymous Zarathustra, a figure whose name Nietzsche took from an ancient Persian priest, the creator of Zoroastrianism, one of the world's oldest monotheistic religions. But despite the mystical aura that Zarathustra radiates, his message has nothing to do with conventional religious ideas. Quite the contrary - for he announces the death of God. And consequently challenges people to conduct a thorough revaluation of everything they think about the world and about themselves.

But what does 'the death of God' mean? Certainly not death in the literal sense - it is not that after aeons of existence a divine being, an old man with a long grey beard who resides in heaven, suddenly ceases to be. Nothing of the kind. The 'death of God' is simply a metaphor for the historical moment whose advent Nietzsche sensed perfectly in advance. The moment when religion - both as a prospect from which to perceive reality, and as a specific doctrine, in particular Christianity - was bound to undergo irrevocable disintegration.

In Nietzsche's view, these were the ultimate consequences of processes that were set off within Western culture by the age of enlightenment. The new independence of human reason that came about at this time, the creation of the framework of modern science, the departure from the stage of self-incurred immaturity - as Immanuel Kant expressed it - led to the erosion of the great edifice of the religious view of the world. Humanity had finally produced tools that allowed it to distinguish mythology from knowledge, and by this token to unmask the claims of religious institutions and high priests. Finally it was possible to see that the power and social status they had enjoyed until now was entirely built on phantasmal foundations.

Nietzsche's incoherence flows from the fact that his personal philosophy required him to oppose everything external to him.  The predictable result was that: "he was completely ignored, he was very sick most of his life, he had continuous migraines, he never found a woman he could marry, he was in love with a woman but she wasn't interested in him, he had very few friends and had not very much money." There are no Nietzscheans.  God won.

Posted by orrinj at 2:56 PM


U.S. Identifies Rudy Ally and Biden Dirt-Peddler as an 'Active Russian Agent' (Noah Shachtman, Sep. 10, 2020, Reuters)

The president's personal lawyer has been working closely with "an active Russian agent" trying to smear the president's chief political rival.

That's the conclusion of the U.S. Treasury Department, which sanctioned on Thursday one of Rudy Giuliani's Ukrainian allies for interference in the upcoming U.S. elections. Andriy Derkach worked closely with Giuliani--and with the Trump-friendly cable network, OANN--to push accusations of political misconduct against Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. Derkach, a member of Kyiv's parliament and son of a former KGB officer, has also been supplying documents to Republicans on Capitol Hill, where Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) is conducting an election-eve investigation into the Bidens. 

Derkach--described by the Treasury Department as "an active Russian agent for over a decade, maintaining close connections with the Russian Intelligence Services"--stands accused of orchestrating a "covert influence campaign centered on cultivating false and unsubstantiated narratives" about the Bidens via "edited audio tapes and other unsupported information," which launched "corruption investigations in both Ukraine and the United States designed to culminate prior to election day."

As The Daily Beast previously reported, Derkach has been cozying up to team Trump for months--meeting with Giuliani in Kyiv in December of last year to push the conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 presidential election. (That's "a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services," Fiona Hill, Trump's former top aide for Russia policy, told Congress.)

Posted by orrinj at 2:53 PM


The U.S. drops to No. 28 on this global well-being index (Nicole Lyn Pesce, 9/10/11, Market Watch)

So much for America being No. 1 -- the United States has dropped to No. 28 in a new report measuring social progress around the world.

In fact, out of 163 countries, only three -- the U.S., Brazil and Hungary -- have citizens who are worse off now than they were about a decade ago.

This is according to the Social Progress Index, which began measuring the quality of life (independent of economic indicators) across the globe in 2011. It looks at 50 well-being metrics -- such as access to health care, education, nutrition, safety, the environment and freedom -- to measure quality of life. And America has fallen from 19th place in 2011 to 28th place this year, despite the country's overall wealth, cultural impact and military power compared with the rest of the planet.

Donald has achieved what bin Laden could not. Luckily, his days of terror will be even shorter-lived.

Posted by orrinj at 2:49 PM


Senate Republicans fail to advance coronavirus stimulus bill as stalemate drags on (Jacob Pramuk, 9/10/20, CNBC)

The Senate failed Thursday to advance a Republican coronavirus stimulus plan, the latest blow to stalled efforts to pass another package to mitigate the pandemic's economic damage. 

The measure fell short of the 60 votes needed on a procedural step to move toward passage. All Democrats present, and one Republican -- Rand Paul of Kentucky -- opposed it in a 52-47 vote. 

Posted by orrinj at 2:37 PM


'I saved his a--': Trump boasted that he protected Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman after Jamal Khashoggi's brutal murder, Woodward's new book says (Sonam Sheth and John Haltiwanger, 9/10/20, Business Insider)

President Donald Trump bragged that he protected Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) from congressional scrutiny after the brutal assassination of American journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

So long as the oppress Muslims, the Trumpbots are on board.

Posted by orrinj at 9:38 AM


GOP Senators Trail Challengers By Double Digits in Two Key Battlegrounds: Poll (JAMES WALKER, 9/10/20, Newsweek)

According to the latest swing state surveys from Redfield and Wilton Strategies, Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) was lagging 15 points behind the former astronaut Mark Kelly as of last week.

Thirty-eight percent of state voters said they would back the Republican incumbent on November 3, while 53 percent opted for her main challenger. A further 7 percent told pollsters they didn't know how they would vote, and 2 percent backed a third party candidate.

Over in North Carolina, Redfield and Wilton Strategies found a similar margin separating Sen. Thom Tillis (R) and the Democratic candidate Cal Cunningham.

In 2016, the down-ballot candidates carried Donald over the line.  

Posted by orrinj at 9:31 AM


An evolutionary roll of the dice explains why we're not perfect (University of Bath, 9/09/20, Science Daily)

If evolution selects for the fittest organisms, why do we still have imperfections? Scientists at the Milner Centre for Evolution at the University of Bath investigating this question have found that in species with small populations, chance events take precedence over natural selection, allowing imperfections to creep in.

Short version: no one thinks Natural Selection works any more.

Posted by orrinj at 9:01 AM


Varian Fry - an unlikely American hero: Varian Fry went to Vichy France in 1940 and rescued 1,500 people from the Nazis for the simple, banal reason that he 'felt obliged to help' (Baruch Tenembaum, SEP 10, 2020, Times of Israel)

As the 53rd anniversary of his passing is approaching, I would like to celebrate the courageous life of Varian Fry. This young and brilliant editor, arrived in German-occupied France in early August 1940 as an emissary of the Emergency Rescue Committee (ERC), an entity he founded with friends and with the support of the First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. His aim was to strive to save the Jews who were trying to flee the Nazi inferno.

He settled in a small hotel in Marseilles and from there he launched a high-risk clandestine operation to rescue some of Europe's foremost intellectual and writers.
Armed with USD $3,000 in cash, he immediately set out to organize a rescue network using illegal means, including black market funds, forged documents and secret escape routes over the Pyrenees. He even managed to convince President Roosevelt to authorize a limited number of visas for some refugees to enter the US.

Initially, he had a list of some 200 reputable figures of the arts but early on he recognized that the need was much greater and he decided to expand his mission to be able to reach out to many more people who were trying to escape from the Nazis and their local henchmen.

Over the next year, Fry and a select team of Americans and French helped some 1,500 refugees to flee from France to Spain, and it is estimated that they provided significant support to at least 2,000 others.

Posted by orrinj at 9:00 AM


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The Robot will see you now: Artificial intelligence in Israel's hospitals (Jon Medved, SEP 9, 2020,Times of Israel)

Within a decade, more than 90 percent of surgical procedures will be performed by robots and 70% of hospital visits will take place in the patient's own home using telemedicine.

That's the startling prediction from Dr. Eyal Zimlichman, deputy director of Sheba, Israel's largest hospital near Tel Aviv, where he is also chief medical officer and chief innovation officer. [...]

Dr. Zimlichman is masterminding the development of the world's first "Hospital at Home," where instead of doctors and nurses traveling to residences, they do their rounds remotely, using the latest technology.

Artificial intelligence and micro-robotics have thoroughly transformed modern medicine, allowing practitioners to see deeper, decide faster and heal better than ever before. David Harel, Co-Founder & President of Cytoreason, will explain how his company is developing computational to speed up drug trials and replace mice. Now technology is about to reshape the hospitals themselves.

Patients can be monitored in their own homes while medical staff perform their daily rounds using AI-enhanced imaging devices delivered to their doors, like the remote technology developed by Tytocare. Large numbers of hospital beds will become redundant, reserved for critical cases. The need for in-patient and out-patient space will shrink, halting the sprawl of physical hospital facilities and dramatically downsizing traditional treatment wards.

Mercy Hospital in St Louis, MO blazed the trail with Mercy Virtual, where healthcare is being transformed through specialist teams trained in the use of the new technology. Mercy Virtual patients no longer have to physically seek out care or entirely reorient their lives to gain access to specialists. Virtual technology brings the care to them.

The pandemic's best side effects are the damage done to the two most deflation resistant--due to subsides--institutions: medicine and academia.
Posted by orrinj at 8:34 AM


There are 7 bombshell allegations in a damning new Trump administration whistleblower report (Cody Fenwick, 9/10/20, AlterNet)

2. The complaint makes a compelling case that former DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen repeatedly and deliberately lied to Congress to exaggerate the threat at the border.

Murphy said that the secretary purposely tried to blur the distinction between "Known or Suspected Terrorists" (KSTs) and other categories of migrants, thereby misleadingly suggesting the border posed a greater threat of terrorism than it actually does. Even after he explained these distinctions to Nielsen, Murphy said, she consistently misled Congress about the matter:

Prior to Secretary Nielsen's testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on December 20, 2018, Mr. Murphy attended a preparation session that went over the information within the proposed testimony. During that session, Mr. Murphy sought to clarify for Secretary Nielsen the distinction between a KST and a Special Interest Alien ("SIA"). An SIA is a term of art created by U.S. Customs and Border Protection meant to describe a category of migrants who come from countries where there is a significant terrorism threat but regarding whom there is no individualized basis for suspecting the person is themselves a terrorist. An SIA does not constitute a KST.

Notwithstanding the clarification provided by Mr. Murphy, he has a good faith belief that the testimony Secretary Nielsen subsequently provided on December 20, 2018, regarding KSTs constituted a knowing and deliberate submission of false material information. This assessment formed the basis of the anonymous OIG complaint Mr. Murphy submitted on November 2, 2018. On January 9, 2019, without consulting with Messrs. Glawe or Murphy, DHS issued a document - apparently crafted by Messrs. Wolf and Taylor, and Ms. Marquadt - entitled "Myth/Fact: Known and Suspected Terrorists/Special Interest Aliens". The document contained erroneous information regarding the number of KSTs and SIAs encountered along the southwest border.

On March 5, 2019, Mr. Murphy participated in another preparation session with Secretary Nielsen, this time in advance of her testimony before the House Committee on Homeland Security. Messrs. Wolf and Taylor were also present. During the session, Mr. Murphy provided Secretary Nielsen with documentation reflecting that the number of documented KSTs crossing the southwest border only consisted of no more than three individuals, not 3,755 individuals as she had previously attested to in her testimony on December 20, 2018. 3 Mr. Wolf and Mr. Taylor responded by saying Secretary Nielsen should claim the details were classified, state any KST crossing was one too many and deflect away from addressing the significant discrepancy in the data. Mr. Murphy advised Secretary Nielsen that he did not believe that was appropriate, and noted that the few "known" KSTs who were apprehended were derivative contacts, in so much as they merely had a name or phone number of a person who was known to be in contact with a terrorist. At that point, Mr. Murphy was removed from the meeting by Mr. Wolf. He then informed Messrs. Glawe and Hanna what transpired that evening.

It is Mr. Murphy's good faith belief that the testimony Secretary Nielsen delivered on March 6, 2019, regarding KSTs again constituted a knowing and deliberate submission of false material information. Mr. Murphy outlined that assessment in his anonymous May 13, 2019, OIG complaint.

3. Acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Ken Cuccinelli illegally tried to distort intelligence reports he viewed as too favorable to asylum seekers, claiming they were concocted by the "Deep State," the complaint said. 

In December 2019, Mr. Murphy attended a meeting with Messrs. Cuccinelli and Glawe to discuss intelligence reports regarding conditions in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. The intelligence reports were designed to help asylum officers render better determinations regarding their legal standards. Mr. Murphy's team at DHS I&A completed the intelligence reports and he presented them to Mr. Cuccinelli in the meeting. Mr. Murphy defended the work in the reports, but Mr. Cuccinelli stated he wanted changes to the information outlining high levels of corruption, violence, and poor economic conditions in the three respective countries. Mr. Cuccinelli expressed frustration with the intelligence reports, and he accused unknown "deep state intelligence analysts" of compiling the intelligence information to undermine President Donald J. Trump's ("President Trump") policy objectives with respect to asylum. Notwithstanding Mr. Murphy's response that the intelligence reports' assessments were consistent with past assessments made for several years, Mr. Cuccinelli ordered Messrs. Murphy and Glawe to identify the names of the "deep state" individuals who compiled the intelligence reports and to either fire or reassign them immediately.

After the meeting, Mr. Murphy informed Mr. Glawe that Mr. Cuccinelli's instructions were illegal, as well as constituted an abuse of authority and improper administration of an intelligence program.

Posted by orrinj at 8:17 AM


Biden raised the pandemic alarm in October as Trump complained about iPhone buttons (AP, 5/28/20)

Joe Biden tweeted about the US's lack of preparedness for a pandemic in October, according to a tweet the former vice president reposted on Thursday.

The former vice president paired his 25 October tweet with one from the same day last year by Donald Trump, in which the president complained to Apple's Tim Cook about the functionality of his iPhone.

Mr Biden's tweet read: "We are not prepared for a pandemic. Trump has rolled back progress President Obama and I made to strengthen global health security."

He continued: "We need leadership that builds public trust, focuses on real threats, and mobilises the world to stop outbreaks before they reach our shores."

Posted by orrinj at 8:11 AM


Extremely Transparent and Incredibly Remote  (Julia Herbst, 9/10/20, Fast Company)

"It's definitely [for] calm waters," says engineer Lien Van Den Steen, as Thursday afternoon sun streams through a window in her Ghent, Belgium, home. 

From his home in Minnesota, Timm Ideker, a regional sales director, drops a link into the chat for a kayak that breaks into pieces for easy transportation. "I have some concerns that this just means it's going to leak in seven places," says Simon Mansfield, a member of GitLab's sales team, in Cardiff, Wales. 

For most employees, this sort of conversation would be a brief sidebar from work, but discussing kayaks--and weekend plans and favorite board games--is the entire point of this call. Employees from any GitLab team (or time zone) log on to these recurring 30-minute Company Calls to replicate the casual conversations that happen naturally when coworkers share the same office. 

The company, which makes an application that enables developers to collaborate while writing and launching software, has no physical headquarters. Instead, it consists of more than 1,300 employees spread across 67 countries and nearly every time zone, all of them working either from home or (in nonpandemic times) in coworking spaces. Research shows that talking about non-work-related things with colleagues facilitates trust, helps break down silos among departments, and makes employees more productive. At GitLab, all of this needs to happen remotely. 

The company takes these relaxed interactions so seriously that it has a specified protocol in its employee handbook, which is publicly available online in its entirety. If printed, it would span more than 7,100 pages.  
The section on "Informal Communication in an All-Remote Environment" meticulously details more than three dozen ways coworkers can virtually connect beyond the basic Zoom call, from Donut Bot chats (where members of the #donut_be_strangers Slack channel are randomly paired) to Juice Box talks (for family members of employees to get to know one another). There are also international pizza parties, virtual scavenger hunts, and a shared "Team DJ Zoom Room."

Before pandemic lockdowns hit the U.S., in March, just 2% of the country's wage and salaried employees worked from home full time. By May, more than two-thirds of white-collar workers in America were logging on from their residences. It's been an unexpected success for many. In a July study by Lenovo, nearly two-thirds of the more than 20,000 global respondents said they got more done working from home--despite COVID-19 distractions. Mindful of the ongoing pandemic (and the potential to save money on office space and salaries), some companies--Facebook, Twitter, and Square among them--are now offering employees the option of working from home permanently. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:53 AM


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Norwegian lawmaker nominates Trump for Nobel Peace Prize (Jan M. Olsen , 9/09/20, AP)

An anti-immigrant Norwegian lawmaker said Wednesday that he has nominated U.S. President Donald Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in the Middle East.

Posted by orrinj at 7:22 AM

"THEY WON'T STAY BOUGHT!" (profanity alert):


At first glance Donald Trump should be relieved that a Fox News host will moderate the first presidential debate on September 29. Many observers consider the network to be the de facto propaganda arm of the White House, and its hosts are among Trump's most loyal surrogates. Chris Wallace, who will be behind the moderator's desk later this month, is the rare exception: a Fox anchor who is unafraid to confront Trump. "Any Republican who thinks Wallace will go easy on Trump is badly mistaken. He's no joke," a former West Wing official said. 

The Trump campaign had hoped that the Commission on Presidential Debates would choose Bret Baier or Martha MacCallum, Fox anchors who are seen as less aggressive than Wallace. Sources close to Trump are worried that Trump is unprepared to handle what Wallace could throw at him. The two have history. In July, Wallace's contentious interview with Trump featured the president boasting that he passed a cognitive test. "Well, it's not the hardest test," Wallace responded. "It shows a picture and it says, 'What's that?' And it's an elephant." [...]

Perhaps anticipating a grilling by Wallace, Trump has been ratcheting up his anger at Fox. Last week Trump called on Fox to fire national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin after she appeared on air and confirmed parts of Jeffrey Goldberg's explosive Atlantic story detailing Trump allegedly making disparaging comments about America's war dead. Trump has also taken to promoting fringe Fox competitor One America News, which has provided glowing coverage of the president and amplified pro-Trump conspiracy theories. 

In private Trump blames Fox Corp. cochairman Rupert Murdoch for allowing segments like Griffin's on the air. Sources who've spoken with Trump told me Trump thinks Murdoch wants him to lose. "Trump definitely thinks Rupert is not in his corner," a Republican close to the White House said. Trump is not entirely wrong. Sources close to Murdoch said Murdoch has told people he thinks Trump will lose in November. Murdoch is thinking about how to steer his media empire into a post-Trump environment. "This is about business for Rupert," one source said. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:15 AM


Scandal-plagued pro-Trump nonprofit was quietly dissolved after sketchy cash giveaways (Roger Sollenberger, 9/10/20, Salon)

The Urban Revitalization Coalition (URC), a controversial nonprofit organization run by two of President Trump's most prominent Black surrogates, appears to have been effectively closed down this spring after reports that its cash giveaways to Black voters may have violated IRS rules governing nonprofits.

The shutdown happened before the IRS automatically revoked the group's tax status on May 15 for "not filing a Form 990-series return or notice for three consecutive years." The URC was eventually placed on the IRS "Automatic Revocation List" on Aug. 11, and, according to co-founder Darrell Scott -- a Cleveland pastor closely allied to the Trump campaign -- was first notified of this by CNN.

Posted by orrinj at 6:46 AM


Iran: US has no option but to return to nuclear deal (MEMO, September 10, 2020)

The US has no alternative but to return to the nuclear deal from which it withdrew in 2018, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said.

In statements yesterday, Rouhani added that the US had "made a mistake" after withdrawing from the nuclear deal, saying that Tehran had been under all kinds of pressure for the past three years.

He stressed that the United States has put a lot of difficulties and obstacles ahead of Iran, and that the US administration has left no other solution other than returning to the nuclear agreement.

"Americans will not be able to achieve their goals [as far as Iran is concerned]. They do regret it and they have to reconsider the current situation, and they will. This is a dead-end for the US and they must retreat, otherwise they will be facing serious impediments."

Restoring the deal is inadequate though, Joe needs to formalize the alliance beginning with lifting all sanctions and establishing a trade deal.

Posted by orrinj at 6:42 AM


Biden Campaign Firm Hit by Suspected Kremlin Hacking Attack (Jamie Ross, Sep. 10, 2020, Daily Beast)

Intelligence officials have long been warning that Russian agents will inevitably try to interfere in the 2020 campaign--now some appear to have been caught targeting a key Biden campaign firm.

Reuters reported Thursday morning that suspected Russian state-backed hackers have attempted to breach the systems at Washington-based SKDKnickerbocker, a strategy and communications firm working hand-in-glove with Joe Biden's campaign. The attacks, which took place over the past two months, were unsuccessful.

Posted by orrinj at 6:39 AM


REX STOUT: A CRIME READER'S GUIDE TO THE CLASSICS: Nero Wolfe, Archie Goodwin, and a Crime Fiction Legend (NEIL NYREN, 8/23/19, CrimeReads)

In July 1949, The New Yorker published a two-part profile of Rex Stout, "banker, barker, bookworm, bookkeeper, yeoman on the Presidential yacht Mayflower, boss of three thousand writers of propaganda in World War II, gentleman farmer and dirt farmer, big businessman, cigar salesman, pueblo guide, hotel manager, architect, cabinetmaker, pulp and slick magazine writer, propagandist for the world government, crow trainer, jumping-pig trainer, mammoth-pumpkin grower, conversationalist, politician, orator, potted-plant wizard, gastronome, musical amateur, president of the Authors Guild, usher, ostler, and pamphleteer."

Oh, and he wrote some damn fine books, too.

In 33 novels and 39 novellas between 1934 and 1975, Stout did something unique: he married the British Golden Age, puzzle-solving school of mystery fiction with the street-smart, hardboiled, thoroughly American detective novels of Chandler and Hammett to come up with a seamless blend of thought and action, narrated in a prose that was unfailingly literate, witty, and engaging.

His two heroes made the perfect odd couple: Nero Wolfe, in his late 50s, is fat, imperious, pedantic, brilliantly deductive, devoted to both his meals and his orchids, famously loath to leave his brownstone on West 35th Street, and upon occasion, capable of extraordinary nimbleness and passion. Archie Goodwin, in his 30s, is his smart-mouthed legman, tough, intuitive, tenacious, decent, possessed of a photographic memory, highly appreciative of the opposite sex, and the narrator of all the books, the voice that keeps us coming back for more.

Posted by orrinj at 6:34 AM


Trump's Desperate DOJ Dodge on Defamation (KIM WEHLE  SEPTEMBER 10, 2020, The Bulwark)

[D]OJ has a problem. In order to step into Trump's shoes, it had to file a piece of paper certifying that, when Trump called Carroll a liar, he was "acting within the scope of his office or employment at the time of the incident out of which the claim arose." Although most federal employees would prefer to have the government pick up the tab for lawsuits filed against them, DOJ only jumps into suits at its discretion. It is optional.

Under the governing regulations, deciding whether to intervene involves a two-step test. First, the conduct must have occurred in the scope of the employee's work. Second--and this is critical--"the Attorney General or his designee [must] determine[] that providing representation would otherwise be in the interest of the United States."

Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that DOJ's certification can be challenged before a judge. Presumably, Carroll's lawyers will ask for discovery into why DOJ determined that Trump was acting as president when he claimed repeatedly that there is no factual basis for her rape allegations. Under New York law, one of the elements for determining whether an employee is acting in his official capacity is whether Trump's act of publicly denying the rape and claiming he never met Carroll was in furtherance of the interests of his employer, the United States, and whether that act was done as part of his duties as president.

In sum, the federal judge assigned to this case will likely hear argument from the DOJ that defending Trump in a defamation suit involving an alleged rape while he was a private citizen somehow serves the interests of the United States of America.

This legal immunity ploy by Trump is all too familiar. The Supreme Court in Trump v. Vance just rejected a similar argument by Trump's lawyers that his family, his banks, and his accountants are totally immune from a grand jury subpoena because of his position as president. The Supreme Court was hung up on the notion that nobody is utterly above the law--even Trump.

Too bad the Department of Justice no longer appears to care.

Posted by orrinj at 6:21 AM


Ukrainian church leader who blamed COVID-19 on gay marriage tests positive (Daniel Villarreal, September 8, 2020, NBC News)

A prominent religious leader in Ukraine who earlier this year blamed the coronavirus pandemic on same-sex marriage has tested positive for the virus, his church announced.

Patriarch Filaret, 91, who leads the large Ukrainian Orthodox Church - Kyiv Patriarchate, contracted COVID-19 and was subsequently hospitalized, the church confirmed Friday in a statement shared on its website and on Facebook. In a follow-up statement shared Tuesday, the church said its leader's health is "stable" as "treatment continues."

September 9, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 9:39 PM


Trump Was 'Ecstatic' About Talking to Woodward--Until He Wasn't (Asawin Suebsaeng, Maxwell Tani, Sam Stein, Sep. 09, 2020, Daily Beast)

For weeks leading up to the publication of Bob Woodward's latest book, West Wing aides were chatting about how damaging some of President Donald Trump's quotes would be. In the past couple weeks, two senior Trump administration officials told The Daily Beast they were quietly gaming out how to combat or downplay what they'd heard was going to appear in the published work, and attempting to ferret out what other big tidbits would be in there as well.

"It's been known for a while that this was going to be something that...needed some dealing-with," one of the officials said. "The anticipation was that it would probably be worse than the other [earlier] Woodward book."

That sense of impending dread stood in contrast to how the president initially felt about Woodward's Rage, which deals with Trump's handling of a range of high stakes national security issues in addition to the coronavirus pandemic. President Trump was "ecstatic" about the prospect of sitting for interviews with Woodward, according to a White House official, and relished some of his conversations with the famous Washington Post journalist. 

Ultimately, Trump spoke with Woodward 18 times for the book. And at some point along the way, he had a change of heart, becoming convinced that Woodward was using him. Trump then began rage-tweeting the very reporter with whom he was so psyched to go on the record.

Posted by orrinj at 7:45 PM


Trump Has Reportedly Already Blown Through Nearly a Billion Dollars of His Campaign Cash (ELLIOT HANNON, SEPT 08, 2020, Slate)

Part of the problem appears to be that running a disciplined, functional campaign for an undisciplined, dysfunctional leader might just be impossible. Throw in that the candidate is vain, unfocused, and corrupt at a cellular level, and you have a recipe for campaign grift and graft, both of which point to unprecedented waste. The Trump campaign, for example, paid $11 million to run Super Bowl ads in February. That might not seem like much when you have a billion dollars to throw around, but, by comparison, the two game day ads cost more than Trump would spend through the end of July on local TV ads in four pretty important upper midwest battle ground states combined: Wisconsin ($3.9 million), Michigan ($3.6 million), Iowa ($2 million), and Minnesota ($1.3 million).

As with every campaign ever, it's hard to look good if you're losing--and impossible to look smart if you lose. But the Times data shows the shady decadence of a number of now typical Trump-style expenses has started to add up: more than $1 million in TV ads in the D.C. market solely to flatter the president's ego and millions spent at Trump properties, office space in Trump Tower, lavishly courting donors at Mar-a-Lago in Florida and at the steakhouse at Trump's Washington hotel. And that doesn't even include the hundreds of millions of dollars that have been paid out through the shady limited liability company, American Made Media Consultants, to God knows where. The opaque company is thought to pay the Trump family and assorted hangers-on abnormally high sums for their campaign "services." The campaign even spent nearly a million dollars in ads promoting its now former campaign manager Brad Parscale's Facebook and Instagram pages. Let's not forget, Trump and his clan have never shied away from spending other people's money.

Posted by orrinj at 7:14 PM


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PODCAST: Simon Schama on the Romantics (BBC History Extra, 9/09/20)

Ahead of his new BBC Two series The Romantics and Us, the renowned art historian and broadcaster Simon Schama explores the legacy of the 18th and 19th-century artistic movement on the modern world. 

Amazing how thoroughly the Trumpist Right has incorporated every malignancy of Romanticism from emotion to Nationalism.

Posted by orrinj at 6:55 PM


Senate paralyzed over coronavirus relief (JOHN BRESNAHAN, MARIANNE LEVINE and ANDREW DESIDERIO, 09/09/2020, Politico)

With the coronavirus pandemic still battering the United States, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell asked his fellow senators on Wednesday whether they "want to do something? Or do you want to do nothing?"

The answer looks to be ... nothing.

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FBI's Terror Hunters Turn to a Different Threat: Incels  (Adam Rawnsley  & Seamus Hughes, Sep. 09, 2020, Daily Beast)

The FBI's top terrorism cops took down a different kind of alleged terrorist in a complaint filed earlier this month: an incel.

In a complaint filed in federal court in White Plains, New York, an FBI agent with the Bureau's Joint Terrorism Task Force detailed a year-long campaign of harassment, rape, and death threats levied at a Long Island couple by David Kaufman, a self-described member of the "incel" movement and supporter of one of its most notorious murderers, Elliot Rodger.

Prosecutors alleged that Kaufman terrorized a couple he knew from college and their friends in a series of messages on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube in retaliation for "for rejecting and depriving him of sex to which he believed he was entitled," according to the complaint. He's charged with making threatening interstate communications and stalking.

Neither Kaufman's lawyer nor the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York responded to requests for comment. 

Members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, comprised of federal, state, and local law enforcement officials coordinating together on extremism investigations, typically work cases associated with Islamist extremist groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda or right-wing extremists, like neo-Nazis. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:32 PM

WE'RE FOUR YEARS IN; WHO IS STUNNED? (profanity alert):

Four stunning revelations Bob Woodward reveals about Donald Trump in his devastating new book "Rage" (ALEX HENDERSON, SEPTEMBER 9, 2020, Salon)

1. Trump rages about the generals

Woodward quotes Woodward as saying, "My [****]ing generals are a bunch of [Donald's]. They care more about their alliances than they do about trade deals."

2. Mattis and Coats recognized Trump's unfitness

"Rage," according to Washington Post reporters Robert Costa and Philip Rucker, contains "brutal assessments of Trump's conduct from Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, former Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats and others:

Mattis quietly went to Washington National Cathedral to pray about his concern for the nation's fate under Trump's command and, according to Woodward, told Coats, "There may come a time when we have to take collective action" since Trump is "dangerous. He's unfit."

In a separate conversation recounted by Woodward, Mattis told Coats, "The president has no moral compass," to which the director of national intelligence replied: "True. To him, a lie is not a lie. It's just what he thinks. He doesn't know the difference between the truth and a lie."

Posted by orrinj at 6:28 PM


Nord Stream 2: Who needs the Russian gas pipeline after all? (Deutsche-Welle, 9/09/20)

Christoph Weber, a professor of energy economics at the University Duisburg-Essen in Germany, believes the additional capacity is not really needed. "Nord Stream 2 isn't essential for maintaining Germany's energy security," he told DW. "There is sufficient access to natural gas resources in Norway, the United States and North Africa."

Marc Oliver Bettzüge also thinks that the termination of Nord Stream 2 won't open up a supply gap in Europe. At the same time, he acknowledged that gas prices in Europe would decline "noticeably, but not dramatically" if the controversial pipeline would be allowed to deliver gas to the continent.

In an interview with the German FAZ newspaper, the director of the Energy Institute at the University of Cologne, said that prices could fall "by about 5%," citing the findings of his own experts in a study published in April.

By contrast, the verdict of the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) is more devastating. DIW's senior energy expert, Claudia Kemfert, told DW that Nord Stream 2 is "unnecessary" in respect to German energy policy, as well as "environmentally destructive and commercially inefficient." Even Russian energy analysts doubt that the project would ever turn a profit for Gazprom, the Kremlin-backed Russian energy giant, she says.

Posted by orrinj at 6:18 PM


Ben Sasse Calls for Repealing 17th Amendment, Eliminating Popular-Vote Senate Elections (BRITTANY BERNSTEIN, September 9, 2020, National Review)

Senator Ben Sasse (R., Neb.) called to repeal the 17th Amendment on Tuesday, which would eliminate the requirement that U.S. senators be elected by popular votes.

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed titled "Make the Senate Great Again," Sasse called for an end to the amendment, among other changes to the Senate "aimed at promoting debate, not ending it."

He also recommended abolishing standing committees, requiring senators to show up for debates, implementing 12-year term limits, and requiring senators to live together in dorms when in Washington.

"What would the Founding Fathers think of America if they came back to life?" Sasse wrote. "Their eyes would surely bug out first at our technology and wealth. But I suspect they'd also be stunned by the deformed structure of our government. The Congress they envisioned is all but dead. The Senate in particular is supposed to be the place where Americans hammer out our biggest challenges with debate. That hasn't happened for decades--and the rot is bipartisan."

Along the same reform lines, Electors should be freed and control over primaries should be restored to the political parties with no interference from state governments--they are private, not public.

Posted by orrinj at 6:10 PM



In 1962, Thomas Kuhn wrote his ground-breaking book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, in which he argues that scientific consensus is not neutral and disinterested, but emerges out of paradigms held by factions and in-groups devoted to their own survival. It is, hands down, the single most influential work of philosophy of science in the last century.  It's core message, however, has not filtered down to popular culture, because questioning the disinterested status of science is, peripherally, to question the disinterested neutrality of liberal nation states.    

Kuhn begins by thinking about the textbooks from which we all learn about science and how they form our minds.  He worries that the image of science they present is as glossed over as a tourist brochure.[1]  Textbooks tend to praise the achievements of great lone scientists and downplay science as a communal, cultural enterprise.  Perhaps most perniciously, because of their aim of getting novices up to speed so that they can understand (and even practice in) today's scientific landscape, they select episodes in the history of science and arrange them in a seamless narrative all leading, scientific modernity.  Inevitably, this has the effect of confirming our positivist prejudices; it makes science look like a straight line of progress, only opposed by the forces of superstition.

If you look at the actual revolutions of thought in the history of science, Kuhn argues, this isn't what you'll see.  Science is done by real human beings.  Its history is a history of fights between groups of scientists not only over particular facts but over method and what counts as science at all.  By uncovering the personal and social dimensions of science, Kuhn ushered in the "historical" or "sociological" turn in philosophy of science.  

Kuhn's historical studies paint a far more nuanced and interesting picture of science.  Its history is more than the history of ideas; it is also a history of real people, with all their flaws and foibles.  There is more to science than facts simply presenting themselves to great minds.  It is a history of genius and innovation, sure.  But it is also a history of cliques, defending theories despite counter-evidence, and dead ends.  But these never make it into the textbooks, both because it would undermine the progressive, positivist narrative that is meant to attract new scientists to the discipline, and also because stories of dead ends don't help students learn current scientific theories.  Any history that includes successes but never failures is bound to look linear and progressive.[2]  Yet the effect, Kuhn thinks, is a picture of science that is pure science fiction.

According to Kuhn, most science--what he calls "normal science"--is not revolutionary.  That is, it doesn't set out to answer groundbreaking questions but to slightly extend our knowledge in some very limited domain.  Normal science doesn't question its foundations but, rather, works within a paradigm or large set of settled assumptions about its subject matter.[3]  Now, paradigms can sound very negative, because their job is to be settled and dogmatic, to force us to view nature in preconceived categories and rigidly indoctrinate students.  And this is indeed a major lesson of Kuhn's work.  However, the advantage of paradigms is that the scientist doesn't have to constantly justify her basic outlook but can treat some things as settled and dive deeper into nature on those assumptions.  Kuhn likens it to a settled judicial decision.[4]  In this way, real but limited progress is made.

But there are also periods of science where there is a sense of unease and dissatisfaction with the reigning paradigm.  Kuhn especially has in mind the growing unease with the increasingly baroque Ptolemaic model of the solar system.  In these revolutionary periods, fundamental assumptions are challenged.  

Importantly, this is not a dispassionate process by which the evidence is obvious to all and the best theory automatically wins out.  Kuhn's historical study revealed that new paradigms are created not by seasoned veterans of the field but by the young or those new to the field who haven't had their minds ossified by years of thinking in the old paradigm.[5]  Instead of convincing the old guard, advocates of the new paradigm simply attract more young scientists to their research program (e.g., they attract more graduate students with an exciting new way of thinking).  

And the minute the new paradigm wins out, say, the Copernican model, its rivals are ridiculed as "non-scientific."  The old guard is shunned, their work ignored.[6]  The revolution does not take place because the old guard become convinced by overwhelming evidence, see the light, and recant. (That is to say, the scientists do not actually behave scientifically, disinterestedly following the evidence wherever it leads.)  Rather, the revolution happens when they die off.  The historical record, he argues, challenges the positivist narrative of science as uniquely rational and automatically progressive.  Science isn't populated by Spock-like, neutral, open-minded observers following the evidence wherever it leads.  It is populated by actual humans.

Why Do We Invoke Darwin? (PHILIP L. SKELL, 8/28/05, The Scientist)

Darwin's theory of evolution offers a sweeping explanation of the history of life, from the earliest microscopic organisms billions of years ago to all the plants and animals around us today. Much of the evidence that might have established the theory on an unshakable empirical foundation, however, remains lost in the distant past. For instance, Darwin hoped we would discover transitional precursors to the animal forms that appear abruptly in the Cambrian strata. Since then we have found many ancient fossils – even exquisitely preserved soft-bodied creatures – but none are credible ancestors to the Cambrian animals.

Despite this and other difficulties, the modern form of Darwin's theory has been raised to its present high status because it's said to be the cornerstone of modern experimental biology. But is that correct? "While the great majority of biologists would probably agree with Theodosius Dobzhansky's dictum that 'nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution,' most can conduct their work quite happily without particular reference to evolutionary ideas," A.S. Wilkins, editor of the journal BioEssays, wrote in 2000 "Evolution would appear to be the indispensable unifying idea and, at the same time, a highly superfluous one."

I would tend to agree. Certainly, my own research with antibiotics during World War II received no guidance from insights provided by Darwinian evolution. Nor did Alexander Fleming's discovery of bacterial inhibition by penicillin. I recently asked more than 70 eminent researchers if they would have done their work differently if they had thought Darwin's theory was wrong. The responses were all the same: No.

I also examined the outstanding biodiscoveries of the past century: the discovery of the double helix; the characterization of the ribosome; the mapping of genomes; research on medications and drug reactions; improvements in food production and sanitation; the development of new surgeries; and others. I even queried biologists working in areas where one would expect the Darwinian paradigm to have most benefited research, such as the emergence of resistance to antibiotics and pesticides. Here, as elsewhere, I found that Darwin's theory had provided no discernible guidance, but was brought in, after the breakthroughs, as an interesting narrative gloss.

In the peer-reviewed literature, the word "evolution" often occurs as a sort of coda to academic papers in experimental biology. Is the term integral or superfluous to the substance of these papers? To find out, I substituted for "evolution" some other word – "Buddhism," "Aztec cosmology," or even "creationism." I found that the substitution never touched the paper's core. This did not surprise me. From my conversations with leading researchers it had became clear that modern experimental biology gains its strength from the availability of new instruments and methodologies, not from an immersion in historical biology.

Posted by orrinj at 6:02 PM


Whistleblower says top Trump appointees tried to censor reports on Russian influence (KYLE CHENEY, NATASHA BERTRAND and DANIEL LIPPMAN, 09/09/2020, Politico)

The report, filed by former senior DHS official Brian Murphy, alleges that acting secretary Chad Wolf, his predecessor Kirstjen Nielsen and other senior DHS brass engaged in "a repeated pattern of abuse of authority, attempted censorship of intelligence analysis and improper administration of an intelligence program related to Russian efforts to influence and undermine United States interests."

That pattern, Murphy alleged, stretched from March 2018 until last month.

The report describes a series of additional alleged abuses and legal violations by current and former leaders, including Nielsen, Wolf and an acting deputy, Ken Cuccinelli.

Murphy, who served as the Office of Intelligence and Analysis' undersecretary, filed the 24-page complaint on September 8, alleging that he was instructed to halt the assessments because they were making "the president look bad." The report was delivered by Murphy's attorney, Mark Zaid, to the Intelligence Committee on Tuesday.

Posted by orrinj at 12:27 PM


QAnon is a Nazi Cult, Rebranded (Gregory Stanton, September 9, 2020, Just Security)

A secret cabal is taking over the world. They kidnap children, slaughter, and eat them to gain power from their blood. They control high positions in government, banks, international finance, the news media, and the church. They want to disarm the police. They promote homosexuality and pedophilia. They plan to mongrelize the white race so it will lose its essential power.

Does this conspiracy theory sound familiar? It is. The same narrative has been repackaged by QAnon.

I have studied and worked to prevent genocide for forty years. Genocide Watch and the Alliance Against Genocide, the first international anti-genocide coalition, see such hate-filled conspiracy theories as early warning signs of deadly genocidal violence.

The plot, described above, was the conspiracy "revealed" in the most influential anti-Jewish pamphlet of all time. It was called The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. It was written by Russian anti-Jewish propagandists around 1902. It collected myths about a Jewish plot to take over the world that had existed for hundreds of years. Central to its mythology was the Blood Libel, which claimed that Jews kidnapped and slaughtered Christian children and drained their blood to mix in the dough for matzos consumed on Jewish holidays.

The Nazis published a children's book of the Protocols that they required in the curriculum of every primary school in Germany. The Nazi newspaper, Der Stürmer (derived from the German word for "Storm") spread the Blood Libel. Hitler's Mein Kampf, his narcissistic autobiography and manifesto for his battle against the Jewish plot to rule the world, copied his conspiracy theories from the Protocols.

The Nazis worshiped Adolf Hitler as the Leader who would rescue the white race from this secret Jewish plot. Nazi "storm troopers" ("storm detachment" - Sturmabteilung) helped bring Hitler to power. Nazi Germany went on to conquer Europe and murder six million Jews and millions of Roma, Slavs, LGBTQ and other people.

America had its own dark side. Henry Ford echoed Nazi hatred of Jews and had 500,000 copies of the Protocols printed and distributed in the U.S. Father Coughlin preached the Protocols on national radio. The Ku Klux Klan combined its white supremacist racism with hatred of Jews.

QAnon's conspiracy theory is a rebranded version of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

Posted by orrinj at 12:19 PM


'Play it down': Trump admits to concealing the true threat of coronavirus in new Woodward book (Jamie Gangel, Jeremy Herb and Elizabeth Stuart, d September 9, 2020, CNN)

President Donald Trump admitted he knew weeks before the first confirmed US coronavirus death that the virus was dangerous, airborne, highly contagious and "more deadly than even your strenuous flus," and that he repeatedly played it down publicly, according to legendary journalist Bob Woodward in his new book "Rage."

"This is deadly stuff," Trump told Woodward on February 7.

In a series of interviews with Woodward, Trump revealed that he had a surprising level of detail about the threat of the virus earlier than previously known. "Pretty amazing," Trump told Woodward, adding that the coronavirus was maybe five times "more deadly" than the flu.

Trump's admissions are in stark contrast to his frequent public comments at the time insisting that the virus was "going to disappear" and "all work out fine."

The book, using Trump's own words, depicts a President who has betrayed the public trust and the most fundamental responsibilities of his office.

The notion of Donald understanding anything strains credulity.

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Trump's contempt for the military reveals his fatuous, bloated ego -- and could finish him off (HEATHER DIGBY PARTON, SEPTEMBER 9, 2020, Salon)

Just to recap briefly, Trump has allegedly referred to soldiers as "losers" and "suckers" for joining the military in the first place, and for having the poor judgment to die in battle when they could have been making money instead. Indeed, he's reported to have remarked to former White House chief of staff and retired Marine Gen. John Kelly, "I don't get it. What was in it for them?" He said this at Arlington National Cemetery at the gravesite of Kelly's son, a Marine who died in Afghanistan.

Trump also reportedly had a temper tantrum during his 2018 visit to France over something that President Emmanuel Macron said (probably his denunciation of "nationalism") and refused to attend a ceremony honoring the U.S. Marines who died in the World War I battle of Belleau Wood. Then the president reportedly proceeded to strip the home of the U.S. ambassador to Paris of every piece of artwork that took his fancy to display in the White House. And he really, really didn't want to acknowledge the late Sen. John McCain's funeral.

These anecdotes and more have been confirmed by The Associated Press, the Washington Post and the New York Times among others, including Fox News. Trump has denied them in a flurry of desperate-sounding tweets, even as he continued to denigrate McCain, making it clearer than ever that the claims were true. Nobody can claim that these sorts of insults "just don't sound like something he'd say," even as numerous of his current and former henchmen and sycophants stepped forward to say just that.

We've all seen the video of his nasty insult toward John McCain in 2015:

And we have recently been reminded that he said the same thing 16 years earlier when he was interviewed by Dan Rather, so that insult wasn't just issued in a fit of pique over something McCain said in 2015. He has clearly believed for a long time that a naval pilot who gets himself shot down is no hero.

On Monday, Trump held another of his campaign "briefings" at the White House in which he inexplicably added yet another insult to the litany:

I'm not saying the military's in love with me -- the soldiers are, the top people in the Pentagon probably aren't because they want to do nothing but fight wars so that all of those wonderful companies that make the bombs and make the planes and make everything else stay happy.

According to a recent poll of the military, even before this latest flap, while it's true that officers dislike him even more than enlisted personnel, the latter aren't "in love" with him either...

Posted by orrinj at 5:41 AM


'I'll have to say it's total bull***t': How political sources play the anonymity game (Tom DeFrank, 9/09/20, NATIONALJOURNAL)

Being hammered for relying on anonymous sources is the price that reporters are often willing to pay to obtain vital information that otherwise would never be printed.

As Atlantic editor Jeffrey Goldberg, the author of the piece, has noted, "these are people who are not anonymous to me." On the other side of the ledger, even some of the most ardent Trump defenders furiously insisting that Goldberg's anecdotes "never happened" frequently play the very same game when it suits their interests.

A personal example: In the spring of 1987, I interviewed Texas businessman George W. Bush in Dallas for Newsweek's 1988 special election project, to be published only 36 hours after the presidential victor had been determined.

Our ground rules for the interview--the first of many over the next 18 months, and again in 1992--were that I could use everything he told me but couldn't identify him as the source. In other words, we were on background, a staple of the journalistic trade.

The man formerly known as "Junior," who later became "Bush 43," was amazingly helpful, dishing the sort of inside-baseball detail and real-time dialogue that reporters dream about. He was totally fearless in analyzing the campaign; after all, he answered to only one official, his father, who'd recently introduced us at a White House reception and encouraged him to cooperate. And none of the anonymous reporting would be public until after the polls had closed.

After an unusually productive interview, I gratefully thanked him for his candor. "Now, let me ask YOU a question," he said with a smirk. "When this thing comes out I'll probably be asked about some of this stuff. I'll have to say it's total [*****]. Are you gonna have a problem with that?"

I assured him that wouldn't be bothersome. Sources often deny inconvenient truths on the record that they've leaked on background.

In more than a half-century as a Washington correspondent, in fact, the very people who gave me my information often later tried to debunk my reporting publicly. Among them were presidents, vice presidents, Cabinet officers, high-ranking government officials, and four-star generals. I've sat in briefings, trying to suppress a smile, as my very source denounced my story.

That's the way it works. As a White House chief of staff once told me, "I'm not talking about this story, but if you run it on Monday you won't look stupid." But when asked about the article, he was able to tell associates he hadn't commented.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


White supremacy is 'most lethal threat' to the US, DHS draft assessment says (Geneva Sands, September 8, 2020, CNN)

White supremacists will remain the most "persistent and lethal threat" in the United States through 2021, according to Department of Homeland Security draft documents.

The most recent draft report predicts an "elevated threat environment at least through" early next year, concluding that some US-based violent extremists have capitalized on increased social and political tensions in 2020.

Although foreign terrorist organizations will continue to call for attacks on the US, the report says, they "probably will remain constrained in their ability to direct such plots over the next year."

The threat assessment -- which also warns of continued disinformation efforts by Russia -- is especially notable as President Donald Trump has often employed race-baiting tactics in his quest for reelection and frequently downplayed the threat from white supremacists during his term in office. The Trump administration has portrayed Antifa and anarchists as a top threat to the US, with the President tweeting this summer that the US will designate Antifa as a terrorist organization.

The recently released draft reports, which were made public by Lawfare Editor in Chief Benjamin Wittes and first reported by Politico, assess a host of threats, including cyber, foreign influence and irregular migration.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'A new low': CNN's Elie Honig buries DOJ's 'grotesque' defense of Trump in civil defamation lawsuit (Brad Reed , 9/09/20, Raw Story)

"This is just a new low, and a particularly grotesque one," he said.

Honig went on to explain that the DOJ will typically step in to defend the president if he is sued for something he does as part of his official duties as president.

However, he said that Barr appears to have expanded the scope of the DOJ's defense of the president to include actions that have traditionally been outside the scope of official duties.

"What Bill Barr and the DOJ and the president have decided is getting accused of rape, denying that rape, attacking the accuser, and getting sued, that's just part of the job of being president," he said. "And as a result, John, as you said, guess who's picking up the tab? All of our viewers, you, Alisyn, me, this one's on the taxpayers now."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Biden leads in six 2020 swing states as Trump sees no convention bounce (Jacob Pramuk, 9/09/20, CNBC)

Biden holds at least a narrow lead in all six of the states, which will play a major role in determining who wins the White House on Nov. 3. Here is where the race stands in all of those states, and how it has changed from the last survey: 

Arizona: Biden 49%, Trump 45% (was Biden 49%, Trump 47%) 

Florida: Biden 49%, Trump 46% (unchanged)

Michigan: Biden 49%, Trump 43% (was Biden 50%, Trump 44%) 

North Carolina: Biden 49%, Trump 47% (was Biden 48%, Trump 47%)

Pennsylvania: Biden 50%, Trump 46% (was Biden 49%, Trump 46%)

Wisconsin: Biden 50%, Trump 44% (was Biden 49%, Trump 44%)

The poll, taken Friday through Sunday, surveyed 4,143 likely voters across the six states and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.4 percentage points.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


GOP senator apologizes after a staffer is caught on tape saying what Republicans actually believe on health care (Cody Fenwick, 9/08/20, AlterNet)

As first reported by WRAL, Bev Veals of Carolina Beach, a three-time cancer survivor, called her senator out of fear that her health insurance was at risk. She has previously faced medical bankruptcy and difficulty accessing care, WRAL said, and her husband was furloughed because of the pandemic. She wanted assurance that she'd have coverage if she lost her health insurance.

But Tillis's office wasn't helpful. While speaking to a dismissive staffer, Veals began to record their conversation, which was provided to WRAL and can be viewed above.

Defend democracy. Click to invest in courageous progressive journalism today.
"You're saying that, if you can't afford it, you don't get to have it?" she asked. "That includes health care?"

"Yeah, just like if I want to go to the store and buy a new dress shirt. If I can't afford that dress shirt, I don't get to get it," the staffer explained.

"But health care is something that people need!" Veals said, clearly alarmed. "Especially if they have cancer."

"Well, you got to find a way to get it," the staffer said.

"So what do I do in the meantime, sir?" she asked, not hiding the irritation in her voice.

The response was snide: "Sounds like something you're going to have to figure it out."

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American Airlines Just Revealed a Brutal Truth. (BILL MURPHY JR., , 9/9/20, Inc)

There's a story I heard when I was writing a book about Harvard Business School.

It goes like this. A student at an elite college is upset a school policy. 

He complains to a dean: "What kind of a business treats its paying customers like this?"

The dean replies: "That's where you're mixed up. You're not the customer. You're the product."

I thought of this recently when I heard what American Airlines is saying about the passengers who are now flying -- and who it will need to attract to survive in the post-coronavirus world. [...]

The problem is that since the pandemic, there simply aren't as many business travelers anymore. Top airlines' revenue and passenger levels fell sharply -- to the point that American Airlines plans to cut 40,000 jobs (including voluntary separations), and United Airlines says it will furlough 19,000 employees on October 1. the extent he has killed the office (thus the commute) and air travel.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Top GOP election lawyer slams Trump's vote fraud claims, says the GOP searched fruitlessly for decades (Peter Weber, 9/08/20, The Week)

"The truth is that after decades of looking for illegal voting, there's no proof of widespread fraud," he concedes. "At most, there are isolated incidents -- by both Democrats and Republicans. Elections are not rigged."

"These are painful conclusions for me to reach," Ginsberg adds, setting out an overview of his "38 years in the GOP's legal trenches," including serving as counsel to the Republican National Committee and six of the last four GOP presidential nominees.

Each Election Day since 1984, I've been in precincts looking for voting violations, or in Washington helping run the nationwide GOP Election Day operations, overseeing the thousands of Republican lawyers and operatives each election on alert for voting fraud. In every election, Republicans have been in polling places and vote tabulation centers. Republican lawyers in every state have been able to examine mail-in/absentee ballot programs. [Benjamin Ginsberg, The Washington Post]

The GOP lawyers and conservative activists found only a "minuscule" amount of fraud, mail-in or otherwise, and despite looking, Trump's 2016 campaign "could produce no hard evidence of systemic fraud," Ginsberg writes. Trump even put "the most vociferous hunters of Democratic election fraud" in charge of presidential commission on "election integrity," he notes, and "it disbanded without finding anything." 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trumpkins Are Losing Their Mind Over Occupy Wall Street's Faux Plans for a White House 'Siege' (Will Sommer, Sep. 09, 2020, Daily Beast)

Far-right blog The Gateway Pundit has described the protest with the headline  "Democrat Supported Marxist Group Plans Siege on White House," while right-wing blog Big League Politics called for its organizers to be tried "under federal RICO laws or under the federal War on Terror."

"I'm wondering if this is going to be a distraction from an even more diabolical plot to overthrow the government," nationally syndicated talk radio host Clyde Lewis warned his listeners in August. 

Defamation lawyer Lin Wood, who has represented former Covington Catholic student Nick Sandmann in lawsuits against media outlets, may have gone furthest of all. To defend the White House against the "siege," Wood called for a siege of sorts himself: a government blockade of Washington, D.C., and citywide identification checks to ensure that protesters can't show up.

"Shut down all movement into & out of DC," Wood tweeted. "Require strict ID for critical officials & tell rest to stay home." 

September 8, 2020

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Posted by orrinj at 5:35 PM


WHY JEB BUSH ADMIRES ANDREW YANG : Former Florida governor and presidential candidate Jeb Bush sat for a revealing interview with OZY's CEO and co-founder on the latest episode of The Carlos Watson Show. The following are some of the best cuts from the full conversation.  (Nick Fouriezos, 9/08/20, OZY)


Bush: I think it's artificial intelligence and the convergence of big data analytics along with it is going to create an explosion of innovations, the likes of which I can't describe, but I hope I'm alive to see them.

Watson: Are you afraid of the robots?

Bush: No, I think embracing science, embracing technology is essential for our long-term success, but there has to be a way to make sure that everybody can take advantage of that success and right now we're not there. There's huge swaths of our society that will be completely left behind by the acceleration of these technological trends. It breaks my heart, actually. I see it in slow motion happening, and I'm pretty confident it's going to yield social strife that we can't even imagine.

Watson: Who is the most thoughtful person, Governor, who you talk to about these issues?

Bush: The guy on the public square that's been the most articulate is Andrew Yang. I think he's pretty cool too. I like the fact that he is worried about this. His solution, if you could say in a country that there's a basic income that everybody should have and you're empowering people, then, to take care of their lives and you're changing not the health care system but the public assistance system to be able to provide that base support, that's a really interesting idea if you pair it with an education system that gives people the skills to be able to live a purposeful life.

Posted by orrinj at 1:21 PM


The Shocking Deception of Israeli Scientists Pushing the COVID-19 Swedish Model: Israel has 'achieved' the world's highest rate of new coronavirus infections per capita. And reckless scientists, armed with unsubstantiated claims and no public health or epidemiological expertise, want to risk many more lives (Joseph Bruch, 9/08/20, Ha'aretz)

This past week, Illinois' largest university, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, reported 780 new COVID-19 cases on its downstate campus following the start of classes on August 24th. 

The bad news followed the recommendation of two University of Illinois physicists who advocated for opening the university. They had stated their models demonstrated that active cases at any one time would remain below 100, a figure they described as the "worst-case scenario."

So how could it be that in less than a week, the cases were seven times what the physicists predicted? For one, epidemiological models are tough, and the continual emergence of new information makes accurate prediction even tougher.

But allow me to provide another explanation: Two men who had no public health or epidemiologic expertise decided they were adequately suited to dictate the public health response to COVID-19 and shape university and state policy accordingly.  

Similarly, this week - as Israel hits a daily record of new infections - dozens of Israeli physicians and scientists signed an open letter calling on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition cabinet to not impose a new countrywide lockdown and to remove social distancing measures (Israeli Physicians, Scientists Warn Against Lockdown, Call to Adopt Swedish Model).  [...]

A study in Nature found that across 11 countries, over three million deaths have been averted due to lockdowns, school closures, and social distancing measures since the start of the pandemic. Furthermore, existing evidence finds that loosening restrictions too quickly can increase mortality for at-risk populations as well as spawn a new wave of infections. In fact, part of the reason Israel went from an exemplar in its response to the pandemic to a visible failure has to do with the fact that restrictions were lifted too quickly. 

Posted by orrinj at 1:13 PM


Veterans Advocate Says Trump Has 'No Integrity' and 'No Honor' (JASON LEMON ON 9/8/20, Newsweek)

"He's a disgusting human being. He has no integrity, he has no honor, he has no respect. He has no respect for anyone or anything," Paul Rieckhoff, a veteran of the Iraq War who founded the non-profit Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America in 2004, said during an interview with MSNBC on Tuesday. "He's a political runaway train who will smash into anything that's in his way, to include our military. He's attacking his own military leadership."

Entertaining the way the Trumpbots try dismissing the hateful stuff Donald said about soldiers in private when he's worse out loud.

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Syria: Daesh retakes gas field from Russia (Middle East Monitor, September 8, 2020)

The Islamic State militant group (Daesh) yesterday took control of the Dheibat gas field, in the Homs countryside, local media reported.

According to the reports, Daesh launched a counter-offensive against Syrian regime and Russian forces in the Dheibat gas field, noting that the militants began their attack with heavy machine guns before storming the field.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


7 details from new exposé on financial turmoil -- and bitter backstabbing -- in the Trump campaign (CODY FENWICK, SEPTEMBER 8, 2020, AlterNet)

4. The campaign spent nearly half of its spending on more fundraising

It's hard to imagine this was cost-effective, given the fact that the campaign has recently felt the need to cut back on ads.

"Under Mr. Parscale, more than $350 million -- almost half of the $800 million spent -- went to fund-raising operations, as no expense was spared in finding new donors online," the report said.

5. A lot of money is covering campaign-adjacent legal bills

Republicans, for instance, have been saddled with extra legal costs, more than $21 million since 2019, resulting from the many investigations into Mr. Trump and, eventually, his impeachment trial. The R.N.C. also paid a large legal bill of $666,667.66 to Reuters News & Media at the end of June. Both Reuters and the R.N.C. declined to discuss the payment. It was labeled "legal proceedings -- IP resolution," suggesting it was related to a potential litigation over intellectual property.

...was about Hillary's historic unpopularity (and Comey's blunder), not about anything the Trump campaign did.

September 7, 2020

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Trump's 'cash crunch': Where exactly did the president's $800 million go? (Bob Brigham, 9/07/20, Raw Story)

President Donald Trump's re-election effort is burning through cash and may face a crisis during the final two months of the 2020 presidential campaign, according to a new analysis by The New York Times.

"Money was supposed to have been one of the great advantages of incumbency for President Trump, much as it was for President Barack Obama in 2012 and George W. Bush in 2004. After getting outspent in 2016, Mr. Trump filed for re-election on the day of his inauguration -- earlier than any other modern president -- betting that the head start would deliver him a decisive financial advantage this year," the newspaper reported. "It seemed to have worked. His rival, Joseph R. Biden Jr., was relatively broke when he emerged as the presumptive Democratic nominee this spring, and Mr. Trump and the Republican National Committee had a nearly $200 million cash advantage."

"Five months later, Mr. Trump's financial supremacy has evaporated. Of the $1.1 billon his campaign and the party raised from the beginning of 2019 through July, more than $800 million has already been spent. Now some people inside the campaign are forecasting what was once unthinkable: a cash crunch with less than 60 days until the election, according to Republican officials briefed on the matter," The Times reported.

Posted by orrinj at 10:52 AM


Liberty's Discontents (Arnold Kling, 9/07/20, Library of Economics & Liberty)

In 1997, Arthur Herman published The Idea of Decline in Western History, a book that examines the role doomsayers have played in promoting ideologies that reject the core Western values of individualism, capitalism, and democracy. [...]

Herman dwells on

the conflict between culture and civilization, or Kultur and Zivilisation... which was so important and so dear to the German academic tradition.

... Zivilization was the world of politeness and sophistication, but also of commerce and urban society. It was constantly changing, materialistic, and even superficial... Kultur, by contrast, was permanent and spiritual.

... But Kultur could also be used in the anthropological sense, to signify the artistic, literary, and material heritage of an historical people.

Many cultural pessimists seized on this distinction to articulate what was wrong with Western modernity. The cultural pessimist claims that whatever material prosperity our society has produced, it has dulled the individual spirit and stifled the collective soul.

"I am concerned that today's cultural pessimists are unsympathetic to the principle of free speech and willing to use mob bullying against those with whom they disagree."
Herman's description of cultural pessimism emphasizes its dangers. Cultural pessimists reject nonviolence and democracy, so that they provided intellectual justification for both Nazi and Soviet tyranny. I am concerned that today's cultural pessimists are unsympathetic to the principle of free speech and willing to use mob bullying against those with whom they disagree.

Currently, historical pessimism might be represented by Tyler Cowen (The Great Stagnation), Peter Turchin (Ages of Discord), Ross Douthat (The Decadent Society), Martin Gurri (The Revolt of the Public), or Yuval Levin (A Time to Build). These authors see signs of decline in slow productivity growth and the inability of elites to solve problems posed by new technology and cultural change. But they fear nihilistic destruction and instead prefer reform.

Cultural pessimism might be represented today by Nikole Hannah-Jones (originator of The 1619 Project in the New York Times that portrays the United States as founded to pursue slavery), Greta Thunberg (young climate activist), or Bernie Sanders, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (politicians advocating for socialism). These public figures see fundamental sin in America's democracy, technology, and economic system.

All you really need to know about the pessimists is that they are unhappy that we do ever less labor for ever more wealth which we consume in ahistorical peace, health and freedom.

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Posted by orrinj at 10:39 AM


Trump said it was a lot easier to pay off Stormy Daniels than Melania: Michael Cohen (Sarah K. Burris, 9/07/20, Raw Story)

Recalling the discussion with Trump, Cohen says the president claimed $130,000 "is a lot less than I would have to pay Melania."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


A racist conspiracy theory called the 'great replacement' has made its way from far-right media to the GOP (Nikki Ramirez, 9/07/20, Business Insider)

The conspiracy theory creates a dangerous dynamic in which believers view immigrants and non-white citizens as an existential threat to their communities. And the theory is not a purely academic endeavor; it seeks to mobilize believers into action against their supposed "replacement." This mobilization manifests itself in various ways, including political activism against immigration, efforts to encourage white women to have more children to bolster demographic growth, and, in an extreme form, deadly violence against immigrants and communities of color. 

The theory has reared its head in violent outbursts such as the murder of 51 people at the Al Noor mosque and Linwood Islamic Center in Christchurch, New Zealand, the killing of more than 20 mostly Hispanic shoppers in El Paso, Texas, and the screams of angry young men who shouted "Jews will not replace us; you will not replace us" at the August 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where anti-racist demonstrator Heather Heyer was murdered by neo-Nazi James Fields Jr. Field's online behavior before Unite the Right indicates support for Nazi ideology and white racial purity. 

Elements of the "great replacement" conspiracy theory have also recently appeared in the statements of prominent conservative politicians. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) recently appeared on Fox News' Justice with Judge Jeanine and said that Black Lives Matter protests were part of "an attempted cultural genocide going on in America right now." Gaetz claimed that "the left wants us to be ashamed of America so that they can replace America," a message he later repeated on Twitter.

It's no coincidence that Gaetz echoed the "great replacement" talking points on Fox, as the network has played a role in promoting the conspiracy theory to American conservative audiences for years.

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The Idea that a Scientific Theory can be 'Falsified' Is a MythIt's time we abandoned it (Mano Singham, September 7, 2020, Scientific American)

J.B.S. Haldane, one of the founders of modern evolutionary biology theory, was reportedly asked what it would take for him to lose faith in the theory of evolution and is said to have replied, "Fossil rabbits in the Precambrian." Since the so-called "Cambrian explosion" of 500 million years ago marks the earliest appearance in the fossil record of complex animals, finding mammal fossils that predate them would falsify the theory.

But would it really?

The Haldane story, though apocryphal, is one of many in the scientific folklore that suggest that falsification is the defining characteristic of science. As expressed by astrophysicist Mario Livio in his book Brilliant Blunders: "[E]ver since the seminal work of philosopher of science Karl Popper, for a scientific theory to be worthy of its name, it has to be falsifiable by experiments or observations. This requirement has become the foundation of the 'scientific method.'"

But the field known as science studies (comprising the history, philosophy and sociology of science) has shown that falsification cannot work even in principle. This is because an experimental result is not a simple fact obtained directly from nature. Identifying and dating Haldane's bone involves using many other theories from diverse fields, including physics, chemistry and geology. Similarly, a theoretical prediction is never the product of a single theory but also requires using many other theories. When a "theoretical" prediction disagrees with "experimental" data, what this tells us is that that there is a disagreement between two sets of theories, so we cannot say that any particular theory is falsified.

Fortunately, falsification--or any other philosophy of science--is not necessary for the actual practice of science. The physicist Paul Dirac was right when he said, "Philosophy will never lead to important discoveries. It is just a way of talking about discoveries which have already been made." Actual scientific history reveals that scientists break all the rules all the time, including falsification. As philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn noted, Newton's laws were retained despite the fact that they were contradicted for decades by the motions of the perihelion of Mercury and the perigee of the moon. It is the single-minded focus on finding what works that gives science its strength, not any philosophy. Albert Einstein said that scientists are not, and should not be, driven by any single perspective but should be willing to go wherever experiment dictates and adopt whatever works.

The course of every intellectual, if he pursues his journey long and unflinchingly enough, ends in the obvious, from which the non-intellectuals have never stirred.
    -Aldous Huxley, Point Counter Point

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Roger Angell at a HundredRaising a glass to The New Yorker legend--born five years before the founding of this magazine, and a contributor for the past seventy-six--as he celebrates a milestone birthday. (Mark Singer, September 7, 2020, The New Yorker)

Born five years before the founding of this magazine--but a contributor for only the past seventy-six--Roger Angell has spent his one-hundredth summer in customary fashion. In late June, he and his wife, Peggy Moorman, drove a spring-chicken '97 Volvo wagon from their covid refuge, in the Catskills, to Brooklin, Maine, and settled into their gray-shingled camp on a point overlooking Eggemoggin Reach, with Deer Isle in the near distance. Angell began coming to Brooklin in 1933, the summer before he turned thirteen. That was the year his mother, Katharine Sergeant Angell White, and his stepfather, E. B. (Andy) White, each a foundational source of The New Yorker's DNA--Katharine primarily as a fiction editor and nurturer of writers, Andy as progenitor of the magazine's editorial voice--bought an eighteenth-century farmhouse, with an attached barn, in North Brooklin, situated above a large pasture, pond, and woods that sloped down to a gravelly beach on Allen Cove, on Blue Hill Bay.

The Passion of Roger Angell: The best baseball writer in America is also a fan
Roger Angell, who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this weekend, is the best baseball writer in America, and for 50 years he's written from a single vantage point: that of a fan who cares deeply about the game. (TOM VERDUCCI, July 21, 2014, Sports Illustrated)

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"It Takes a While to Perfect Your Soul": A Conversation With Sonny Rollins: The jazz immortal on baseball, Bird, Coltrane, his ceaseless spiritual journey and an explosive upcoming archival release from 1967 (Lee Mergner, 9/04/20, Tidal)

Arguably the greatest living jazz musician, Sonny Rollins turns 90 on Sept. 7. The legendary tenor saxophonist was forced to stop performing in 2012, because of a respiratory problem he believes was exacerbated if not created by toxic fumes in the aftermath of 9/11. Rollins was living in an apartment not far from the Twin Towers and was forced to evacuate his building amidst the debris and pollution. He went to Boston, where four days later he gave a concert that was eventually released as the Grammy-winning Without a Song: The 9/11 Concert album. That's just one of the many inspirational and nearly apocryphal stories about Rollins. Perhaps the most famous tale concerns his taking a hiatus from gigging and recording in 1959 to improve himself, and then going out from his apartment on the Lower East Side of Manhattan to practice on a pedestrian walkway of the Williamsburg Bridge.

With the passing of his wife and manager Lucille in 2004, Rollins now lives alone in upstate New York, listening to sports (mostly baseball, as a recovering Mets fan) and news on the radio, reading voraciously and practicing yoga. Minus the opportunity to play his horn, he's become increasingly devoted to his own spiritual development.

Known for his very critical ear toward his performances on record, he has given his blessing to the release of a collection of live and studio recordings from Holland in 1967, when he toured and appeared with bassist Rudolph "Ruud" Jacobs and drummer Han Bennink. Slated for a limited-edition vinyl release Nov. 27 on Resonance Records, with additional formats to follow, Rollins in Holland features the saxophonist at the peak of his powers, playing with his signature fiery brand of rhythm, intensity and humor.

Sonny and I have been friendly since the early '90s, when I first contacted him for coverage in JazzTimes, a publication I oversaw for nearly three decades. In the ensuing years, we'd talk on the phone or exchange letters -- yes, letters in the mail -- though the subject was most often baseball or politics rather than music. In this recent freewheeling talk for TIDAL, he shared his thoughts and memories of those '67 recordings, of his colleague John Coltrane (with whom he famously "battled" on "Tenor Madness") and of growing up in the Sugar Hill section of Harlem.

Although a very politically aware individual who in 1958 recorded "The Freedom Suite," a remarkably prescient expression of support for the civil-rights movement, in this case Rollins was in a more reflective mood and preferred not to talk about the state of the country in detail. Rather, he wanted to explain his philosophy of life, which is greatly influenced by Eastern religion and spirituality. In the end, he did wonder how far Donald J. Trump would get if he counted back from 100.

Good news for you and me, baseball is back, though who knows for how long.

I'm happy about that, but I don't want guys to get hurt or sick just because I want to see some baseball. And I don't want guys to get hurt just because these rich owners want to make more money.

Growing up in Sugar Hill, did you go to Yankee Stadium in the Bronx?

Yes, I lived closer to the Polo Grounds, where the Giants played, but I went to Yankee Stadium because my team was the Yankees.

Where was the Polo Grounds?

It was on the Manhattan side, very close to me, about six or eight blocks north of us and down the hill on Eighth Avenue. I could walk there. I used to go to [popular swing musician and bandleader] Andy Kirk's house. His son was a good friend of ours, so we'd go to his house and we could see right field of the Polo Grounds. I used to see Carl Hubbell, the great pitcher who struck out the famous hitters.

Famous for his screwball. My father lived at 6th & Lehigh in Philadelphia, and when he was a kid, he and his friends would walk the 15 blocks to 21st & Lehigh and stand with their gloves outside Shibe Park, behind home plate, and wait for foul balls to come back over the roof. That was a day's entertainment. I miss the days when ballparks were right in neighborhoods, and the players often lived in our neighborhoods. Did any live near you?

Willie Mays lived around the corner when he was playing with the [New York] Giants. He could walk to work, really.

Did you play stickball or baseball?

I played stickball and softball. We used to go to Yankee Stadium and there were ballfields outside the stadium, so we'd play softball there. Other than that I played stickball on the streets.

The New York City game.

It was great. I'll never forget one particular homerun.

Did it go through a window?

[laughs] No, it just went a long way. Several houses up and over the roof. I'll never forget it, man. We lived on a block with houses on one side and the other side was a park going down. But that one side, I always wondered what would happen if we ever hit one and broke a window. But it never happened that I remember. Everybody loved baseball then. The people watched us from the windows. A lot of the older guys got a kick out of watching us play.

What was the ball in stickball? Was it a bunch of tape, balled up? I think we used what we called a pimple ball.

It was a rubber Spaldeen, usually a red color. A little smaller than a regular baseball.

Glenn Dryfoos

ATJ #62 
Sept 7, 2020

In honor of Sonny Rollins' 90th birthday, I've asked OJ to post a recent interview with Sonny where you can get a better sense of the man from his own words than from anything I could write.  To go along with the interview, here Is a small sample of my favorite recordings by our greatest living jazz musician.

Bouncing With Bud - Not yet 19 years old, in August of 1949 Sonny announced his arrival as a fully-formed jazz master on this recording with Bud Powell (piano), Fats Navarro (trumpet) and Roy Haynes (drums).  Amazingly, Hayes is 95 and still active:

The Way You Look Tonight - with his mentor, Thelonious Monk:

Body and Soul - although Lester Young was the primary influence on most tenor players of his generation, Sonny was transformed when he heard Coleman Hawkin's 1939 recording of Body and Soul and set out to capture the master's big tone (first by using a tenor reed on his alto sax, and then switching to tenor).  Here Sonny tackles the tune without a rhythm section:

The Eternal Triangle - Verve's Norman Granz had the inspired idea to record a blowing session with Rollins, Dizzy Gillespie and the other great sax-playing Sonny, Sonny Stitt.  Dizzy reportedly lit the fuse on the fireworks that followed by calling up each Sonny a few day before the session and telling him that the other Sonny was practicing hard and gunning for him.  Rollins solos first, then Stitt:

Tenor Madness - Rollins only recorded one song with his great friend and rival for the title of greatest tenor man ever, John Coltrane. Trane solos first, then Rollins.

Count Your Blessings - Sonny had a soft spot for pop songs that weren't otherwise part of the jazz vernacular, in particular songs associated with Bing Crosby.  This one was introduced by Bing in the movie White Christmas:

The Surrey With the Fringe on Top - Sonny pioneered the concept of the piano-less trio...that is, a horn playing only with bass and drum:

I'm An Old Cowhand - No one but Sonny would have the vision to turn a Crosby novelty tune that tells the story of a city slicker-wannabe cowboy ( into a modern jazz classic:

They Say It's Wonderful - This is video of Sonny at an incredibly youthful 78 to give you an idea of his power, presence and charisma as a performer. 

St. Thomas - Sonny came of age on the New York jazz scene with a number of other musicians whose families came from the West Indies (Randy Weston, Art Taylor and Roy Haynes to name just a few).  Sonny almost always included a tune with an island beat in his live sets.  His most famous calypso was the first one he recorded, on his classic album Saxophone Colossus:

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM

THE TIGHTENING NOOSE (profanity/degeneracy alert):

Leaked Details From Michael Cohen's Shocking Trump Memoir (National Memo, September 07 | 2020)

Trump admired Vladimir Putin, writes Cohen, because he wrongly believed that the Russian president is " the richest man in the world by a multiple." Trump loved Putin, Cohen wrote, "because the Russian leader had the ability 'to take over an entire nation and run it like it was his personal company -- like the Trump Organization, in fact.

"Trump's sycophantic praise of the Russian leader during the 2016 campaign began as a way to suck up and ensure access to the oligarch's money after he lost the election," the Post reports. But Cohen says Trump also believed that Putin's hatred Hillary Clinton, which dated back to her support for the 2011 protest movement in Russia, "could strengthen Trump's hand in the United States."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM

TO BE FAIR... (profanity alert):

Trump said to disparage evangelical Christianity as '[********]' before 2016 vote (Times of Israel, 9/07/20)

A tell-all memoir by Michael Cohen describes a scene ahead of the 2016 election in which Donald Trump allegedly said after meeting a group of prominent evangelical Christian leaders, "Can you believe that '[********]' ? Can you believe people believe that '[********]' ?" the Washington Post reported Monday.

Cohen said the US president made the comments following the departure of the religious leaders after they laid their hands on him in prayer at a meeting in Trump Tower.
"The cosmic joke was that Trump convinced a vast swathe of working-class white folks in the Midwest that he cared about their well-being," Cohen wrote, according to the newspaper. "The truth was that he couldn't care less."

...if they actually believed they couldn't support him.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


GoT: Modern Air Doctrine Would Have Really Helped Daenerys TargaryenThe aerial fiasco also demonstrated Daenerys' weaknesses as foreign invading power (Sebastien Roblin, 9/07/20, National Interest)

While her ally Jon Snow advances troops south by land, Daenarys moves her Unsullied infantry by sea to rebase her forces at Dragonstone, a fortress which offers a convenient staging ground for her ultimate goal: the capture of the capital of King's Landing, held by the villainous Cersei Lannister. Daenerys flies over her fleet with her two dragons, confident in her supremacy as Cersei has no air force, and her infantry and cavalry lack effective anti-dragon weapons.

Cersei's advisor Qyburn, however, has developed and mass-produced huge crossbows called 'scorpions'--ballistas which have the range and penetrating power to harm Daenerys's dragons. In the real world, ballistae were first developed by the Greeks and Romans as a form of naval and siege artillery (they played a role in Caesar's conquest of modern day France and Great Britain) and had an effective range of a few hundred meters.

Cersei's pirate-ally Euron Greyjoy deploys his ballista-equipped fleet to ambush Daenerys' forces, and knocks the dragon Rhaegal out of the sky with a surface-to-air barrage. Daenerys attempts an attack run on Eurons' fleet, but is forced to disengage in the face of heavy incoming fire.

Though the danger posed by the ballistae to Daenarys' dive-bombing attack is credible, the long-range volley which kill the dragon Rhaegal at high altitude is less so.

Though Euron uses an island to conceal his ships from Daenarys' fleet in an enfilade firing position, Daenerys should have had a huge spotting and scouting advantage simply because she can fly far overhead. Furthermore, as Euron's non-magical weapons are constrained by laws of physics, they should have a relatively short effective range, as they lose penetrating power over longs distances and lack guidance systems, a high rate of fire, and a blast effect. Usually one or two of these qualities are found in real-world anti-aircraft weapons.

However, Daenerys' fiasco makes more sense when considering how militaries often suffer their heaviest losses when surprised by relatively new technologies and tactics or which they haven't developed countermeasures.

September 6, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 6:39 PM


Biden's lead over Trump is the steadiest on record (Harry Enten, 9/06/20, CNN)

New CBS News/YouGov polls reveal that former Vice President Joe Biden maintains his grip on the 2020 race for president.

Biden's up 52% to 42% over President Donald Trump among likely voters nationally, and he has a 50% to 44% edge over Trump in the key battleground state of Wisconsin as well.

Biden's 10 point and 6 point advantages are the exact same they were when CBS News/YouGov polled the contests before the party conventions.

The polls are reflective of a race that barely budges even after two conventions, protests and unrest in some cities over police brutality and as the nation navigates the coronavirus pandemic. Indeed, the stability of this race is record breaking when looking at polling dating back to 1940.

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Report: Louis DeJoy Used Bonuses to Reimburse Employees for Donations to GOP Campaigns (Madison Pauley, 9/06/20, MoJo)

A bombshell investigation in the Washington Post is shedding new light Trump appointee Louis DeJoy's rise to prominence as a Republican fundraiser prior to his May 2020 appointment as US Postmaster General. According to the report, DeJoy pressured employees of his former business, New Breed Logistics, to donate to GOP candidates; he then would reimburse contributions using bonuses.

At least seven New Breed employees spoke to the Post, five of whom said they were pressured by DeJoy or his aides to give to Republicans and attend fundraisers. Two others reportedly said that at DeJoy's direction, bonus payments were "boosted" to offset the cost of the donations.

Posted by orrinj at 2:39 PM


Micheal Cohen claims Donald Trump is 'guilty of the same crimes' that landed him in prison (LAUREN FRUEN FOR DAILYMAIL.COM and ASSOCIATED PRESS, 6 September 2020. Daily Mail)

Michael Cohen has said Donald Trump is 'guilty of the same crimes' that landed him in a federal prison, after the former fixer pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations and lying to Congress. 

In his upcoming tell-all memoir the president's former personal lawyer has offered a blow-by-blow account of Trump's alleged role in a hush money conspiracy involving porn star Stormy Daniels.  

Cohen, who pleaded guilty to tax evasion, lying to Congress and campaign finance violations, calls himself the 'star witness' of the scandal that still could culminate in charges for Trump after he leaves office. 

Posted by orrinj at 2:36 PM


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On Third Anniversary of Trump Calling to End Dreamer Program Kamala Says 'We Still Have Your Back' (DAVID BRENNAN, 9/6/20, Newsweek)

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the DACA program in June, rejecting Trump's bid to end it. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the 5-4 majority opinion, describing Trump's effort to end DACA as "arbitrary and capricious."

Harris tweeted Saturday: "Three years ago today, the administration arbitrarily tried to end DACA and threw hundreds of thousands of Dreamers' lives into crisis. I want every Dreamer to know that we still have your back. Your home is here, and we must continue fighting to ensure that."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Is Donald Trump really anti-abortion? (Freddy Gray, September 6, 2020, Spectator USA)

According to some rather sensational leaked official notes in today's Daily Telegraph, however, Trump has said he regards abortion as 'such a tough issue'.

Addressing the then British prime minister Theresa May, who is well known as childless, Trump said in January 2017: 'Imagine some animal with tattoos raping your daughter, and then she gets pregnant.'

Aside from the staggering crassness of his remark to a woman who is on the record about her inability to have children, it also suggests that Trump is not as pro-life as many in his party would have voters believe. According to the notes, Trump also pointed to Mike Pence, the vice president and devout Christian, and said, 'He's a really tough one on abortion.' 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


All Men Are Created Equal: The deeper origins of that equality are where its meaning lies. (SHMUEL KLATZKIN, September 6, 2020, American Prospect)

[T]he contention is that there is a source which endows us with our rights. Thus, though these rights are foundational to our political state and in theory to all political states, it is because of a fundamental equality that stems directly from the Endower of our rights.

That source would be known to all who were biblically literate, as were most Americans of those days who had any literacy at all. The text is where the Bible itself deals with origins, the Book of Genesis, and within that book, the very first chapter: "And G-d created Man in His image."

What is that divine image in which the human being was created, according to Genesis?

Perhaps the most important assertion the Five Books of Moses make about God is unity -- God is one. Here, too, the text tells us of the creation of a single human being as the ancestor of us all.

English and Dutch republican thinkers at the dawn of Western democracy were deeply familiar with the rabbinic tradition on the foundations of law as the rabbis applied biblical principles to actual practical governance of a nation. One of the rabbinic texts most often cited by them is Tractate Sanhedrin from the Talmud. There we find the following texts:

The human being was created as single and unique so as to prevent clans from feuding with each other. That we find feuding clans anyway should lead us to imagine how much the worse it would be had two or more humans been created at the outset...

For this reason was man created as single and unique -- for the sake of peace between humankind, so that one person should not say to his fellow: My father was greater than yours.

No matter what the distinctions may be as humanity develops and differentiates into many individuals each with their unique lives, we are all equal with respect to our ultimate origin. It is in contemplation of that source that we find equality.

The genius of the Sanhedrin texts is that they portray this absolute equality of mankind not as something that requires a totalitarian fear of human individuality, but rather, that which allows us to be free and unique individuals while still belonging to a whole and peaceful nation and world. In the language of the text there again:

Therefore, the human being was created singular and unique ... for thus it demonstrates the greatness of the blessed Holy One. For whereas when man stamps many coins from one die, each one is an exact replica of the other, the Supreme King of Kings, the blessed Holy One stamped every person with the die of Adam yet no two are exactly the same.

"Equality" is tossed about a great deal, but if one is really seeking to impose uniformity and equal misery, in obedience not to citizen sovereigns but some canonized doctrine, then one has missed the deepest and best meaning of equality. The Founders, though, got that deeper meaning. We all come from one source. We are equally granted the rights to life, to liberty, and to property and are equally sovereigns of our land. The genius of understanding equality within difference is that it empowers each person to bring the full power of his or her unique and freely realized gifts to bear in peace, coordination, and harmony.

If God did not Create all Men in His Image, then none of the rest of it matters.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Oil Prices Face a Chill Autumn Wind (Julian Lee, September 6, 2020, Bloomberg)

As the summer driving season fades in the rearview mirror, oil markets are taking on a distinctly chilly air.

The recovery in demand has officially stalled, just as the OPEC+ countries are starting to taper their record output cuts. With spare capacity rife throughout the supply chain and huge stockpiles of crude and refined products, it may be some while yet before oil prices resume their upward path.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM

NO WONDER HE'S AT 3% WITH BLACK VOTERS (profanity alert):

Cohen's explosive new claims on Trump (Axios, 9/06/20)

The allegations: Per AP, in the book that's due out Tuesday, Cohen doubles down on claims denied by Trump that he paid adult film actress Stormy Daniels $130,000 before the last election. He alleges that the president said he'd "have to pay" first lady Melania Trump a "far greater sum" if the alleged affair became public, claiming that Trump reimbursed him for "fake legal fees" later.

"If it comes out, I'm not sure how it would play with my supporters. But I bet they'd think it's cool that I slept with a porn star," Trump allegedly said, according to Cohen.

In an excerpt seen by the Washington Post, Cohen alleges the president said: "I will never get the Hispanic vote. Like the Blacks, they're too stupid to vote for Trump."

On Russia, Cohen claims that Trump "loved" President Putin because he could "take over an entire nation and run it like it was his personal company -- like the Trump Organization."

In another excerpt, seen by CNN, Cohen writes that Trump allegedly hired a "Faux-Bama" to impersonate former President Obama in a video and "ritualistically belittled the first Black president and then fired him."

Cohen also writes that Trump allegedly said that the late South African leader Nelson Mandela "f---ed the whole country up" and "now it's a s--thole. F--- Mandela," according to WashPost.

"He was no leader," Cohen alleges Trump said. "Tell me one country run by a Black person that isn't a s--thole. They are all complete f--king toilets."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


"I would rather follow than lead": Trump reportedly deferred to the UK on standing up to Putin (BOB BRIGHAM, SEPTEMBER 6, 2020, Raw Story)

Meeting notes leaked to the British newspaper The Telegraph paint a fascinating picture of the relationship between the UK and America during the Trump era -- and also shed new light on Trump's relationship with Vladimir Putin.

The leaked documents are contemporaneous notes taken by U.S. officials "during seven meetings and calls involving either the leader or top foreign minister of Britain or America."

"Trump pushed back hard on Theresa May's pleas to expel Russian diplomats after the Skripal poisoning," the newspaper reported.

"I would rather follow than lead," the leader of the free world reported said.

No wonder Nancy Pelosi owns him.

September 5, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 6:32 PM


A video claimed to show an 'antifa war camp' in Portland. It's actually a shelter for homeless people during the COVID-19 pandemic. (The Associated Press, 9/05/2020)

A video widely shared across right-wing media claims to show a 'war camp' for antifa agitators in Portland. The video captured dozens of blue tents spread across two parking lots in SE Portland.

This claim is false. The two adjacent lots shown in the video are temporary homeless camps for unhoused Portland residents, according to two nonprofits that helped install them. The campsites were set up in April, predating racial justice protests that have persisted nightly in Portland since late May.

Posted by orrinj at 6:27 PM


Person Who Drove Car Through Crowd of Black Lives Matter Protesters in Times Square Released Without Charges (COLIN KALMBACHER, Sep 5th, 2020, Law & Crime)

The New York City Police Department (NYPD) has interviewed the man they believe is responsible for driving his car through a crowd of Black Lives Matter protesters in Times Square on Thursday night. The man was reportedly released without charges.

According to Gothamist, the car's license plates are registered to "pro-NYPD activist" Hakim Gibson. The Associated Press cited the Gothamist when reporting the same.

Posted by orrinj at 6:21 PM


The Mask-Defying Church at Center of Disastrous Maine Wedding Linked to 3 Deaths, 144 Virus Cases: The wedding at the Big Moose Inn has now been linked to three deaths and 144 coronavirus cases. But the pastor who officiated it doesn't seem bothered. (Kelly Weill, Sep. 05, 2020, Daily Beast)

Maine's biggest COVID-19 outbreak is linked to a wedding officiated by the pastor of a distancing-defying church who says masks are part of a "socialistic platform." Now more than 144 COVID-19 patients have been linked to the event, and three people are dead.

Todd Bell is pastor of the Calvary Baptist Church in Sanford, Maine. Famous for flying between ministries in multiple states on his private plane (God "burdened" his heart to do airplane ministry, he says), Bell flew in to officiate a rural Maine wedding on August 7.

That wedding is the nexus of 144 COVID-19 cases, including three that resulted in deaths, Maine officials said Friday. One of the deceased, an 83-year-old woman, did not even attend the wedding, but contracted the virus from a guest. None of this appears to be stopping Bell from doing business as usual in his church, calling on worshippers to trust "God, not government" as the pandemic progresses.

...that counsels disregard for your neighbors?

Posted by orrinj at 6:13 PM


Making an American: a review of One Mighty and Irresistible Tide: The Epic Struggle Over American Immigration, 1924-1965 by Jia Lynn Yang (Melody S. Gee (August 27, 2020, Commonweal)

The Johnson-Reed Act of 1924 is where Yang begins her story of this forty-year battle over immigration. In meticulous detail, she reveals how a seemingly singular historical event, like one law's ratification, is actually a confluence of circumstance, personal agenda, and public emotion. The passage of the Johnson-Reed Act, for instance, converged with the reemergence of the Ku Klux Klan, public anti-Semitism from prominent figures like Henry Ford, a post-World War I industrial depression, a steady rise in Japanese immigration, and lingering anxieties about white racial purity. All this pushed President Calvin Coolidge to impose severe immigration quotas based on the 1890 census, as well as a literacy test, immigrant-targeted taxes, and a ban on immigration from nearly all countries in Asia. The 1924 law relied on false nostalgia for a census that only seemed to depict a homogenous, Northern European-descended nation: in reality, 15 percent of the nation were immigrants in 1890. [...]

One Mighty and Irresistible Tide is a history of immigration discourse as much as it is a history of immigration law. Yang skillfully traces the ways in which words betray collective fears and insecurities. In the early twentieth century, politicians spoke of immigrants with dehumanizing detachment. They were, as Labor Secretary James J. Davis wrote in 1924, no longer the "beaver-men" of his lineage who had built up the country, but hordes of "rat-men" who needed to be weeded out if they could not be "assimilated," "absorbed," or "submerged" into American culture. Yang writes that immigrants were seen as invaders of the "American bloodstream"; as bent nails, too flimsy to build the state; or as weeds to be culled, lest they "choke or stunt" the American crop. Lawmakers worried that other nations would treat the United States as a "trash basket of all creation," dumping their least desirables who would then become dependent wards of the state. By the 1950s, Yang writes, the very definition of race had changed, as the idea of biological distinctions among races was abandoned after World War II and the horrors of eugenics. "Ethnicity," "cultural roots," and skin color began to make their way into discourse in what Yang calls a "rewiring of race in America." Such a shift made it possible for most European immigrants and their children to be seen as simply "white." By the time Eisenhower was president, lawmakers were using the term "refugee" to bring in survivors of natural disasters in Europe and people fleeing the Cuban Revolution.

Since 1965, Yang notes, the number of immigrants in the United States has quadrupled, despite the imposition of overall caps on numbers. However, this influx hasn't been marked by greater welcome or less prejudice. It is, in the end, a story of new vocabulary and how we made exceptions to the rules: refugees, asylum seekers, amnesty grantees, and family-reunification cases.

Today, many of our immigration anxieties seem unchanged from 1924. We fear the loss of resources, language, culture, and identity. We fear invasion and subversion. Immigration itself still seems to threaten an Americanness largely invented or misremembered. In light of the stories that Yang brings to life, we can more clearly see that new dehumanizing language ("illegals"; "aliens"; "anchor babies"; "terrorists") and policies (Muslim bans, border-detention camps, family separation) are also human creations. One Mighty and Irresistible Tide asks us to consider who is shaping immigration legislation; with what words and motivations they persuade; and how we too write the story with our words, our votes, or our silence.

Posted by orrinj at 4:09 PM


Multiple boats in distress, sinking at Trump Boat Parade on Lake Travis (CBS Austin, September 5th 2020)

Multiple 911 calls have been made regarding boats being in distress, some sinking at the 'Trump Boat Parade' scheduled for Saturday afternoon on Lake Travis, according to the Travis County Sheriff's Office.

Posted by orrinj at 2:41 PM


Trump and Russia echo each other in presidential race (Chris Megerian, Sep. 4, 2020, LA Times)

An hour into his rally Thursday night in a Pittsburgh suburb, President Trump slammed states that have expanded mail-in voting, a familiar target for his reelection campaign.

"These mail-in ballots are a disgrace, and they know it," he scoffed.

But Trump isn't alone in trying to undermine faith in absentee ballots. U.S. officials say a Russian disinformation campaign is pushing the same disruptive message to Americans four years after the Kremlin sought to help Trump win the White House.

A Homeland Security intelligence bulletin issued hours before Trump spoke in Latrobe, Pa., warned that a Moscow-backed operation involving state media and proxy websites had "denigrated vote-by-mail processes, alleging they lack transparency and procedural oversight, creating vast opportunities for voter fraud."

U.S. officials say Russia's operation includes false allegations that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden's health is failing and that he acted improperly in Ukraine when he served as vice president. Trump has made the same allegations.

The overlap in messaging between Trump's rhetoric and Russian disinformation in some ways echoes the symbiotic relationship between the president's first White House bid and Russian intelligence services in the 2016 election.

...why shouldn't Donald and Vlad be identical?

Posted by orrinj at 2:30 PM


Trade deficit soars to 12-year high despite Trump's promises to wipe it out (JAKE JOHNSON, SEPTEMBER 5, 2020, Salon)

[N]ew figures released by the Commerce Department on Thursday--nearly four years after Trump's victory in the 2016 presidential election--show that the trade deficit soared to a 12-year high in July due in large part to a surge in imports, bringing the total negative trade balance in the first seven months of 2020 to $340 billion.

"Trump pledged to eliminate the trade deficit and end job outsourcing, but the overall 2020 deficit is on track to be larger than when he took office, and his Labor Department has certified more than 300,000 American jobs were lost to outsourcing and imports during his presidency," Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, said in a statement.

Wallach noted that the 300,000 job-loss number is likely an underestimate given that it only "reflects the number of workers whose trade-related job losses were approved for Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) retraining and other benefits."

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Posted by orrinj at 11:31 AM


How Donald Trump Helped Kneecap the Robert Mueller of Latin America: Two television stars-turned-presidents pledged to drain the swamp. Then they joined forces to kill a powerful anti-corruption commission in Guatemala. (Aaron Glantz & Anayansi Diaz-Cortes, Sep. 05, 2020, Daily Beast)

"Look what happened in reality. It's a transaction where both parties seek to win something," Velásquez told Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting. "You help us by ending this persecution ... and we will help you."

Like the alleged Ukraine quid pro quo that sparked Trump's impeachment last year, the details can appear confusing-but ultimately, Velásquez says, the exchange was simple: Trump withdrew U.S. support for an international anti-corruption force that was investigating Morales and his family. Morales offered Guatemala's material support for policies at the heart of Trump's re-election bid.

Velásquez's anti-corruption force "was a bargaining chip," a senior policy adviser in the State Department told Reveal.

Posted by orrinj at 9:59 AM


Sarah Sanders calls Trump admin colleague a 'liberal, aggressive, foulmouthed Jew' in memoir (Matthew Chapman, 9/05/20, Raw Story)

On Saturday, Business Insider reported that former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders blasts one of her former colleagues as a "liberal, aggressive, foulmouthed Jew from New York City," in her memoir.

Posted by orrinj at 8:59 AM


Cadet Bone-Spurs reports for duty: He thinks America's war dead are "losers": Trailing in the polls and sneering at fallen warriors, Donald Trump dreams of a new civil war, fought by buffoons (LUCIAN K. TRUSCOTT IV, SEPTEMBER 5, 2020, Salon)

Donald Trump is surrounded by suckers and losers. Every night when he goes to bed in the White House, they're all around him. There is a hillside full of "losers" a couple of miles away across the Potomac River, buried at Arlington National Cemetery. The names of 58,000 "losers" are engraved into the black marble wall of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial only a mile away down Constitution Avenue. 

There are memorials to more suckers and losers on the Mall. The Korean War Memorial is just across the reflecting pool near the Lincoln Memorial. It pays homage to the 36,000 "losers" and "suckers" who died and the tens of thousands more who served in that conflict. The World War II Memorial is a short distance away, just off 17th Street, not far from the South Lawn of the White House where Trump spoke on the last night of his convention last week. The World War II memorial

The Vietnam Women's Memorial on the Mall depicts three uniformed women with a wounded soldier, another of Trump's "losers," the kind of disabled soldier Trump has said he doesn't want to participate in any of his parades because seeing such a "loser" might make people uncomfortable. 

Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic did us the favor this week of reminding us what Donald Trump really thinks of the active duty men and women currently serving in our armed forces, and of the veterans who served before them. "Why should I go to that cemetery? It's filled with losers," he quotes Trump as saying in 2018 when he refused to visit the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery near Paris. Trump blamed rain that day for the cancellation of his visit, claiming that his "helicopter couldn't fly." He claimed that the Secret Service agents who protect him wouldn't drive him to the ceremony at the cemetery. "Neither claim was true," Goldberg reminds us in The Atlantic. "In a separate conversation on the same trip, Trump referred to the more than 1,800 marines who lost their lives at Belleau Wood as 'suckers' for getting killed," Goldberg reports.

"Losers" and "suckers." That's what Trump calls the men and women who have given their lives in war defending this country and fighting against the forces which would destroy us. He's done it before. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:52 AM


Republicans vs. Imaginary Biden: Fighting a far left opponent despite not having one (Nicholas Grossman, Sep 5, 2020, ArcDigital)

His policies are moderate and relatively pro-market. As with Obama, the socialist left doesn't like Biden. Some denounce him as a tool of Wall Street.

He's an old white Catholic man with an established blue color image -- originally from Scranton, rode the train to Delaware to be with his kids, jokes in The Onion about washing his trans am -- which doesn't make for a good culture war enemy.

He supports some social justice -- for example, speaking in favor of peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters -- but proposes increasing, not defunding, police budgets, and speaks out against looting and rioting.

On race and gender, he is, again, an old white man. The social justice left backed other candidates in the primary. At the first debate, Kamala Harris tried to cancel him as a racist. Katie Halper, Ryan Grim, and other left media figures who amplified Tara Reade's accusation tried to cancel him as a rapist. Critics of social justice joined in, aiming to prove the flaws in #BelieveWomen by holding those who said it, including Biden, to their own standard. Sensing an opportunity to hurt Biden, loud parts of the online right and left piled on.

The attacks on racial issues went nowhere -- Obama's VP a racist? -- and Reade's accusations lost credibility the more reporters looked into them. Biden won the nomination earlier and more easily than Hillary or Obama.

Joe Biden is, in short, not the Left. And Democratic voters' decision to back him over more left-wing options -- of both socialist and social justice varieties -- shows that the party isn't dominated by the Left either.

It's essentially the GOP presidential primary of 1992: Pat Buchanan vs GHWB.

Posted by orrinj at 8:11 AM


Review Of Federal Charges In Portland Unrest Show Most Are Misdemeanors (Ryan Lucas, 9/05/20, NPR)

As of Aug. 28, the U.S. Attorney's Office for Oregon had charges outstanding against 74 people in connection with the Portland unrest.

Of those cases charged, 11 are for citations and 42 are for misdemeanors, meaning that more than 70% of the total charged cases are not felonies.

"A citation is the least serious of a charge, it's really more of a ticket," said Lisa Hay, the federal public defender for Oregon.

The misdemeanor cases are almost evenly divided between class A and class C misdemeanors.

A class C misdemeanor is one step above a citation, and is punishable by no more than one month in jail. In Portland, at least 19 people face class C misdemeanor charges for allegedly failing to comply with a lawful order.

"That might be somebody who's in front of the federal courthouse, on the sidewalk, and an order is issued to disperse, and they didn't disperse or they didn't move away quickly enough," said Hay.

The class A misdemeanor cases in Portland have typically involved an alleged assault of a federal officer but without physical contact. Such a case could involve, for example, verbally abusing an officer or pretending to throw an object.

These sorts of misdemeanors are punishable by no more than one year in prison.

Steve Kanter, a law professor and former dean at Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland, said the federal government's decision to arrest and charge people for offenses like failing to comply with a lawful order suggests that law enforcement officer were acting in a selective manner "to control and chill expression and activity."

Posted by orrinj at 7:40 AM


Trump campaign going dark in Arizona, cancels planned TV blitz (Jim Small -September 4, 2020, AZ Mirror)

Donald Trump's re-election campaign is going off Arizona airwaves after the Labor Day holiday, and may not resume television advertising in the Grand Canyon State until early voting begins in early October.

On Thursday, records filed with the Federal Communications Commission by Phoenix-area television stations showed that the Trump campaign cancelled all of its ads between Sept. 8 and Sept. 14. The air time totaled approximately $580,000 in the Phoenix media market, which includes most of the state except for the areas surrounding Tucson and Yuma.

A campaign spokeswoman confirmed Trump was suddenly going dark in a state where he has consistently trailed Democratic challenger Joe Biden in the polls -- a state that has only voted for a Democratic presidential candidate once since 1948.

He's already lost the election; it's just a matter of trying to hold onto enough red states to not look like McGovern or Dukakis.

Posted by orrinj at 7:37 AM


Trump mocks Joe Biden mask-wearing just as new research shows stricter compliance could save 120,000 lives in US over next 4 months (Raw Story, September 5, 2020)

Trump's statement--part of a broader defense of his administration's coronavirus response--came one day before the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IMHE) at the University of Washington announced its latest projection, which warns that under the most likely scenario, just over 410,000 people in the U.S.--and 2.8 million globally--will have died from Covid-19 by Jan. 1. Such an estimate means more than 220,000 additional coronavirus-related deaths in the U.S. alone during the remainder of 2020.

The best-case scenario, which assumes a near-universal adoption of face masks, is just under 290,000 coronavirus-related deaths in the U.S. by the end of the year--120,000 less than the current projection.

Under the worst-case scenario, which has the potential to occur if public health mandates are eased prematurely in favor of a so-called "herd immunity" approach, over 620,000 people in the U.S. will have succumbed to the disease by the start of 2021.

Posted by orrinj at 7:26 AM


Every time Trump has attacked American veterans or military families (James Pasley, Oct 30, 2019, Business Insider)

Serving in the military provides no protection from President Donald Trump's ire.

Trump has never served in any capacity. He received five military deferments -- one for bone spurs, and four for education -- during the Vietnam War.

But he's repeatedly disparaged the late Sen. John McCain, dragged his former officials, and told four-star generals they're overrated.

In the last few years, he's also started calling veterans who have been critical of him "Never Trumpers," which he has said are "human scum."

Here are 16 veterans or military families that Trump has disparaged.

Posted by orrinj at 7:20 AM


Pilot 'Sully' Tells Voters to Reject Trump for His 'Contempt' for Veterans in Atlantic Story (BRENDAN COLE, 9/5/20, Newsweek)

The Air Force veteran who won global renown for landing a jetliner on the Hudson River after it was disabled by a bird strike, has urged Americans not to vote for Donald Trump following a report that the president had disparaged U.S. soldiers who had fought in WW1. [...]

In a twitter thread on Friday evening, Sullenberger said that both he and his father had volunteered for service during wartime, and that he believed "serving a cause greater than oneself is the highest calling, whether in the military or in civilian life."

That's where you lose the Right.

Posted by orrinj at 7:16 AM


Trump: US has seen 'no proof yet' of Navalny poisoning (AFP, 9/05/20)

US President Donald Trump said Friday that he had not yet seen proof that Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny had been poisoned as stated by Germany.

Posted by orrinj at 7:04 AM


The paradox of Graham Greene - searching for peace in the world's warzones: a review of Russian Roulette: The Life and Times of Graham Greene by Richard Greene (Nicholas Shakespeare, The Spectator)

Greeneland is commonly a frontier zone in the back of beyond where the pervading smell is the police station; the usual time of day the pink-gin hour on the veranda; the only certainties those possessed by children. Over the border posts, God and the Devil wheel like vultures, and a loose fence separates the good man from the bad. For the rest of his life, Greene was attracted to this torrid region like a bluebottle.

A paradox of Greene is his constant buzzing after a borderland which might promise not only escapist thrills but equilibrium -- and where, like his double agent Maurice Castle in The Human Factor, 'he could be accepted as a citizen without any pledge of faith, not in the City of God or Marx, but the City called Peace of Mind'. Yet it was in his unsettled personality always to take sides, 'even if my choice might only be for a lesser evil'. Hence his frequently incendiary remarks about America's foreign policy, such as this corker involving Panama's pock-marked dictator, Manuel Noriega: 'If I have to choose between a drug dealer and United States imperialism, I prefer the drug dealer.'

It was an article of Greene's congested faith that relationships with individuals were more important than those with countries. Even so, Greene routinely betrayed or declined involvement with those closest to him -- his wife, his two children, his lovers. 'I wish I could stop being a bastard,' he wrote to Catherine Walston, his most passionate mistress. Unsurprisingly, this streak of disloyalty, which he interpreted with characteristic perversity as a virtue in others, contributed to regular bouts of self-loathing and thoughts of suicide.

It was easier to help strangers -- which maybe explains his generosity towards underdogs and dissidents, and, most controversially, his stubborn loyalty to Philby, under whom he had served in wartime intelligence. Still, Richard Greene questions the moral principle behind it: 'It suggests a failure of imagination; one cannot put a value on the pains of people one has never met, and that is what novelists claim to do in their art.' Likewise, he finds dubious Greene's argument for the moral equivalence of crimes committed by the East and West. 'Even allowing for the outrages of American foreign policy, it is hard to equate them with those of Stalin and his successors.' Perhaps Greene's deeper flaw was to confuse his preeminence as a writer with a degree of political thinking he did not possess.

It's that same moral vacuousness as E.M. Forster--If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country--which made so many intellectuals collaborators with the Soviets.  Of course, Greene was so empty-headed he didn't even understand his own books, which left him wingeing at critics who correctly read his texts, like Heart of the Matter.

Posted by orrinj at 6:54 AM


Trump supporters plotted trip to Kenosha to 'pick people off': feds (Brad Reed , 9/04/20, Raw Story)

Local news station WISN reports that Missouri residents Michael Karmo and Cody Smith were arrested by federal agents in a hotel parking lot this week after the FBI learned on Tuesday that they were driving to Kenosha armed with a large cache of weapons.

According to WISN, agents searched the men's vehicle and hotel room and found "an Armory AR-15 assault rifle, a Mossberg 500 AB 12-Gauge shotgun, two handguns, a silencer, ammunition, body armor, a drone and other materials."

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Officials also say that the two men were planning to travel to Portland, Oregon after their Kenosha stop, where they had pledged to "take action" if the city moved forward with defunding its police department.

According to a criminal complaint filed against them, both Karmo and Smith "are part of the 417 2nd Amendment Militia of Missouri" and that they "went to Kenosha to attend President Donald Trump's rally."

Posted by orrinj at 6:49 AM


Fox News confirms report on Trump's troop bashing on Twitter -- but on-air claims story is debunked (BOB BRIGHAM, SEPTEMBER 5, 2020, Raw Story)

Fox News on Friday became the latest publication to confirm President Donald Trump's contempt for Americans who serve in our armed forces.

The network joined the Associated Press and The Washington Post in confirming the reporting, which originally appeared in The Atlantic.

But soon after Fox News confirmed the report on Twitter, the reporting was referred to as "debunked" and a "hoax" on the Fox News show "The Five."

Posted by orrinj at 6:46 AM


After anti-Semitic content, GOP candidate has post removed for inciting violence (JEFF AMY, 9/04/20, AP) 

Facebook removed a photo illustration showing a Republican congressional candidate in Georgia posing with a rifle next to three Democratic House members, saying Friday that it violated the social media platform's policy against inciting violence.

The illustration, a montage of four photos, was posted Thursday by Marjorie Taylor Greene, a candidate who has previously courted controversy with her support of a baseless conspiracy theory involving US President Donald Trump and her inflammatory remarks about two Muslim congresswomen.

September 4, 2020

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Posted by orrinj at 8:04 AM


What would make me vote Republican again (Scott Galupo, September 4, 2020, The Week)

1. Truth and reconciliation. My first criterion is not a matter of policy or ideology. It should be an easy one: Tell the truth. The whole truth. As Josh Marshall has written at Talking Points Memo, we're going to need a full audit of everything that has transpired under the cover of darkness (and many, many defied subpoenas) in Trump's executive branch: "We simply cannot move forward as a society or a political system without a thorough accounting of the totality of what happened during this unparalleled era of lawlessness, corruption, and misgovernance." The Ukraine boondoggle was no doubt the tip of a very large iceberg. We could never be certain whether Trump was representing his financial and political interests, or the country's, while interfacing with world leaders such as the presidents of Turkey and China. He never separated himself from the Trump Organization, and barely pretended to; in fact, he funneled public money to it throughout his presidency. As we speak, Trump is corrupting, in more or less plain view, several government agencies in his re-election effort. ("Warp speed" vaccine by early November, anyone?)

The Republican Party in Trump's wake needs to own this legacy of corruption. And it needs to apologize to the public for abetting it and covering it up. An administration that was, from beginning to end, one gigantic conflict of interest would never have been tolerated if led by a Democrat. This will require a package of ethics and legislative reforms. [...]

4. Immigration and race. At a cost to both humanity and long-term economic growth, the Trump administration has managed to significantly reduce the rate of legal immigration to the U.S. For Trump and his odious racist handmaid Stephen Miller, I imagine this is a proud and deeply felt accomplishment. Yet it is mind-bogglingly stupid and counterproductive -- not to mention, in the case of refugees, immoral. The next Republican standard-bearer must reverse this course. As for the matter of what to do with 12 million undocumented workers, the solution is the same as it was in 2005. It is the same as it was when Mitt Romney desperately tried to avoid admitting it in 2012. And it is the same as it was when Sen. Marco Rubio layered some new perfume on it 2013: bring them out from the shadows, send them to the end of the line, collect back taxes where applicable -- and move the heck on from this godforsaken entanglement with white nationalism and restrictionism.

Posted by orrinj at 8:00 AM


Tesla's Gigafactory (Alex Tabarrok,  September 2, 2020, Marginal Revolution)

Elon Musk has said that he thinks not of building cars but of building factories that make cars, the machine that makes the machine. [...]

Three points of note. The factory was up and running in 10 months. There are lots of robots, in a factory in China-that tells you a lot about Chinese wages and the productivity of robots today.

Your next car will be a Volt.

Posted by orrinj at 7:48 AM


Trump's rhetoric on protests seen as detrimental by majority of Americans: POLL (Kendall Karson, September 4, 2020, ABC News)

Over half of the country -- 55% -- in the new poll, which was conducted by Ipsos in partnership with ABC News using Ipsos' Knowledge Panel, said they think Trump is aggravating the situation, while just over one in 10 Americans, 13%, said they think he is making it better. Fewer than one-third, 29%, believe what Trump has said on the topic has had no effect on the protests over racial injustice.

Among his base, 30% of Republicans say the president is improving the situation, compared to 26% who say he's having an adverse impact. Only 18% of white, non-college educated Americans, another core constituency for the president, believe he is having a positive effect on the protests, while 41% view his comments on the demonstrations amid the debate over racial equality as having a negative influence.

The Right has never processed the reality that Hillary lost rather than Donald winning, so they took all the wrong messages from 2016.

Posted by orrinj at 7:26 AM


Privately built border wall will fail, engineering report says (JEREMY SCHWARTZ AND PERLA TREVIZO, 9/02/20, THE TEXAS TRIBUNE AND PROPUBLICA)

It's not a matter of if a privately built border fence along the shores of the Rio Grande will fail, it's a matter of when, according to a new engineering report on the troubled project.

The report is one of two new studies set to be filed in federal court this week that found numerous deficiencies in the 3-mile border fence, built this year by North Dakota-based Fisher Sand and Gravel. The reports confirm earlier reporting from ProPublica and The Texas Tribune, which found that segments of the structure were in danger of overturning due to extensive erosion if not fixed and properly maintained. Fisher dismissed the concerns as normal post-construction issues.

Donations that paid for part of the border fence are at the heart of an indictment against members of the We Build the Wall nonprofit, which raised more than $25 million to help President Donald Trump build a border wall.

Sic transit the Trumpbots white supremacist dream. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:21 AM


'Vile and disgusting' Trump hated by many military service members: Retired general (Brad Reed, 9/04/20, Raw Story)

Ret. Gen. Mark Hertling on Friday told CNN's Jim Sciutto that many military service members do not think much of President Donald Trump and his views on the military.

In the wake of an explosive story in The Atlantic, in which multiple sources claimed Trump disparaged American soldiers killed during World War I as "suckers" and "losers," Sciutto asked Hertling what he's heard from other military service members about how the president sees the military.

"Well, there's a variety of views, Jim, as you well know," he said. "But the ones I've been talking to, and there have literally been hundreds, have said that this is vile and disgusting."

Posted by orrinj at 7:18 AM


Trump's Law And Order Message Isn't Resonating With Most Americans (Geoffrey Skelley, 9/04/20, 538)

Given the underlying support for these protests, a major challenge remains for the president: Many Americans doubt his ability to fix the problems and reduce tensions that have precipitated the demonstrations. According to a YouGov survey on Wednesday, 56 percent of adults said that the violence happening at protests would get worse if Trump were reelected this November. Fifteen percent thought the violence would stay at similar levels, while 18 percent thought it would improve (11 percent said they didn't know). Conversely, 43 percent thought protest violence would get better if Joe Biden won, and just 23 percent thought it would worsen. Somewhat similarly, 50 percent of likely voters told Quinnipiac University this week that they felt less safe with Trump as president, compared with 35 percent who said they felt safer. These voters were more split on Biden, however: 42 percent said they'd feel safer with Biden in the White House, and 40 percent said they'd feel less safe.

Furthermore, other polling continued to show that voters preferred Biden's prospective handling of race relations, public safety and unifying the country. In this week's Quinnipiac poll, 58 percent of likely voters said Biden would handle the issue of racial inequality better, compared with 36 percent who said Trump would fare better. A new CNN/SSRS poll found a similar breakdown -- 56 percent of registered voters said Biden, and 38 percent said Trump. According to Politico/Morning Consult's new survey, 51 percent said Biden would do a better job handling race relations versus 32 percent who said Trump; 47 percent said that Biden would better handle public safety versus 39 percent who said Trump would. Even on an issue that might fold in better with Trump's law-and-order messaging, 51 percent of registered voters told CNN/SSRS that Biden would do a better job dealing with the criminal justice system, compared with 44 percent who said Trump would. CNN/SSRS also found that 56 percent thought Biden stood a better chance of unifying the country and not dividing it, while just 36 percent thought Trump stood a better chance.

Posted by orrinj at 7:12 AM


Posted by orrinj at 7:04 AM


Exclusive: How a pro-Trump Black group became an off-the-books Turkish lobbying campaign: A Salon investigation reveals a strange tale of Black Trump surrogates who tried to leverage Turkish billions (ROGER SOLLENBERGER, SEPTEMBER 4, 2020 , Salon)

In 2018, officials with a controversial pro-Trump nonprofit called the Urban Revitalization Coalition (URC) -- which recently lost its tax-exempt charity status and made headlines earlier this year with suspicious cash giveaways to Black voters -- facilitated an off-the-books foreign influence campaign on behalf of powerful people in Turkey, according to social media posts and people familiar with the organization.

URC officials Darrell Scott and Kareem Lanier, both prominent Trump surrogates in the Black community, are said by multiple sources to have used the organization as a vehicle to "solicit donations," including from wealthy Turkish nationals. Some of these solicitations came by way of former MAGA-world star Rabia Kazan, whom they hired strictly for that purpose, according to Kazan and people familiar with the arrangement.

We all owe Joe an apology.

Posted by orrinj at 7:00 AM


Google's Quantum Computer Achieves Chemistry Milestone  (Neil Savage, September 4, 2020, Scientific American)

When researchers at Google announced last fall that they had achieved "quantum superiority"--a point at which a quantum computer can perform a task beyond the reach of regular computers--some  people wondered what the big deal was. The program, which checked the output of a random number generator, was of limited practical value and did not prove that the company's machine could do anything useful, critics said.

Now, however, Google's quantum computer has achieved something that could have real-world applications: successfully simulating a simple chemical reaction.

Posted by orrinj at 6:57 AM


Tom Seaver Was the Best Pitcher of His Generation--and Maybe Every Other Generation, Too: The Mets great died on Monday at the age of 75, but his historical record stands up against that of just about any pitcher who came before or after him (Michael Baumann  Sep 3, 2020, The Ringer)

In his 2001 New Historical Baseball Abstract, Bill James rated Seaver the sixth-best pitcher of all time, behind Warren Spahn and four pitchers whose careers were over by World War II. "There's actually a good argument that Tom Seaver should be regarded as the greatest pitcher of all time," wrote James. "Where Seaver rates ... depends to a large extent on how steep one believes the incline of history to be. Since no one can say with any confidence how much tougher the game has become, it is certainly reasonable to argue that the accomplishments of early pitchers should have been marked off by more than I have discounted them, and thus that Seaver's record, in context, is more impressive than [Walter Johnson's]."

James wrote that before Roger Clemens and Pedro Martínez--two of the half-dozen or so pitchers with a legitimate statistical claim to the title of best pitcher ever--were out of their primes, so suffice it to say the math has shifted a little in the past 20 years. But a more thorough examination of Seaver's statistical record compared to other pitchers of his era reveals his greatness.

Seaver was one of 10 Hall of Fame pitchers to debut between 1962 and 1969. In addition to a couple of edge cases, that list includes Jim Palmer, a three-time Cy Young winner like Seaver, Nolan Ryan, Steve Carlton, Phil Niekro, and Don Sutton--four of the other nine pitchers to win 300 games and strike out 3,000 batters.

There's a tendency in baseball to view contemporary Hall of Fame-caliber players as equals, even if the numbers show one to be clearly better than the other. Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio, Barry Bonds and Griffey, A-Rod and Jeter, Mike Trout and Mookie Betts. A Hall of Famer is a Hall of Famer, but there's a difference between the best player of his era and the second-best. Sometimes a big difference.

That's a tough thing to imagine, let alone to prove, especially when the other guys at the same position in the same era are legendary figures like Carlton and Ryan. When those two retired, they were 1-2 all time in strikeouts. Ryan had thrown more no-hitters (seven) and appeared in more MLB seasons (27) than any other pitcher in history. Carlton had won more Cy Young awards (four) than any other pitcher ever. His 1972 campaign, in which he won 27 games for a woebegone Phillies team that won just 59 games total, had become the stuff of legend. Ryan had unparalleled velocity and durability, while Carlton had the legendary wipeout slider and was the best-conditioned pitcher in baseball.

But both were inconsistent, and Ryan in particular was prone to fits of wildness. Seaver was great enough, consistently enough, to be taken for granted.

Seaver made his major league debut in 1967 at the age of 22. That year, he made 34 starts, threw 251 innings, posted an ERA of 2.76, and was named NL Rookie of the Year. In each of the 13 seasons that followed, Seaver made at least 32 starts, threw at least 215 innings, and posted an ERA of 3.20 or less. His worst ERA+ in that 14-season span, 112, is equal to Ryan's career average. His second-worst single-season ERA+, 115, is equal to Carlton's career average.

Seaver won his first Cy Young in 1969, when the Mets won their first title, by going 25-7 with a 2.21 ERA and allowing fewer hits per inning than any other pitcher in the National League. He lost a razor-thin MVP race to Willie McCovey that year--both men received 11 first-place votes but McCovey had better downballot support. Seaver won another Cy Young the next time the Mets won the pennant, in 1973, and a third in 1975. His 61 career complete-game shutouts are most of any pitcher who debuted after World War II, and more than all MLB pitchers have put together in total in the past three years. If you want to ding Seaver for not being as big a strikeout pitcher as his two contemporaries, fine, but Seaver led the NL in strikeouts five times and in K/9 ratio six times. At the time of his retirement Seaver was third all time (behind Carlton and Ryan) in total strikeouts and fifth in K%.

Posted by orrinj at 6:23 AM


Google Introduces 6-Month Career Certificates, Threatening to Disrupt Higher Education with "the Equivalent of a Four-Year Degree" (Colin Marshall, September 3rd, 2020, Open C ulture)

Google's new Career Certificates in "the high-paying, high-growth career fields of Data Analytics, Project Management, and User Experience (UX) Design," which join their existing IT Support and IT Automation in Python Certificates. Hosted on the online education platform Coursera, these programs (which run about $300-$400) are developed in-house and taught by Google employees and require no previous experience. To help cover their cost Google will also fund 100,000 "need-based scholarships" and offer students "hundreds of apprenticeship opportunities" at the company "to provide real on-the-job training." None of this guarantees any given student a job at Google, of course, but as Walker emphasizes, "we will consider our new career certificates as the equivalent of a four-year degree."

Technology-and-education pundit Scott Galloway calls that bachelor's-degree equivalence the biggest story in his field of recent weeks. It's perhaps the beginning of a trend where tech companies disrupt higher education, creating affordable and scalable educational programs that will train the workforce for 21st century jobs. This could conceivably mean that universities lose their monopoly on the training and vetting of students, or at least find that they'll increasingly share that responsibility with big tech.

This past spring Galloway gave an interview to New York magazine predicting that "ultimately, universities are going to partner with companies to help them expand." He adds: "I think that partnership will look something like MIT and Google partnering. Microsoft and Berkeley. Big-tech companies are about to enter education and health care in a big way, not because they want to but because they have to."

September 3, 2020

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Posted by orrinj at 7:27 PM


Joe Biden seeks to soothe city on edge after speaking with Jacob Blake (AFP, 9/03/20)

Joe Biden called out the "underlying racism" in America Thursday as he sought to soothe the protest-scarred Midwestern city of Kenosha, where the presidential hopeful spoke with a black father shot in the back by a white policeman.

Biden sat down for a private talk with Jacob Blake's father and other relatives, and revealed later that he had spoken for about 15 minutes by telephone with Blake as the 29-year-old was recovering in hospital.

"He talked about how nothing was going to defeat him, how whether he walked again or not, he was not going to give up," Biden said of Blake, whose lawyers say he is likely paralyzed from the waist down.

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Describing himself repeatedly as an optimist, Biden -- speaking through a face mask -- told a small community gathering in Kenosha that the majority of Americans support the Black Lives Matter movement for racial equality.

But he also warned that President Donald Trump has fueled the racial animus which has roiled the nation in recent months.

"Not all his fault," but Trump's heated and racially charged language "legitimizes the dark side of human nature," Biden said at Grace Lutheran Church, where a crowd of mostly-masked supporters gathered outside.

The president's rhetoric has exposed "the underlying racism that is institutionalized in the United States, and still exists, and has existed for 400 years," he added.

Posted by orrinj at 7:10 PM

Posted by orrinj at 3:25 PM


Poll: Biden leads Trump by 8 points in Pennsylvania, 3 in Florida (MATTHEW CHOI, 09/03/2020m Politico)

In both Pennsylvania and Florida, those polled overwhelmingly said they had made up their minds with little chance of changing who they support on Election Day. In Florida, 93 percent of respondents said they were sure of their choice, while 94 percent said so in Pennsylvania.

Posted by orrinj at 1:11 PM


I am a Republican vote for Biden (Rick Snyder, 9/03/20, USA Today)

Forty-four years ago, I celebrated my 18th birthday at the 1976 Republican National Convention as part of Gerald Ford's national youth group. At that convention, I had the honor to watch two great leaders in action -- Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan. I have remained a lifelong Republican and proudly announced Michigan's support for Mitt Romney in 2012 from the front row of the Republican convention in Tampa.

I will continue to support and stand up for Republican policies and values, and support Republican candidates, but I will not support Donald Trump for reelection.

When elected to office, you do not represent only your supporters, you represent all of your constituents. That is your job. I was at the nation's Capitol when Trump gave his inaugural address. I had hoped this first speech as president would be a message to unify a divided nation. Instead, I heard a speech directed at how he would help the people who supported him. And sadly, that is how President Trump continues to govern.

Posted by orrinj at 1:00 PM


Grateful to Gorbachev (Richard Vinen, September 4, 2020, TLS)

Given the frequency with which he is favourably compared to the present incumbent of the White House, it is worth recalling what his contemporaries thought of Ronald Reagan. Mikhail Gorbachev told the Politburo that they were dealing with a "caveman". Margaret Thatcher turned to her Foreign Secretary after a meeting in the White House and said, tapping her head, "there is nothing there". George Shultz, the US Secretary of State from 1982 to 1989, told Reagan, after a summit with the Soviet Union: "You cannot just sit there telling jokes". The astonishing thing, though, is that, on the central issue of his time, Reagan was right and almost all his numerous moral and intellectual superiors were wrong. In 1983, he said that communism was a "sad bizarre chapter in human history whose last pages are even now being written". Compare this prescience with a British ambassador who remarked in February 1985: "There's one thing we all know, the Soviet Union isn't going to change".

Robert D. Kaplan put it best:

(In perceiving the Soviet Union as permanent, orderly, and legitimate, Kissinger shared a failure of analysis with the rest of the foreign-policy elite -- notably excepting the scholar and former head of the State Department's policy-planning staff George Kennan, the Harvard historian Richard Pipes, the British scholar and journalist Bernard Levin, and the Eureka College graduate Ronald Reagan.)

Of course, the other key guy who realized the USSR was toast was Andropov.

Posted by orrinj at 8:46 AM


Portland Police Oversight Board Members Resign, Say There Is No Accountability (ANA DE LIZ, 9/3/20, Newsweek)

The three members have rescinded their place in the 11-person Citizen Review Committee, which serves as a volunteer advisory board to the Independent Police Review--the city's police oversight agency that investigates complaints made against police officers.

"The events of this past weekend were a tipping point for me," wrote member Adam Green in his Wednesday resignation letter.

Last weekend, a Portland resident called Aaron J. Danielson was shot and killed when supporters of President Donald Trump clashed with protesters against police brutality.

Following the shooting, protesters gathered outside of Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler's home and called for his resignation. On Monday, video emerged of a police officer repeatedly punching a protester on the ground while trying to detain him.

"We continue to witness excessive force used by officers on the streets. Members of the media continue to be threatened. Armed Trump supporters are allowed to parade through downtown Portland while pointing guns at people that aren't wearing Trump gear."

"These are just a few examples of a failed system with failed leadership. I can no longer support this system in any way," Green, who was appointed as a recorder at the Citizen Review Committee in April of this year, said.

For the Right, the Blue exists to murder blacks.

Posted by orrinj at 8:40 AM


Louis Armstrong's Rapturous First Tour Through the American South: Ricky Riccardi on the Musician's Enthusiastic Reception in New Orleans: excerpt from Heart Full of Rhythm: The Big Band Years of Louis Armstrong by Ricky Riccardi  (Ricky Riccardi, September 3, 2020, Lit Hub)

About to embark on a southern tour for the first time, Louis Armstrong was leaving behind the comfort of the police escort that kept him safe in Chicago. He needed a bodyguard and decided to hire a friend from his past, drummer "Little" Joe Lindsey. Armstrong was once the cornetist in Lindsey's Brown Skin Jazz Band, one of his first professional experiences as a musician. He also invited his down-on-his-luck New Orleans friend--and "one of the all-around gamblers of that period"--"Professor" Sherman Cook to be his valet and serve as something of a personal secretary. New Orleans was his eventual destination and it would help to have two homeboys to keep him safe in the south.

Kentucky was the first stop for what was billed as "Louis Armstrong of Screen, Stage and Record Fame and His Okeh Recording Orchestra"; multiple advertisements played up Armstrong's appearance in Ex-Flame, further proof of the importance of this film at this point in his career. They played a dance date on May 15th at the Club Madrid, the night before the Kentucky Derby, and followed that with a "Kentucky Derby Ball" in Louisville.

"We were the first colored band ever to play that, and that was some engagement," saxophonist George James recalled. Collins had to take gigs wherever he could find them, which meant following the Kentucky sojourn by traveling back up north to Detroit to play opposite McKinney's Cotton Pickers at the Graystone Ballroom and Jean Goldkette's Orchestra at the Blue Lantern.

Armstrong's reed-heavy band cooked on stage, and in guitarist Mike McKendrick they had a good "straw boss" to discipline the members and make sure they were always ready when they needed to be. Bassist John Lindsay of New Orleans (no relation to Joe) joined in Detroit, a solid addition who locked in with drummer Tubby Hall to form a potent rhythm team. But what the band really needed was a music director and in Detroit, they found one in trumpeter Zilner T. Randolph.

Posted by orrinj at 8:36 AM


Trump looks alone on the world stage as international leaders line up to condemn the poisoning of Russian dissident Alexey Navalny (Thomas Colson and Adam Bienkov, 9/03/20, Business Insider)

Donald Trump looks increasingly alone on the world stage, as he fails to join the growing international outrage over the poisoning of the Russian opposition leader, and leading critic of President Putin, Alexey Navalny.

Posted by orrinj at 8:14 AM


Hard to pardon: why Tenet's muffled dialogue is a very modern problem: Christopher Nolan's latest blockbuster is already infamous for its barely-audible exchanges. As sound technology advances, why are films getting harder to hear? (Ralph Jones, 3 Sep 2020, The Guardian)

There is a wonderful exchange in Christopher Nolan's latest film, Tenet, between Robert Pattinson and John David Washington. "Hngmmhmmh," says Pattinson. "Mmghh nmmhhmmmm nghhh," replies Washington. Marvellous.

This is how much of Tenet sounded to viewers in cinemas. The film's dialogue has been criticised by reviewers and audience members for often being impossible to make out. Given how hard Nolan's blockbuster would be to understand even if all the dialogue was crystal-clear, it is curious that the director has made it doubly difficult to hear the story of a screenplay he supposedly spent five years writing.

But it isn't just Nolan's films. It's a much-repeated claim that movie dialogue is becoming harder and harder to hear. What is going on?

Mathew Price is a production sound mixer who has worked on The Sopranos and The Marvellous Mrs Maisel. "When they take the sound we record on set and kind of undermix it, it feels like, 'What did we try so hard for?'" he says. Price believes the problem is partly that modern directors have so many more tracks to play with, causing "track overload", the result being that "the dialogue gets short shrift a lot of the time".

Films don't just look better on your home screen, you can also turn on the subtitles.  Why would theaters ever re-open.

Posted by orrinj at 8:03 AM


Chester Changes Marketing Message To Reach COVID Refugees (HOWARD WEISS-TISMAN, SEP 1, 2020, VPR News)

Bloomberg News reported this week that Vermont leads the nation when looking at the percent of people moving into the state compared to those moving out.

An ongoing UVM study is also finding that more than a third of the people who came here at the start of the pandemic are planning to stay.

And so towns across Vermont are noticing.

"I don't ever want to say that a pandemic is an opportunity, because I don't feel that way," said Chester Town Manager Julie Hance. "But I do think that now is the time that we need to start getting ourselves out there."

Hance just asked her town's select board to spend $10,000 on a marketing campaign targeting COVID refugees.

Posted by orrinj at 7:34 AM


Tom Seaver transformed the New York Mets and transfixed their fans (David Schoenfield, 9/02/20, ESPN)

Fifty-one years later, it might still be the greatest baseball story ever told. The Miracle Mets of 1969, never having finished above .500, going from ninth place in 1968 to the World Series title. The hapless, bumbling, laughingstock New York Mets, most famous for the time Marv Throneberry hit an apparent game-winning triple only to have missed first base, with the Mets instead losing the game. Those luckless, atrocious Mets, whom Casey Stengel explained had selected a certain catcher in the expansion draft because they needed somebody to prevent the ball from rolling to the backstop.

That's how the Mets were born and, boy, were they bad. They lost 120 games that first season in 1962 and followed up with seasons of 111, 109 and 112 losses. In 1966, they climbed out of last place for the first time -- all the way up from 10th place to ninth. The fans in Queens loved them nonetheless. Even though the Mets lost 95 games that year, they finished second in the major leagues in attendance.

The transformation from lovable losers to champions began in 1967. It began with Tom Seaver.

Why Tom Seaver was the only poster on my wall (Tim Brown, 9/03/20, Yahoo Sports)

He won 311 games. Three Cy Youngs. He went to the Hall of Fame. He became baseball royalty.

More, way more, he was the best player on the only favorite team I'd ever have.

When the Sunday newspaper came with one of those iron-on decals, and this week it was him, and I'd come downstairs with the biggest white T-shirt I could find, thinking that was the one I'd grow out of last, and then stand next to the ironing board in my Toughskins while my mom waited for the iron to -- click-click-click -- warm. When I'd sit out in the bleachers and there he was, tiny, but there he was, and then everyone around me was just as taken as I was, and it was OK to be a Mets fan. When in the pictures in the paper he was so young and seemed so happy, always caught laughing, like there was nothing to worry about, that he'd be fine, that the Mets would be fine, that I could sleep soundly under his image on the wall.

I don't know how you're supposed to replace that in your soul. Fifty years later, he's what the game looks like for me on its best days. Not because he had a low ERA. Not because he was a great pitcher and one of the best ever. But because there are moments on those best days for baseball, no matter who you are or how long you've been watching, no matter how hardened you've grown, that you wholly believe in. Mike Trout against a fastball. Max Scherzer on a hot night in late September. Joey Votto at 0-and-2. Mookie Betts getting his legs under him with a man at third base. Fernando Tatis Jr. from the hole.

If Tom Seaver and a bunch of other guys (I could give you all of their names) can win a World Series and steal a 7-year-old's heart forever, then what else could you believe in?

Just about anything.

Yeah, your team picks you. You grow old with any luck. And then one night you say goodbye. And thanks.

I literally cried when they traded him.

September 2, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 9:42 PM



"Pitching is what makes me happy. I've devoted my life to it. I live my life around the four days between starts. It determines what I eat, when I go to bed, what I do when I'm awake. It determines how I spend my life when I'm not pitching. If it means I have to come to Florida and can't get tanned because I might get a burn that would keep me from throwing for a few days, then I never go shirtless in the sun. If it means when I get up in the morning I have to read the box scores to see who got two hits off Bill Singer last night instead of reading a novel, then I do it. If it means I have to remind myself to pet dogs with my left hand or throw logs on the fire with my left hand, then I do that, too. If it means in the winter I eat cottage cheese instead of chocolate chip cookies in order to keep my weight down, then I eat cottage cheese. I might want those cookies but I won't ever eat them. That might bother some people but it doesn't bother me. I enjoy the cottage cheese. I enjoy it more than I would those cookies because I know it will help me do what makes me happy.

"Life isn't very heavy for me. I've made up my mind what I want to do. I'm happy when I pitch well so I only do those things that help me be happy. I wouldn't be able to dedicate myself like this for money or glory, although they are certainly considerations. If I pitch well for 15 years I'll be able to give my family security. But that isn't what motivates me. What motivates some pitchers is to be known as the fastest who ever lived. Some want to have the greatest season ever. All I want is to do the best I possibly can day after day, year after year. Pitching is the whole thing for me. I want to prove I'm the best ever."

Tom Seaver is the youngest pitcher in the history of baseball to sign a contract for more than $100,000 a season. He has averaged 19 victories a year for the New York Mets. At the age of 27, after five full seasons in the major leagues, he had won 95 ball games. Walter Johnson, who won more games than any pitcher in this century, won only 80 in his first five seasons. Grover Cleveland Alexander, second to Johnson, won 70 games by the time he reached his 27th birthday; Sandy Koufax, 68; Bob Gibson, 34; Warren Spahn, 29.

Thomas George Seaver has one of those smooth, boyish. Middle American faces that would be a burden to some men. He possesses the handsomeness so prized in the 1950s of Pat Boone and Tab Hunter. It is a temptation to describe his face as having too little character when you would more rightly mean too few characteristics. It is a face of undistinguished parts, which are subordinate only to a single clear impression of uncluttered good looks.

Seaver stands 6'½" and weighs 210 pounds from November to February when he indulges himself with an occasional breakfast of fried eggs and beer, and he weighs 205 pounds from March to October when he allows himself no fried eggs and beer. He has a squarish, heavy-chested body that tends to fat but is deceptively muscled. His arms, shoulders, chest and thighs are thick with muscles acquired from years of lifting weights. He believes, unlike most pitchers and coaches, that a selective program of weight lifting will add speed to a pitcher's fastball. As a high school senior in Fresno, Calif. he stood 5'9" and weighed 160 pounds. He was the third-hardest thrower on his team. He did not pick up speed until he began lifting weights in college and had grown three inches and put on 30 pounds. Because he has worked so diligently in developing those parts of his body that relate to his talent, Seaver is highly critical--one might almost say contemptuous--of less conscientious players. He will say of a teammate whose chest is noticeably undeveloped, "Do you know he hit 20 balls to the warning track last year! Twenty! Another 10 feet and they would have been home runs. I know I'd find the strength to hit those balls another 10 feet."

Although he is not conscious of it, Seaver shows his disdain for men who he feels have not fulfilled their potential.

[originally posted 3/09/19]
Posted by orrinj at 6:45 PM


Fox News Poll: Biden tops Trump among likely voters in key states (Dana Blanton, 9/02/20, Fox News)

Democrat Joe Biden is ahead in three key states that President Donald Trump won in 2016, according to new Fox News statewide surveys of Arizona, North Carolina, and Wisconsin. 

Support for reelecting Trump falls below his 2016 vote share in each state.

Posted by orrinj at 6:38 PM

THREE FOR THREE (profanity alert):

How misogyny in online forums turns into real-life violence (KATHERINE LAIDLAW, Sep. 2, 2020, Walrus)

INCELDOM, for a long time, has been viewed as a disease, not a state," says Lauren Callahan, an independent researcher who works with Clark. This idea suggests that members are sick with the same ailment their compatriots have and that, rather than a passing state, it's an illness that can't easily be cured. Like many echo chambers, it keeps participants participating, stuck in an increasingly nihilistic headspace. This perspective dovetails with the idea, from terrorism theorists, that the foundational components of radicalization are needs narratives, and networks. The Three Pillars of Radicalization, a 2019 book on the subject, explains that, when someone has all three--a desire for personal significance, a narrative that guides them in that quest for renown, and a network that offers veneration to the members who validate and implement the collective narrative--they're much more likely to progress into violent extremism. And research is proving that these online communities act as pressure cookers, speeding up the radicalization process.

Callahan has observed an increasingly militarized language style in forums hosted on various websites and on Discord servers, where private chats take place. Similar to other avenues of online radicalization, offers a posting structure that incentivizes participation and escalation. At zero posts, you're a "recruit." After 500, you're moved up to an "officer" ranking. At 1,500, you're a "captain"; at 5,000, you're an "overlord"; at 25,000, you're "transcendental"; and, once you reach 30,000 posts, you're "enlightened." If the implications weren't so sinister, it would sound cartoonish. Coren and Callahan have also been exploring the forums' coded messages, word usage, and preliminary links that tie excessive first-person pronoun use--talking about yourself more than about others--into the language of radicalization and extremism.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders says Trump told her 'take one for the team' after Kim Jong Un winked at her (Mark MooreSeptember 2, 2020, NY Post)

Sanders said, she noticed "Kim staring at me. We made direct eye contact and Kim nodded and appeared to wink at me. I was stunned. I quickly looked down and continued taking notes."

"... All I could think was, 'What just happened? Surely Kim Jong Un did not just mark me!?'"

Later riding in "the Beast," Sanders told Trump and then-White House chief of staff John Kelly about the off-putting encounter.

That's when Trump joked: "Well, Sarah, that settles it. You're going to North Korea and taking one for the team! Your husband and kids will miss you, but you'll be a hero to your country!"

Posted by orrinj at 6:15 PM


Quinnipiac poll shows Biden up by 10 among likely voters  (CAITLIN OPRYSKO, 09/02/2020, Politico)

President Donald Trump trails Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden by double digits just two months out from Election Day, according to a new national poll of likely voters conducted after both parties' nominating conventions.

The Quinnipiac University poll, its first of the general election cycle to survey likely voters rather than registered ones, found the former vice president with 52 percent support compared with Trump's 42 percent. The survey puts Trump at a notable deficit heading into the campaign's final stretch, with some states preparing to begin early voting as soon as this month and the first presidential debate between Biden and Trump set to take place in just under four weeks.

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Steve Bannon's effort to export his fiery popularism to Europe is failing (Mark Hosenball, 9/02/20, Reuters) 

Attempts by former White House adviser Steve Bannon to export President Donald Trump's brand of populism to Europe are on the rocks, according to several of his current and former political partners in Italy and Belgium.

After Bannon was charged with fraud for his role in an effort to raise money to help build Trump's wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, two people working with him said an effort to found an academy for right-wing Roman Catholic activists in Italy faces a criminal inquiry by the Rome criminal court and a project aimed at ending the European Union has closed up shop.

Posted by orrinj at 10:58 AM


DHS withheld July intelligence bulletin calling out Russian attack on Biden's mental health (Josh Margolin,Lucien Bruggeman,Will Steakin, and Jonathan Karl, September 2, 2020, abc nEWS)

In early July the Department of Homeland Security withheld publication of an intelligence bulletin warning law enforcement agencies of a Russian scheme to promote "allegations about the poor mental health" of former Vice President Joe Biden, according to internal emails and a draft of the document obtained by ABC News.

The draft bulletin, titled "Russia Likely to Denigrate Health of US Candidates to Influence 2020 Election," was submitted to the agency's legislative and public affairs office for review on July 7. The analysis was not meant for public consumption, but it was set to be distributed to federal, state and local law enforcement partners two days later, on July 9, the emails show.

Just one hour after its submission, however, a senior DHS official intervened.

Birds of an Islamophobic feather...

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Lindsey Graham is so unpopular his Democratic opponent just set huge fundraising record (Matthew Chapman, 9/01/20, Raw Story)

On Tuesday, Jamie Lovegrove of the Post and Courier reported that Jaime Harrison, the Democratic Senate candidate in South Carolina, raised $10.6 million for his race in August.

This fundraising total shatters all records in South Carolina for Senate fundraising in a single month. It is more money than Harrison raised in the entire second quarter -- and is more than several U.S. Senate candidates this cycle have raised over the entire course of their campaigns.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Unlikely Kennedy Who Ended the Kennedy Dynasty (Peter Canellos, 9/01/20, Politico.

For most of the 60-year history of the Kennedy dynasty, it's been easier to imagine its last act as coming in a burst of triumph, a spasm of violence or a dream-shall-never-die promise of enduring hope. On Tuesday, however, what might be the final note of this political symphony was written not in glory or tragedy, but in numbers, the sad prose of politics.

Sen. Ed Markey 55.6 percent, U.S. Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III 44.4 percent.

In a Democratic primary. In Massachusetts.

September 1, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 6:52 PM


'Poppycock!': Federal Judge Bars CBP Employees From Screening Asylum-Seekers (Vanessa Romo, 9/01/20, NPR)

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents lack the training to take over the initial processing of asylum claims, a federal judge wrote in a ruling filed Monday.

For nearly 20 years, officers from Citizenship and Immigration Services have conducted all interviews with asylum-seekers and made what are called "credible fear determinations" for those who arrive at the nation's borders while fleeing to the U.S. to escape persecution.

But in January, Department of Homeland Security officials issued a memorandum delegating authority from CIS to Customs and Border Protection to allow CBP agents to handle the early screenings, arguing that their training was comparable to that of CIS. CBP and CIS are both agencies within the department.

"Poppycock!" U.S. District Judge Richard Leon wrote in his opinion blocking CBP from conducting the interviews of asylum-seekers.

Posted by orrinj at 3:42 PM


Michael Flynn's Trial Judge Wastes No Time After D.C. Circuit Win, Orders Lawyers to Prepare for Oral Arguments (MATT NAHAM, Sep 1st, 2020, Law & Crime)

It didn't take long for the federal judge presiding over former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn's trial to order the parties to the criminal case to provide updates on where things stand and to come to an agreement on the path forward.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, just one day after the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit declined to force him to dismiss the case, issued a minute order. Sullivan ordered Team Flynn, the Department of Justice and court-appointed amicus curiae John Gleeson to provide a joint status report--including a briefing schedule--by Sept. 21 at the latest.

Posted by orrinj at 1:21 PM


Want free checking? Chances are the nearest credit union has it  (Robin Saks Frankel, Mar. 13, 2017, Bankrate)

If you're paying a monthly fee for your checking account, the big question is: Why? Make that: WHY??! Free checking is becoming more available every year, and that's particularly true at the nation's credit unions, Bankrate finds.

According to our 2017 Credit Union Checking Survey, 84 percent of credit union checking accounts now come with no monthly maintenance fees. That's a jump from 72 percent two years ago.

If you are one of the few paying for checking, it's time to do some serious shopping around.

When there are fees, they're easy enough to dodge. The survey found that an overwhelming 98 percent of standalone checking accounts at credit unions are either free or pretty close to it.

That means credit union accounts that have fees allow you to avoid those monthly charges if you meet certain criteria, such as having a companion account, signing up for direct deposit or maintaining a certain amount of transaction activity.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Russia's Only Aircraft Carrier is Total JunkKuznetsov rarely goes to sea and conducted just six patrols between 1991 and 2015. During a 2016 mission off of Syria, the ship's air wing lost two jets in just three weeks. (David Axe, 9/01/20, National Interest)

The aging, unreliable and now fire-ravaged Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov appears decreasingly likely ever to re-enter front-line service with the Russian fleet. Russia's leaders are eyeing two potential replacements for the damaged flattop.

But the cost could scuttle the replacement plan before it really gets underway.

The 60,000-tons-displacement Kuznetsov commissioned in 1990. Problems plagued the ship from the beginning. One of the carrier's major weaknesses is her lack of catapults for launching her fighters. Another is her powerplant. The vessel is powered by steam turbines and turbo-pressurized boilers that Defense Industry Daily generously described as "defective."

Her pipes are bad. "When it's this cold, water freezes everywhere including pipes which may cause a rupture," English Russia reported. "To prevent this, they just don't supply almost 60 percent of the cabins with water (neither in winter nor in summer). The situation with latrines is just as bad. The ship has over 50 latrines [for 1,900 crew] but half of them are closed."

Kuznetsov rarely goes to sea and conducted just six patrols between 1991 and 2015. During a 2016 mission off of Syria, the ship's air wing lost two jets in just three weeks.

Before late 2018, Moscow planned on extending the service lives of Kuznetsov and other warships from the 1980s in order to complement the newer, smaller vessels.

But Kuznetsov in October 2018 suffered serious damage at the 82nd Repair Shipyard in Roslyakovo, a northern port city, when the PD-50 dry-dock sank while the carrier was aboard for repairs.

We face no strategic threats.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Our Post-Privacy World (Thomas A. Bass, September 1, 2020, American Scholar)

During the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, as we abandon cities and face-to-face encounters and move toward digital marketplaces, "there is going to be no privacy," Kosinski says. "We are already living in the post-privacy world."

In 2002, the United States began a mass detection program based on the concept of predictive policing. Called Total Information Awareness (TIA), it was the "biggest surveillance program in the history of the United States," said Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), whose Senate Select Committee on Intelligence had nominal oversight. Although TIA surveillance supposedly ended in 2003, after predictive policing had been discredited as little more than racial profiling, The New York Times reported in 2012 that a variant of the program was still "quietly thriving" at the National Security Agency.

Proposed in 2002, shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, TIA was the brainchild of Rear Admiral John Poindexter, a former national security adviser to Ronald Reagan and a major player in the Iran-Contra scandal. Poindexter had been banished to a K Street consultancy until he managed to get back into the Pentagon as director of the newly created Information Awareness Office. From there, he launched a raft of surveillance programs and set about developing online futures markets that could be used to predict terrorist attacks by monitoring betting pools on future events. This "terrorism futures market," along with the divine overreach of his ambitions, forced Poindexter's resignation in 2003. But we know from Edward Snowden's revelations that mass surveillance continued unabated.

The Information Surveillance Center along the Ho Chi Minh Trail has been resurrected as the Utah Data Center built along the Mormon Trail in Bluffdale, Utah. This is where the NSA, in a $2 billion facility opened in 2019, is gathering the data used by "people sniffers" to monitor everything from computer keystrokes to eyeball iris scans. A program called mystic records and archives phone calls around the world. prism collects Internet communications. stingray tracks text messages. As its computers scroll through yottabytes of data, the NSA is trying to interdict enemy forces moving along the world's electronic trails. "The U.S. government," Snowden warned, "in conspiracy with client states, chiefest among them [co-members of the Five Eyes alliance]--the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand--have inflicted upon the world a system of secret, pervasive surveillance from which there is no refuge."

Although Poindexter's program got shut down, the idea of using futures markets to predict political events has since been implemented in the Iowa Electronic Markets, where one can bet on the outcome of elections, and in Augur, a decentralized market built on blockchain technology. Total information awareness has also been adopted as the business model for Silicon Valley, where Google, Facebook, and other companies gather every scrap of information they can find and sell it to advertisers, political parties, Vladimir Putin, Brexiteers, or anyone else who wants to buy it. We might be uncomfortable with the government's vacuuming up our data, but we have grown to love the companies that give us Alexa voice-activated speakers, crowd-sourced radar detection, and prepopulated, buy-again form fields. Poindexter's vacuum cleaner approach to signals intelligence and surveillance--a dubious enterprise because of its inability to distinguish signal from noise--has been repackaged as "big data," which allows Silicon Valley to form a comprehensive picture of people and their behaviors. The admiral was a man ahead of his times. The information coursing through NSA computers is indeed quite valuable, but markets and merchants, not spooks in the Pentagon, proved most nimble in using it.

Exploiting the wisdom of markets for Intelligence, rather than relying on secrecy and expertise, was the second best idea of the WoT. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump alleges Biden controlled by people in 'dark shadows' (DAVID COHEN, 08/31/2020, Politico)

President Donald Trump alleged unnamed people in "dark shadows" are controlling Democratic nominee Joe Biden in an interview with Laura Ingraham that aired Monday night on Fox News.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Laura Ingraham Cuts Trump off When He Compares Police Shootings to Golf (BRENDAN COLE, 9/1/20, Newsweek)

Fox News host Laura Ingraham appeared to cut off President Donald Trump during an interview in which he compared police officers accused of brutality with missing a golf putt.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Herman Cain May Have Died, but His Media Empire Is Going Strong (Lachlan Markay, Sep. 01, 2020, Daily Beast)

Cain himself may have succumbed to the virus, but his death hasn't changed the fact that coronavirus content is a potent draw for conservative advertisers and internet marketers such as those in business with Cain's media apparatus.

The most jarring example of that disconnect came on Sunday, when the Herman Cain twitter account--recently rebranded as The Cain Gang, but still tweeting under the same handle--shared a link to a Western Journal story with the caption: "It looks like the virus is not as deadly as the mainstream media made it out to be." 

It's so maddening when folks say black Republicans are just mouthpieces!

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Cheaper, cleaner, more reliable: How renewables are winning energy trifecta (Giles Parkinson, 1 September 2020, Renew Economy)

The fact that wind and solar offer the cheapest source of bulk generation has been known for some time. Solar prices have plunged  more than 90 per cent over the past decade, and wind by around 60 per cent.

The two leading expert bodies in Australia - the CSIRO and the Australian Energy Market Operator - have made this abundantly clear: Even with storage, wind and solar offer the cheapest option for dispatchable power, and battery storage costs continue to fall and the technology continues to amaze with its versatility.

All major bodies have recognised that the introduction of wind and solar has been a key factor is bringing down wholesale electricity prices over the last year - with some help from increased efficiency and lower gas prices.

And last week, AEMO made a point in its annual Electricity Statement of Opportunities that it was the addition of more than 4,200 megawatts of new wind and solar capacity over the past year that had improved grid reliability, so much so that it saw no shortfall of the country' strict reliability standards for the next 10 years.

Its chief concern was the increasing frailty of the ageing coal fleet, and the threat of sudden losses of large units as the machinery struggled to cope with intense heatwaves and other extreme conditions.

This week, The Australia Institute has reminded us how dramatically the grid has and is changing, and perhaps the most astounding figures have been the growing share of renewables which has matched a parallel fall in electricity emissions.

British wind sets new 60% power share record (Joshua S Hill, 1 September 2020, Renew Economy)

Strong winds helped Great Britain's wind energy fleet break a new generation record last week, as wind power accounted for 59.9% of Britain's electricity at 1:30am on August 26, according to Great Britain's Electricity System Operator.

It was a big week for Britain's wind energy fleet, with a new record set a few days earlier - at 1am on Saturday, August, 22 when Storm Ellen's strong winds helped generate 59.1% of Britain's electricity, or 13.5GW, according to National Grid ESO's Twitter account.