October 31, 2020

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Sean Connery, James Bond actor, dies aged 90 (Andrew Pulver and Mattha Busby,  31 Oct 2020, The Guardian)

Born Thomas Sean Connery in 1930, he grew up in the tough Fountainbridge area of Edinburgh and left school at 14 to work as a milkman for the Co-op. In 1948, he joined the Royal Navy, but was later discharged on medical grounds. He began bodybuilding aged 18, and got work as a life model, among many jobs, and entered the Mr Universe contest in 1953, though he did not win. Having been interested in acting for some time, Connery used his Mr Universe visit to London to audition for a stage version of South Pacific, and landed a role in the chorus.

His acting career then took off: first in rep theatre and then small roles in TV shows, such as Dixon of Dock Green and The Jack Benny Program. His first credited film role arrived in 1957, playing a hoodlum in the 1957 British thriller No Road Back. However it was a BBC version of Rod Serling's Requiem for a Heavyweight that provided his breakthrough lead role, playing a boxer facing the end of his career in the ring. His film profile increased as a result, with support roles in Hell Drivers, a lorry-driving thriller starring Stanley Baker, and Action of the Tiger, directed by Terence Young, with whom Connery would later reunite on Dr No.

Connery landed a substantial role in the war-set melodrama Another Time, Another Place in 1957 opposite Lana Turner, then a huge Hollywood star; in a widely retold anecdote, he reportedly came to blows with Turner's lover, the notorious gangster Johnny Stompanato, after the latter suspected the actors were having an affair.

But it was his casting, at the age of 30, in the first film adapted from Ian Fleming's series of James Bond novels that cemented his screen status. Reportedly at the insistence of producer Albert "Cubby" Broccoli's wife, Dana, Connery got the role in Dr No over better known actors due to his "sex appeal". Despite initial misgivings, Dr No was a huge success, not least because it had been produced, cautiously, on a comparatively low budget. Released in 1962, it was a hit in Britain, but also did well commercially in the US.

Connery went on to appear in four more Bond films in succession, between 1963 and 1967: From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball and You Only Live Twice. His dramatically increased star status also allowed him to take films outside the series, notably the psychological thriller Marnie, for Alfred Hitchcock, and The Hill, a military-prison drama directed by Sidney Lumet. However, his increasing disenchantment at playing 007 saw him drop out of the next Bond film, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, and he was replaced by George Lazenby. However, the Australian actor's tenure lasted only for a single film, and Connery was lured back for Diamonds Are Forever in 1971 with an enormous fee.

Connery refused to return again - though he did participate in Never Say Never Again, the "unofficial" Bond film released in 1983 that resulted from a legal battle undertaken by the Thunderball co-writer Kevin McClory, again with a huge fee. Connery was now secure in a high-price, high-status existence, allowing him to work on a number of widely differing projects. He took the lead in John Boorman's bizarre sci-fi fantasy Zardoz, acted alongside Michael Caine (a longtime friend) in the Kipling adventure yarn The Man Who Would Be King, played a middle-aged Robin Hood in Robin and Marian, and a crime-solving monk in the Umberto Eco adaptation The Name of the Rose.

In the ensuing decades he retreated largely to colourful supporting roles. He won his only Oscar in 1988 for his turn as the principled Irish beat cop Malone in The Untouchables; he played Indiana Jones's feisty father in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and a renegade Russian submarine captain in The Hunt for Red October. After a difficult experience making The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, during which he reportedly clashed repeatedly with the director Stephen Norrington, Connery "retired" from acting in 2003, and refused an offer to join the cast of the fourth Indiana Jones film in 2007, saying "retirement is just too damned much fun". However, he did complete one more film, voicing the title role in the Scottish-made animation Sir Billi.

Throughout his career, Connery made no secret of his support for Scottish independence, and became a high-profile member of the Scottish National party, taking part in party political broadcasts in the 1990s and appearing alongside then-leader Alex Salmond. His politics reportedly led to the Scottish secretary Donald Dewar blocking plans for Connery's knighthood in 1997, but the honour finally came three years later. However, as Connery had moved away from the UK in the mid-1970s, his substantial financial contributions to the SNP were ended after legislation disallowed funding from overseas residents.

Sean Connery was charismatic, contradictory - and more than just James Bond (Geoffrey Macnab, 10/31/20, The Independent)

What distinguished Connery from British stars of the 1950s was his physicality. He wasn't one of those plummy-voiced uptight "chaps" like Kenneth More or Dirk Bogarde, who dressed in tweed jackets and appeared in Doctor in the House films. He was a former lifeguard and bodybuilder, who also studied dance for three years. Matt Busby supposedly once tried to sign him for Manchester United. He moved with grace and menace, and was at ease with his body.

It also helped that Connery's success took a while. He was in his thirties by the time he was cast as Bond, so he was no callow juvenile lead. There was nothing deferential or nervous about him. He had the same brooding, introspective quality as American method actors like Marlon Brando, James Dean and Montgomery Clift, but none of their neuroses.

Then there was the voice, that deep distinctive drawl that Ewan McGregor and Jonny Lee Miller took such pleasure in imitating in Trainspotting (1996). "Clear enough, Misssh Moneypenny."

Regardless of the nationality of the characters Connery played, whether Soviet submarine commanders, Arab rebel leaders or MI5 spies, that voice didn't change too much. Listen, for instance, to his most famous monologue describing the "Chicago way" in his Oscar-winning role as the Irish-American cop Jim Malone in Brian De Palma's The Untouchables (1987).

"He pullsh a knife, you pull a gun. He shends one of yoursh to the hospital, you shend one of hish to the morgue."

What you notice in almost all Connery's roles is the drive and determination. Even as Bond, he would never let the gadgets, martinis and romantic dalliances get too far in the way of the real business in hand, namely smashing SPECTRE and bringing Blofeld to book.

Connery was nothing if not contradictory. He was the ardent Scottish nationalist who lived in tax exile in the Bahamas; he was the frugal, tight-fisted actor who gave away huge amounts of money to charitable causes. He was the working-class Edinburgh actor who played, not only public school boy Bond, but his share of patrician English army officers.

In the latter part of his career, Connery sometimes seemed more interested in spending time on the golf course than in making movies. Nonetheless, when he did take a role, he always showed the same absolute commitment.

Sean Connery the man has died. Sean Connery the indestructible legend lives on: He was always a little out of his time, combining charm, menace and old-fashioned masculinity (Donald Clarke, 10/31/20, The Irish Times)

Connery's place in cinema history is a peculiar one. His trick was meshing the egalitarian modernity of the 1960s with a timeless old-fashioned recalcitrance. Many of those who unambiguously embraced the era appeared hopelessly old-fashioned by the time of the Opec oil crisis. Never entirely at home with the swinging values, Connery was able to shrug them off and move on to disdain for a whole new set of hip orthodoxies. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Retired EV batteries could meet global energy storage needs by 2030 (Joshua S Hill, 30 October 2020, Renew Economy)

According to the report, and assuming that an EV battery's lifespan is between five to eight years and retains 80% of its usable energy capacity, Greenpeace East Asia calculates that the total weight of retired batteries in the world between 2021 and 2030 will measure out to around 12.85 million tonnes - comparable to the weight of 1,285 Eiffel Towers.

During the same period, in an effort to meet increasing battery demand, the report estimates that 10.35 million tonnes of lithium, cobalt, nickel, and manganese will be mined. This will lead to global battery production lithium use 29.7-times higher than it was in 2018. Further, between 2021 and 2030, battery production will spend 30% of the world's proven cobalt reserves.

On the flip side, repurposing decommissioned EV batteries could have significant benefits, especially given the sheer number of batteries which are soon to be decommissioned.

With so many retired EV batteries, it is little surprise, then, that the report also concludes that repurposed EV batteries could cover all global demand for energy storage in 2030, calculated to be around 368GWh of capacity.

The economic case is similarly strong, with the report concluding that the total value of repurposed EV batteries from global passenger cars could reach as much as $US15 billion in 2030.

The environmental case adds further weight to the argument, with the report calculating that, between 2021 and 2030, compared to manufacturing the same amount of new batteries, repurposing decommissioned EV batteries could reduce carbon emissions by over 63.34 million tonnes - equal to the amount of carbon stored in a third of China's entire forest coverage.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


N.Y. Attorney General Letitia James developing 'long' list of Trump actions for Biden to undo (Allan Smith, 10/30/20, NBC News)

New York Attorney General Letitia James says her office is preparing a substantial list of legal actions for a potential Biden administration to begin quickly reversing Trump administration initiatives, she told NBC News in an interview.

"We're preparing a list. And the list is long," she said Thursday. "We'll have a team of individuals, again, working on reversing all of the bad regulations and laws that have been put forth ... We will work with the Biden administration to ask them to file stays in a number of cases that are pending in the courts all across this country."

Did Donald even exist?

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More People Are Voting For Democrats Rather Than Against GOP Compared to 2016: Fox News Poll (DANIEL VILLARREAL, 10/31/20, Newsweek)

A new poll shows that 57 percent of voters who will cast a ballot for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden will do so specifically in support of him rather than as a vote against Republican President Donald Trump. Comparatively, only 41 percent of voters who will cast a ballot for Biden say that they're doing so as a vote against Trump.

The poll, conducted by Fox News, mentions that in 2016, 49 percent of voters who cast ballots for Democratic presidential nominee Hilary Clinton said they did so specifically in support of her, and 47 percent said they did so as a vote against Trump.

...and Donald even managed to lose to her by three million votes.

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How The Lincoln Project keeps going viral (Jacob Jarvis, Oct. 31st, 2020, Newsweek)

[W]hile the number of followers the group has is dwarfed by Trump, it has grown to 2.6 million and surpassed the number on the GOP's official account. Its tweets regularly get tens of thousands of likes and retweets, while their videos reach viewing figures into the millions, some surpassing eight-figure totals.

"Because we're more selective about what we do, about what we say. We have this weapon and we're going to keep using it," he said.

Asked how the team identifies moments to capitalize upon, Edwards said it is usually instinctive. The team has a "Rapid Response" group chat and messages each other when they spot a moment. They then either pitch or formulate their plans to tackle it.

"Depending on how crazy it is, you can see if the narrative is going to go there," he explained, describing the Bob Woodward interview revelations as a moment where the group knew it should act.

But while there are major talking points that feel essential to hit, the nuanced moments are also something to exploit. A recent example was First Lady Melania Trump discussing people social distancing, while addressing a crowd in which members were stood shoulder-to-shoulder. The group shared a video of her making these comments while the camera panned around the crowd, garnering more than 700,000 views in less than 24 hours.

"That's the thing I think is different, we're not just finding the moments that the news is focusing on, we're finding those pockets of news and turning them into some that becomes an even bigger story, what we want people to focus on," he said. "The idea is to always have people online and to have people talking about what we want to talk about.

"Someone will see something or I'll send a few ideas for the day. There's a lot of flexibility in what we do.

"But we're on-call, people understand they might be needed any time of day."

October 30, 2020

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Here's what happened when NBC News tried to report on the alleged Hunter Biden emails (Ken Dilanian and Tom Winter, 10/30/20, NBC News)

The lack of major new revelations is perhaps the biggest reason the story has not gotten traction, but not the only one. Among others: Most mainstream news organizations, including NBC News, have not been granted access to the documents. NBC News asked by email, text, phone call and certified mail, and was ultimately denied.

And, although no evidence has emerged that the documents are the product of Russian disinformation, as some experts initially suggested, many questions remain about how the materials got into the hands of Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who has met with Russian agents in his effort to dig dirt on the Bidens.

U.S. intelligence agencies have informed the White House that Giuliani has been in contact with alleged Russian intelligence agents. The FBI has been looking into whether the Russians played any role, and no official has ruled that out.

At the same time, dozens of former intelligence officials have said the story has the hallmarks of a Russian intelligence operation. After the election interference of 2016, the news media is especially wary of doing anything to further an effort by a foreign government to intervene in a presidential campaign.

Another factor tamping down coverage of the story is that there isn't much new in what the laptop documents appear to reveal. The allegation that Hunter Biden has traded on his family name has been thoroughly explored in previous news stories, including a lengthy New Yorker investigation last year in which Robert Weissman, the president of the advocacy group Public Citizen, said, "It's hard to avoid the conclusion that Hunter's foreign employers and partners were seeking to leverage Hunter's relationship with Joe, either by seeking improper influence or to project access to him." Reports published while the elder Biden was still vice president raised ethical questions about the Burisma deal.

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Cleaning Up Trump's Immigration Mess (LINDA CHAVEZ  OCTOBER 30, 2020, The Bulwark)

"We need to take away the children," then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions told a group of prosecutors who balked at enforcing the president's "zero tolerance" order, which forced criminal (as opposed to civil) prosecution of allunauthorized immigrants, including parents with children in tow. Lest anyone think the administration would make exceptions for separating parents from very young children or babies, then-Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told federal prosecutors from Texas in a follow-up call that it didn't matter how young they were, which is how 594 children under 10 years old ended up in the government's "care."

Faced with court orders demanding a halt, Trump signed an executive order modifying the policy in June 2018, which still subjects adults to criminal prosecution but detains families together "where appropriate and consistent with law and available resources." Most of the children separated from their parents were reunited with parents or other family, but the sheer number of those who were essentially lost in the system is a staggering rebuke to the callousness of this administration's immigration policies.

On Thursday, Joe Biden announced that should he become president, one of the very first acts he will undertake is to appoint a task force to find the missing parents of Trump's lost children. It is a good first step, but not nearly enough. There are literally tens of thousands of asylum seekers who failed to gain entry to the U.S. during the Trump administration. As many as 60,000 of them are in Mexico awaiting their fate under the administration's remain-in-Mexico policy, which required them to stay on the southern side of the border until their applications can be filed and a determination made whether they qualify. (The legality of this order is still in question, pending a ruling by the Supreme Court.) Many if not most of these asylum seekers are families. Some 4,000 are stuck in Matamoros, Mexico--just across the border from Brownsville, Texas--many of them living in a squalid camp without proper sanitation. It looks like something we would expect in Syria or Kenya, not a short walk from the U.S.

A new administration will face an immediate crisis on what to do about these people. And that is even before dealing with the larger immigration issue, including what to do about the status of 11 million undocumented people living here now.

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3 Things Business Owners Need to Know About Driverless Trucks (AMRITA KHALID, 10/30/20, Inc)

Self-driving trucks are coming sooner than you probably expect. Swedish driverless truck startup Einride unveiled a new model last month that it says will be ready for the road in 2021. Google-owned Waymo and Daimler this week announced they would team up to deploy a driverless Freightliner Cascadia truck in the coming years. And autonomous truck startup TuSimple this summer joined forces with U.S. truck maker Navistar with the goal of building an autonomous semi-truck by 2024.

Fully autonomous trucks could lead to $4.75 billion in savings in annual freight costs for businesses by 2030, according to an analysis by Frost & Sullivan released this week.

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Humans have been living in space for 20 years straight (MICHAEL GRESHKO, OCTOBER 28, 2020, National Geographic)

ON HALLOWEEN IN the year 2000, a Russian Soyuz rocket launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and flew into the history books, carrying one U.S. astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts to the nascent International Space Station (ISS).

The crew arrived two days later, and the space station has been continuously occupied by humans ever since, a 20-year streak of living and working in low-Earth orbit.

"There's kids now who are in college who, for their entire lives, we've been living off the planet," says Kenny Todd, NASA's deputy program manager for the ISS. "When I was a kid, that was all stuff that was just dreams."

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This Will Change Your Life: Why the grandiose promises of multilevel marketing and QAnon conspiracy theories go hand in hand (Kaitlyn Tiffany, OCTOBER 28, 2020, The Atlantic)

Jordan schrandt--blond, beautiful, mother of eight, founder of The Farmhouse Movement magazine, which teaches readers how to achieve "a lifestyle of authenticity, simplicity, and kindness"--is a Royal Crown Diamond.

Less than 1 percent of the independent distributors who sell essential oils and related products through the Utah-based multilevel-marketing company Young Living reach that top ranking. Those who have net an average annual income of $1.5 million and resemble celebrities within the organization, counting tens of thousands of followers on social media. Their success sometimes even allows them to charge for access to advice on how to become more like them--a private Facebook group for business coaching from Schrandt costs $10 a month, and the cheapest single ticket for a recent "Diamond Bound" conference she hosted in Dallas was $309.

On a Friday night in March, Schrandt shared a revelation on one of her Facebook pages. "I'm awake!" she announced. President Donald Trump would soon prove that he had been Q all along, she wrote, and this was just the beginning of a "spiritual war" in defense of all that is good. The post continued for hundreds of words about the evils of the mainstream media and the mythology of QAnon, which holds that Trump is a warrior taking on a global ring of Satan-worshipping pedophiles, who are also in cahoots with the "deep state," and tend to be Democratic politicians, Hollywood celebrities, or the owners of seemingly random small businesses. The post has since disappeared, but not before it went out to nearly 13,000 of Schrandt's Facebook followers--in her post she notes that she had already sent the information to "1,000 or so" of them privately. (Schrandt suggested that Facebook removed the post; Facebook declined to comment.)

The Concordia University researcher Marc-André Argentino has a name for people like Schrandt: "Pastel QAnon." These women--they are almost universally women--are doing the work of sanitizing QAnon, often pairing its least objectionable elements (Save the children!) with equally inoffensive imagery: Millennial-pink-and-gold color schemes, a winning smile. And many of them are members of multilevel-marketing organizations--a massive, under-examined sector of the American retail economy that is uniquely fertile ground for conspiracism. These are organizations built on foundational myths (that the establishment is keeping secrets from you, that you are on a hero's journey to enlightenment and wealth), charismatic leadership, and shameless, constant posting. The people at the top of them are enviable, rich, and gifted at wrapping everything that happens--in their personal lives, or in the world around them--into a grand narrative about how to become as happy as they are. In 2020, what's happening to them is dark and dangerous, but it looks gorgeous.

Over the summer, as networks of women on Instagram and Facebook stoked outrage over the Netflix debut of the French film Cuties, a movie about the exploitation and sexualization of young girls, Schrandt was among those who urged followers to cancel their Netflix accounts to avoid "supporting pedophilia." Conspiracy theories about the pandemic have also spread through these groups; Schrandt recently suggested that contact-tracing programs were a plot to turn the United States into a communist country, and on one of her Instagram accounts, which has 22,000 followers, she explained that masks were "about mind control." Distrust of the mainstream media and paranoia about the liberal bias of major internet companies are a common overtone in these circles as well--when telling her followers to watch ShadowGate, a misinformation-riddled "documentary" about a global plot against Trump, Schrandt was careful not to say the title outright, instead spelling it out via clues, and reminding followers to look for it on the alternative search platform DuckDuckGo instead of Google. 

America will be a better place when they go back to Tupperware, NASCAR & yoga.

Posted by orrinj at 8:32 AM


Maradona at 60: In search of the real Diego (Guillem Balague's BBC Sport)

In his youth, Maradona's dad, or as his friends called him Chitoro, piloted a ferry that moved cattle from village to village and later on he went on to work in a chemical factory, where he barely earned enough to make ends meet for his large family in the shanty town where they lived.

The success of his son, the fifth of eight children, meant that apart from becoming the "king of the barbecue", he would never work again. By the time Diego was 15 he had already become the head of the family and told his dad to be by his side.

From an early age Diego learned that leadership was a natural step forward, particularly when there was a vacuum to fill, no matter what your age. "We went to play in Brazil," recalls team-mate Ruben Favret who, like the rest of the squad, played midweek friendlies in Argentina and abroad to take advantage of Maradona's pull.

"It was the era of the colour television and we all wanted to bring one back. But we had not been paid our bonuses. Diego, who was 18, stood up for everyone and told Consoli [the president of Argentinos] that if they didn't pay us, he wouldn't play."

A complicated, convoluted move to Boca Juniors followed, mostly orchestrated by Maradona himself who revealed - incorrectly - to a friendly journalist that talks to sign him from Argentinos were at an advanced stage.

It kick-started the first great media-led transfer in history, for what was then a still fairly green 20-year-old. The deal morphed into the surreal. What began as a straight purchase for the not inconsiderable sum of $10m became a last-minute loan using six Boca players, some cash and dodgy cheques as collateral. Nothing was simple or straightforward when it concerned Maradona.

Barcelona, where he went next, never saw the best of him. Of the two years he spent there he was out ill or injured for about half of that. He suffered an appalling ankle injury after a dreadful tackle from Athletic Club's Andoni Goicoechea and then, when he became the main protagonist in a massive brawl played out in front of the Spanish king in the Copa del Rey final which led to a five-month ban from domestic competition, his fate was all but sealed.

In fact, he was close to bankruptcy at that point and a move, with new financial incentives, was a necessity. Also, he never adapted to life in Catalonia, where he was made to feel an outsider.

Two months later he signed for Napoli, where he would enjoy his most successful and ultimately most punishing times. The move to this noisy, crowded, overheated goldfish bowl of an existence - in which the Neapolitan criminal organisation, the ever-present Camorra, were involved from the start - was the moment Diego the kid from Fiorito became Maradona the brand.

Suddenly he was more the character than the kid, falling in love with the notion of being Maradona, lapping up the glory and adulation yet always fully aware of just how asphyxiating the whole situation was.

Cocaine became his new reality, a place of excitement higher than he had ever been before; his drug of choice removed him from the demanding realities of having to constantly demonstrate that you are the best player in the world.

And in between it all came the moment that confirmed his status as something much more than merely a great footballer. How would things have transpired if Argentina had failed to beat England in the "Hand of God" match in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, the "revenge" four years on of the defeat in the Falklands War?

That match served to grant him immortality in the eyes of his country.

My latest project is a biography on Diego, up until his retirement as a footballer. The rest is too personal and unsavoury. In order to write it, I had to go back to where it all started, to Villa Fiorito. No-one would take me. It was my last day in Buenos Aires in early 2020, and eventually I managed to persuade a very nervous taxi driver who had picked me up on my arrival to drive there.

Posted by orrinj at 7:50 AM


Some Republicans See Missed Opportunity To Campaign On Climate Change In N.H. (ANNIE ROPEIK, 10/30/20, NHPR)

It sounds like a classically Republican idea - pro-business, pro-competition - but it goes against President Trump's approach to this issue. Some think this divide has made it hard for conservative candidates tied to Trump to stake out their own ground on climate policy. 

"He doesn't give Republicans a safe place to go on this issue or many issues," said Tom Rath, a longtime Republican political strategist in New Hampshire.

Rath thinks climate change "defies characterization" as liberal or conservative, and should be a bipartisan priority.

"It is a core issue that goes to the quality of life in this country and around the world, and we can't be blind to it," he said.

Rath has endorsed Joe Biden, and he thinks Republicans have missed an opportunity to work around Trump on this topic in New Hampshire.

Mowers and Messner are both relative newcomers to the state. They've talked in broad strokes about climate change, but Rath said neither has rooted it in local economic concerns. 

"If they don't have a sense of the ethos of the state and what matters, they would tend to view that as some kind of a textbook issue and not understand: it's how the leaves turn on Kancamagus [Highway] that matters," Rath said. "It's the quality of our water, whether we can fish in the Ammonoosuc [River]... whether we get enough snow in the White Mountains. All these things are material to the way we live, and you cannot credibly be a candidate if you don't get that."

Recent polls, from the Pew Research Center and Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, show that increasing majorities of Republican voters in New Hampshire and nationwide believe in climate change and support some policies to fix it.

One of those New Hampshire Republicans is Lyman Cousens, a retired businessman from Boscawen. 

"Yes, I believe in the science. I think it's obvious, with the storms and the fires," he said. "I think most people are intelligent enough to see what the problem is." 

Cousens supports fundamental climate responses like renewable energy development. He calls himself a Reagan Republican. He's fed up with the polarized politics of 2020, and he thinks Trump has only made it worse, on everything from coronavirus to climate action. 

Cousens has already voted for Joe Biden for president. He said Biden's climate plan might be overly ambitious, but:

"Biden is at least going to make an attempt," Cousens said. "And Trump will not make an attempt to cure the climate change problem." 

It doesn't matter whether or how much humans are contributing; it's just good economics and morality.

October 29, 2020

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Trump's Racist Hail Mary to White Voters Isn't Working (Greg Walters & Trone Dowd, 10/29/20, Vice News)

At a rally in Michigan on Tuesday, the President accused Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota of hating "our country."

Omar, who was born in Somalia, became one of the first two Muslim women ever elected to the U.S. Congress. Trump has repeatedly blasted her for her foreign origin.

"When I think of Somalia, I think of Omar," Trump said. "She likes telling us what we should do, how we should run our country."

Stephen Miller, the Trump advisor credited with helping craft Trump's hardline anti-immigration policies, told reporters on a conference call Wednesday that a victory for Trump's opponent Joe Biden would "would incentivize child smuggling and child trafficking on an epic global scale." The remarks fit neatly into the wilder notions of the QAnon conspiracy theory, which holds that Trump is somehow secretly battling a mysterious group of cannibalistic child-abusers.  

The president's son-in-law and close advisor Jared Kushner said that Trump's policies are created to help the Black community break out of the issues they face in their communities during an interview with Fox News Monday, but said that the president "can't want them to be successful more than that they want to be successful."

And so it went in the final days of Trump's pitch to America for a second term.

Yet while Trump is far from the first American president to attempt to use racial divisions to campaign advantage, he's unique among recent major party presidential nominees in his brazenness, according to Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public policy at Princeton University.

"He is upping the ante, and he is saying the silent part out loud, which matters," Zelizer recently told NPR. "By saying it out loud, he grants it more legitimacy, and he gives it presidential weight in a way that's different."

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How a fake persona laid the groundwork for a Hunter Biden conspiracy deluge (Ben Collins and Brandy Zadrozny, 10/29/20, NBC News)

One month before a purported leak of files from Hunter Biden's laptop, a fake "intelligence" document about him went viral on the right-wing internet, asserting an elaborate conspiracy theory involving former Vice President Joe Biden's son and business in China.

That document, a 64-page composition that was later disseminated by close associates of President Donald Trump, appears to be the work of a fake "intelligence firm" called Typhoon Investigations, according to researchers and public documents.

The author of the document, a self-identified Swiss security analyst named Martin Aspen, is a fabricated identity, according to analysis by disinformation researchers, who also concluded that Aspen's profile picture was created with an artificial intelligence face generator. The intelligence firm that Aspen lists as his previous employer told NBC News that no one by that name had ever worked for their company, and no one by that name lives in Switzerland, according to public records and social media searches.

One of the original posters of the document, a blogger and professor named Christopher Balding, took credit for writing parts of the document when asked about it by NBC News, and said that Aspen does not exist.

Posted by orrinj at 9:46 AM


QAnon is Supposed to Be All About Protecting Kids. Its Primary Enabler Appears to Have Hosted Child Porn Domains.: Archives document Jim Watkins' links to domains suggestive of underage sexual material. (AJ VICENS & ALI BRELAND, 10/29/20, Mother Jones)

One dark irony of QAnon has always been that the conspiracy theory, which holds that President Trump is waging a war on a cabal of elite liberal pedophiles, rose to prominence on 8chan, an imageboard where users swapped child pornography.

But that irony may have a darker, deeper layer: Mother Jones has uncovered that Jim Watkins, the owner of 8chan and its successor site, 8kun, controls a company that hosted scores of domains whose names suggest they are connected to child pornography.

Watkins' company hosted scores of domains apparently connected to child pornography.

While Mother Jones did not visit the domains because of strict laws related to viewing child sex abuse material, internet registration and hosting data suggest at a minimum that Watkins profited from domains with names explicitly related to pedophilia--the very thing that QAnon followers say that they're motivated to end. The domains' names include terms such as "preteen," "schoolgirl," and "child" alongside graphic terms for genitalia and words like "rape" and "love." It's unclear what, if anything, is currently being served at the domains. However, an analysis of metadata collected years ago from one by archive.org shows dozens of filenames and links containing highly suggestive terms, including "xxxpreteen," "children," and sexual references to girls aged 12 to 15. 

it's just an excuse for Trumpists to dwell on the sites.

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Source: WalletHub

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Based on the hit 1941 play by Joseph Kesselring and screenwritten by Casablanca dream team Julius J. and Philip G. Epstein, Arsenic and Old Lace is the story of Mortimer Brewster, a famous, wealthy, and well-liked theater critic (the first tip-off that this thing is fiction), who discovers one Halloween night that his entire family is criminally, murderously insane. Until he heads home (to the quaint Brooklyn street where he was raised), on that day, Mortimer (Cary Grant, hyper and muttery) believes that the biggest trouble before him is a nuptial scandal, that he'll make a mockery of his career by getting married; he's the author of several bombastic, comical books that decry marriage, entitled things like The Bachelor's Bible, yet what has he done? Gone and fallen in love with Elaine Harper (Priscilla Lane), the daughter of the Minister who lives across the road from his two adorable spinster aunts, Abby (Josephine Hull) and Martha (Jean Adair). Mortimer's aunts raised him in that house, so Elaine's really "the girl next door," of all things--a homey figure that checks the highfalutin city boy persona he has adopted. After they get married in the Manhattan courthouse and duck the paparazzi (again, he's a theater critic?!), they swing by Brooklyn to say a quick goodbye to their families before heading to Niagara Falls. That's when Mortimer stumbles upon a dead body stuffed into the window seat of his Aunts' well-kept parlor. 

First he assumes that this is the work of Teddy (John Alexander), his cousin who resides there and believes himself to be Teddy Roosevelt. Actual Teddy Roosevelt. But Mortimer soon learns that, no, this corpse is the work of his two cute, jolly aunts--enthusiastic but remorseless serial killers who rent lodgings to "lonely old men" and fatally poison them (using a cocktail of arsenic, strychnine, cyanide, and elderberry wine). They joyfully see it as acts of compassion, but Mortimer begs to differ. So does the audience. Indeed, one of the cleverest things that this very self-referential script does is collapse the character of the theater critic with its actual spectators, separating him from the farce and reserving his judgement as legitimate. Mortimer has never been in a position to judge his own family, before--and now his eyes are opening to the macabre production that has, unbeknownst, played around him for his whole life.

And with this, the movie turns from a screwball romantic comedy about a secretly-reformed chauvinist who falls in love with a girl from his own neighborhood, into a high-stakes farce about a man who discovers that his loving family (and the idyllic block where he was raised) are not nearly as charming and innocent as they once seemed. 

The Bishop's Wife is a, likewise, subtly dark Christmas classic.
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The Pro-life Case Against Trump: Deals with the Devil don't ever turn out well. (MICHAEL STOKES PAULSEN,  OCTOBER 29, 2020 The Bulwark)

First: A stable, secure, properly functioning constitutional republic is an essential precondition of effective protection of the right to life of the unborn.

If there are any who would trade away democracy and republican institutions--who would risk authoritarianism or countenance proto-despotism to any degree--for the sake of real or imagined short-term marginal gains to the pro-life political and legal position, I do not agree with them.

The destruction of our political institutions would leave any pro-life gains without a foundation on which to stand. The state exists to protect life and liberty. Undermine the republic and you undermine the ability of a just community to maintain these basic human rights--and ever to include the right to life among them. Risk democracy and you risk everything; all minor and major political achievements are drowned by the loss of the institutions that enable and undergird them.

Everybody agrees with this precept at some level. I take it for granted that no one would knowingly vote into office an Orbán or a Putin, just because he purported to be pro-life or would appoint pro-life judges. (Though, to be candid, there have been some on American right who seem enamored with such figures.) Most pro-lifers understand that the danger is too great, the harm threatened too irreparable, the perceived gains too illusory and contingent on the very values that such a man would repudiate.

Trump is not, as of now, in the same class as Putin or Orbán. But he does have marked authoritarian instincts and tendencies, is heedless of constitutional and moral restraints on his own power, and has a disturbing cult of followers.

So while you can say that Donald Trump is not (yet) Vladimir Putin, you cannot dismiss out of hand the possibility that a man who talks openly about changing election dates, will not commit to the peaceful transition of power, uses the military and police powers to put down dissent, and flirts with running for a third term might push for the country to experiment with very real soft-authoritarianism.

If one rightly judges that Trump is a danger on this score, then that peril for democracy overwhelms everything else. Because if Donald Trump were to attempt to walk Putin's or Orbán's path then it would, among other things, destroy all progress on abortion.

It is eminently reasonable, I submit, to judge a Trump reelection a serious threat in this regard. The pattern is there, the danger is real. These are not liberal delusions. Serious pro-life conservatives (like me) ought to take it seriously. After all, to be conservative is to cherish the republican values of our constitutional order and to seek to preserve, protect, and defend them against all threats, and against all enemies, foreign and domestic. For that constitutional order is what makes all else possible.

Note how far Trump is from embracing these conservative first premises.

Trump is a threat to a stable, secure, republican political order--and thus is a threat to the very preconditions that make the right-to-life of the unborn possible in the first place.

That alone is reason enough for pro-lifers to vote against him.

Second: Trump affirmatively undermines and discredits the pro-life cause and the pro-life ethical position.

He does this in two related ways.

He undercuts the values on which the success of the pro-life position ultimately depends: compassion, respect for others, valuing all human life, and the Golden Rule of do-unto-others. If we lose these values, then the pro-life movement loses. It's as simple as that. Abandon these principles and you abandon the long-run objective.

To embrace Trump is to embrace the opposite of the values the pro-life cause needs to succeed. And because of that, embracing Trump discredits the pro-life message. Nothing persuades negatively quite like the demonstration of hypocrisy.

One of the secondary problems with selling your soul is that it's public. Everybody can see what you've done. And even if you're the kind of person who thinks it's worth it, the vast majority of people disapprove of such bargains. This is literally a fact of the human experience, in all times and places.

Pro-lifers will lose our witness if we embrace a liar, an abuser of power and of people, a racist, a man thoroughly corrupt and incompetent--for the sake of transactional political advantage. Even if it is in pursuit of a just cause.

As Abraham Lincoln put it in his debate with Stephen Douglas,

[P]ublic sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed. Consequently, he who moulds public sentiment goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or pronounces decisions. He makes statutes and decisions possible or impossible to be executed.

Lincoln's insight remains sound. In the long run, it matters more how we shape public sentiment concerning abortion than whether we appoint and confirm pro-life judges. For ultimately, that sentiment shapes the judges more than the other way around.

Persuasion precedes policy. No amount of bullying and bluster can bulldoze the right to life into a reality if it is not first written in the hearts of the people. In this respect, Trump affirmatively harms the pro-life cause. He negatively molds public sentiment on abortion. It is not right, but it is true: the pro-life cause and position is tainted by--deemed guilty by its association with--Donald Trump.

What does it profit the pro-life movement to embrace Trump and forfeit its soul?

Posted by orrinj at 7:43 AM


Senior Satmar rabbi denounces Brooklyn anti-lockdown rallies (SHIRA HANAU, 10/29/20, JTA

A leader of a major Hasidic sect denounced protests earlier this month where local Orthodox Jews voiced their anger at lockdown measures targeting their neighborhoods.

Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, leader of a faction of the Satmar Hasidic community based in Kiryas Joel, a Hasidic enclave in New York's Orange County, denounced the protests Tuesday at an event in Borough Park, the Brooklyn neighborhood where the protests took place.

"None of you should be seen at these protests," Teitelbaum told the crowd, according to BoroPark24. "Praise unto the person who doesn't follow in the ways of evil."

Philo-Semites care.

October 28, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 6:51 PM


FBI warning played a role in Facebook downplaying NY Post report, Zuckerberg says (Reuters, 10/28/20)

Facebook Inc Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said on Wednesday that a warning from the FBI on hack-and-leak operations before the Nov. 3 presidential election played a role in its decision to limit the reach of stories from the New York Post that made claims about Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden's son.

Zuckerberg said it had seen attempts by Russia, Iran and China to run disinformation campaigns. "One of the threats that the FBI has alerted our companies ... to was the possibility of a hack and leak operation in the days or weeks leading up to this election," he said.

Posted by orrinj at 6:47 PM


No One Fights QAnon Like the Global Army of K-Pop Superfans (Olivia Carville, Oct. 28th, 2020, Bloomberg)

Even by the standards of U.S. politics in the accursed year 2020, the wall of thrusting digital crotches was weird. One day in June, barely a week after a Minneapolis police officer murdered George Floyd and ignited nationwide protests, people started tweeting #WhiteLivesMatter so frequently that it became one of Twitter's most popular hashtags worldwide. The white supremacist phrase is a call to arms within QAnon, the militant sect that believes God sent President Trump to defeat a shadowy cabal of pedophiles and child traffickers. But the tweets weren't what they seemed. Anyone who clicked the hashtag or typed it into Twitter's search bar looking for fellow racists instead found a rolling stream of video clips featuring Korean boy bands, their pelvises gyrating below their smoldering eyes and perfect pastel hair.

More than 22,000 tweets bearing Korean pop stars flooded hashtags like #WhiteLivesMatter and #QAnon that evening, according to market researcher Zignal Labs. Some typical accompanying text: "Stan twitter RISE." The barrage effectively commandeered the hashtag and rendered it all but unusable to white supremacists. QAnon devotees are familiar with this tactic, known as keyword squatting, because they use it all the time. "They got beaten at their own game by Korean pop fans," says Mike Rothschild, a conspiracy theory researcher who's writing a book about QAnon. "I'd never seen anything like it before."

Posted by orrinj at 6:41 PM


Floating Offshore Wind Turbines Set to Make Inroads in U.S. (John Fialka,  October 28, 2020, Scientific American)

A second phase of offshore wind development is about to get underway in the U.S., starting in Maine, a state that sees its energy future built on a new type of wind turbine. It is one that can float in deeper waters and that may be built more cheaply than existing wind turbines being constructed or planned along most of the U.S. East Coast.

One of the main beneficiaries of what are called "floaters"--turbines that are held by mooring lines attached to anchors in waters deeper than 160 feet--will likely be the U.S. West Coast, where California and Hawaii are planning wind farms and Oregon and Washington are expected to follow.

"This will be a global industry," predicted Walter Musial, the leading expert on offshore wind for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. At the moment, the business is in its infancy, but he noted that 80% of the world's offshore waters suitable for wind turbines near major population centers are deep.

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QANON AND A RAPE JOKE SPELL TROUBLE FOR REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMAN IN FLORIDA: Rep. Brian Mast has apologized for his jokes, but they could cause him to lose votes to a QAnon-associated independent candidate. (Ryan Grim, October 28 2020, The Intercept)

In August, the South Florida Sun Sentinel resurfaced old Facebook posts of Mast's in which the veteran bantered with Florida man Rocco LeDonni, a friend-turned-campaign manager, about sex with 15 year olds.

In 2009, LeDonni was vacationing in South Africa and posted an image of a bar. "i'm so proud of you," Mast commented. "i hope you hook up with at least fifteen 15 year olds over there.... its legal there right."

Two years later, LeDonni queried his Facebook friends. "Anyone have any good pick up lines for this weekend considering according to the crazy christian radio guy the world may end on sunday?"

Mast had one at the ready: "How about don't turn this rape into a murder."

Mast apologized for the remarks this summer, saying he was ashamed of them and was striving to be a better man. In the heat of a typical congressional race, the one-day story may have moved on from there.
Mast has the apparent upper hand in the 18th Congressional District, which covers parts of West Palm Beach as well as Martin and St. Lucie counties. The Cook Political Report lists it as R+5, meaning it has a substantial Republican advantage.

But unfortunately for Mast, an independent candidate on the ballot, K.W. Miller, is publicly associated with QAnon, and Mast's remarks could hardly have been better tuned to send the movement's supporters fleeing from him and toward Miller. In fact, Miller was the first to call for him to resign from Congress in the wake of the news of the comments, noted Sabra Ingeman, a spokesperson for Miller's campaign. "As soon as the Sun Sentinel article came out, that night K.W. put up a video calling for his resignation, and then a bunch of other groups piled on to that," Ingeman said, adding that particularly among women, some of whom have protested his office, the comment has deeply resonated in a negative way.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The GOP's monstrous math problem (Mike Allen, Jim VandeHei, 10/28/20, Axios)

Trump threw that out and realigned the GOP base away from suburbs and wealth, and toward working-class whites in small towns. 

New Gallup polling finds Trump remains above 50% with rural residents, white men and white adults without college degrees.

But he has dropped nine points just this year with suburbanites -- falling with both men and women -- to 35%, after winning them in 2016.

Republicans have hemorrhaged support among suburban women during the Trump years. Now, the GOP even struggles in exurbs.

Trump's plaintive pleas to these vital voters have become a 2020 punchline. "Suburban women, you're going to love me. You better love me," Trump said last night in West Salem, Wis.

Another GOP drain: Voters are no longer following the traditional pattern of getting more conservative as they age.

In what Axios demographic expert Stef Kight calls the "liberal youth revolution," millennials and Gen Z are sticking with the Democratic Party as they move through adulthood.

Hate is a thin reed to build on in America.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


MAGA scrambles to repair the Hunter Biden narrative (TINA NGUYEN, 10/28/2020, Politico)

The Wall Street Journal and Fox News have both reported finding no evidence that former Vice President Joe Biden benefited from the Hunter Biden business dealings that have drawn scrutiny. More explicitly pro-Trump media outlets -- OAN, Breitbart, Newsmax -- have mostly shied away from publishing fresher, more salacious allegations. And conservative talking heads -- pundits, politicians and loud MAGA Twitter personalities alike -- have been more focused on the meta narrative around the laptop, arguing that mainstream media, social media companies and the deep state are conspiring to prevent President Donald Trump's reelection by suppressing the story.

When Breitbart did touch on new revelations, it preemptively distanced itself, carefully framing a fresh trove of emails as an independent investigation by Peter Schweizer, author of "Clinton Cash," the 2015 look into the Clinton family's extensive foreign financial ties that made several overstated or inaccurate claims.

So the story has gone elsewhere. Videos apparently showing Hunter Biden in compromising positions, allegedly obtained from the laptop, have been uploaded to a Chinese website owned partially by Steve Bannon, the former Trump aide who has been helping Giuliani. The explicit photos ended up on Gateway Pundit, a site known for promoting conspiracy theories about various Democratic figures. An email allegedly tying Hunter Biden to a Kazakh oligarch ended up in the British tabloid The Daily Mail, with only a passing mention of Biden.

Where's Jim Comey when you need him?

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump's H-1B ban may have shaved $100 billion off America's biggest firms (Ananya Bhattacharya, 10/28/20, Quartz)

The Donald Trump administration's decision to temporarily suspend the H-1B visa programme has taken a toll on the valuations of several large American companies.

The cumulative average abnormal returns (CAARs) of 471 companies from the Fortune 500 list dropped by 0.45%--equivalent to over $100 billion--in the 10 days after the order to halt H-1B was signed on June 22, according to a new study (pdf). The CAAR is used to measure the effect of lawsuits, buyouts, and other events.

...just by undoing Trumpism.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Pressure Builds on Biden to Knock Down 'Every Mile' of Trump's Wall (Spencer Ackerman & Scott Bixby, Oct. 28, 2020, Daily Beast)

More than any other legislative or executive accomplishment, President Donald Trump's "Wall" along the U.S. southern border stands as a monument to Trumpism and its politics of racial grievance.

Now, only days before the election that could unseat Trump, some immigration rights advocates and legal experts have a message for the man who has promised to dismantle the president's legacy on immigration: Mr. Biden, tear down this wall.

"Trump's border wall is just another pretext for targeting immigrants and border communities," said Dror Ladin, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project. "The construction of this unlawful border wall has desecrated tribal lands, leveled wildlife preservations, and destroyed border communities. Every unlawful mile of wall should be taken down, and the government must work with border communities to undo the damage that wall construction has already inflicted."

Much of Trump's legacy exists not by law, but by executive order. Much as Trump did with the orders of his predecessor, Biden can reverse many of them at the stroke of a pen.

Forget the Ozymandian wall, just issue a blanket immigration pardon.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Super power: Here's how to get to 100pct wind, solar and storage by 2030 (Giles Parkinson, 28 October 2020, Renew Economy)

A team led by renowned Stanford University futurist Tony Seba says most of the world can transition to 100 per cent wind, solar and storage electricity grids within the coming decade, in what they describe as the fastest, deepest and most profound disruptions ever seen in the energy industry.

The RethinkX team led by Seba, one of the few analysts to correctly forecast the plunging cost of solar over the last decade, predicts that the disruption caused by solar, wind and lithium-ion battery storage, or SWB, will be similar to the digital disruption of information technology.

"What happened in the world of bits is now poised to happen in the world of electrons," they write.

"Just as computers and the Internet slashed the marginal cost of information and opened the door to hundreds of new business models that collectively have had a transformative impact upon the global economy, so too will SWB slash the marginal cost of electricity and create a plethora of opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship."

The key to this disruption, they say, is the near-zero marginal cost of wind and solar, and the falling costs of those technologies and of storage. They say there will inevitably be more wind and solar produced than needed, but that's OK because this excess production, which they dub "super power", can be used for long-term storage, electrification of housing and industrial processes and, of course, transport.

October 27, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 6:20 PM


Trump's Border Wall Is Costing Taxpayers Billions More Than Initial Contracts (PERLA TREVIZO and Jeremy Schwartz , 10/27/20, PROPUBLICA)

On the same day in May 2019, the Army Corps of Engineers awarded a pair of contracts worth $788 million to replace 83 miles of fence along the southwest border.

The projects were slated to be completed in January 2020, the Corps said then. Four months into this year, however, the government increased the value of the contracts by more than $1 billion, without the benefit of competitive bidding designed to keep costs low to taxpayers.

Within a year of the initial award, the value of the two contracts had more than tripled, to over $3 billion, even though the length of the fence the companies were building had only grown by 62%, to 135 miles. The money is coming from military counter-narcotics funding.

Those contract spikes were dramatic, but not isolated. A ProPublica/Texas Tribune review of federal spending data shows more than 200 contract modifications, at times awarded within just weeks or months after the original contracts, have increased the cost of the border wall project by billions of dollars since late 2017. This is particularly true this year, in the run-up to next week's election. The cost of supplemental agreements and change orders alone -- at least $2.9 billion -- represents about a quarter of all the money awarded and more than what Congress originally appropriated for wall construction in each of the last three years.

Posted by orrinj at 2:23 PM


To fight radical Islam, France is limiting religious freedoms -- with the blessing of its Jewish minority (Cnaan Liphshiz, October 27, 2020, The Forward)

As the French government rolls out a controversial plan that amounts to its most robust crackdown on religious activity in decades, it is enjoying broad support from at least one of the country's faith communities: French Jews.

Jewish community leaders have applauded President Emmanuel Macron's effort to counter what he calls "Islamist separatism" with a plan that would require children to attend state-recognized schools from the age of three, effectively barring the practice of Muslim home-schooling, and mandate an oath of allegiance to the state from religious associations.

The new plan would also increase oversight of foreign funding for mosques and end a program that allows the children of immigrants to receive subsidized lessons in their parents' native language. 

No yellow crescents yet?

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Republicans are on the verge of a spectacular upside-down achievement (David Faris, 10/27/20, The Week)

If it happens, a Republican wipeout will also be close to a unique achievement in American history. It's been almost 130 years since a presidential candidate captured the office back from the other party, brought both houses of Congress with him, and then frittered it all away in four short years. The last person to notch this dubious achievement was Grover Cleveland, still the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms in office. In his second, disastrous spin through the White House, he brought a Democratic House and Senate with him after defeating the incumbent Republican President Benjamin Harrison. The panic of 1893 set in almost immediately after his inauguration (as did oral cancer, which he kept secret), and the ensuing economic depression dragged down his popularity.

The Democrats were also -- like the GOP today -- swimming against a heavy partisan current. Cleveland was the only Democrat elected president between 1860 and 1912, and Republicans controlled Congress for the majority of those 52 years too. While Cleveland declined to run for a third term, the party's nominee in 1896, William Jennings Bryan, lost the election to Republican William McKinley after Republicans had seized both houses of Congress in the 1894 midterms. Due in part to Cleveland's mess of a presidency, it would be another 16 years before a Democrat would again win a presidential election. In hindsight, Cleveland's tenure looks like a blip in a long period of GOP dominance.

The Republicans might be staring at a similar prognosis in the near future. Jimmy Carter might even live long enough to see an incumbent president lose by a larger popular vote margin than he did (9.7 points) to Ronald Reagan. What makes the political disaster of Trumpism a more monumental upside-down accomplishment than, say, Herbert Hoover losing the presidency and both chambers of Congress to FDR and the Democrats in 1932 is that like Cleveland, Trump and the Republicans were given a fresh mandate by voters in 2016, while Hoover's four years came on the heels of two-term Republican president Calvin Coolidge. No party has won a third consecutive presidential term since George H. W. Bush and the Republicans in 1988, but it is nevertheless rare for the public to turn this quickly and decisively against a party that so recently won total control of the government. To be sure, Trump lost the popular vote, and Republicans received fewer votes in the Senate, and won the House vote by just a point, but they still swept victoriously into Washington in January 2017, believing their stay in power would be lengthy.

?  Everyone knew the Party had to reject Donald or it was doomed.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Kushner, Employing Racist Stereotype, Questions if Black Americans 'Want to Be Successful' (Annie Karni, Oct. 26, 2020, NY Times)

"One thing we've seen in a lot of the Black community, which is mostly Democrat, is that President Trump's policies are the policies that can help people break out of the problems that they're complaining about," Mr. Kushner said in an interview with "Fox & Friends," the president's favorite morning cable show. "But he can't want them to be successful more than they want to be successful."

In the interview, Mr. Kushner said that after the killing in May of George Floyd, a Black man, in police custody -- an event that set off global protests about systemic racism, and which Mr. Kushner referred to as the "George Floyd situation" -- a lot of people were more concerned with what he called "virtue signaling" than in coming up with "solutions."

"They'd go on Instagram and cry, or they would put a slogan on their jersey or write something on a basketball court," he said, an apparent reference to N.B.A. players like LeBron James who joined national protests over the issue of police brutality. 

If they only wanted it enough, Daddy would give them millions to squander.
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Mikhail Gorbachev blames TV show Dallas for the fall of communism and the USSR, says Dave Stewart (Annabel Nugent, 10/27/20, Independent)

"What Gorbachev was saying - it was Dallas, the TV show," said Stewart. "Somebody managed to get a VHS to work and broadcast it to part of Russia and they thought, 'Hang on, that's how people live in America.'"

October 26, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 6:13 PM


'It's daunting': Democrats crushing House Republicans on the airwaves (ALLY MUTNICK, 10/26/2020, Politico)

In the most competitive 94 districts, Democrats have booked over $177 million in ads since Sept. 1, while their GOP opponents have booked $93 million, according to a POLITICO analysis of advertising data. Republican outside groups have partly made up the difference, but the party is still bracing for a string of defeats next month.

"At this point, it's pretty clear there's going to be losses. The question is just how many, and if Republicans can keep it in the mid-to-high single digits," said Ken Spain, a GOP strategist and former communications director for House Republicans' campaign arm. "The money and the momentum is so significantly one-sided."

Even after picking up 40 seats last cycle, House Democrats are positioned to add more, thanks to Donald Trump's unpopularity in the suburbs. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:07 PM


Fox News COVID Infection Sends Election Plans Into 'Chaos' (Maxwell Tani, Justin Baragona, Diana Falzone, Oct. 26, 2020, Daily Beast)

Fox News has been planning its election night coverage for weeks, prepping staff and on-air talent for the biggest news night of the year. But now Fox faces uncertainty after the network's president and many of its key on-air stars may have been exposed to COVID-19.

"Everyone is in a panic about election night," said one current Fox News staffer.

On Sunday, The New York Times reported that top Fox News executives and talent will quarantine and get tested after flying on a network-chartered flight from Nashville to New York--following Thursday night's presidential debate--with a staffer who later tested positive for the coronavirus. Passengers included network president Jay Wallace and on-air political hosts and analysts like Bret Baier, Martha MacCallum, Dana Perino, and Juan Williams. (A Fox News spokesperson would not confirm the Times story or the exposure, citing employee confidentiality.)

All four of those stars were expected to play key in-studio roles for Fox's election-night coverage. But now it's unclear how the network plans to proceed with its top talent potentially unable to gather in the same room.

"I believe it will put election night-plans into chaos," another current Fox staffer told The Daily Beast under condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.

Posted by orrinj at 5:10 PM


The Immediate Case for a Carbon Price (JOSEPH MAJKUT, OCTOBER 26, 2020, nISKANEN)

 The oil and gas industry is already shrinking and eyeing real transition. Clean energy is now big business. Low-carbon energy accounts for more than half of new generation capacity added to the power grid. This summer, analysts at Goldman Sachs estimated that new capital investment in renewables would exceed new investment in upstream oil and gas exploration for the first time in 2021. They see a $16 trillion global investment opportunity over the next decade. Opportunities to scale up, and the beneficiaries of achieving that scale, already exist.

A marketplace that valued low-carbon production would immediately give many U.S. manufacturers competitive advantages. For example, the Boston Consulting Group estimates that American steel mills have half the emissions intensity of those in China. Overall, the Climate Leadership Council reports that  U.S. goods are 80 percent more carbon-efficient than the world average. If that difference were recognized in prices, U.S. manufacturers would have an immediate competitive advantage and the incentive to build upon it. 

Establishing a carbon price will give ambitious CEOs the pass to bring big decarbonization plans to their Boards and Shareholders. The benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions will be plain in excel sheets and tax calculations. Writing in The Hill, Curt Morgan, CEO of Vistra Energy, one of largest emitting companies in the U.S. power sector, says that "companies want to hasten the transition to clean energy. But they need regulatory predictability and market certainty to innovate and make clean energy investments with confidence." Regulatory predictability and market certainty come from a carbon price, not from continually changing command-and-control measures.

Some segments of industry will resist any serious attempt at climate action. They will find political support from the few remaining climate skeptics and policymakers most opposed to climate policy, reflecting long-standing coalitional relationships on the right. But at this moment, that coalition is in tatters and isolated. The denial apparatus that formerly united the fossil fuel industry with their political allies is losing members as the coal industry shrinks, and the oil industry supports carbon pricing. Denialists are split from much of the business community, large segments of the fossil fuel industry, and the growing number of Republicans interested in climate action. 

With the political coalition that has historically opposed action divided and much of industry in favor of climate action, climate hawks should take advantage. 

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Trump goads Biden for forgetting his name (AFP, 10/26/20)

"Joe Biden called me George yesterday. Couldn't remember my name," Trump tweeted with glee.

Better get used to that, son.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


These biological batteries generate renewable energy from the ground (ADELE PETERS, 10/26/20, fast Company)

As it rains, or when the ground is irrigated, nutrients and microorganisms leach from the soil into the new biological battery. Inside the battery, microorganisms feeding on organic matter produce protons and electrons, sending electrons to the anode and protons to the cathode. Air coming through holes in the exposed part of the panel provides oxygen. The process produces a current that can power lights or sensors--and eventually, if scaled up, could potentially power an entire house.

There are several advantages, Vidarte says. "You have an energy source that's producing electricity during daytime and nighttime," he says. "So it's 24-7 production of energy. It doesn't matter if it's raining or snowing, it will produce the same amount of energy." Unlike a large solar farm that might displace nature--as in South Korea, where 2 million trees have been cut down in recent years to make room for solar panels--the biological panels can work without impacting plants growing in a field. The technology uses materials that are more abundant than those used in solar panels, so when mass-manufactured, it could potentially compete on price, though the startup is only beginning to collect data about how much energy the panels can generate.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Case for Reviving the Civilian Conservation Corps (Matt Simon, 10/23/20, Wired)

Nearly a century after the original CCC came into being, some folks argue it's time to bring it back. So say Americans themselves: recent polling shows that 80 percent of Democrats and 74 percent of Republicans favor a return of the CCC. Joe Biden has proposed something akin to the CCC if elected: the Civilian Climate Corps. Workers would manage forests, restore ecosystems, and even remove invasive species. In September, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin introduced the RENEW Conservation Corps Act, which would spend $55.8 billion over five years to put a million Americans back to work, doing things like wildlife surveys and monitoring water quality. And last year, Ohio Representative Marcy Kaptur introduced the 21st Century Civilian Conservation Corps Act, which has yet to pass the House, but proposes rehabilitating environments and updating trails and facilities throughout the country's natural spaces.

Kaptur sees some participants as working in their local communities, while others up for travel might move around the United States. "If we give them an opportunity to broaden their horizons, and at the same time restore America in some of its hidden corners and neglected places, what a great gift to the future," she says. "I don't know a single person--including my own father, who worked for the Civilian Conservation Corps as a very young man--who wasn't changed and elevated by that experience."

Representatives from Biden's campaign and Durbin's office did not return requests for comment by press time. But in a release announcing his bill last month, Durbin invoked the challenges of a pandemic year: "America's outdoor spaces have provided recreation for generations, and this year we've seen how important and valuable they've been to countless Americans looking for a respite," he stated. "If we are to leave these natural gifts to the next generation, we have to take responsibility in protecting them."

October 25, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 7:19 PM


Trump aide says 'we're not going to control the pandemic' as president rallies in NH (JONATHAN LEMIRE, ALEXANDRA JAFFE and AAMER MADHANI, 10/25/20, Associated Press)

The coronavirus has reached into the heart of the White House once more, little more than a week before Election Day, as it scorches the nation and the president's top aide says "we're not going to control the pandemic." [...]
"If Pence did not self-quarantine, it would violate every core public health principle his own task force recommends," said Lawrence Gostin, a public health expert at Georgetown University school of law. "It's one standard for the vice president and another for all the rest of us."

The U.S. set a daily record Friday for new confirmed coronavirus infections and nearly matched it Saturday with 83,178, data published by Johns Hopkins University shows. Close to 8.6 million Americans have contracted the coronavirus since the pandemic began, and about 225,000 have died; both totals are the world's highest. About half the states have seen their highest daily infection numbers so far at some point in October.

Posted by orrinj at 7:15 PM


Trump Had One Last Story to Sell. The Wall Street Journal Wouldn't Buy It. (Ben Smith, Oct. 25th, 2020, NY Times)

By early October, even people inside the White House believed President Trump's re-election campaign needed a desperate rescue mission. So three men allied with the president gathered at a house in McLean, Va., to launch one.

The host was Arthur Schwartz, a New York public relations man close to President Trump's eldest son, Donald Jr. The guests were a White House lawyer, Eric Herschmann, and a former deputy White House counsel, Stefan Passantino, according to two people familiar with the meeting.

Mr. Herschmann knew the subject matter they were there to discuss. He had represented Mr. Trump during the impeachment trial early this year, and he tried to deflect allegations against the president in part by pointing to Hunter Biden's work in Ukraine. More recently, he has been working on the White House payroll with a hazy portfolio, listed as "a senior adviser to the president," and remains close to Jared Kushner.

The three had pinned their hopes for re-electing the president on a fourth guest, a straight-shooting Wall Street Journal White House reporter named Michael Bender. They delivered the goods to him there: a cache of emails detailing Hunter Biden's business activities, and, on speaker phone, a former business partner of Hunter Biden's named Tony Bobulinski. Mr. Bobulinski was willing to go on the record in The Journal with an explosive claim: that Joe Biden, the former vice president, had been aware of, and profited from, his son's activities. The Trump team left believing that The Journal would blow the thing open and their excitement was conveyed to the president.

The Journal had seemed to be the perfect outlet for a story the Trump advisers believed could sink Mr. Biden's candidacy. Its small-c conservatism in reporting means the work of its news pages carries credibility across the industry. And its readership leans further right than other big news outlets. Its Washington bureau chief, Paul Beckett, recently remarked at a virtual gathering of Journal reporters and editors that while he knows that the paper often delivers unwelcome news to the many Trump supporters who read it, The Journal should protect its unique position of being trusted across the political spectrum, two people familiar with the remarks said.

As the Trump team waited with excited anticipation for a Journal exposé, the newspaper did its due diligence: Mr. Bender and Mr. Beckett handed the story off to a well-regarded China correspondent, James Areddy, and a Capitol Hill reporter who had followed the Hunter Biden story, Andrew Duehren. Mr. Areddy interviewed Mr. Bobulinski. They began drafting an article.

Then things got messy. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:49 PM


The Internet Comes Calling for Car Salesmen (Kyle Stock, Oct. 25th, 2020, Bloomberg)

It took three phone calls to realize how little car shopping has changed in the COVID economy. 

In early August, I resigned myself to buying a new minivan; I knew precisely the one I wanted and found several online that were nearby and listed at fair prices. Yet, I could not manage to click my way to a "buy" button. Time and again, the digital threads ended with the promise of a phone call to finalize the details. That's when the salesmen (they were all men) stepped in with near identical lines of patter. First, they asked what vehicle I was inquiring about to "make sure it was still available." Second, they said that I would have to qualify for the price listed online. Finally, the kicker: "When can you come in?"

The dialogue was so dismissive of both the pandemic and contemporary digital retail that it was almost as nostalgic as it was irritating -- almost. 

A couple days later I spent $29,900 on a two-year-old Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid listed on Vroom, an online-only car dealership launched in 2013. The entire transaction, which included some financing and a trade-in, took slightly longer than ordering a pair of shoes on Zappos.

My experience, it turns out, is not an anomaly. A trio of automotive web stores -- Carvana Corp., Shift Technologies Inc., and Vroom -- have the accelerator pinned, as COVID lockdowns played into business models that are socially distanced by design. Take a look at the charts in our deep-dive on the space. In the next few years, analysts expect 8% to 20% of vehicles to be bought via computer or phone.

"Our biggest challenge is people that don't know we exist," Shift CEO George Arison told me. "Once they know we exist, it's very hard to go back to buying a car the old way."

Posted by orrinj at 5:44 PM


Trade war with China didn't boost U.S. manufacturing (Josh Zumbrun and Bob Davis, 10/25/20, Wall Street Journal)

President Donald Trump's trade war against China didn't achieve the central objective of reversing a U.S. decline in manufacturing, economic data show, despite tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of Chinese goods to discourage imports.

The tariffs did succeed in reducing the trade deficit with China in 2019, but the overall U.S. trade imbalance was bigger than ever that year and has continued climbing, soaring to a record $84 billion in August as U.S. importers shifted to cheaper sources of goods from Vietnam, Mexico and other countries. The trade deficit with China also has risen amid the pandemic, and is back to where it was at the start of the Trump administration.

Another goal--reshoring of U.S. factory production--hasn't happened either. Job growth in manufacturing started to slow in July 2018, and manufacturing production peaked in December 2018.

Posted by orrinj at 4:09 PM


Trump, TV pundits don't have a fracking clue about Pennsylvania and fossil fuels  (Will Bunch, 10/25/20, Philadelphia Inquirer)

There's a weird kind of magnet force that draws journalists to look for laid-off gas workers or struggling small barkeepers in quaint rural burgs while ignoring the densely populated, un-quaint suburbs that are voting for politicians like Chester County state Rep. Danielle Friel Otten, who made opposition to the Mariner East pipeline the centerpiece of her 2018 upset win and who recently told a journalist that "the pipeline project is an example of how our constitutional rights, like health and safety, have been chipped away."

No wonder, then, that the conventional wisdom is so wrong, and so I'm going to state clearly what the TV pundits refuse to grasp -- perhaps, to quote the great Upton Sinclair, because "his salary depends on not understanding it."

A majority of Pennsylvanians oppose fracking. Period, full stop.

A recent CBS statewide poll, taken in August, found that 52% of commonwealth residents oppose fracking -- the modern drilling practice that uses high-pressure water to blast out oil or (for the most part in Pennsylvania) natural gas that's trapped deep in rock formations like the Marcellus shale bed. And that wasn't a fluke. Back in January, a Franklin and Marshall College poll found that 48% of Pennsylvanians backed a straight-up ban on fracking -- a more radical step than even Biden or many establishment Democrats are willing to take right now -- while only 39% opposed such a move. And that survey was taken before the latest summer onslaught of West Coast wildfires and Gulf Coast hurricanes reminded folks that climate change -- heavily caused by pollution from fossil fuels -- is already wreaking widespread havoc.

Indeed, widen your lens and you'll see that most voters across America don't find Biden's comments about transitioning away from oil as radical, but as reality in the face of climate change and rapid advances in cleaner energy such as wind and solar. A Politico/Morning Consult poll taken right after Thursday's debate found an overwhelming 57% of Americans -- even 41% of Republicans -- strongly or somewhat support transitioning from oil to renewable energy. Biden's much-discussed remark was in fact what the politics geeks call "a Kinsley gaffe," when a comment isn't a mistake at all but a possibly uncomfortable truth. In this case, though, it's only uncomfortable because of journalists whose heads are still buried in the long gas lines of the 1970s.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


DOJ's Discovery Of Google's 'Monopoly' Confirms The Lawsuit's Superfluous Nature (John Tamny, 10/25/20, Forbes)

Precisely because there's so much upside for a successful technology investment, hundreds of billions are flowing into tomorrow's dominant companies. Which ones will shine? If any of us knew, the path to billionaire status would be simple.

Except that it's not. And it's not because while the commercial creators of the future will be worth trillions, their eventual valuations make it impossible to know now which ones will eventually attain rarefied air.

To understand this better, consider the technology outlook in 2000, back when AOL and Yahoo were at the top of the internet heap. At the same time Amazon AMZN +0.9% was a "non-profit" peddling books, CDs and DVDs, Microsoft was still bloodied after the Clinton DOJ tried to break it up for offering Internet Explorer for free, Apple AAPL -0.6% was slowly limping out of near bankruptcy, Google was a largely unknown search engine surely dismissed by AOL and Yahoo, and then Facebook didn't exist. You see, Mark Zuckerberg was still in high school.

Imagine if you'd purchased the shares of just the public companies mentioned above in 2000. Amazon was trading at around $70/share. Apple was split adjusted trading at under $1 share relative to $116 right now, and even with Microsoft you would have quadrupled your investment. Google was still private, and valued at a microscopic fraction of its present worth. Facebook once again didn't exist, but as evidenced by Peter Thiel being able to acquire a 10% stake for $500,000, it's evident that much more than a few VCs passed on it.

What the technology landscape of 2000 tells us about the future is that the companies set to vanquish the technology giants of today are almost certainly unknown, wholly dismissed, or don't even exist yet. But rest assured they'll soon enough be known very well, only to be discovered by the DOJ after they achieve commercial dominance that is reflected by their membership in the trillion dollar club.

All of this needs to be remembered in consideration of the DOJ's lawsuit against Google. Supposedly consumers love its search engine too much, and because they do, government must step in and neuter that which consumers have chosen. Yes, antitrust is anti-consumer. Always.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Alternative energy stocks are on a tear and there's more upside ahead, says JPMorgan (Pippa Stevens, 10/25/20, CNBC)

Alternative energy stocks, including those focused on solar, are on a tear this year due to falling costs as well as optimism around supportive policies from a Biden administration, and JPMorgan believes there's more upside ahead.

"Long-term fundamentals for the overall space remain compelling, and we think the industry is more suited to long-term investors than at any prior time during our coverage," the firm said in a recent note to clients.

JPMorgan noted that the stocks in its alternative energy coverage universe have gained, on average, more than 130% this year compared with the S&P 500′s roughly 7% rise. Still, the firm said the risk-reward continues to look favorable, especially for companies involved in distributed power generation.

Just tax the bejeebies out of fossil fuels.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Biden gains as suburban women and elderly voters look to dump TrumpNine days out from election day, polling shows the Democratic nominee with big leads in key demographics (David Smith,  25 Oct 2020, The Guardian)

In the past four presidential elections, Republicans have led among the elderly by around 10 points. But about four in five Americans killed by the coronavirus were older than 65 and a majority of Americans say Trump has mishandled the pandemic.

The president trails among elderly voters by more than 20 points, according to recent CNN and Wall Street Journal/NBC News polls. This swing could prove critical in states such as Arizona and Florida, which have a high number of retirees.

"In terms of voting blocs, there are two that are absolutely dooming Donald Trump," said Larry Jacobs, director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota.

"He won the senior vote by seven points in 2016; that was very important in Florida and a few other states. He's now losing that bloc and the polls differ about how much, but the fact that he no longer has an advantage among seniors is really crippling for him.

"And then he has so alienated suburban women that it's put a whole number of states in play, including states you wouldn't expect, like Georgia. This kind of macho presidency has gotten the ringing rejection by women, particularly educated women who are so tired of the 1950s."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


This is why we need to ditch the 8-hour workday for good (JORY MACKAY, 10/25/20, Fast Company)

1. Almost no one is "working" for eight hours a day.

Let's start with some hard data. It doesn't matter how long you spend in the office, chances are you aren't working productively for eight hours a day.

Instead, data and surveys from around the world have found that modern workers are only truly productive for a maximum of 2 hours and 50 minutes a day.

But what about the other five-plus hours? They're spent on nonwork activities like reading the news or social media, socializing with coworkers, taking breaks, or lost to multitasking, context switching, and endless meetings.

2. Quality of work (and happiness) drops sharply after a certain number of hours.

Even if you try to work more to make up for those lost hours, your productivity will hit a wall.

According to research from Stanford University, output and creativity sharply decline after 50 hours of working in a week. And it only gets worse the more you work. In fact, people who work a 70-hour workweek are likely to produce nothing during those 15-20 extra hours.

3. Our focus is limited to blocks of 20-90 minutes max.

The problem with long workdays isn't just that we're spending too long at work. It's that we're trying to spend all that time productively.

The human brain is more like a muscle than a computer. You can't load it up with tasks without giving it breaks and proper time to recover. As research scientist Andrew Smart explains:

"The idea that you can indefinitely stretch out your deep focus and productivity time to these arbitrary limits is really wrong. It's self-defeating."

Instead, research shows that attention spans begin to decay significantly after 20 minutes while most people require a break every 50-90 minutes. (If you want to get technical, our brains go through something called ultradian rhythms every 90 minutes after which we need to take a break.)

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


White House Sought to Silence News of Vice President COVID-19 Outbreak: Report (JACOB JARVIS, 10/25/20, Newsweek)

Maggie Haberman, a White House correspondent for The Times, tweeted to her 1.5 million followers: "Two people briefed on the matter said that the White House chief-of-staff, Mark Meadows, sought to keep the information about the VP office outbreak from becoming public."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Our choice is Joe Biden* (Manchester Union Leader, 10/25/20)

Donald Trump did not create the social-media-driven political landscape we now live in, but he has weaponized it. He is a consummate linguistic takedown artist, ripping apart all comers to the delight of his fanbase but at the expense of the nation. America faces many challenges and needs a president to build this country up. This appears to be outside of Mr. Trump's skill set.

Building this country up sits squarely within the skill set of Joseph Biden. We have found Mr. Biden to be a caring, compassionate and professional public servant. He has repeatedly expressed his desire to be a president for all of America, and we take him at his word. Joe Biden may not be the president we want, but in 2020 he is the president we desperately need. He will be a president to bring people together and right the ship of state.

Biden is not perfect. We are not satisfied with his responses about his son Hunter's foreign business dealings. His understanding of gun rights leaves a lot to be desired (Joe says we only need shotguns). He suggests cops faced with a deadly threat should "shoot them in the leg." He also seems to be copying more pages out of the "Green New Deal" than we would like.

Our policy disagreements with Joe Biden are significant. Despite our endorsement of his candidacy, we expect to spend a significant portion of the next four years disagreeing with the Biden administration on our editorial pages.

Biden was among the most moderate in the crowded 2020 Democratic primary field, proposing some of the lowest new spending among that increasingly left-leaning group. We are hopeful that this is a sign of the thoughtful and pragmatic public servant President Joe Biden will be. Sadly, President Trump has proven himself to be the antithesis of thoughtful and pragmatic; he has failed to earn a second term.

Our endorsement for President of these United States goes to Joe Biden.

October 24, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 6:07 PM


The Replacements Song You Need To Hear. Especially If You Don't Like The Replacements. (Trunkworthy)
"Here Comes A Regular" is the Mats' masterpiece that could have come from Bruce Springsteen, Jason Isbell, Ryan Adams or Raymond Carver.
Even if we told you The Replacements mashed up everything that made '70s rock matter -- the energy of punk, the swagger and slop of the Stones, the introspection of the most sensitive singer/songwriters, and the sing-along hooks of power pop -- that might not be enough to convert you. You might walk away from the records turned off by the brash aggression we fell in love with when they were inventing alternative rock in the '80s, and remain somehow undiminished on the stages of their reunion tour. No oldies show here: They're bringing all the fire and commitment expected of the band that built and burned the bridge between the Sex Pistols, Nirvana, Green Day and Wilco. So, yeah, we love them, yet we get that The Replacements aren't for everyone.

But at least one song of theirs is. That's why we're begging -- begging -- you to check out their barroom ballad, "Here Comes A Regular." It's as far from the snarling rock The Replacements are known for as The Stones' "Wild Horses" is from "Brown Sugar" or Lennon's "Imagine" is from "Revolution."

Posted by orrinj at 1:16 PM


Singer-Songwriter Jerry Jeff Walker Dies at Age 78 (JORDAN HOFFMAN, OCTOBER 24, 2020, Vanity Fair)

After "Mr. Bojangles," Walker left New York for the burgeoning "Outlaw Country" scene in Austin, Texas, that also inspired Willie Nelson, Townes Van Zandt, Waylon Jennings, and others. He remained in Austin for the rest of his life. His ¡Viva Terlingua! album recorded live with his Lost Gonzo Band is something of a Rosetta Stone of Outlaw Country, with tracks like "Sangria Wine" and a cover of Ray Wylie Hubbard's great shout-singalong song "Up Against The Wall, Red Neck Mother."

Walker also famously covered two tunes by Guy Clark, "L.A. Freeway" and "Desperados Waiting For The Train."

In a statement to Austin360, Ray Benson from the group Asleep at the Wheel said "other than Willie, Jerry Jeff is the most important musician to happen to Austin. He really brought that folksinger/songwriter form to its height in Texas. And for that, he'll be eternal."

Posted by orrinj at 9:24 AM


The Unspectacular Excellence of Joe Biden's Slow and Steady Campaign (TIM ALBERTA, 10/23/2020, Politico)

The reasons I expected Biden to get mauled by the likes of Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg are exactly the reasons he outlasted them all.

The reasons I wondered how he would fare against Donald Trump are exactly the reasons he outperformed the president in each of their two debates.

Biden is slow. He is steady. He is unspectacular. In other words, he is what much of the electorate seems to want.

On Thursday night, two years after he stepped to that lectern in Lansing, Biden climbed down tiredly from the stage in Nashville. Over the previous 90 minutes, he had put the finishing touches on a campaign that was crafted in defiance of every expectation placed upon him and his party since Trump took office. I would call Biden's performance in the final debate an exclamation mark--except there is nothing exclamatory about his candidacy. He has run, objectively speaking, one of the most monotonous and predictable and uneventful campaigns for president in recent memory. And it has been nothing short of superb. Now, with Biden on the brink of a historic victory, it's worth understanding what has been right about his campaign--not simply what has been wrong with Trump's.

The Democratic nominee was at it again Thursday night, plodding along at a comfortable pace, reciting methodically rehearsed responses, never losing his composure or abandoning his message. It was telling that the lone error Biden supposedly committed--pledging to transition the country away from reliance on oil--is something he has discussed regularly over the past 18 months. Could he have polished his point a bit more? Sure. But there was no controversy. There was no campaign-imploding misstep. This was not Hillary Clinton promising to put coal miners out of work or Mitt Romney calling 47 percent of the country indolent. The former vice president's loyalists who have spent two years holding their breath, certain that he could say something disqualifying at any moment, are exhaling today with equal parts relief and amazement. The truth is, for all Biden's history of veering outside the lines and putting his foot in his mouth, he has navigated the most hyperexposed and instantly scrutinized political climate in history without ever putting himself in real jeopardy.

Some of this, of course, owes to a sheltering strategy that has kept the Democratic nominee out of sight for long stretches of the race. The basement that Trump mocked on Thursday night actually has been a protective lair from which Biden has run a textbook referendum campaign, keeping the focus on the incumbent, not on himself.

But much of Biden's success owes to his opponent's willingness to embrace that referendum.

Posted by orrinj at 7:47 AM


Trump campaign dissolving into ugly in-fighting and finger-pointing as election loss looms: report (Tom Boggioni, 10/24/20, Raw Story)

According to Politico's Alex Isenstadt, "Accusations are flying in all directions and about all manner of topics -- from allegedly questionable spending decisions by former campaign manager Brad Parscale, to how White House chief of staff Mark Meadows handled Trump's hospitalization for Covid-19, to skepticism that TV ads have broken through. Interviews with nearly a dozen Trump aides, campaign advisers and Republican officials also surfaced accusations that the president didn't take fundraising seriously enough and that the campaign undermined its effort to win over seniors by casting Democrat Joe Biden as senile."

While high profile Trump officials such as current campaign manager Bill Stepien are putting on a brave face, Politico reports Trump campaign headquarters is riddled with paranoia and internal fighting that is not helping matters as November 3rd looms.

"Senior Republicans say a culture of paranoia has developed in the waning days of the race, with fears mounting that they will be the targets of post-election attacks if Trump loses, which could damage their careers going forward," the report states before adding, "It's not just Parscale getting blamed for Trump's predicament. Some Republican officials are also angry at Meadows for how he managed Trump's hospitalization. The chief of staff undercut the White House messaging when he told reporters early on that Trump was 'still not on a clear path to a full recovery.'"

Adding to the problems has been a breakdown in communications between Trump's campaign and the Republican National Committee, both of which are supposed to be working hand-in-hand to get the president re-elected.

"The dissension has spilled into the final days of the race. In theory, the campaign and RNC are supposed to be working in tandem. But senior Republicans have said the campaign's coordination with the RNC broke down after Parscale's departure, with little communication between the two organizations," the reports states.

Politico is also reporting that some campaign officials are pinning a great part of the blame on the president himself.

The guy lost to Hillary by three million votes.  The notion he could be re-elected was always anti-realist.

Posted by orrinj at 7:38 AM


'Well, What Do You Mean, We Can't Join the Klan?': Inside the bizarre, secret meeting between Malcolm X and the Ku Klux Klan (LES PAYNE and TAMARA PAYNE, 10/24/2020, Politico)

The meeting began with a telegram that was delivered from the Klan at the end of 1960.

At a Nation of Islam gathering in Atlanta, 33-year-old Jeremiah X rushed up and handed over over the message, as if passing along a burning ember. The communiqué caught Malcolm totally by surprise. It proposed a meeting between the two groups and implied that they had a lot in common. The two Muslim ministers read the cable several times, probing the missive for motive. Who exactly was this W. S. Fellows, who had signed the telegram? The inclusion of his phone number, with an exchange that indicated he lived in the Grant Park section of the city, suggested that he awaited an answer. Was this a veiled threat? A setup? The Klan did not normally send its messages to Black people by day or post them in writing.

Unbeknown to Malcolm and Jeremiah, this initiative from the most violent, self-declared "white racist" group in America was being monitored by the FBI. Director J. Edgar Hoover had long targeted both the Klan and the NOI for surveillance, infiltration, and disruption. The more recent surge of the civil rights movement had also attracted the Bureau leader's attention in the South. As many as 2,000 paid FBI informant were operating inside the Klan, it later would be revealed.

This penetration allowed the Bureau to control or influence one of every 10 members, or 10 percent of the Ku Klux Klan. This vast government network may well have instigated the Klan's outreach to the Black Muslims for Hoover's own ulterior motive, such as the desire to influence or get inside information about the NOI's plans.

The details of the Klan telegram, and the events that resulted, have never been fully disclosed. Each group determined that its involvement in this cross-racial affair must be kept secret. Records indicate that the FBI monitored the proceedings and kept its notes classified for decades. It also kept secret whatever covert follow-up action the Bureau may have taken against the Klan and the Black Muslims, as well as against civil rights leaders. The original telegram was thrown out, according to Jeremiah X (later known as Jeremiah Shabazz). This account of the matter was pieced together from scattered government records, interviews with participants, group communiqués and notes, personal diaries, and knowledgeable sources.

The meeting was the beginning of an uneasy alliance between the NOI and the Ku Klux Klan on shared goals of racial separation. It was also the beginning of Malcolm's disillusionment with the Black Muslim organization and his embrace of the more mainstream civil rights movement.

At the time of the meeting, race relations in America had been rocked by the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling, which had outlawed school segregation. Despite the Supreme Court's caveat prescribing "all deliberate speed," the decision inspired civil rights groups to accelerate the pace of desegregation--against stiff white opposition from parents, school boards, governors and congressmen, sheriffs and the terror tactics of the KKK. Spearheading the drive to enforce the ruling were such well-established organizations as the NAACP, the National Urban League, and the Congress of Racial Equality, as well as the newly formed Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), headed by the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.

In the wake of the 381-day Montgomery bus boycott that the SCLC had launched in December 1955, the Klan had stepped up its campaign against desegregation with night-riding attacks, lynching of Blacks and bombings of homes and churches. Cross-burning Klan rallies were staged in open fields--mostly on Friday or Saturday nights, to attract the largest working-class crowds, some bringing along their small children for the fireworks. The racist terror was intended to derail the civil rights movement led by King and other nonviolent leaders.

During these tumultuous days of racial confrontation, the Nation of Islam operated on a third rail, opposing integration from the black side of the race divide.

The Klan invitation led to a meeting in Chicago between Jeremiah, Malcolm and NOI leader Elijah Muhammad, also called the Messenger by adherents, where they mulled over what such a meeting might look like.

Malcolm envisioned himself grabbing the Georgia Klan by the ear--and riding the wolf in its very own den, all at the behest of Elijah Muhammad. Once and for all, a squaring-off with the Klan leader could clarify the Muslim stances on integration, Christianity, mixed marriage, the Jews, miscegenation and even violence. The unbridgeable racial chasm could be explained, and the need for the Messenger's "separate state" highlighted, all in a highly publicized, Atlanta extravaganza with the white knights--featuring Minister Malcolm X. As Malcolm maneuvered for the key role at the Messenger's table, Jeremiah X listened quietly.

Elijah Muhammad appeared to have other ideas entirely. He struck a note nowhere near as assertive toward the Klan as Malcolm had hoped.

Dispassionate as usual when asserting NOI doctrine, Muhammad stated that his battle was not against whites but for the lost hearts and minds of Black people. Both the Klan and the NOI, Muhammad summarized, opposed integration and race mixing. Each group was on record as opposing the goals of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., although for separate and unequal reasons. The Muslims viewed King as a chief rival. The Klan saw him as a dangerous threat to white hegemony. Moreover, Muhammad allowed for no "hierarchy" among Caucasians on the issue of white supremacy; from the sitting U.S. president to the imperial wizard, all were slammed as "white devils." Accordingly, the Messenger told his two ministers in Chicago that day that the Muslims and the Klan indeed had similar goals but with different shading. Finally, playing his fingers across his lips, Elijah Muhammad calmly instructed a restrained Malcolm and a resigned Jeremiah X: "You can meet with them devils."

"We want what they want," Jeremiah remembered the Messenger stating plainly. However, "let them know that you don't want segregation; you want separation. We want to be totally separated from you. Give us ours and you have yours. We want ours more or less free and clear. Give us something we can call our own. You just tell them devils that."

it's the same dynamic you see in effect when Donald befriends Vladm, Kim & Xi and Israel allies with Arab dictatorships.  All Nationalists are natural allies.

Posted by orrinj at 7:25 AM


The Republican Antitrust Suit Against Google Is a Progressive Dream (ELIZABETH NOLAN BROWN, 10.22.2020, reason)

To reach this conclusion, the complaint--filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia--employs a loose conception of monopoly and barely bothers trying to offer a theory of consumer harm. The complaint's big beef with Google is basically that it's big, as well as useful, stubbornly popular, and extremely profitable.

Google is "one of the wealthiest companies on the planet, with a market value of $1 trillion and annual revenue exceeding $160 billion," the government notes in the suit's second paragraph.

For search users, Google algorithms "deliver more relevant results, particularly on 'fresh' queries (queries seeking recent information), location-based queries (queries asking about something in the searcher's vicinity), and 'long-tail' queries (queries used infrequently)," it says. And "few general search text advertisers would find alternative sources [to Google] a suitable substitute."

The lawsuit against Google does not accuse it of conspiring with its competitors or of acting unilaterally to block new entrants into the market. Nor does it cite common political gripes about Google, such as the idea that it's working too many different hustles and needs to be "broken up," or the claim that Google search and YouTube are ideologically biased. 

October 23, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 5:56 PM


Trump campaign ad about America's comeback features footage from Russia and Slovenia (Brian Schwartz, 10/22/20, CNBC)

President Donald Trump's campaign used stock footage from Russia and Slovenia in a digital ad intended to convince voters that America is bouncing back from the coronavirus pandemic.

Posted by orrinj at 5:43 PM


Trump might be surprised to learn most Americans want more wind and solar (Ella Nilsenella.nilsen@vox.com  Oct 23, 2020, Vox)

[P]olling shows that a majority of American's agree with Biden's vision that the future of American energy should be renewable energy.

Energy polling from Gallup shows a growing number of Americans believe the US should put less emphasis on traditional fossil fuels like oil and coal. The same Gallup poll showed overwhelming enthusiasm for renewable energy sources like wind and solar.

The Gallup survey showed that the number of Americans who believe the US should put more emphasis on coal and oil has fallen in recent years. Just 22 percent of Americans said we need more emphasis on coal in March 2019, a dip from 31 percent who said we should put more emphasis on it in 2013.

On the other hand, 70 percent of Americans in 2019 said the country should put more emphasis on wind energy (a number largely unchanged from 2013), and 80 percent said we should put more emphasis on solar energy (a slight uptick from 76 percent in 2013). The results were more mixed on natural gas, with 46 percent of Americans saying the country should put more emphasis on that as a form of energy, a dip from the 65 percent who said so in 2013.

A 2020 Pew Research Center study showed similar numbers. When the poll asked American adults whether the nation's priority should be oil, gas, and coal or alternative energy sources like wind and solar for the nation's energy supply, the poll showed 79 percent preferred alternative energy compared to 20 percent who said fossil fuels.

Joe can just focus on issues where the country is 65-35 or even more lop-sided and have a full agenda. 
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Universal mask-wearing could save 130,000 US lives before March, mitigating the worst of this 3rd coronavirus surge (Aria Bendix, 10/23/20, Business Insider)

More than 60% of Americans say they always wear a mask in public, according to data compiled by the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME). But more people will need to put one on if the US has any hope of mitigating its third major surge of infections.

The country's daily coronavirus cases have risen more than 40% on average since the start of October, an ominous swing in the wrong direction as cold weather sets in.

A new model from IHME predicted the US's total death count could surpass 511,000 by the end of February -- more than double the number of COVID-19 deaths the nation has seen so far.

But if 95% of the country wore masks, nearly 130,000 of those lives might be saved, the researchers found. 

The Trumpbots prefer corpses to courtesy.

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The Replacements: Pleased to Meet Me (Deluxe Edition) (Jake Cole, 10/20/20, Spectrum Culture)

Helping Westerberg realize his mounting ambitions to escape punk's limitations was producer Jim Dickinson, who had also sat behind the boards for the band's beloved Big Star for that group's Third. Dickinson brings the sleaze and bombast of Memphis soul to the record, particularly in the copious use of horns on several tracks. In Dickinson's hands, the Replacements retain all of their slovenly bar-band charm while hinting that they could hit the meteoric heights attained by prior bar acts-made-good like ZZ Top and the Faces. Instead of burying the group under gloss, Dickinson pointed out all the little pockmarks and blemishes that made them authentic.

The attempt to turn the band into a quantifiable success is also borne out in Westerberg's lyrics, which frequently cast a bemused, suspicious, ironic glance at the prospect of cleaning up for the bosses. "I Don't Know" revels in its raunchy horn section, using it as a backdrop to make a jaundiced yet clear assessment of the band's current situation as "one foot in the door / Another foot in the gutter." "Nightclub Jitters" imagines the band as washed-up losers playing background lounge music, having succeeded at respectability only to fade away into self-parody.

On the other hand, the album's most enduring song, "Alex Chilton," flips this pessimism on its head. An exuberant tribute to his musical hero (who also guests on "Can't Hardly Wait"), Westerberg captures all the awe and possessiveness of the rabid fan, casting the Big Star mastermind as an otherworldly figure while also succumbing to the desire for tidy rock narratives when he notes as an aside "If he died in Memphis, then that'd be cool." In anyone else's hands, singing "Children by the millions sing for Alex Chilton" would seem glibly sarcastic for describing a cult artist notoriously robbed of commercial success to match his critical stature, but Westerberg's earnestness clearly sees such a career as artistically valid. "Alex Chilton" isn't just the best song on the album, it's the one that gives away the game, revealing even as the group made its clearest bid for sales that they were gunning for long-term respect over short-term chart validation.

Rhino's deluxe edition charts the long journey toward this simultaneously open-hearted and cagey record. It includes a host of demos that find the group experimenting with combining their signature sound with rockabilly and other sounds native to Memphis, while rough mixes of the album's tracks reveal the depth that Dickinson brought to the material, sussing out the sophistication hidden underneath versions that are still more aggressive and spiky than reflective.Yet the true delights reside in the b-sides and outtakes that litter the set. Goof-offs abound, from the political disgust of "Election Day" to"All He Wants to Do Is Fish," which parodied self-consciously "Merican" country of the 1990s and 2000s years ahead of time. But there are also real gems here that could have stood on their own; "Learn How to Fail" would have fit like a glove amid the self-doubt and growing maturity of the final album's ruminations, and the lilting "Birthday Gal" is one of those Replacements songs made to be played outside on a sunny day.

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Can Placebos Work--Even When Patients Know They're Fake?: Researchers showed that a saline spray "treatment" reduced people's emotional distress, even though the study subjects knew the spray wouldn't do anything. (CLAUDIA LOPEZ LLOREDA, 10.20.2020, Wired)

Most previous studies only used self-reported measures like questionnaires to ask subjects to rate how depressed, anxious, or stressed they feel. These are subjective evaluations, which may be influenced by response bias, in which participants do not accurately report what they are feeling. Instead, Guevarra's team wanted to obtain an objective neural measure about what happens in response to non-deceptive placebos. Again, they recruited 198 healthy college students and gave them the saline spray placebo, with and without deception. This time, while showing the participants the negative pictures, they measured the electrical activity in each person's brain using electroencephalography. EEG measures the electrical signals emitted from the entire brain, as recorded from electrodes stuck to the participant's head.

Specifically, they looked at an indicator of emotional response called the late positive potential (LPP), an increase in electrical activity as a response to an emotional stimulus, such as distressing images. Strategies such as positive reappraisal, in which a person reinterprets a negative experience in a positive manner, can suppress this activity, which has led researchers to believe that LPP can be used to track emotional regulation--in this case, it would show the brain responding less intensely after an upsetting or emotional event.

When the researchers looked at the EEG readings from the two groups, they saw that the magnitude of the LPP of participants in the non-deceptive placebo group was smaller than those that had been deceived, meaning that their brains responded less to the distressing images than the other group. Three seconds after they were shown the distressing image, participants who received the non-deceptive placebo had an LPP amplitude of about 0.5 microvolts, while those that did not had an amplitude of about 3 microvolts. An analysis of this difference revealed that non-deceptive placebos had a moderate effect on the LPP over the control conditions, suggesting that they can modulate and dampen early neural reactions to emotional distress. In other words, the spray worked--even though participants knew it was a fake.

For Guevarra, this was evidence that the effect of the placebos was not response bias, but rather a real change in the brain. "I think it's a genuine psychobiological effect," he says. "The manipulation we have really fine-tunes and leverages people's expectations."

How might this work translate to the real world of mental health treatment? While the idea is still theoretical, Guevarra feels that non-deceptive placebos might be tried for conditions that consistently respond to expectations, such as anxiety, depression, and pain--and for mild to moderate cases. He envisions them being used by therapists as a first, cost-effective step or as co-interventions, given along with established treatments such as antidepressants and cognitive behavioral therapy, a type of talk therapy that has become an important tool in psychology. "Let's give them placebo pills first and see how it goes," he says.

If the placebo doesn't work, then they could move on to other alternatives. "The beauty of this is that it's relatively low-cost and arguably side effect-free," says University of Michigan psychology professor Ethan Kross, the principal investigator on the study.

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Two important and widely held views have been discredited (Scott Sumner, 10/22/20, EconLib)

Real housing prices are now just 1% below their 2006 peak. So it's no longer clearly true that houses were greatly overvalued in 2006. Instead, other theories are equally plausible. Perhaps NIMBYism combined with permanently lower interest rates does justify permanently higher real house prices in the 21st century.  Perhaps the 2006 immigration crackdown and the subsequent tightening lending standards and the steep drop in NGDP during 2008-09 caused the slump, and house prices are now returning to their appropriate level. 

Financial Institutions fraudulently sold higher risk instruments as low risk, which was exposed when the Fed mistakenly raised interest rates.  The Right's insistence that it was ever anything else is simply a function of their belief that minorities don't deserve homes. 

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Biden's Ukraine Problem Rebounds on Trump for Swing Voters  (JIMMY LEACH, 10/23/20, Newsweek)

That's the conclusion from this week's review of social media feeling around the imminent election carried out, as ever, by as evidenced by the voting intention data gather by Impact Social, who carry out a weekly tracker of social media sentiment analysis of 40,000 swing voters, ranging from disillusioned party supporters to the always undecided. Impact Social measures two sets of conversations--where Biden is the subject and where Trump is, and tracks the topics which surround them and the sentiment, positive or negative, around it.

It's relatively rare that Biden is the 'lead' topic in the social media conversations. Usually, the chatter, around both men, is what Trump has done now (and by extension what Biden has not done). Biden's path to victory has, so far, been paved by inaction--if he said and did little more than try to look like a Grown Up, that has been enough. This week, though, he's been the topic of much of the chatter, with Hunter the biggest single object of those conversations, with many hoping to echo Trump's famous "drain the swamp" motto of four years ago--with Biden being part of that Beltway Bog. [...]

The trouble for Trump is that there was considerably more activity amongst those who had perhaps been sleepwalking to a presumed Biden victory but who have been galvanized by the story into sneering at its validity and their presumption of it being a last, and fake, throw of the dice in a losing cause. For them, the irony of Trump accusing the Biden family of being on the take has been a little rich and created more than enough reason to list the President's own alleged misdemeanors. Worryingly for Trump, the single biggest topic amongst pro-Biden conversations was 'vote Biden', perhaps dispelling any lingering Republican hopes of the 'shy Biden' vote being difficult to get out.

That's resulted in the sentiment around Trump falling even further into the negative, to -18 percent as the campaign enters its final fortnight and emerges from the final, rather inconclusive, TV debate. For the President, the first shot at an October surprise has landed in his own foot.

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AI Assesses Alzheimer's Risk by Analyzing Word Usage (Jeremy Hsu, October 22, 2020, Scientific American)

Artificial intelligence could soon help screen for Alzheimer's disease by analyzing writing. A team from IBM and Pfizer says it has trained AI models to spot early signs of the notoriously stealthy illness by looking at linguistic patterns in word usage.

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Vietnam Plans to Become Solid Middle-Class Nation by 2025 (Ralph Jennings, October 23, 2020, VOA News)

The Communist Party's Central Committee wrapped up a plenary session October 8 held to chart macroeconomic goals, and a deputy planning minister said separately that Vietnamese people should earn around $5,000 per year on average by 2025, up from $2,750 now. 

Vietnam would reach that milestone -- middle income or higher in World Bank terms -- by extending 10-year-old economic reforms that now attract foreign investors to the country that's seen as a manufacturing peer to world factory powerhouse China.  

Their investment creates jobs and raises incomes among Vietnam's 97 million people. Vietnam is now lower middle-income. 

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Google is Not a Monopoly (Art Carden, October 23, 2020, AIER)

First, Google isn't the only firm in the search and search advertising space-or web browsing, or word processing, or any of the other fields in which Google does business. Within my Google Chrome browser yesterday, I was able to switch my default search engine from Google to DuckDuckGo with just a few clicks. I could delete Chrome and have Safari, Opera, Firefox, or Brave running the way I want it in a matter of minutes. I'm typing this in Google Docs, but it wouldn't be hard to switch to Word, Pages, a typewriter, quill and ink on parchment, or another word processing solution. 

I don't use Google products because they're the only feasible option or because switching from one platform to another is particularly onerous. I use Google products because they offer convenience and quality at a price of $0. While the Department of Justice worries about Google's market power and innovation, the ease of switching to a different browser or search engine keeps them on their innovative toes. There's a lot of information in what people do compared to what they say, and computer users have voted and continue to vote for Google products. I saw a "Most Interesting Man in the World" meme one time that illustrates this nicely. It was captioned "I don't always open Internet Explorer, But When I Do, It's to Download Chrome." I listen to a lot of productivity podcasts and have written a bit in that space before, and a sizable chunk of the productivity industry consists of evaluating apps and software. Some of Google's market position is likely explained by inertia, but it's probably not that much. 

If you build a better browser, people will beat a path to your door because switching costs are pretty low. I'm a couple of weeks into trying to learn my way around a new app or piece of software every week and I have a computer upgrade coming next month, and my phone is just about due for a replacement. This means I'll be reevaluating my browser choices pretty soon (if you have any suggestions, please let me know). For all its alleged control over the market and control over consumers, Google couldn't make Google Glass, Google Buzz, and Google+ work, and those are now one with Nineveh and Tyre. If only government agencies had the kind of "market power" that forces them to close when it's clear they're wasting resources!

Second, what Randall Holcombe called Political Capitalism flourishes in the world of antitrust regulation. In a 1985 article in the International Review of Law and Economics that should be a classic, Thomas J. DiLorenzo explains "The Origins of Antitrust: An Interest Group Perspective." Fred McChesney relies on it for his article on Antitrust in the Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. DiLorenzo found that the allegedly-market-restricting trusts were expanding output and lowering prices more rapidly than the rest of the economy. If the trusts were monopolizers, they would be restricting output and raising prices; McChesney points out that even the muckraker Ida Tarbell and the "trustbuster" Theodore Roosevelt admitted that the trusts were raising output and lowering prices. 

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Trump's Fracking Fixation Is Not Landing in Pennsylvania : Actual voters do not appear to be as obsessed with natural gas drilling as the president thinks they are. (Matt Petras, Oct. 23, 2020, Daily Beast)

[C]onversations with actual residents, local politicians, and a comb of public opinion data suggest perspectives on fracking in Pennsylvania are changing faster than top Democrats--and the president who seems to think it will save him--realize.

According to the NPR project StateImpact Pennsylvania, the state has nearly 8,000 active natural gas wells, and many--more than 1,100--are in Washington County, which is south of Pittsburgh. Pennsylvania's natural gas and oil industry employs about 26,000 people, according to advocacy group Food and Water Watch.

Recent polls show Pennsylvanians generally are mixed on the practice. A joint CBS and YouGov poll from August showed 52 percent of Pennsylvanians oppose fracking with 48 percent approving. Another August poll prepared by Democratic firm Global Strategy Group for the advocacy group Climate Power 2020 showed that while 61 percent of Pennsylvanians had a favorable view of the natural gas industry, only 32 percent had a favorable view of the fracking industry, compared to 50 percent unfavorable.

According to Andrew Baumann, a researcher for Global Strategy Group, the same poll showed similar numbers for Pittsburgh, the largest city in western Pennsylvania: 38 percent favorable compared to 51 percent unfavorable. Statewide, only 8 percent are "very" favorable toward the fracking industry, Baumann added--and that number was just 9 percent for Pittsburgh in his firm's data.

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What did the Stoics ever do for us? (John Sellars, 21/10/2020, Standpoint)

Perhaps it's worth starting by saying what Stoicism is not. The ancient philosophy of Stoicism (with a capital "S") has little in common with the "stiff upper lip" usually associated with lowercase "s" stoicism. Indeed, a study conducted this summer during the height of the UK lockdown has shown a negative correlation between genuine ancient Stoic attitudes and the popular image of stoic emotional suppression. The Stoics were indeed tough on some emotions--anger, jealousy, bitterness--but more well disposed towards other positive ones, such as joy. Participants in the same study reported after a month of following Stoic advice a 15 per cent decrease in negative emotions along with an 11 per cent increase in positive emotions, a 14 per cent increase in life satisfaction, and a 13 per cent increase in resilience. If resilience sounds like something you might be able to benefit from right now, Stoicism might be just the thing for you.

So how does it work, and who were these Stoics? The school started and developed in ancient Athens, where members of the burgeoning school would meet at the Painted Stoa on the edge of the marketplace, hence the name. The modern revival of Stoicism merely glances at the early Athenian Stoics, though, and relies instead on later Roman Stoics, notably Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius. Of these, it was Epictetus who articulated a couple of key ideas that have been foundational for the revival. The first of these is often called "the dichotomy of control". There are some things that we control and there are some that we don't. Much of our frustration and unhappiness comes from misclassifying things; most of it comes from thinking we can control things that we can't, and then getting upset when they don't conform to our will. So, what does Epictetus think that we control? He suggests that in fact it's very little. We control how we think about things, and that's pretty much it. We certainly don't control our bodies, which can and do get sick whether we like it or not, let alone everything else going on around us. We can of course try to have an impact on those things, but we can't control them completely. We ought not to expect things to work out the way we would like, because often they won't. This is the power of realist thinking.

Closely related to this thought is the other key idea, which Epictetus put like this: "it's not things that upset us, but our judgments about things". The frustration we feel when things don't go our way is not caused by the event itself--whatever that may be--but by our reaction to it. But, as we saw in the dichotomy of control, how we think about things is the one thing we do control. I am upset if I lose something that I judge to be valuable, but the negative emotion is caused not by losing something; it is caused by the judgment. After all, if someone else lost the same thing while being largely  indifferent to it, they might barely notice it missing. Together, these two ideas from Epictetus set out the central idea of Stoicism, namely that our wellbeing or happiness is not dependent on external circumstances or events but is in fact something entirely within our control. It all comes down to how we see things. This is what makes Stoicism a philosophy for uncertain times, as indeed all times are.

Tom Wolfe is the great Stoic writer of our time.

Posted by orrinj at 8:09 AM


Poll shows most who voted third-party in 2016 are supporting Biden over Trump in 2020 (KENNY STANCIL, OCTOBER 23, 2020, Salon)

Millions of Americans voted for third-party candidates in 2016, but a new poll released Thursday shows that a large majority of those who rejected the United States' two major political parties four years ago are not planning to do so in 2020, with Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden holding a substantial advantage over Republican incumbent President Donald Trump among that voting bloc. 

Between October 16-18, Morning Consult Political Intelligence surveyed 359 likely voters who opted for candidates other than Trump or Hillary Clinton in 2016 and found that 53% are supporting Biden in this year's election, while just 21% are backing Trump. 

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October 22, 2020

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GOP candidate attacks opponent with racist website about his adviser working for 'non-white males' (Bob Brigham, 10/22/20, Raw Story)

"A new attack website put up by the Madison Cawthorn campaign includes an explicitly racist broadside against his opponent, Moe Davis (D-NC), for associating himself with people who want to 'ruin white males.' For real," Tim Miller of The Bulwark reported Thursday.

"The website, MoeTaxes.com takes aim at Davis over one of his advisors Tom Fielder. It says that Fielder 'quit his academia job in Boston to work for non-white males, like Cory Booker who aims to ruin white males.' Putting the atrocious syntax aside... Quitting one's job to work for someone who isn't white is . . . a problem now? Booker's blackness is the issue that offends you?" Miller asked. "In Donald Trump's white grievance party, apparently so." [...]

"Earlier this summer, homophobic North Carolina congressional candidate and Nazi enthusiast Madison Cawthorn was considered a frontrunner in the race to represent North Carolina's 11th district and a rising star within the GOP," Queerty reported Thursday. "Not long after that, Cawthorn was accused of sexual misconduct... followed by being exposed for going on a pilgrimage to Hitler's mountain retreat... followed by being dragged online for spreading QAnon conspiracy theories."

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Girl, 8, pulls a 1,500-year-old sword from a lake in Sweden (BBC, 4 October 2018)

An eight-year-old found a pre-Viking-era sword while swimming in a lake in Sweden during the summer.

Saga Vanecek found the relic in the Vidostern lake while at her family's holiday home in Jonkoping County.

The sword was initially reported to be 1,000 years old, but experts at the local museum now believe it may date to around 1,500 years ago.

"It's not every day that you step on a sword in the lake!" Mikael Nordstrom from the museum said.

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Vince Guaraldi Is the Unsung Hero of "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" (BONNIE STIERNBERG, 10/21/20, Inside Hook)

 A Charlie Brown Christmas came first, and in the decades since, everything about it has become an iconic holiday tradition, from Charlie Brown's pathetic tree to Linus's monologue about the true meaning of the holiday and the Vince Guaraldi Trio's quadruple-platinum soundtrack album.

So, It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown may be the number two Peanuts holiday special, but it does try harder, thanks largely to Guaraldi and his soundtrack (which inexplicably didn't get a formal release until 2018). The jazz pianist's relationship with Charlie Brown and company can actually be traced back to his 1962 track "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" -- a Grammy-winning composition in which you can hear the groundwork for "Linus and Lucy" -- which caught the attention of producer Lee Mendelson. Mendelson asked Guaraldi to do the music for a Peanuts documentary that never got off the ground, but the partnership was solidified. A Charlie Brown Christmas came first and, of course, gave us classics like "Linus and Lucy" and "Christmastime is Here," and it was followed a second special called Charlie Brown's All-Stars! But it wasn't until Great Pumpkin that Guaraldi solidified what would come to be known as the Peanuts sound.

"Linus and Lucy" is absent from Charlie Brown's All-Stars!, but as legend has it, Guaraldi suggested to Mendelson that it become the unofficial Peanuts theme song ahead of It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Mendelson was receptive, and Guaraldi recorded a new, fleshed-out version of the track with his sextet -- which included Emmanuel Klein on trumpet, John Gray on guitar, Ronald Lang on flute, Monty Budwig on bass and Colin Bailey on drums -- that's widely regarded as the best arrangement of it. The sextet version of "Linus and Lucy," highlighted by Lang's flute counterpoint, is peppered throughout Great Pumpkin, and it's given room to breathe during the special's dialogue-free cold open featuring the two siblings it takes its name from searching for a suitable pumpkin to carve.

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New Columbia Study Blames the White House for at Least 130,000 'Avoidable' COVID Deaths (Blake Montgomery, Oct. 21, 2020, Daily Beast)

A new report from Columbia University on COVID-19 deaths estimates that hundreds of thousands of Americans died because the United States' response to the pandemic was an "abject failure," particularly the actions of President Donald Trump. With an adequate response, the United States could have avoided tens of thousands of deaths and an incalculable amount of suffering, the researchers said.

Dr. Irwin Redlener, the lead author on the study and the founding director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness, laid the blame at the feet of the White House in an interview with The Daily Beast: "We believe that this was a monumental, lethal screwup by an administration that didn't want to deal with reality."

In the report, titled "130,000-210,000 Avoidable COVID-19 Deaths--and Counting--in the U.S.", researchers at Columbia's NCDP studied "the staggering and disproportionate nature of COVID-19 fatalities in the United States."

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Trump's Nato-bashing exposes the hollow myth of US 'imperialism' (Oliver Kamm, 10/22/20, Cap X)

The US is a reluctant behemoth, not an imperial power. The danger for us Europeans is not of too much transatlantic intervention in our affairs but of too little. It's demonstrated in comments this week by Kay Bailey Hutchison, the outgoing US ambassador to Nato. Ms Hutchison told Sky News that Mr Trump "has come to the realisation that Nato is very valuable". She added that, if re-elected, Mr Trump will honour the commitment requiring all Nato member-states to come to the defence of another if called upon to do so.

These are extraordinary comments, as they indicate that the free world has been led for nearly four years by a man who does not understand the nature, let alone the necessity, of collective security. Throughout his period of office, Mr Trump has demonstrated that he is at ease with autocrats, such as Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-Un, while despising democratic allies. He's previously claimed, in defiance of the evidence of Russia's alteration of the boundaries of Europe by force and use of nerve agent in a British city, that Nato is "obsolete". We now know that he regards a treaty obligation, specified under Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, as purely optional. His presidency thereby undermines Western defence and effective deterrence.

That's why large numbers of Republicans who've served in national security posts in government back Mr Biden. (They include an old friend and debating partner of mine, Colleen Graffy, who served in the GW Bush administration.) Mr Trump's hostility to collective security demonstrates also just how fanciful is the notion that Europeans are subjugated by the US through our security alliances. And this has been a constant theme of the radical left in the post-war era.

The key is to expand the Empire, knitting the TPP nations and Africa into a NATO/NAFTA global trade alliance of free states.

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The Feds' Antitrust Case against Google Is Weak (THE EDITORS, October 21, 2020, National Review)

Is it harmful to consumers for Google to pay other companies to feature its search engine as the default? That's a hard case to make, because it's generally easy for those who prefer other search engines to change the default, as Google and the alternative engines are all free and switching can be achieved in a few clicks; because these lucrative arrangements help to subsidize the devices consumers use; and because most users would probably choose Google anyhow, if its runaway success over the past two decades is any guide.

The argument to the contrary, as it stands so far, is highly speculative. It holds that consumers would be better off if they had to affirmatively choose Google, because other engines would then have more of a chance to compete, and the added competition and innovation would lead to better products and greater choice, and lower rates for those who advertise in web searches. That argument may find some sympathy in court, and it might even be true.

It's a lot of time and money to waste on the notion that your computer ought not default to the best service.

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Why geothermal energy should be Biden's easy answer to the fracking question (Ryan Cooper, October 22, 2020, The Week)

The reason that oil and gas fracking is all but doomed is that wind and solar are now beating all other technologies for new generation capacity on price in most places across the country -- nuclear, coal, oil, and even natural gas -- and they will only get cheaper. With even modest climate policy, superior zero-carbon technology will soon out-compete most carbon-based electricity and transportation. With aggressive policy, that process will happen much faster. Furthermore, the coronavirus pandemic has walloped the fracking industry, as oil demand has cratered with the collapse of travel. Indeed, the government will probably have to spend billions of dollars over the coming years capping wells that bankrupt fracking outfits have (as usual) abandoned because they didn't have enough insurance.

The good news is that, as David Roberts writes in an extensive article for Vox, geothermal power technology is finally reaching the liftoff stage. This is one of those technologies that is theoretically very promising but an engineering nightmare. Essentially, the molten core of the earth is very hot thanks to the decay of radioactive isotopes inside it, and you can use that (virtually inexhaustible) heat to generate electricity. In certain volcanically active places you can access the heat easily, but to really get at the potential, you've got to build geothermal stations all over the place. That means drilling down hundreds or thousands of feet to get to the hot zone, and transporting that heat back up somehow to run a turbine.

Geothermal would be an excellent complement for wind and solar, because it can be switched on and off at will -- providing either baseload or quick-deployment power to compensate for changing wind and sun conditions, but until now it hasn't been feasible at a large scale.

For years the drilling technology to do this kind of thing did not exist. Ironically, the fracking revolution has created exactly the innovations needed. One method is to find a natural reservoir of hot water trapped relatively close to the surface, pump it out through a well, and then pump it back down again once it has run the turbine. Or you can create a new reservoir by pumping down some water to crack apart the rock layers, and then pumping it back out again. Further along the engineering frontier, you can drill down very far to get water hot enough that it becomes "supercritical" and hence able to hold dramatically more energy, or heat the water through an entirely closed loop with deep horizontal pipes.

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What Donald Trump Learned From David Duke's Political Rise (JOSH LEVIN, OCT 21, 2020, Slate)

Here are Donald Trump's full remarks about David Duke, from Larry King Live on Nov. 19, 1991:

Larry King: Did the David Duke thing bother you? Fifty-five percent of the whites in Louisiana voted for him.

Donald Trump: I hate--

King: Four hundred New Yorkers contributed.

Trump: I hate seeing what it represents, but I guess it just shows there's a lot of hostility in this country. There's a tremendous amount of hostility in the United States.

King: Anger?

Trump: It's anger. I mean, that's an anger vote. People are angry about what's happened. People are angry about the jobs. If you look at Louisiana, they're really in deep trouble. When you talk about the East Coast--it's not the East Coast. It's the East Coast, the middle coast, the West Coast ...

King: If he runs and Pat Buchanan runs [for president in 1992], might you see a really divided vote?

Trump: Well, I think if they run, or even if David Duke--I mean, George Bush was very, very strong against David Duke. I think if he had it to do again, he might not have gotten involved in that campaign because I think David Duke now, if he runs, takes away almost exclusively Bush votes. And then a guy like Cuomo runs--I think Cuomo can win the election.

King: But Duke--but Bush morally had to come out against him.

Trump: I think Bush had to come out against him. I think Bush--if David Duke runs, David Duke is going to get a lot of votes. Whether that be good or bad, David Duke is going to get a lot of votes. Pat Buchanan--who really has many of the same theories, except it's in a better package--Pat Buchanan is going to take a lot of votes away from George Bush. So if you have these two guys running, or even one of them running, I think George Bush could be in big trouble.

It was, of course, the Nationalist Ross Perot who took votes from GHWB and elected Bill Clinton.

Posted by orrinj at 7:13 AM


Inequality and Its Discontents (Michael J. Boskin, Oct. 21st, 2020, Project Syndicate)

[C]onsumption and disposable income are considerably less unequal than the oft-quoted market income figures. Average measures taken over a longer term tend to show less inequality, reflecting the fact that many people are poor or rich only temporarily. Many of my university students currently have low incomes, but will almost certainly be very well off later in their lives. It is not surprising that natural age-earnings profiles and measures of life-cycle wealth accumulation would show considerable inequality at any point in time. All data sources have strengths and limitations, be it sample size, frequency, item coverage, or comparability (especially relevant in the case of international data).

Accounting as best as I can for these factors, I have compiled the following summary of major trends in US inequality in recent decades. Since around 1980, the skill premium in wages has grown substantially, whereas lower-skill real (inflation-adjusted) wages have grown more slowly (not to be confused with a decline). This reflects technology's bias toward skilled labor, globalization's negative effects on less-skilled wage earners, and the composition of labor-skill supply and demand.

During this period, overall inequality increased in almost all advanced economies (though some believe it will reverse), suggesting that domestic policies could not have been the primary cause. Similarly, after a long period of stability, labor's share of national income has declined in all major economies.

Meanwhile, though social mobility has remained at considerable levels, it likely declined, including inter-generationally. Changes in the wage distribution have been concentrated mostly in the top half, and though there has been a relative increase in wealth at the very top, it is less than some commentators claim.

Indeed, there has been a huge increase in cash and in-kind transfer payments. One-sixth of US income comes from such payments, and the rate in Western Europe's social-welfare states is even higher. America's unfunded entitlements liabilities have grown to several times the already-high national debt.

While inequality in disposable income (and even more so in consumption) remains substantial, it is much lower than inequality in market incomes. After adding transfers and subtracting taxes, one finds that the income of the top 1% in the US falls by over one-third, while that of the bottom 20% triples.

What really gets mismeasured here is the improved quality of what we are consuming with that income. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:06 AM


Posted by orrinj at 6:45 AM


Biden causes 'anxiety' in Egypt (Middle East Monitor, October 22, 2020)

The regime in Cairo is fearful of a Joe Biden victory in the US presidential election after the Democrat candidate said he would not ignore human rights violations in Egypt, the Israeli Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) has revealed. 
The institute's paper released on Wednesday is headed "Egypt Prepares for a Potential Biden Victory" and was written by researchers Tzvi Lev and Ofir Winter.

"The upcoming United States presidential elections have aroused anxiety in Egypt," they wrote, pointing out concerns about the policy that the former US Vice President will pursue if he is elected. "Biden has already hinted that he intends to put greater emphasis on democracy and human rights in Egypt and is described in Cairo as someone who may well appoint people sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood to key positions in his administration."

The INSS researchers added that Biden "is likely to return to the nuclear agreement with Iran" and this is one of the main concerns to Egypt. The Cairo regime believes that Iran is a threat to Arab countries.

Switching from the dictatorships and apartheid regimes to the side of the democracies is reason enough to vote for Joe.

Posted by orrinj at 6:42 AM


The contested legacy of the anti-fascist International Brigades (Giles Tremlett, 22 Oct 2020, The Guardian)

International Brigades veterans went on to serve as iron curtain prime ministers - or equivalent - in East Germany, Hungary and Albania. They provided dozens of ministers, generals, police chiefs and ambassadors across all Europe's communist regimes - forming a potent elite, although they were mostly working-class. In East Germany, former International Brigades volunteers founded and ran the notorious Stasi. Suppressing freedom was part of their job. Little surprise, then, that some countrymen now despise them.

Posted by orrinj at 6:40 AM


US Ice officers 'used torture to make Africans sign own deportation orders' (Julian Borger,  22 Oct 2020, The Guardian)

US immigration officers allegedly tortured Cameroonian asylum seekers to force them to sign their own deportation orders, in what lawyers and activists describe as a brutal scramble to fly African migrants out of the country in the run-up to the elections.

Many of the Cameroonian migrants in a Mississippi detention centre refused to sign, fearing death at the hands of Cameroonian government forces responsible for widespread civilian killings, and because they had asylum hearings pending.

According to multiple accounts, detainees were threatened, choked, beaten, pepper-sprayed and threatened with more violence to make them sign. Several were put in handcuffs by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) officers, and their fingerprints were taken forcibly in place of a signature on documents called stipulated orders of removal, by which the asylum seekers waive their rights to further immigration hearings and accept deportation.

Lawyers and human rights advocates said there had been a significant acceleration of deportations in recent weeks, a trend they see as linked to the looming elections and the possibility that Ice could soon be under new management.

Posted by orrinj at 6:30 AM


Magician and debunker of the paranormal James Randi dies (AFP, 10/22/20)

While he enjoyed amazing audiences with his feats of escapology and sleight of hand, Randi had no time for so-called psychics and faith healers, exposing numerous fraudsters with his inside knowledge of a magician's tricks.

As public fascination with the paranormal grew in the 1970s, Randi, along with sci-fi writer Isaac Asimov and astronomer Carl Sagan, co-founded what is now known as the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry to investigate claims of paranormal phenomena and promote scientific inquiry.

One of his most famous targets was Israeli self-professed psychic Uri Geller, who claimed to be able to bend spoons with the power of his mind.

In 1973 Johnny Carson invited Geller on "The Tonight Show" and asked him to demonstrate his powers on a range of props but the flustered Geller was unable to, claiming he "didn't feel strong."

Ahead of the show, the skeptical Carson, who had been a magician himself, had asked Randi for advice to expose any trickery.

"I told them to provide their own props and not to let Geller or his people anywhere near them," Randi said.

On a radio show in 1964 Randi had offered $1,000 to anyone who could show scientific evidence of paranormal powers.

The sum grew over the years and through his James Randi Educational Foundation, the debunker offered $1 million to anyone who could demonstrate evidence of paranormal abilities under scientific scrutiny.

"The difference between them and me," Randi told The New York Times in July 1981, "is that I admit that I'm a charlatan. They don't. I don't have time for things that go bump in the night."

In 1980s Randi also famously exposed so-called faith healer Peter Popoff, showing that the televangelist was secretly using a radio earpiece to receive specific information about members of the congregation and their illnesses which he then claimed was revealed to him by God.

October 21, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 6:47 PM


Watchdog Report Says Mike Pompeo 'Regularly' Used Personal Email While Director of CIA (MEGHAN ROOS, 10/21/20, Newsweek)

According to the report, Pompeo "appears to have regularly received official schedules at his personal email account" while at the CIA.

"This extensive use of personal email for agency business raises questions about what other activities Pompeo conducted over personal email, including at the State Department--and about whether efforts need to be undertaken to preserve government records in personal accounts," the report said.

Posted by orrinj at 6:43 PM


Polls show Biden and Trump deadlocked in Texas, Biden up by 8 in Pennsylvania (CAITLIN OPRYSKO, 10/21/2020, Politico)

Former Vice President Joe Biden is running neck and neck with President Donald Trump in deep red Texas, a new poll out Wednesday shows, one of the latest signs that the Republican stronghold could be in play on Election Day.

The new Quinnipiac University survey found Biden and Trump deadlocked at 47 percent among likely voters, less than two weeks out from Election Day and ahead of the final presidential debate of the cycle. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:36 PM


John Coltrane: Ballads/A Love Supreme (Jacob Nierenberg, 10/21/20, Spectrum Culture)

Coltrane found God in 1957 after several years of heroin abuse and alcoholism, which had stalled his career. (He'd been fired from Davis' First Great Quintet for his addictions, though the trumpeter would hire Coltrane again the following year.) Suddenly, the troubled-but-brilliant saxophone player experienced what he referred to in A Love Supreme's liner notes as "a spiritual awakening which was to lead me to a richer, fuller, more productive life," and took to his craft with renewed purpose. He signed to Atlantic Records in 1959 and released his seminal Giant Steps in 1960, the same year he began working with pianist McCoy Tyner and drummer Elvin Jones. But it wasn't until Coltrane moved to Impulse! Records and formed the classic lineup of his quartet with the addition of bassist Jimmy Garrison that he began recording his most forward-thinking material, from the big-band sound of Africa/Brass to the free-jazz squalls of Ascension and Meditations.

Although A Love Supreme was released just two years before Coltrane's death, it sits at the fulcrum of his career and remains the most common entry point into his body of work. Deeply spiritual but never didactic, stylistically restless but never esoteric, it strikes the perfect balance between its creator's more accessible and more experimental poles, which is all the more surprising given how late he was in his career when he recorded it. (Given Coltrane's many posthumous releases, it sits at about the midpoint of his discography.) It's often lumped into the category of "avant-garde" jazz, but it's not avant-garde in the sense that it abandons jazz traditions and forms so much as it draws from various strains of the genre. A Love Supreme, like almost every other great jazz album of its decade, owes a debt to Kind of Blue for popularizing modal jazz, a style of playing that eschews conventional chord changes in favor of fluid improvisation around scales. But you can also hear hard bop in Tyner's blocky piano chords on "Resolution" and "Pursuance" as he backs up Coltrane; when it's Tyner's turn to solo on these tracks, it sounds like he's playing in both styles at once. You can even pick out bits of free jazz in Coltrane's wilder solos, months before he threw himself headlong into the subgenre.

But it also makes sense to talk about how A Love Supreme works in terms of moods, not just in terms of chords and notes. The four movements on A Love Supreme feel like an emotional odyssey: they rise and fall, together on the macroscale and within themselves. From its opening gong to Coltrane's chanting the album's title, "Acknowledgement" feels like an awakening, hinting at something beyond what the music or the words "a love supreme" can convey. There's a similar electricity to "Pursuance," which features solos from all four members of the quartet: Jones and Garrison get full minutes to themselves, with Garrison's deep, brooding plucks leading into the somber final movement, "Psalm." Coltrane's saxophone takes on an almost mournful quality on "Psalm," bearing more resemblance to "Alabama"--Coltrane's dirge for the four girls murdered in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing--than to his playing on "Acknowledgement" and "Pursuance," which demonstrate the dense but breathtakingly fluid runs of notes (what jazz historian Ira Gitler dubbed "sheets of sound") that were unique to Coltrane even in his pre-Atlantic albums.

Posted by orrinj at 3:57 PM


Divorce is down, despite covid-19 (W. Bradford Wilcox & Lyman Stone, 10/21/20, Washington Post)

In spite of breathless media reports of a surge, divorce appears to be down in 2020. The initial data we have from the five states that report divorce statistics in real time indicates a decline in divorce filings for 2020, with year-to-date filings down 19 percent in Florida, 13 percent in Rhode Island, 12 percent in Oregon and 9 percent in Missouri. While divorces are up 9 percent in Arizona, that increase began in late 2019, before the pandemic. Though states are returning to pre-pandemic levels of divorce, most haven't gotten there yet.

Divorces also fell during the Great Recession, then went up a bit as the economy recovered and couples got divorces they had been putting off, before turning downward yet again. The net result? Divorce fell more than 20 percent following the Great Recession; today we are nearly at 1970 levels of divorce. Despite the strains the pandemic is causing, we anticipate that a similar decline in divorce could occur in its wake. In a survey we conducted in September of 1,300 American women ages 18 to 44, we found that 45 percent of married women said the pandemic had made them less likely to break up with their partner, vs. just 5 percent who said it had made a breakup more likely.

Tough and traumatic times can change our priorities, our perspective and our devotion to friends and family for the better. When we face trials with a strong social network, the right perspective or a deep faith, as Jonathan Haidt notes in "The Happiness Hypothesis," adversity is more likely to "lead to growth, strength, joy, and self-improvement," rather than the opposite.

One silver lining in an otherwise dark year is that most couples seem to be emerging from the crucible of covid-19 not with weaker unions but stronger ones -- and dreams for a stronger family future in the undoubtedly difficult days ahead.

who'd have dreamt that families spending time together would strengthen marriage and the mental health of children?

Posted by orrinj at 3:42 PM


Posted by orrinj at 1:14 PM


Posted by orrinj at 1:09 PM


NYT Report: Trump Tax Records Show He Tried to Land China Projects (Associated Press. October 21, 2020)

President Donald Trump spent a decade unsuccessfully pursuing projects in China, operating an office there during his first run for president and forging a partnership with a major government-controlled company, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

Posted by orrinj at 1:07 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:53 PM


This summer's Black Lives Matter protesters were overwhelmingly peaceful, our research finds (Erica Chenoweth and  Jeremy Pressman, Oct. 16, 2020, Washington Post)

Here is what we have found based on the 7,305 events we've collected. The overall levels of violence and property destruction were low, and most of the violence that did take place was, in fact, directed against the BLM protesters.

First, police made arrests in 5 percent of the protest events, with over 8,500 reported arrests (or possibly more). Police used tear gas or related chemical substances in 2.5 percent of these events.

Protesters or bystanders were reported injured in 1.6 percent of the protests. In total, at least three Black Lives Matter protesters and one other person were killed while protesting in Omaha, Austin and Kenosha, Wis. One anti-fascist protester killed a far-right group member during a confrontation in Portland, Ore.; law enforcement killed the alleged assailant several days later.

Police were reported injured in 1 percent of the protests. A law enforcement officer killed in California was allegedly shot by supporters of the far-right "boogaloo" movement, not anti-racism protesters. The killings in the line of duty of other law enforcement officers during this period were not related to the protests.

Only 3.7 percent of the protests involved property damage or vandalism. Some portion of these involved neither police nor protesters, but people engaging in vandalism or looting alongside the protests.

In short, our data suggest that 96.3 percent of events involved no property damage or police injuries, and in 97.7 percent of events, no injuries were reported among participants, bystanders or police.

..is a function of the perceiver's racism 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Anticlimax of the Google Antitrust SuitThe justice department's case against Microsoft in the 1990s was much stronger than the one it's concocted against the Mountain View tech giant. (Steven Levy, 10/21/20, Wired))

There's no question that Google dominates search, but in 2020, there isn't one company that rules technology but a cluster (including Microsoft). In some ways they work in tandem: The filing cites one Apple executive saying in 2018, "Our vision is that we work as if we are one company." Yet in other ways they do compete. It seems that everyone is vying to be the company that gives you the proper response when you speak to a device that plays music, tells you the weather, and reminds you that you're late for an appointment. Google isn't necessarily winning that race.

Filing an antitrust complaint begins a lengthy process. If Google decides to employ all its legal resources--and it has indicated that it intends to--we're in for a struggle that could eat up much of the decade. A trial is more than a year away. Appeals of the verdict will take much longer. But there's a second approach: a relatively speedy settlement that would free the company of the distractions suffered by Microsoft 20 years ago. The DOJ's main complaints are relatively easily addressed. Google could stop paying Apple, Mozilla, and others to make its search the default choice. According to Google, most people would switch away from a rival to reinstall its search engine anyway. Meanwhile, Google could be less onerous in demanding prime placement of its apps in Android phones. Since it already controls the operating system on those phones, its apps will continue to perform well. I think Google would survive those setbacks quite handily.

But don't expect anything to happen until we learn who wins the election taking place in two weeks. We have no idea whether a Joe Biden DOJ would drop this investigation, continue it, or even double down on it and conclude that Google's market power should not include YouTube or other properties. One worrisome signifier for the DOJ: All 11 of the state attorneys general who joined the DOJ suit are from red states.

In other words, there are signs that this DOJ salvo might flop as badly as the second season of Twin Peaks, a TV series that gripped the nation when it was released at the peak of the Microsoft trial, and bored people to death when it returned for round two. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Suppressing fires has failed. Here's what California needs to do instead.It's time to reverse a century of fire-management policy. That will require sweeping regulatory reforms, and tons of money. (James Temple, September 17, 2020, MIT Technology Review)

As much as 20 million acres of federal, state, or private land across California needs "fuel reduction treatment to reduce the risk of wildfire," according to earlier assessments by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and other state agencies. That's nearly two-thirds of the state's 33 million acres of forests and trees, and six times the area that has burned so far this year.

This "treatment" can include prescribed burns set under controlled conditions--ideally, spaced out geographically and across the year to prevent overwhelming communities with smoke. It can also mean using saws and machines to cut and thin the forests. Another option is "managed wildfire," which means monitoring fires but allowing them to burn when they don't directly endanger people or property.

More than a century of deferred work, however, means it's hard to get into places that need thinning. It's also risky to do prescribed burns or allow natural fires to rage, since the fuels are so built up in many places, Westerling says.

A 2018 report by the Little Hoover Commission, an independent state oversight agency, recommended cleaning out 1.1 million acres a year. That would still take two decades, and require a lot of workers and money. Prescribed burns on forest and park lands can cost more than $200 per acre, while thinning can easily top $1,000, depending on the terrain. So the total costs could range from hundreds of millions of dollars to well above a billion per year.

Still, that's a fraction of the costs incurred by out-of-control wildfires. To take just one example, the devastating Wine Country Fires in October 2017 did more than $9 billion worth of damage in a single month. Battling wildfires on US Forest Service land runs more $800 an acre.

And without thinning and burning, the wildfires are only going to get worse.

If the goal is to burn up excess fuel, why not just let the wildfires rage? The problem is that runaway fires in overgrown forests don't achieve the same results as controlled burns. These intense blazes can level vast stretches of the forest rather than simply clearing out the undergrowth and leaving the big trees standing, says Scott Stephens, a professor of fire science at UC Berkeley. Instead of restoring the health of the forests, large, uncontrolled fires often transform them into shrub land, where vegetation grows quickly and severe fires can rapidly return.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM

Hate readsThe Western canon has no shortage of fascists. But can the far-Right make 'literature' worthy of the name? (Andrew Marzoni, 10/21/20, Aeon)

The public outrage following the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbury earlier this year flooded bookstores in the United States with orders for recent publications such as Robin DiAngelo's White Fragility and Ibram X Kendi's How to Be an Antiracist, as well as for classic novels by Toni Morrison and James Baldwin, and essays by Angela Davis and Audre Lorde. At the same time, the British Right-wing propagandist Milo Yiannopoulos posted 'An "America First" Reading List' to the extremist social media network Gab. Co-authored by the American blogger Michelle Malkin, this 'gift for young conservatives' compiles nearly 200 books sorted by theme (literature, Christianity, religion, culture, US politics, race, economics and 'the West'), priority, and level of difficulty.

Pillars of the canon (Dante's Divine Comedy; Augustine's Confessions; Shakespeare's tragedies) mingle liberally with stalwart fetish tracts (The Art of War by Sun Tzu; The Decline of the West by Oswald Spengler), conspiracy theories ('The Protocols of the Elders of Zion'; the Unabomber's manifesto) and titles from contemporary conservatism's most popular pundits, among whom both authors immodestly insert themselves, allotting three to four slots each: more than other conservative commentators such as Dinesh D'Souza and David Horowitz get, and as many as Ann Coulter.

It takes a tremendous effort to stay as ignorant as a Trumpbot.
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


'Democrat-run cities' fuel the economy, keep many red states afloat (MARIK VON RENNENKAMPFF, 10/20/20, The Hill)

The economic divergence between red and blue states is staggering -- and growing rapidly. While income and education levels are increasing at a swift rate in Democratic areas, they are stagnant or declining in red states, which is a recipe for disaster.

Indeed, studies have linked dire economic conditions in GOP-voting districts to extreme political polarization (See: Trump, election of).

Far worse, an epidemic of opioid and alcohol-fueled suicides is killing Trump's white, blue-collar base at a staggering rate.

Republicans attacking "Democrat-run cities" also seem to forget that billions of dollars from economically dynamic blue states keep many Republican-voting states afloat. In light of this red state socialism, conservatives may want to reconsider biting the hand that feeds them.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump Paid China $188K in Taxes from 2013 to 2015: Report (AILA SLISCO ON 10/21/20, Newsweek)

Around the same time President Donald Trump was reportedly paying little to no U.S. income taxes, he allegedly paid the Chinese government more than $188,000 in taxes over two years.

Trump paid China $188,561 between 2013 and 2015 through a Chinese bank account controlled by his company Trump International Hotels Management L.L.C., according to a report published Tuesday by The New York Times. The Chinese bank account is said to be one of only three foreign accounts the president maintains, with the other two being located in the U.K. and Ireland.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Machines to 'do half of all work tasks by 2025' (BBC, 10/21/20)

Half of all work tasks will be handled by machines by 2025 in a shift likely to worsen inequality, a World Economic Forum report has forecast.

The think tank said a "robot revolution" would create 97 million jobs worldwide but destroy almost as many, leaving some communities at risk.

Routine or manual jobs in administration and data processing were most at threat of automation, WEF said.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM

"...and go from there...":

October 20, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 6:19 PM


Lincoln Project's anti-Trump ads show power of biting satire (Chris Lamb, 10/20/20, The Conversation)

For satire to be effective, it must attack someone or something that is readily identifiable. This often includes using someone's own words to make a fool out of them - as the Lincoln Project ads often do with Trump. One way to measure satire's effectiveness is in the response of the person being satirized.

The ads certainly struck a nerve with Trump, who called the Lincoln Project "the Losers Project."

If Trump intended to damage the project, it backfired. The group received $2 million in donations in the two days after his comment, which also inspired the creation of more ads that were designed to poke fun specifically at him.

Playing off his bragging of having the "most loyal people" working for him, one ad quotes John Kelly, Trump's former chief of staff, calling Trump "an idiot"; Rex Tillerson, the former secretary of state, calling Trump "a f--ing moron"; and John Bolton, the former national security adviser, saying, "I don't think he's fit for office."

Another ad targeted military families and veterans, showing American soldiers carrying the flag-draped coffin of one of their fallen comrades while the narrator reads out the words Trump has used to describe soldiers: "losers," "suckers," "dopes" and "babies."

The Lincoln Project ads have occupied the attention of the news media. The New Yorker and "60 Minutes" have published recent stories on the PAC, promoting its objective to defeat Trump.

Advertising Age reported that the ads have become a sensation during the 2020 campaign. One ad, called "Hospital," opens with an image of a patient in a hospital bed that then quickly fades to black as we hear the beep of a heart monitor. There is no narrator. The words on the screen say, "A death from COVID is the loneliest death imaginable."

The ad finishes by linking the responsibility for those deaths to Trump with the following words: "Over 200,000 Americans have lost their lives to COVID. We could have stopped it. His lying is killing us. We have to stop it. Vote him out."

The Lincoln Project uses many of the same techniques of satire, but gives them a thoroughly modern bite by using slick videography. The ads go viral on social media to audiences that may not watch television ads.

One Lincoln Project ad was posted after Trump was diagnosed with the coronavirus. The ad criticizes Trump for reportedly infecting staffers because he refused to wear a surgical mask and he mocked those who did. The ad, called "Covita," shows a montage of a maskless Trump at White House functions as a singer delivers a parody of the words from "Evita":

"Don't cry for me, White House staffers. The truth is, I will infect you. All through my tweeting, my mad existence. I broke my promise. Won't keep my distance."

The Lincoln Project may or not accomplish its objective to defeat Trump on Nov. 3. But it already has made a contribution to the tradition of political satire.

Posted by orrinj at 6:09 PM


Trump 'abruptly' storms out of 60 Minutes interview and refuses to return: report (David Edwards, 10/20/20, Raw Story)

"Apparently there was some drama while President Trump was taping his 60 Minutes interview today," Collins wrote on Twitter. "He abruptly ended his solo interview after around 45 minutes & did not return for a scheduled walk & talk he was supposed to tape with Pence, @abdallahcnn and I are told by sources."

When we were kids, our neighborhood game was Kick the Can.  But, for whatever reason, we'd only use a Red Eye for the can and it belonged to one, rather temperamental,  boy.  Whenever he'd get mad about being "it," he'd take the Red Eye and storm home.  Donald is that brat.   

Posted by orrinj at 5:59 PM


Why British Police Shows Are Better: When you take away guns and shootings, you have more time to explore grief, guilt, and the psychological complexity of crime. (CHRISTOPHER ORR, NOVEMBER 2020, The Atlantic)

Common to the British imports is a leisurely pacing that usually means each case unfolds over the course of a season. Many series focus intently on a particular out-of-the-way locale. Shetland takes place in the northernmost isles of Scotland, Broadchurch on the Jurassic Coast of Dorset, Hinterland in Mid Wales. These communities--and the ties within them that bind and fray--can be as important as any individual character.

Notably, the principal investigator is more often than not a woman. The ur-text of these programs is Prime Suspect, starring Helen Mirren as Detective Chief Inspector Jane Tennison, which launched in 1991 to a British audience of 14 million, and continued on and off until 2006, garnering awards along the way. In Esquire, David Denby called Mirren's performance as Tennison--driven, ambitious, sharp-elbowed--"the most sustained example of great acting in the history of television." The program was a biting cross-examination of sexism in an overwhelmingly male profession. And although it also explored subjects such as racism, homophobia, child abuse, immigration, and alcoholism over its long run, the gendered undertow was ever present, tugging at Tennison in spite of her successes.

Prime Suspect has been followed by a remarkable array of British police dramas that are gritty but not heartless, realistic without being nihilistic. The best-known is Broadchurch, an exceptional program that ran for three seasons from 2013 to 2017. The show stars Olivia Colman in an unguarded, occasionally heartbreaking performance as Ellie Miller, a local cop in a cliffside vacation town, and David Tennant as Alec Hardy, the out-of-town officer who swooped in to steal the promotion she thought was hers. Opening with the discovery of the body of an 11-year-old boy--the former best friend, it so happens, of Ellie's son--the tale quickly expands beyond the specifics of the investigation into a portrait of a village wracked by grief. The victim's family, Ellie and her husband, the local priest and the tiny newspaper staff, the proprietors of the tobacco shop and the bed-and-breakfast--all harbor mutual suspicions as the town's bonds of trust begin to unravel.

Like Tennison in Prime Suspect, Ellie--she hates being called "Miller"--faces sexism at work, though thankfully far less, a couple of decades of institutional diversification having done some of their intended work. Her gender is presented as a humanizing influence, especially on her partner, who requires frequent reminders that the suspects he's grilling are townsfolk experiencing extreme trauma.

This heightened sensitivity is still more evident in Cassie Stuart, the principal detective in the superb series Unforgotten, which has run for three seasons with a fourth in the works. Played by Nicola Walker, Stuart handles cold-case murders decades old, and displays a rare attentiveness both to the victims' long-bereft loved ones and to the now-middle-aged or older suspects. (What's more, I don't believe I've seen another show on any subject in which a boss is so committed to offering positive feedback to subordinates.) This aptitude for empathy enriches the themes of the show: Does grief fade over time? Does guilt? Does justice have an expiration date? Should it?

Watching these shows--as well as police series from elsewhere around the globe, such as New Zealand's Top of the Lake and Scandinavia's The Killing and The Bridge--one can't help but note that the tonal contrast with American police series reflects a very different law-enforcement reality. Specifically, in the British shows, closed-circuit television surveillance is everywhere, and handguns are nowhere to be found.

Crime shows set in Britain may offer the best way--apart from actually moving there--to appreciate how much the nation has become a quasi-benevolent surveillance state. If the police need to determine someone's whereabouts at a particular hour on a particular night, they will dutifully interview witnesses, check phone records, and otherwise establish alibis much as they would in the United States. But they will also--as any fan of these shows can readily attest--check the CCTV. (According to the BBC, Britain has one CCTV camera for every 11 inhabitants.) That's true even on Shetland, which follows Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez (Douglas Henshall) as he and his team bring justice to the tiny sub-Arctic islands (population 23,000), more than 100 miles north of the Scottish mainland. Those distant hamlets and lonely roads sit under the watchful eye of CCTV, too.

This pervasive video footage is an obvious boon not only to British police, but to the writers of British police dramas as well. Is your plot missing a link in the chain of evidence, a way from narrative Point A to narrative Point B? Just check the CCTV footage, and discover a familiar face exiting a pub or a telltale license plate on the highway. More notably, this panoptical scrutiny changes the atmosphere of the shows. The awareness of supervision lends British series a greater sense of control, of order, relative to the urban chaos that prevails on American television. Crime is experienced as a deviation from the norm--something that fell into the cracks between the cameras--rather than the norm itself.

The more glaring contrast between American and British law enforcement--both real and fictive--is the near-total absence of handguns in Britain. (In 2018, for example, London--home to 9 million people--reported just 15 gun homicides.) There are a few American-style TV exceptions that deal with terrorism (Bodyguard) or serial killers (Luther), in which guns are prevalent. The anti-corruption team in Line of Duty sees its share of trigger-happy "authorized firearms officers"--although even they are required to sign their guns back in after each assignment. But on TV as in life, the prospect of gun violence, either by or against the police, is remote.

Posted by orrinj at 2:30 PM


Posted by orrinj at 2:17 PM


Tennessee factory to become GM's 3rd electric vehicle plant (KAREN GRAHAM, 10/20/20, Digital Journal)

In a prepared statement Tuesday, General Motors announced plans to spend $2 billion to convert its Spring Hill, Tennessee, assembly plant into a third U.S. site to build future electric vehicles.

Posted by orrinj at 2:14 PM


WH Chief of Staff Confirms to Federal Judge That Trump Lied About Authorizing the Release of All 'Russia Hoax' Docs (JERRY LAMBEOct 20th, 2020, Law & Crime)

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows on Tuesday essentially reiterated the Justice Department's assertion that President Donald Trump was lying when he told his followers that he had declassified "any and all" documents related to the federal government's investigation of the "Russia Hoax." In a declaration submitted in response to an order from a federal judge, Meadows said he spoke with Trump about the declassification tweets and confirmed that the president did not actually mean what he said.

"[O]n October 16, 2020, I conferred with the President concerning his intentions with respect to two statements he made on Twitter on October 6, 2020 relating to declassification," read the statement. "The President indicated to me that his statements on Twitter were not self-executing declassification orders and do not require the declassification or release of any particular documents, including the FD-302 reports of witness interviews prepared by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in connection with the investigation conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller III."

...that he can not afford to release them.

Posted by orrinj at 2:03 PM


Pat Robertson predicts Trump re-election will usher in apocalypse: 'By all means get out and vote!' (Travis Gettys, 10/20/20, Raw Story)

"I'm saying by all means get out and vote, vote for whoever you want to vote for," he added, "but let your voice be heard. But it's going to lead to civil unrest, and then a war against Israel and so forth ... I think it's time to pray. But anyway, that is the word. You ask what's going to happen next, and that's what's going to happen next."

...than the denial of God's free will.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Why Russia -- and Putin -- might be worried about a Biden presidency (Holly Ellyatt, 10/20/20, CNBC)

At the very least, analysts expect that a victory for Biden would increase tensions between Washington and Moscow, and would raise the probability of new sanctions on Russia.

The country is already operating under international sanctions on some key sectors and Russian officials close to Putin, for actions including its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, interference in the U.S. election in 2016 and reported involvement in a nerve agent attack in the U.K. in 2018.

Andrius Tursa, central and eastern Europe advisor at Teneo Intelligence, said a win for Biden would improve transatlantic ties between the U.S. and Europe and would see "a renewed U.S. commitment to NATO" that would be welcomed by Europe.

However he also said such a result would mean "mostly downsides for Russia," citing a recent history of mutual distrust and acrimonious relations between the Kremlin and U.S. Democrats.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Regulators Approve N.H.'s First Large Solar Array, Planned By NextEra In Fitzwilliam (ANNIE ROPEIK, 10/19/20, NHPR)

Solar power in New Hampshire took a big step forward Monday, as the state Site Evaluation Committee unanimously approved a utility-scale solar project for the first time.

The 30-megawatt Chinook Solar array will cover about 100 acres of private land in the southwestern New Hampshire town of Fitzwilliam. 

It's the first solar project that's been large enough to require SEC consideration. After two days of virtual deliberations, they agreed that the project passed all the required tests.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


50 Cent endorses Trump for president: 'I don't care he doesn't like black people' (Jacob Stolworthy, 10/20/20, Independent)

The "In Da Club" rapper said that, although he believes the president "doesn't like black people", he will vote for Trump at the forthcoming election.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Meet the national leaders who stand to lose from a Biden victory (MARC CHAMPION, 10/20/20, BLOOMBERG)

If Donald Trump is forced from the White House in the November election, he won't be the only loser.

Though many governments would likely celebrate the end of the most unconventional and at times chaotic U.S. presidency of modern times, others will have reason to miss it. For the leaders of Turkey, North Korea and Israel, the ledger has been almost entirely positive. Trump's ejection would confront them with immediate challenges.

The scorecard for countries like China is more nuanced. Even so, what the mostly authoritarian winners from Trump's four years in office have in common is a fear his departure would spell the return of a more conventional U.S. foreign policy.

That could see the U.S. mending alliances and promoting the universality of values such as democracy and human rights, or the fight against climate change. "This president embraces all the thugs in the world," Trump's opponent Joe Biden said at a recent town hall event, as he sought to highlight the political divide.

Basically, every leader who considers his Nation to be a race. It's great news for democrats though.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


A Pro-Western Azerbaijan Deserves American Support (JASON EPSTEIN AND IRINA TSUKERMAN,  10/20/20, Newsweek)

One of us is a human rights attorney stridently opposed to Turkish foreign policy in the Eastern Mediterranean and elsewhere; the other is a public affairs consultant who strongly believes Turkey is a key pillar in America's ongoing efforts to roll back the Iranian regime's aggressive behavior.

However, we unite in our support of Sunni-majority Turkey's Shi'a ally, Azerbaijan, an unabashedly pro-Western country, as it is unfairly smeared in certain political, diplomatic and media circles for having the audacity to defend itself in the latest round of bloody fighting with its neighbor, Armenia.

Both nations reside in the South Caucasus region, which borders Iran, and had declared their independence from the imploding Soviet Union in 1991. The Soviets had a policy of instigating and backing sectarian tensions, and a Kremlin-backed Armenian invasion of Azerbaijan immediately followed, resulting in the capture of some 20 percent of the latter's territory (the Karabakh region and seven adjacent territories) and ethnic cleansing of the region. Nearly one million Azeris became internally displaced persons. The Khojaly massacre in February 1992, which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Azeri civilians, is all but forgotten, as is the historic context for the conflict we have witnessed ever since.

We should be strengthening the Shi'a Crescent everywhere.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Biden eyes GOP candidates for Cabinet slots (MEGAN CASSELLA and ALICE MIRANDA OLLSTEIN, 10/20/2020, Politico)

Nominating a Republican to the Cabinet would be the latest in a series of steps Biden has taken to extend an olive branch across the aisle. His campaign regularly holds calls with a group of officials who have endorsed him, including Republicans. After giving multiple GOP supporters prime speaking slots at his August convention, he tapped others for roles on his transition team, including Cindy McCain, the wife of the late Republican Sen. John McCain.

"This plays to Joe Biden's comfort zone," said one former Republican member of Congress who is close to the Biden transition. "If you're Joe Biden, of course you're going to want to expand your base a little bit, show some outreach to the other side."

Tapping a GOP candidate to lead a federal agency could be an easy and early way to reward Republicans who endorsed him before the election and signal his intent to bridge the country's partisan divide. But it could also alienate Democrats already worried whether a nominee who has long styled himself as a moderate will pursue progressive policies once in office.

One of the worst aspects of our asinine partisanship has been the refusal to serve in the Cabinet of the other party, though Donald carried it to an extreme by not even asking.  Recall that no one would agree to join W, so he ended up keeping Norm Minetta.  Not only would Joe (and the GOP) be helped by the show of  bipartisanship, but it would be useful for him to let the Progressives know he is the Democratic Paty, not them,

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Reactionary Nature of Identity Politics (LARRY ALEXANDER , 10/20/20, Newsweek)

Racial groups are artificial constructs because we humans compose one interbreeding species. No matter what racial or ethnic boxes there are to check, when someone from one box mates with someone from a different box, their child will need a new box. Indeed, each of us is that child. As a biological matter, although there are population groups that have been more or less isolated and inbred--a fact that may have some significance for medical or certain genealogical purposes--race is less a biological reality and more an ultimately indefinable sociological one. Do "whites" include both Swedes and Iranians? Do "Asians" include both Japanese and Burmese? And the regimes that have tried to answer such questions authoritatively--think Nazi Germany, apartheid South Africa and the Jim Crow South--are not models any sane society should seek to emulate.

Moreover, and this is the point, no matter how one divides up humanity racially, individuals within those races will vary along any dimension that is socially relevant. Some will be smart, others not so smart. Some will be fleet, others slow. Some will be risk takers, others risk-averse. And the bell curves for these traits will not be identical from race to race, but will be substantially overlapping.

The Reactionary Right has always been Identitarian; it just hasn't had much of a voice in the GOP until Donald.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump's inner circle 'furious' with FBI's Wray for undercutting Biden smear: report (Tom Boggioni, 10/20/20, Raw Story)

According to a report from Politico, high-ranking members of Donald Trump's administration are "furious" with FBI Director Christopher Wray for siding with the intelligence community and calling recent revelations about former Vice President Joe Biden's son Hunter part of a Russian disinformation campaign.

We were reliably informed that all it would take was for Director Wray to announce it was disinformation and the Trumpbots would concede.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump and the right share a social Darwinist "herd mentality" -- it leads to widespread death (CARL POPE, OCTOBER 20, 2020, Salon)

Herd immunity can sometimes reduce mortality from a disease, but over the centuries has failed to end the curse of influenza, tuberculosis, smallpox, polio, rabies or dengue fever. It fits neatly, however, into a social Darwinist framework. Those who die are the "weak" -- the poorest, the youngest and the oldest young -- or can at any rate be classified as weak and deserving to die, because they died. Survival of the fittest requires discarding the weak. Remember the "let them die" hecklers who populated some of the 2011 Republican debates on health care. 

This underlying value distortion -- my personal freedom extends to my right to endanger you -- spreads out across a range of other issues. Today's Republican reluctance to curb pollution even when it is demonstrably is killing a power plant's neighbors, to keep pesticides that kill farm workers out of the fields or to do anything at all about the climate crisis, which conservatives have privately conceded for years was real and caused by carbon pollution, are all illustrations of how the toxin of social Darwinism still contaminates much of the right's thinking about freedom.

So Trump's response to the COVID crisis -- and the willingness of the Republican congressional establishment to enable it -- illustrates a deep-rooted flaw in the American right. In a world in which we are, like it or not, all bound together, a tolerable conservatism is one that is willing to protect me from irresponsible neighbors, whether those are COVID-risking teenagers, irresponsible gun owners or multinational chemical companies.

The Right is the Left.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Why Trump Is Losing White Suburban Women (Meredith Conroy, Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux and Erin Cassese, 10/20/20, 538)

It wasn't that long ago, though, that Trump had an edge among suburban voters. In 2016, Trump won them, 47 percent to 45 percent, according to an analysis of validated voters by the Pew Research Center. But by 2018, 52 percent of suburban voters supported Democratic candidates for Congress, compared with 45 percent who supported Republican candidates. And according to our analysis of polling data from Democracy Fund + UCLA Nationscape, Trump is losing suburban voters to Biden, by 54 percent to 44 percent.

What is driving this move away from Trump and Republicans in the suburbs? According to our analysis of Democracy Fund + UCLA Nationscape data, beyond the diversification of the suburbs, it's mostly because of white suburban women: 54 percent of them support Biden, while just 45 percent support Trump (very few are undecided).2 Meanwhile, white suburban men haven't stopped backing Trump -- he's winning them 57 percent to 41 percent. (The reason we're zooming in on white suburban voters is that nonwhite voters in the suburbs are much more likely to say they'll back Biden -- 83 percent of Black, 69 percent of Asian/Pacific Islander, and 57 percent of Hispanic likely voters said they supported Biden, according to our analysis.)

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


PODCAST: Dwayne Betts on Reading, Prison, and the Million Book Project (Econ Talk, Oct 19 2020)

Author, lawyer, and poet Dwayne Betts talks about his time in prison and the power of reading with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Betts is the founder of the Million Book Project, which aims to put a small library of great books in 1,000 U.S. prisons. Betts discusses his plans for the project and how reading helped him transform himself.

Maybe the best episode of any podcast ever.  As he gradually reveals more and more of himself, Mr. Betts becomes more and more likable and admirable. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Man Jailed After Having Sex with Chickens (ZOE DREWETT, 10/20/20, Newsweek)

The videos - recorded using a GoPro camera - were saved under the file name "family vids".

So it was incest?

October 19, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 9:05 PM


Here's the simple truth about the fake Hunter Biden scandal Team Trump wishes was a 'smoking gun' (Joshua Holland, 10/19/20, rAW sTORY)

So it's very important to keep in mind that the "scandal" is supposed to be that then-Vice President Joe Biden pushed for the removal of Ukraine's top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, to stave off an investigation into Burisma Holdings-the Ukrainian gas company whose Board Hunter sat on-in order to protect his son. It is supposed to be a story about conflict of interest-of the elder Biden using the office of the Vice Presidency to help his son.

There is not a shred of truth to those claims. The effort to get Shokin fired "was prompted by a push for anti-corruption reforms developed at the State Department and coordinated with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund," The Washington Post reported. And according to CNN, a bipartisan "letter from 2016 shows that Republican senators pushed for reforms to Ukraine's prosecutor general's office and judiciary, echoing calls then-Vice President Joe Biden made at the time."

Shokin was corrupt, and that was a problem. Vitaliy Kasko, a former deputy of Shokin's who resigned over his boss's habit of stymieing corruption probes, told Bloomberg that Shokin was not investigating Burisma during the period in question. "There was no pressure from anyone from the U.S. to close cases against" the firm or its owner. "It was shelved by Ukrainian prosecutors in 2014 and through 2015," Kasko said. And Daria Kaleniuk, a prominent Ukrainian anti-corruption crusader, told The Washington Post that "Shokin was fired not because he wanted to do that investigation, but quite to the contrary, because he failed that investigation."

Posted by orrinj at 6:31 PM


One motorcycle rally may have triggered COVID-19′s new Midwest surge (Rachael Zisk, 10/19/20, Popular Science)

A 460,000-person motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota in August may be the cause for large coronavirus outbreaks in the Midwest, according to a report from the Washington Post.

As of mid-September, 330 cases and one death were directly linked to the rally, but these numbers are likely extremely deflated due to the fact that South Dakota health authorities did not carry out contact tracing for people at the rally, particularly those who traveled long distances from neighboring states to attend. In fact, South Dakota had imposed no restrictions or limitations on gatherings at all, which is why this event--the largest public gathering in the United States since the beginning of the pandemic--was permitted.

At this point, it's impossible to tell exactly how many outbreaks occurred as a result of the Sturgis rally; all we know is that beginning a few weeks after the event, South Dakota and its neighboring states saw steep increases in coronavirus case numbers, and that those trends have continued. Many cases that were likely related to Sturgis were not counted as such, including a cluster at a wedding where the original spreader had attended the rally.

Posted by orrinj at 3:30 PM


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EXCLUSIVE: Fox News Passed on Hunter Biden Laptop Story Over Credibility Concerns (Colby Hall, Oct 19th, 2020,Mediate)

Some of Fox News' top news anchors and reporters have distanced themselves from the story. During an on-air report that largely focused on how social media platforms handled this story, Bret Baier said, "Let's say, just not sugarcoat it. The whole thing is sketchy."

"You couldn't write this script in 19 days from an election, but we are digging into where this computer is and the emails and the authenticity of it," he added.

Chris Wallace also called the story "suspicious" and said, "I can understand the concern about this story. It is completely unverified and frankly, Rudy Giuliani is not the most reliable source anymore. I hate to say that, but it's just true."

According to a leaked memo obtained by The Daily Beast earlier this year, the research department at Fox News had previously described Giuliani as "amplifying disinformation" surrounding the Ukraine corruption story that lay at the heart of the impeachment of President Trump earlier this year.

Posted by orrinj at 12:38 PM


FBI Examining Hunter's Laptop As Foreign Op, Contradicting Trump's Intel Czar (Spencer Ackerman & Will Sommer, Oct. 19, 2020, Daily Beast)

One senior intelligence official told The Daily Beast that the community is still working to determine if the Hunter Biden materials--which were leaked to the press by Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani--stem from a specific Russian intelligence operation. Giuliani has for years worked with Ukrainian parliamentarians with links to Russia, including one "Russian agent," to propagate disinformation about the Obama administration and the Biden family, including Hunter Biden. While Giuliani and his confidantes have previously spoken publicly about Hunter Biden's drug use, intelligence officials are investigating whether this last-minute push to release material through Trump-friendly media outlets stems from some particular directive from Moscow or whether it is an extension of Giuliani's years-long effort to use Ukrainian intermediaries to dig up dirt on the Bidens.

Whatever the case may be, intelligence officials say the recent packaging of the Hunter Biden material looks similar to something the Russians would do to sow chaos in U.S. domestic politics. But, officials say, Moscow wouldn't necessarily need to muddy the waters by being directly involved in the latest dissemination of materials because Giuliani has already taken the lead.

"The Intelligence Community has stated publicly that Russia is once again seeking to benefit Donald Trump's election campaign by denigrating Joe Biden," said Patrick Boland, spokesman for Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), who chairs the House Intelligence Committee. "The new wave of attacks we are seeing ... are consistent with the false and unsubstantiated narratives that the President, his personal lawyer, and a sanctioned Russian agent have been pushing for well over a year. They appear intended to distract from recent reports that the White House, as early as December 2019, was made aware that Rudy Giuliani was being leveraged by Russian proxies as part of Kremlin efforts to interfere in our election."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Biden would revamp fraying intel community (NATASHA BERTRAND and KYLE CHENEY, 10/19/2020, Politico)

President Donald Trump was in the middle of receiving a highly classified briefing on Afghanistan at his New Jersey golf club when he suddenly craved a malted milkshake.

"Does anyone want a malt?" he asked the senior defense and intelligence officials gathered around him, an august group that included the head of the CIA's Special Activities Center, which is responsible for covert operations and paramilitary operations. "We have the best malts, you have to try them," Trump insisted, as he beckoned a waiter into the room where code-word classified intelligence was being discussed.

The malt episode, which took place a few months after Trump took office in 2017, became legendary inside the CIA, said three former officials. It was seen as an early harbinger of Trump's disinterest in intelligence, which would later be borne out by the new president's notorious resistance to reading his classified daily briefing, known as the PDB, and his impatience with the briefers, current and former officials said.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Poll finds American Jews set to vote overwhelmingly for Joe Biden (RON KAMPEAS OCTOBER 19, 2020, JTA) 

Jewish voters are set to vote 75% to 22% for Joe Biden, according to a poll by the American Jewish Committee. [...]

Trump's record on bigotry may be the animating factor in his poor performance: Asked which candidate in the Nov. 3 presidential election would better handle anti-Semitism, respondents produced identical results, with Biden scoring 75% and Trump 22%.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump, Pence promise a 'Cuba libre' in Miami, but only Obama outsmarted the Castros (Fabiola Santiago, 2020/10/18, Miami Herald)

President Barack Obama has been the only American president to outsmart the Castros.

He invaded Cuba without firing a single shot or sending in the Marines, only cruise ships.

He brought on his historic visit to the island pesky, persistent American journalists who questioned Raul Castro in a widely televised press conference the likes of which no one had seen before.

The questions about political prisoners in Cuban jails and repression of dissidents embarrassed the Cuban leader and put him on the spot. He was visibly angry. And when he tried to save face and grabbed Obama's arm in an awkward show of unmerited triumph, Obama let his hand dangle.

It became one of the most iconic photos of the visit -- and a foreshadowing of what came next.

Obama delivered one of the best speeches of his presidency calling for the democratization of Cuba with extraordinary agility -- meaningful, utilitarian words spoken not in Miami to ingratiate voters but live from Gran Teatro de la Habana on national Cuban television.

The Castro brothers were livid.

To the Cubans who matter most -- those who remain on the island and those in Miami with family ties -- Obama filled hearts with hope of reconciliation.

No, Obama didn't stand with Castro, as Pence claimed.

He stood with the separated people on two shores -- and he led a high-stakes diplomatic effort to return American democratic influence to the island.

It wasn't an election gimmick. It was statesmanship at work.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Giuliani gave Hunter Biden story to New York Post because 'nobody else would take it' at face value (Peter Weber, 10/19/20, The Week)

The first article "was written mostly by a staff reporter who refused to put his name on it," the Times reported Sunday night, citing two Post employees. "Bruce Golding, a reporter at the Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid since 2007, did not allow his byline to be used because he had concerns over the article's credibility." The article was instead attributed to a deputy politics editor who "had little to do with the reporting or writing of" it and "learned that her byline was on the story only after it was published," and a recent hire from Fox News and Sean Hannity's show, the Times reports.

Giuliani told the Times he brought his documents to the Post because "either nobody else would take it, or if they took it, they would spend all the time they could to try to contradict it before they put it out."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Texas has a big lesson for Australia: renewables are where the money is flowing (Bruce Robertson, 19 October 2020, Renew Economy)

In Texas, on the other hand, renewables are winning. Private investors are pouring money into wind and solar projects and increasingly turning away from fossil fuel investments.

In Texas, falling oil and gas prices have hit the economy particularly hard. But while 118 oil and gas companies filed for bankruptcy in the state between 2015 and 2020, wind developers are on track to nearly double capacity.

Against a backdrop of a massive fracking boom and bust, Texas has become the top wind-power generator in the U.S. and also grown its utility-scale solar power market.

Solar and wind generation now make up more than one-fifth of Texas' total power output, pushing coal out of the generation mix. Remarkably, considering the state's massive growth in fossil gas output, the share of gas-fired power only rose from 51% in 2002 to 54% in mid-2020.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Enough half-steps, it's time for a bold leap towards a cashless Britain (Andrew Griffith MP, 10/19/20, CapX)

Many of the benefits of this are clear: lower costs, a more competitive choice of banks and payment services, greater security for consumers and lower fraud and theft.

As many have found during the pandemic, there are huge benefits for businesses too. Every business can transact directly with its end customers and in so doing gain data - often for the first time - and establish powerful feedback loops, boosting productivity and growth.

For government there are gains from reducing the 'grey' economy which the Institute for Economic Affairs has estimated to account for around 10% of UK GDP. As we seek to rebalance the UK's public finances post-Covid, bringing this informal, or sometimes illegal, activity within the scope of tax for the first time would be a much better option than increasing the rates of those already paying their fair share. [...]

By setting an explicit target of 2030 now, the Government would help the UK's payment providers to plan their investment, unleash a wave of innovators to solve any problems along the way and boost the UK's FinTech sector, which is already world leading and a major contributor to British exports.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Minnesota shows few signs of flipping -- despite Trump's best efforts (DAVID SIDERS, 10/14/2020, Politico)

Donald Trump has fixated on Minnesota since his narrow loss to Hillary Clinton there four years ago. But with less than a month until the election, his prospects there are dimming.

Joe Biden's polling lead remains solid. Even after heavy campaign spending and recent visits to the state by the president and top surrogates, Biden was running ahead of Trump by more than 9 percentage points, according to the RealClearPolitics polling average.

"I haven't heard from anyone on the Republican side who's to some degree confident," said Michael Brodkorb, a former deputy chair of the Minnesota Republican Party. [...]

[B]iden is now carrying both of those groups -- whites by 2 points and independents by 20 percentage points, according to a CBS News/YouGov survey. Even among whites without college degrees, Trump's most reliable demographic, Biden has cut sharply into Trump's lead, according to the poll.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Wisconsin blames Foxconn, says $3 billion factory deal is off (TIMOTHY B. LEE, 10/13/2020, Ars Technica)

Foxconn was supposed to spend $3.3 billion on the project by the end of 2019. Instead, Foxconn had only spent around $300 million by the end of the year.

Foxconn was supposed to build an LCD panel factory based on the industry's new Generation 10.5 standard. This standard uses enormous sheets of "mother glass"--roughly 10 feet (3 meters) square--to provide LCD panels for large televisions. Each glass sheet is typically cut into several displays. The factory was expected to cost $10 billion to build and eventually employ 13,000 workers in Wisconsin. The state now says that Foxconn won't come anywhere close to meeting those targets.

"The fact that recipients have neither built, nor started to build or operate, the required Generation 10.5 TFT-LCD Fabrication Facility is not in dispute," wrote Jennifer Campbell, chief legal officer of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. "The recipients have acknowledged that they have no formal or informal business plans to build a 10.5 fab."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


One important benefit of quarantine: reduced noise: Noise pollution is terrible for our health, yet we don't discuss it often enough. (DEREK BERES, 12 October, 2020, Big Think)

Levels of urban noise in the United States increased by 12 percent between 1995-2006--a problem so bad that 40 percent of Americans surveyed claimed they wanted to move somewhere quieter.

City residents are accustomed to noise levels regularly being above 85 decibels (dB). Live with that for a few years and hearing loss might be in your future. Cut your skin and it heals within days. Lose your hearing and it's not coming back.

Beyond aural annoyance, excess noise has other detrimental effects on our health. Increased levels of noise cause levels of glucocorticoid enzymes in our bodies to rise by as much as 40 percent, leading to elevated fatigue and stress. Research has shown that workplace noise contributes to exhaustion, blood pressure elevation, and negative attitudes.

A 128-page World Health Organization report, "Burden of Disease from Environmental Noise," published in 2011, notes that excess noise contributes to learning problems with "reading comprehension, memory, and attention." Exposure to high levels of noise during critical years in childhood has a negative "lifelong effect on educational attainment."

October 18, 2020

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New York Post staff didn't believe the Hunter Biden conspiracy -- but they published it anyway: report (Sarah K. Burris, 10/18/20, Raw Story)

Reporters involved in the New York Post didn't trust the false story about Hunter Biden they reported last week, the New York Times reported Sunday. One longtime Post reporter even said that despite providing research for the story, he refused to have his name on the piece.

"Bruce Golding, a reporter at the Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid since 2007, did not allow his byline to be used because he had concerns over the article's credibility, the two Post employees," told the Times, "speaking on the condition of anonymity out of fear of retaliation." [...]

"Many Post staff members questioned whether the paper had done enough to verify the authenticity of the hard drive's contents, said five people with knowledge of the tabloid's inner workings," the Times continued. "Staff members also had concerns about the reliability of its sources and its timing, the people said.

Two sources, Steve Bannon and Rudy Giuliani, were the ones who handed over the hard drive on Oct. 11, 2020 to the Post, because "either nobody else would take it, or if they took it, they would spend all the time they could to try to contradict it before they put it out," said Giuliani. It doesn't speak well for the Rupert Murdoch-owned outlet. It's unknown if the two men took it to Fox News as an option.

One credited author, Emma-Jo Morris, the deputy politics editor, hasn't had her name attached to a story once in the four years she has worked for the publication. She previously served as an associate producer on Sean Hannity's Fox News show.

You weren't supposed to take it seriously.

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Posted by orrinj at 11:45 AM


With Their Freakout Over Twitter, Amazon And Google, Conservatives Sound Like Liberals (John Tamny, 10/18/20, Forbes)

If a business is offending its users, the slights represent a market opportunity. Wasn't Fox News a market response to news reporting that was heavily left leaning? Readers know the answer.

The same answer should apply to Twitter, Amazon and Google. If they're favoring the left, they're making an economic decision that potentially imperils their long-term viability. So rather than Republicans cheered on by conservatives using the threat of government force to allegedly achieve affirmative treatment from technologists who swing left, why not let markets sort things out?

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump's collapsing campaign is crippling Lindsey Graham's re-election hopes: report (Tom Boggioni, 10/18/20, Raw Story)

Also dogging Graham is the public's view that he is too attached to a president who is highly unpopular, according to the polls, and whose faltering campaign is also dragging the South Carolina Republican's chances with it.

"Trump's sagging poll numbers are creating problems for Graham. Harrison's campaign is blanketing the airwaves and the web with ads portraying the incumbent as untrustworthy and two-faced, pointing to his transformation into a Trump cheerleader," the report states.

According to House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC), "[Voters] tend to have a very low regard for hypocrites. And they look at these candidates, and when they can see authenticity, they tend to buy into it. That's what Jaime has done."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


This fully electric delivery truck was built to be much safer to use in cities than the average large vehicle -- see the Volta Zero (Brittany Chang, 10/18/20, Business Insider)

According to Volta Trucks' founder Carl-Magnus Norden in a statement, the current widely used large commercial delivery trucks are dangerous: in London, 23% and 58% of pedestrian and cyclist deaths, respectively, are related to "large good vehicles" despite its low usage compared to other vehicles, such as daily drivers and public transport.

Now, the company is hoping to make a change in the commercial cargo delivery segment by making the vehicles safer, which will be done in part by implementing a different layout in the cab and new systems that will increase the drivers' awareness of their surroundings.

However, safety isn't Volta Trucks' only goal with the Volta Zero. The company is also taking a green approach to its new release by electrifying the fleets and using sustainable building materials, specifically flax and rapeseed oil-sourced resin, on the exterior body panels.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Sorry, Trump: Immigrants Are Less Likely To Commit Crime (Alex Nowrasteh, 10/18, 20, National Interest)

Andrew Forrester, Michelangelo Landgrave, and I published a new working paper on illegal immigration and crime in Texas. Our paper is slated to appear as a chapter in a volume published by Oxford University Press in 2021. Like our other research on illegal immigration and crime in Texas, this working paper uses data collected by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) that records and keeps the immigration statuses of those arrested and convicted of crimes in Texas. As far as we've been able to tell, and we've filed more than 50 state FOIA requests to confirm, Texas is the only state that records and keeps the immigration statuses of those entering the criminal justice system. Texas gathers this information because its runs arrestee biometric information through Department of Homeland Security (DHS) databases that identify illegal immigrants. Unlike other states, Texas DPS keeps the results of these DHS checks that then allows a more direct look at immigrant criminality by immigration status.

The results are similar to our other work on illegal immigration and crime in Texas. In 2018, the illegal immigrant criminal conviction rate was 782 per 100,000 illegal immigrants, 535 per 100,000 legal immigrants, and 1,422 per 100,000 native‐​born Americans. The illegal immigrant criminal conviction rate was 45 percent below that of native‐​born Americans in Texas. The general pattern of native‐​born Americans having the highest criminal conviction rates followed by illegal immigrants and then with legal immigrants having the lowest holds for all of other specific types of crimes such as violent crimes, property crimes, homicide, and sex crimes.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


U.N. arms embargoes on Iran expire despite U.S. objections (ASSOCIATED PRESS, 10/18/2020 )

A decade-long U.N. arms embargo on Iran that barred it from purchasing foreign weapons like tanks and fighter jets expired Sunday as planned under its nuclear deal with world powers, despite objections from the United States.

While insisting it planned no "buying spree," Iran in theory can purchase weapons to upgrade military armament dating back to before its 1979 Islamic Revolution and sell its own locally produced gear abroad. In practice, however, Iran's economy remains crippled by broad-reaching U.S. sanctions, and other nations may avoid arms deals with Tehran for fear of American financial retaliation.

The Islamic Republic heralded the end of the arms embargo as "a momentous day for the international community ... in defiance of the U.S. regime's effort."

"Dad, did Donald Trump even exist?"

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump's suburban collapse costs him in NebraskaThe president is on a trajectory to lose an electoral vote in the reddest of red states. (DAVID SIDERS, 10/18/2020, Politico)

Over the past half-century, Nebraska has only once delivered one of its electoral votes to a Democratic presidential nominee. Barring a turnaround, this year will mark the second time. [...]

In the 2nd District, which includes largely Democratic Omaha and its largely Republican suburbs, the president is running 6 or 7 percentage points behind Joe Biden, according to public and private polling.

It's a case study of his collapse in the suburbs, an example of how the president's alienation of a traditional Republican constituency is proving costly to his reelection campaign -- and how his increasingly desperate last-minute appeals to suburbanites are going unheeded.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Ditching The Donald: Trump's largest voter base is fleeing at an alarming rate: The single largest segment of Trump's base admits they have become embarrassed by his actions (TOM BOGGIONI, OCTOBER 18, 2020, Raw Story)

According to a report from MSNBC, the single largest segment of Donald Trump's base -- non-college-educated white men -- are fleeing the president's camp at an alarming rate and admitting that they have become embarrassed by his actions and his bullying.

In interviews with MSNBC's Liz Plank, many stated that they are remaining in the Republican Party -- or called themselves "recovering Republicans' -- but added they want nothing to do with the current top of the ticket.

As the report notes, a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC poll shows a dramatic drop in support for the president "among white male voters without college degrees .... from an enormous 35 points to a significant but narrowing 19 points."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Burke's Defense of Natural Rights and the Limits of Political Power (Bruce P. Frohnen, 10/18/20, Un diversity Bookman)

Contrary to the common portrait of Burke as an enemy of human rights and of any opposition to inherited authority, Burke expounded a natural law philosophy that undergirds rights in the same manner as our own Constitution--as protections of human dignity and self-government rooted in our God-given nature.

Interpretations of Burke too often are shaped by isolated readings of his most famous work, Reflections on the Revolution in France. Here he excoriated the radical French revolutionary Jacobins (along with their English followers) who would soon launch a campaign of mass murder carried out in the name of The Rights of Man. Burke recognized the grounding of such hypocritical violence in the abstract theorizing of the Jacobins' patron saint, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, whose fantasy of an idyllic state of nature placed the blame for all human miseries on the imperfections of social and political institutions impinging on absolute rights--rights that could be made real only by an overawing, total state.

Seeing such totalitarian logic for what it was, Burke rejected the grounding of natural rights in human will, noting that "Men have no right to what is not reasonable, and to what is not for their benefit." Some today read this statement as a denial of natural rights. But Burke clearly defended what he termed the real right of man. Most famously, he stated that men have "a right to do justice, as between their fellows, whether their fellows are in public function or in ordinary occupation. They have a right to the fruits of their industry, and to the means of making their industry fruitful. They have a right to the acquisitions of their parents; to the nourishment and improvement of their offspring; to instruction in life, and to consolation in death." Equal justice, the pursuit and enjoyment of property, family, and religious practice; Burke recognized all these as universal rights. More generally, he recognized the natural right to be left alone to pursue one's own good: "Whatever each man can separately do, without trespassing upon others, he has a right to do for himself."[3]

Burke's attacks on the Jacobins stemmed, not from any contempt for natural rights,[4] but from a determination to defend these rights against the empty abstractions of those who would sing their praises while trodding them underfoot or, more precisely, define them in uselessly broad terms, then taking them away in the name of even broader rights secured by an omnicompetent state. Better, he argued, to recognize rights' natural limits in reason, human nature, and the common good than to make unsustainable claims for their infinite expanse. And so, in setting forth (well before the end of the eighteenth century) a sketch of a code aimed at restricting and eventually ending slavery, he proposed regulations on slavers' conduct and defenses for slaves' rights to due process, family unity, property, schooling, and freedom of religion. Such regulations should convince slaveowners that they were better off with free workers than with slaves whose natural rights would and ought to be protected, whatever their legal status.[5]

African slaves were not the only people whose rights Burke sought to defend. Early in his career he took up the cause of Catholics in Ireland, whom British law sought to dispossess of their property, deny education and due process, and prevent from practicing most professions in the name of (coerced) conversion to the official, Anglican religion. A constitution made up of such partial laws, favoring a small group against the bulk of the community, denying men's common nature and the demands of natural justice "is rather of the nature of a grievance than of a law." Yet, not even majority rule could justify violating natural rights, for law is not rooted in mere will. "All human laws are, properly speaking, only declaratory; they may alter the mode and application, but have no power over the substance of original justice."[6]

And what of America? Burke represented the colony of New York as an agent in Parliament, where he helped craft the conciliatory policies that staved off revolution during the 1760s. He spoke vigorously against British actions leading to the revolution and later would say that

He believed that [Americans] had taken up arms from one motive only; that is our attempting to tax them without their consent; to tax them for the purposes of maintaining civil and military establishments. If this attempt of ours could have been practically established, he thought with them, that their assemblies would become totally useless; ... the Americans could have no sort of security for their laws or liberties, ... the very circumstance of our freedom would have augmented the weight of their slavery.[7]

After the revolution Burke offered the American Constitution itself as a model suitable for adaptation in neighboring Canada, though each nation should meet the general requirements of rule of law and balanced government in a manner appropriate to its specific character and circumstances.

Left/Right veer into error when they posit liberty as individual, which is mere freedom.  Liberty is a function of the compromises we make with our fellow citizens to curtail individual freedom to the benefit of the group, provided that all are similarly bound by the same limitations.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Great British Baking Show and the Meaning of LifeIn these fraught times, I like to seek refuge in the idyllic England of my dreams--one that still exists in The Great British Baking Show. (Eliot A. Cohen, 10/18/20, The Atlantic)

Every summer for the past decade, a dozen amateur bakers have trooped into a cheerful, white party tent supplied with counters, ovens, refrigerators, and all the basic paraphernalia they need. Each week is themed--breads, pastry, biscuits--and each week there are three challenges: the signature bake (a more or less straightforward assignment), the technical (a cruelly abbreviated recipe for some obscure item), and the showstopper, an opportunity to build elaborate structures on whimsical motifs. The setting is the lawn of a magnificent bucolic estate in Somerset or Berkshire. Most often the sun shines, but when it does not, we know somehow that the rain is more a gentle and fructifying moisture than a miserable downpour.

The contestants are supervised by Paul Hollywood, an experienced baker (and race-car driver), and, in later seasons, Prue Leith, the chancellor of Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh and a restaurateur, an author, and a journalist. Previously, her place was filled by Mary Berry, a prolific author who in an earlier age got credit for moving British cuisine beyond boiled brussels sprouts. They have two sidekicks, in the current version of the show: Matt Lucas, an actor and a comedian, and Noel Fielding, a comic who is weird but amiable, if you like Goth.

The givens of the show remind one of Rudyard Kipling: "Now these are the Laws of the Jungle, and many and mighty are they; But the head and the hoof of the Law and the haunch and the hump is--Obey!" The Laws of the Tent are no less stern and unforgiving. When time is up, it's up, and you must present your bake. Each week, one participant is booted out. There is barely enough time to accomplish the tasks. The omissions in the technical recipes approach sadism. A decent-tasting cake is not enough: the piping must be exquisite, the design original, the structure (who knew that bread has structure, come to think of it?) perfect, the color attractive, the appearance consistent, and the layout symmetrical. Prue is intimidating enough in her Professor McGonagall way: "This is rather a mess, isn't it?" and "Hmmm. Claggy. What a pity." But the hard man of the show is Paul Hollywood.

Hollywood, with his silver hair and piercing blue eyes, is demanding to the point of inhumanity. In the days of the empire, he would have been a regimental sergeant major, looking an unhappy private in the eye three inches from his face, pointing at a fleck of lint on an otherwise impeccable uniform, and saying, "Your uniform is filthy, you horrible little man." In a crisis, though, Hollywood, like Nigel Green playing Colour Sergeant Bourne in Zulu, would be the one walking around coolly saying, "Keep your voices down" and "Button your tunic," calming the shaky Welch Fusiliers with his imperturbable insistence on idiotic standards of decorum. These days, however, he is one heck of a baker.

In The Great British Baking Show, there are standards. If it looks a mess, the judges will say so, and the bakers swallow hard and acknowledge their failures. If the flavors are bland, Paul and Prue will remark that the rose water simply doesn't come through. If the flavors are too much, they will acidly observe that the rose water overwhelms everything else. If the bakers have overproofed or underbaked, kneaded too much or refrigerated too little, they will learn about it in no uncertain terms. The vaguely obscene puns--which never seem to grow tired--about flabby buns and the dreaded "soggy bottom" allow no sympathy for the vagaries of fate. Results, not good intentions or effort, are what matter.

And yet, the show is animated by the warmth of humanity. The bakers are (carefully curated, no doubt) representatives of the British nation. There are college students and grandmothers; carpenters and lawyers; soldiers, sailors, and personal trainers; immigrants (or their descendants) of varying hue from Hong Kong and Jamaica and Mumbai. They are remarkably nice to one another.

When one of the bakers is having a crisis--a cake separating in the middle, a collapsing gluten-enhanced edifice, cracked biscuits--the others rush to help out. Yes, there is an occasional gleam of competitive delight when one of the stars seems to stumble, and unambiguous relief when a downcast baker at the tail end of the distributional curve sees someone else receive the implacable sentence of exile from the tent, but on the whole, they cheer one another on and sympathize with one another's troubles. They even hold hands, some of them, in that agonizing wait as the sidekicks menacingly intone, "The bakers now await the judgment of Prue and Paul." In the face of a really serious meltdown, even Hollywood can be heard to murmur, "It's just a bake, mate."

Having also watched the Australian, New Zealand and Canadian versions, it's remarkable how much more seriously the Brits take it.

October 17, 2020

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Trump World's desperate Hunter Biden pseudo-scandal backfired on them in record time (Joshua Holland, 10/17/20, Raw Story)

In the course of one week, we've moved from The New York Post's supposed "blockbuster" proving that Hunter Biden had arranged a meeting between an official with Burisma Holdings, the Ukrainian gas company whose board the younger Biden sat on, and then-Vice President Joe Biden to a contrived controversy over Twitter banning the story from its platform because it contained personal email addresses and phone numbers and we ended up with reports about Rudy Giuliani's apparent involvement in a clumsy scheme to launder hacked emails through a Seth Rich-truther at a computer shop, the likelihood that the emails were forged and the FBI investigating the whole thing as a disinformation campaign undertaken by foreign adversaries. When they rolled out the "story" on Monday, they probably didn't expect headlines like "Rudy: Only '50/50' Chance I Worked With a 'Russian Spy' to Dig Dirt on Bidens" to be prevalent by Saturday.

It's been a Helluva ride.

One should keep in mind that while the conservative media have run dozens of stories this week with "smoking gun" in their headlines, there's absolutely nothing here. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:33 AM

BACK TO RACISM (profanity alert):

Smearing Hunter Biden Failed. Now What?: The Trump campaign's long-planned October Surprise was a dud, and they look out of ideas (Nicholas Grossman, Oct 17, 2020, Arc Digital)

The story smelled from the start and unraveled quickly. It began with a false premise, presenting then-Vice President Biden's effort to oust a corrupt Ukrainian prosecutor as personal, when he actually acted on behalf of the Obama administration with support from Congressional Republicans and the European Union. The article's source was Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who was not-coincidentally part of the scheme to extort the president of Ukraine into manufacturing an investigation of the Bidens, which got Trump impeached. The Post also gave Trump's 2016 campaign chair Steve Bannon, who was recently indicted for fraud, a hat tip for alerting them to the emails' existence.

Rudy's story of how he got these emails is laughable, and he's already changed it once. The Wall Street Journal's Kevin Poulson pointed out that, according to metadata, the PDF files Rudy gave The Post were created over a year ago. It's not clear if the emails were stolen or fabricated -- maybe some of both -- but even if they're real, they show nothing more than a Ukrainian businessman thanking Hunter for introducing him to Joe. The New York Times and Washington Post both reported that U.S. intelligence warned the White House last year that Russian intelligence was trying to use Giuliani as a conduit for influence operations, and had met with him in December 2019 when Rudy traveled to Ukraine looking for information that could tie the Bidens to corruption. [...]

Releasing these Hunter Biden emails, in this way, at this time, looks like an attempt to replicate last election's October surprises. On October 7, 2016, news of the Access Hollywood tape with Trump saying "grab them by the pussy" became public, and within a half hour, WikiLeaks began posting hacked emails from Clinton campaign chair John Podesta. On October 28, FBI Director James Comey informed Congress of more Hillary Clinton emails to review.

Those email stories dominated the news, but the Hunter Biden emails haven't. Hunter isn't the candidate. Biden isn't Hillary. And 2020 isn't 2016.

Rudy: Only '50/50' Chance I Worked With a 'Russian Spy' to Dig Dirt on Bidens: In a wild interview, the president's personal attorney made clear he believes he's on a mission to torpedo the Bidens. And he doesn't care who supplied the ammunition. (Asawin Suebsaeng & Erin Banco,  Oct. 17, 2020, Daily Beast)

Sure, the U.S. Treasury Department may have declared one of his former associates--Ukrainian parliamentarian Andrii Derkach, who worked with Giuliani on his hunt for dirt on the Bidens--to be an "active Russian agent." But that's some Deep State talk, he added. "The chance that Derkach is a Russian spy is no better than 50/50."

"My guess is that George Soros is behind this counter-offensive... because he wants to create a socialist country," Giuliani baselessly alleged. "He'd like to see us collapse and see us taken over by the international... whatever." Giuliani said that Derkach's eventual sanctioning was the result of "an intelligence ploy to try to create problems for Trump--because Derkach could probably bury Obama." [...]

Giuliani said he viewed his latest leak to the New York Post as an extension of his years-long efforts to work with Ukrainians to dig up dirt on the Bidens. But nearly all of his former Ukrainian associates have either been arrested and indicted by federal law enforcement or are no longer welcome in the U.S. One of those individuals is Derkach, the pro-Russia Ukrainian parliamentarian sanctioned by the Treasury Department for being a "Russian agent" and peddling disinformation to undermine the 2020 presidential elections.

As The Daily Beast has previously reported, Derkach for years has tried to pass damaging--and largely false--information about the Ukraine government's supposed attempts to undermine Trump, and the Bidens' supposed dirty dealings in Kyiv. Derkach dispatched packets of disinformation about the Obama administration and the Bidens to lawmakers on Capitol Hill throughout 2019 and finally met with Giuliani in December 2019 in Kyiv during the middle of the House impeachment process. Derkach and Giuliani appeared together in an anti-Biden television series produced by the Trumpist network OAN, and Giuliani has interviewed Derkach about the Bidens on his YouTube video series Common Sense.

Posted by orrinj at 7:08 AM


Neo-Nazi and Proud Boys groups push Trump campaign poll watching operation online: Reports (Josh Margolin,Olivia Rubin, andLuke Barr, October 16, 2020, ABC News)

The measures come as online accounts tied to neo-Nazi sympathizers and "alt-right" groups such as the Proud Boys have been generating posts that encourage supporters to join the campaign's Election Day operations, according to two new reports this week. That includes sending out links to poll-watching registration sites for the Trump campaign's so-called Army for Trump, an effort working to recruit thousands of supports to sign up as poll watchers for the campaign on Election Day.

In one instance, a Proud Boys-affiliated user, in a group that claimed to circulate to 1,800 people affiliated with the Proud Boys, shared the link to sign up, writing that Democrats "don't want us Republicans to be in their polls," according to the report from SITE Intelligence Group, a non-governmental agency group that tracks potential security threats online, that was released on Tuesday. A separate SITE report released on Thursday said a link was shared within a neo-Nazi channel that claims to have about 5,000 members.

"The call to watch the polls, initially made by President Trump himself in the first presidential debate, has been answered by several far-right groups," the SITE report said.

Posted by orrinj at 7:00 AM


What if a Pill Can Change Your Politics or Religious Beliefs?: A new mental health treatment using the psychedelic compound psilocybin raises questions about medicine and values (Eddie Jacobs, October 11, 2020, Scientific American)

How would you feel about a new therapy for your chronic pain, which--although far more effective than any available alternative--might also change your religious beliefs? Or a treatment for lymphoma that brings one in three patients into remission, but also made them more likely to vote for your least preferred political party?

These seem like idle hypothetical questions about impossible side effects. After all, this is not how medicine works. But a new mental health treatment, set to be licensed next year, poses just this sort of problem. Psychotherapy assisted by psilocybin, the psychedelic compound in "magic mushrooms," seems to be remarkably effective in treating a wide range of psychopathologies, but also causes a raft of unusual nonclinical changes not seen elsewhere in medicine.

Although its precise therapeutic mechanisms remain unclear, clinically relevant doses of psilocybin can induce powerful mystical experiences more commonly associated with extended periods of fasting, prayer or meditation. Arguably, then, it is unsurprising that it can generate long-lasting changes in patients: studies report increased prosociality and aesthetic appreciation, plus robust shifts in personality, values and attitudes to life, even leading some atheists to find God. What's more, these experiences appear to be a feature, rather than a bug, of psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy, with the intensity of the mystical experience correlating with the extent of clinical benefit.

Posted by orrinj at 6:57 AM


Do We Live in a Simulation? (Anil Ananthaswamy, October 13, 2020, Scientific American)

It is not often that a comedian gives an astrophysicist goose bumps when discussing the laws of physics. But comic Chuck Nice managed to do just that in a recent episode of the podcast StarTalk. The show's host Neil deGrasse Tyson had just explained the simulation argument--the idea that we could be virtual beings living in a computer simulation. If so, the simulation would most likely create perceptions of reality on demand rather than simulate all of reality all the time--much like a video game optimized to render only the parts of a scene visible to a player. "Maybe that's why we can't travel faster than the speed of light, because if we could, we'd be able to get to another galaxy," said Nice, the show's co-host, prompting Tyson to gleefully interrupt. "Before they can program it," the astrophysicist said, delighting at the thought. "So the programmer put in that limit."

Such conversations may seem flippant. But ever since Nick Bostrom of the University of Oxford wrote a seminal paper about the simulation argument in 2003, philosophers, physicists, technologists and, yes, comedians have been grappling with the idea of our reality being a simulacrum. Some have tried to identify ways in which we can discern if we are simulated beings. Others have attempted to calculate the chance of us being virtual entities. Now a new analysis shows that the odds that we are living in base reality--meaning an existence that is not simulated--are pretty much even. But the study also demonstrates that if humans were to ever develop the ability to simulate conscious beings, the chances would overwhelmingly tilt in favor of us, too, being virtual denizens inside someone else's computer.


Posted by orrinj at 6:40 AM


Tabloid's Biden email episode illustrates Giuliani risk to Trump campaign (ERIC TUCKERm 10/17/20, Times of Israel)

That hasn't stopped the FBI from investigating whether the emails are part of a foreign influence operation. The emails surfaced as US officials have been warning that Russia, which backed Trump's 2016 campaign through hacking of Democratic emails and a covert social media campaign, is interfering again this year. The latest episode with Giuliani underscores the risk he poses to a White House that spent years confronted by a federal investigation into whether Trump associates had coordinated with Russia.

The Washington Post reported Thursday that intelligence agencies had warned the White House last year that Giuliani was the target of a Russian influence operation. The newspaper, citing four former officials, said that assessment was based on information including intercepted communications showing Giuliani had been in contact with people tied to Russian intelligence.

The newspaper said national security adviser Robert O'Brien had warned Trump that information Giuliani brought back from Ukraine should be considered contaminated by Russia, but that Trump brushed off the warning.

Posted by orrinj at 6:35 AM


October 16, 2020

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Solar now generates the cheapest electricity in history, IEA says (STEPHEN JOHNSON, 16 October, 2020, Big Think)

Electricity from solar energy is the cheapest it's ever been, thanks largely to technological improvements and policies that reduce the risk of investing in renewable energy. [...]

 In the main scenario, the international community is projected to generate 43 percent more solar power than the IEA had predicted in 2018.

That increase, as Carbon Brief first reported, is partly due to new analyses showing the cost of solar power to be 20 to 50 percent cheaper than the IEA thought in 2018.

Globally, the average cost of electricity from large-scale solar photovoltaic projects has dropped by magnitudes over the past decade, from 38 cents per kilowatt-hour in 2010 to 6.8 cents per kilowatt-hour in 2019, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency.

Posted by orrinj at 5:34 PM


EV maker Fisker just debuted its $37,499 all-electric 'Ocean' SUV coming 2022 which claims will be the 'world's most sustainable vehicle' (Brittany Chang, Oct. 16th, 2020, Business Insider)

American startup automaker Fisker has debuted its all-electric SUV, Ocean, which comes with a solar roof.

The Ocean SUV will go for $37,499 -- cheaper than Tesla's $74,190 Model X SUV and $49,990 Model Y SUV.

Ocean -- which the automaker claims is the "world's most sustainable vehicle" -- was unveiled at the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January.. The car starts at $37,499 but drops to $29,999 after US federal tax credit, according to Fisker, and can now be reserved with a $250 deposit.

Tesla just quietly updated the Model 3's range, performance, and styling -- here's what's new  (Tim Levin, 10/16/20, BI)

Tesla just updated the Model 3, giving it increased range and performance along with some new features and styling touches. 

According to Tesla's online configurator, Model 3 sedans now boast higher range estimates across all three variants. The Standard Range Plus now has an EPA-estimated range of 263 miles -- up from 250 miles -- while the Long Range version now promises 353 miles, a 31-mile bump.

The Performance model, built for speed and acceleration rather than distance, will now go 315 miles on a charge, up from 299 miles. Tesla also shaved one-tenth of a second off of the model's 0-60 mph time, and it now makes the sprint in 3.1 seconds. 

Posted by orrinj at 3:44 PM


Someone Called the Cops on a Statue of Jesus Thinking It Was a Homeless Person (BONNIE STIERNBERG, 10/16/20, Inside Hook)

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Mitch McConnell Confirms That the Senate Intends to Install Amy Coney Barrett on Supreme Court Before Election Day (MATT NAHAM, Oct 16th, 2020, Law & Crime)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) doesn't care about the misgivings of Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, he knows he has the votes to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court before Election Day. And it appears that's exactly what's going to happen.

...you no longer have any excuse; unless you were in it for the racism all along.

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The Conservative Push for a Social Media "Fairness Doctrine" is Pure Fantasy (CHRISTIAN SCHNEIDER, OCTOBER 16, 2020, The Bulwark)

On Wednesday, Senator Josh Hawley sent a letter to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) asking whether Twitter and Facebook had committed "egregious campaign-finance violations benefitting the Biden campaign" after they both blocked users from sharing a New York Post story of dubious plausibility.

In any sane non-election world, the FEC's response would be three words long: "No. Seriously. No."

But we are in the feverish last three weeks of a presidential election, so Team Red Hat is suddenly trotting out the idea that federal regulators should punish private companies both for what they choose to publish--or, in this case, what they choose not to publish--on their platforms.

Hawley's decision was immediately cheered by Trump sycophants like Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Florida), who claimed Twitter is "engaged in domestic election interference." Former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker said that Twitter's and Facebook's decisions to ban the New York Post link were "much like Communist China," ironically using Twitter to call Twitter Communists.

Gaetz's tweet now has over 100,000 likes. Downright Stalinesque, right?

...the Right would have the confidence to enter the market and create social media alternatives, instead of trying to force their hate-speech on folks who aren't interested.

Posted by orrinj at 8:56 AM


Woman who nodded, gave thumbs up behind Trump in Miami ran pro-Trump campaign in 2018 (ALEX DAUGHERTY, OCTOBER 15, 2020, Miami Herald)

Supporters of President Donald Trump and former vice president Joe Biden gathered outside Perez Art Museum, where Trump is scheduled to appear at a televised town hall on Oct. 15, 2020. BY AL DIAZ | MARTA OLIVER CRAVIOTTO

A woman who gained internet fame for nodding and giving President Donald Trump the thumbs up sign during his Miami town hall on Thursday night could have used the free airtime two years ago -- because she was running for Congress as a pro-Trump candidate.

Posted by orrinj at 8:33 AM


Rudy's Latest Variation On The Same Dirty Trick That Got Trump Impeached (Joe Conason, October 16 | 2020, National Memo)

Verifying the emails might have proved difficult because, as served up by Giuliani, their images lack identifying marks to establish firmly who sent them, who received them, and when this exchange might have happened. In fact, a close examination of the typefaces on the email by bloggers Brian and Eddie Krassenstein raises strong suspicions of forgery.

Writing for Medium, the Krassensteins note "the tremendous clarity of the text, when compared to the 'VP' gmail icon in the upper right-hand corner." By zooming in on the PDF published by the Post, they explain, it is easy to see that the file text "remains crystal clear, yet the gmail icon for 'VP' gets extremely pixelated. ... This is the hallmark of email alterations. There is no reason that the gmail icon should be of a different resolution than the text on the same document, unless of course the icon or the text were photoshopped in."

The Daily Beast reported that metadata on "the PDF files purporting to show [Hunter] Biden's emails ... suggest they were created on a Mac laptop" in September and October of 2019, whereas Biden supposedly had dropped off his laptop at the Delaware shop in April 2019. (He was then living in Los Angeles, not Delaware.) But that date coincides with Giuliani's trolling for dirt in Ukraine.

Posted by orrinj at 8:26 AM


MSNBC's Morning Joe mocks Trump-loving 'snowflakes' freaking out over 'white supremacy' questions at town hall (Travis Gettys, 10/16/20, Raw Story)

MSNBC's Joe Scarborough mocked the "snowflakes" who whined that President Donald Trump was mistreated by the moderator of his solo town hall event.

The president appeared Thursday at an event televised by NBC, and the "Morning Joe" host ridiculed Trump supporters who complained that moderator Savannah Guthrie asked him too many tough questions.

"They're such whiners and in constant search of victimhood," Scarborough said. "You have anti-Trump people who attack woke culture for look for victimhood status. They go around every day -- they're such snowflakes constantly, constantly looking for victimhood status."

Posted by orrinj at 8:23 AM


The delightful boringness of Joe Biden: If you didn't watch it, you didn't miss much -- that's kind of nice! (Matthew Yglesias, Oct 15, 2020, Vox)

Biden does not do this kind of in-the-weeds policy discussion with the command of detail that we associate with Hillary Clinton, or the mastery of explanation that made her husband famous. And he certainly doesn't reach the soaring oratorical heights of Barack Obama, who managed to elevate the most banal conversations. Listening to Biden talk about public policy is like listening to, well, a veteran mainstream Senate Democrat. It's pretty boring.

And after four exhausting years of Donald Trump, it's an incredible relief.

He needs, but is unlikely to appoint, a W level cabinet and chief-of-staff. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:19 AM


Trump Places Campaign's Fate on Oppo Research Hail Mary (Hanna Trudo & Maxwell Tani,  Oct. 16, 2020, Daily Beast)

Political opposition research is more an art than a science. At a technical level, it's the act of finding out damaging information on an opponent and introducing it to the public. More colloquially, it's mud-slinging.

In that regard, the stories in the New York Post have been oppo at its purest, most dastardly form. The original piece reported that Hunter Biden, the son of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and the obsession of some of the president's most fervent fans for over a year, may have provided a board member of a Ukrainian company a chance to convene with his father, hinting at (but by no means proving) a possible pay-for-play set up between the then-vice president and the business.

The biggest article came to be through highly suspect channels. As the piece recounted, Hunter Biden (or someone who appeared to be him) dropped off a damaged laptop at a store that repairs computers, after which the repair man found suspicious and incriminating data on the hard drive, decided to make a copy of it, and then passed it to an associate of Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer. Along the way, the FBI got involved.

Naturally, it made a splash. But that didn't mean it would prove effective, Democrats said. Hail Marys can be completed, but often they aren't.

"If this is the only thing they've done and this is the October surprise they were holding it's a little unimpressive," said Steven D'Amico, a political consultant who led the 2016 research team against Trump for American Bridge. "The fact that it's in the Post is evidence of that."

In some respects, the entire episode was reflective of how limited the president's ability to manage news cycles has become. Up until the publication on Tuesday (and the subsequent publication of other items), Trump-aligned GOP operatives had seemingly abandoned prior behind-the-scenes efforts to convince reporters at major mainstream publications to write stories spotlighting negative information about Biden and his family. Instead, they'd opted to work with ideological allies in the media (of which the New York Post is one) and blast out snippets from their own platforms.

Even worse for Donald, this is the entirety of his case against Uncle Joe.

Posted by orrinj at 7:57 AM


Trump appears to earnestly share satirical website's take on Twitter (QUINT FORGEY, 10/16/2020, Politico)

President Donald Trump on Friday shared a story from a known news satire website seemingly in earnest, using the fake report to blast Twitter's handling of dubious allegations against Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

The story tweeted by the president early Friday morning was published by The Babylon Bee -- which bills itself online as "the world's best satire site" -- and stated that Twitter had "shut down its entire social network" Thursday to stop the spread of negative news about Biden.

To be fair, the Bee is no funnier than Rudy.

Posted by orrinj at 7:49 AM


Trump's town hall stunt backfires: NBC's Savannah Guthrie gives him the grilling voters wouldn't (SOPHIA TESFAYE, OCTOBER 16, 2020, Salon)

A sweaty and often out of breath Trump floundered on his stool under the bright studio lights and accompanying Miami weather Thursday night. While he looked almost suspiciously triumphant over his recent COVID diagnosis, a relentless grilling from moderator Savannah Guthrie certainly didn't do him any favors -- at least outside of his already secured base whose Pavlovian disgust for the media was undoubtedly reinvigorated. 

Guthrie's past experience working with disgraced "Today" show host Matt Lauer may have prepared her well for managing a most unruly Trump. More than merely moderating questions from would-be voters in the audience, Guthrie was quick to offer relevant follow-ups and fact checks. She was often able to pin down the president's familiar pattern of interrupting the preamble to a question, talking about whatever he wants, pretending the interviewer is interrupting him when she tries to finish, then moving on to the next question. She was prepared and pointed, delivering the grilling I suspect many anti-Trump voters found reassuring. 

The hilarious meme on the Right is that, by comparison, Uncle Joe seemed like Mister Rogers.  They apparently think that's a dig.
Posted by orrinj at 7:32 AM


Switzerland's Yodelers Created One of Europe's Worst COVID Hot Spots (Barbie Latza Nadeau, Oct. 16, 2020, Daily Beast)

Swiss authorities have voiced their concern about two sing-along yodeling concerts attended by 600 fans of the traditional singing that are now known to have been superspreader COVID-19 events that have turned a small Swiss canton into a hot spot as a second wave of the pandemic sweeps Europe.

People who attended the indoor performances in late September in the Schwyz canton were advised to socially distance, but not required to wear masks that would have impeded their yodeling.

The small village area now has a positivity rate of 50 percent, making it the highest contagion rate in all of Europe with case numbers doubling every day for the last week.

October 15, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 8:53 PM


US officials warned the White House that Russian intelligence was using Rudy Giuliani to funnel disinformation to Trump (Sonam Sheth, 10/15/20, Business Insider)

The paper cited four former officials familiar with the matter who said the warnings were based on several sources, including intercepted communications. The communications are said to have showed that Giuliani communicated with multiple people who had ties to Russian intelligence during a December 2019 trip to Ukraine. The former New York mayor made the trip as part of his effort to dig up dirt on the Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden, and his son, Hunter, related to the latter's work for the Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma Holdings.

The Post reported that the intercepted communications raised red flags with US officials who worried that Russian officials were using Giuliani as a conduit to feed disinformation to Trump. After the White House was warned about the possibility, the report said, national security adviser Robert O'Brien told the president that he should approach any information Giuliani gave him with caution.

One source told The Post that the message to Trump was, "Do what you want to do, but your friend Rudy has been worked by Russian assets in Ukraine." The warning was especially stark because officials wanted "to protect the president from coming out and saying something stupid," the paper reported, especially because he was in the middle of an impeachment at the time over his efforts to force Ukraine to launch politically motivated investigations into the Bidens and Burisma.

Posted by orrinj at 6:26 PM


New Research on Illegal Immigration and Crime (Alex Nowrasteh, 10/15/20, Cato)

Andrew Forrester, Michelangelo Landgrave, and I published a new working paper on illegal immigration and crime in Texas. Our paper is slated to appear as a chapter in a volume published by Oxford University Press in 2021. Like our other research on illegal immigration and crime in Texas, this working paper uses data collected by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) that records and keeps the immigration statuses of those arrested and convicted of crimes in Texas. As far as we've been able to tell, and we've filed more than 50 state FOIA requests to confirm, Texas is the only state that records and keeps the immigration statuses of those entering the criminal justice system. Texas gathers this information because its runs arrestee biometric information through Department of Homeland Security (DHS) databases that identify illegal immigrants. Unlike other states, Texas DPS keeps the results of these DHS checks that then allows a more direct look at immigrant criminality by immigration status.

The results are similar to our other work on illegal immigration and crime in Texas. In 2018, the illegal immigrant criminal conviction rate was 782 per 100,000 illegal immigrants, 535 per 100,000 legal immigrants, and 1,422 per 100,000 native‐​born Americans. The illegal immigrant criminal conviction rate was 45 percent below that of native‐​born Americans in Texas. The general pattern of native‐​born Americans having the highest criminal conviction rates followed by illegal immigrants and then with legal immigrants having the lowest holds for all of other specific types of crimes such as violent crimes, property crimes, homicide, and sex crimes.

Posted by orrinj at 6:23 PM


A Crusade for Something Noble: Americans are coming together to save our Republic, right now. And it means something. (JAMES CARVILLE  OCTOBER 15, 2020, The Bulwark)

We are constantly told that America is too divided, too hopelessly stricken by tribalism to come together anymore. Well, I'm here to proclaim that this received "wisdom" is just plain wrong. If you were to run a cable wire through the heart of America right now, you would see an image of an exceedingly diverse coalition of people who challenge that assumption at its core. You'd see suburban woman from a once-Republican stronghold in Maricopa County, Arizona, standing alongside a retired grandfather in Florida, a college student in Brooklyn, a Latina mom in Raleigh, a Black computer programmer in Houston, and yes, standing alongside even a former Trump voter in Wisconsin who has now changed his mind. This coalition is exactly why an incumbent president is on the precipice of a catastrophic defeat.

Because this is more than a campaign. This is a crusade for America.

Long after Trump has gone, this unity forged in his opposition should be remembered.

My participation on this site, which is operated by many of my former Republican rivals, is evidence of this unity in and of itself.

This article, posted right here, is evidence that this is a moment that carries extraordinary consequences much more profound than victory or defeat for a candidate.

Like the majority of people that read this news site, I am white and affluent and--you know what else?--I love my country. Collectively, what I know to be true among so many like us, is that we understand we have existed on an advantaged and privileged perch in our slice of America.

But if you're like me, you have been haunted by the fact that because of this privilege, many of us have never, in the late John Lewis's words, made enough "good trouble," or fought hard enough in the good fight.

Now, maybe that's because, quite frankly, many of our own backs have never really been against the wall. What this moment has done for all of us--for all those who have sat on the sidelines of history or never were presented with something that held as much gravitas--is that it has given us, for one fleeting moment--the moment we're living right now--a sense of common purpose. Common purpose of which we will be able to recall forever: that when our country and our Republic were on the brink of collapse, when our fellow Americans needed us, we took a blow torch to our past differences, our former conflicts and our old rivalries, and we fought together.

In less than two weeks, I will be 76 years old. I was a boy raised near some of the poorest banks of the Mississippi River and I've now had the overwhelming honor to help elect senators, governors, and my dear friend Bill Clinton as president of the United States. I've seen my face flash across the silver screen too many times and have flown around the world twice over practicing the profession I love.

All of this was wildly unimaginable to that little boy skipping rocks in Louisiana 70 years ago. But as I sit here, wonderstruck in retrograde, I can say with certainty that in all my years, joining in this crusade to take America back from the brink of destruction is the greatest thing I have ever been a part of in my life.

This crusade is something noble.

Posted by orrinj at 6:16 PM


Trump's Rallies Are Overflowing With Racism: He's inciting bigotry in the run-up to the election. (WILLIAM SALETAN, OCT 15, 2020, Slate)

Scrambling to save his reelection campaign, Donald Trump is trying one last-ditch con: He's pretending to care about people of color. "I love the Hispanics," the president declared last month. "I'm doing so well with African American, with Asian American, with Hispanic American, and with women," he said. But in front of white crowds on the campaign trail, Trump hasn't changed a bit. He's slandering minorities to exploit fear and bigotry.

At his rallies, Trump routinely tells white voters that Democrats would "destroy your suburbs" by installing "low-income housing projects." When critics interpreted this as a racial dog whistle, Trump added a riff about nice nonwhite suburbanites. He was doing OK with that pretense until Sept. 30, when he slipped up at a rally in Duluth, Minnesota. "Thirty percent of the people in the suburbs are low-income people," he blurted out, before correcting himself to "30 percent of the people in the suburbs are minorities."

Another giveaway in Trump's shtick about suburbs is the list of villains he blames for the plot to build low-income housing: Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Cory Booker, and former President Barack Obama. If Democrats were to win the election, he warned at a rally in Ohio on Sept. 21, "You know who's in charge of the program? Cory Booker. Cory Booker. Cory Booker." A week later in Duluth, Trump said he had overruled Ben Carson, his secretary of Housing and Urban Development, to block these "low-income" projects. On Wednesday, at a rally in Iowa, Trump repeated his attack on Booker and his story about overruling Carson. It's not hard to figure out what Booker, Harris, Obama, and Carson have in common.

Excellent pod with Jonah Goldberg this week.  A reminder that Republicans have more in common with Democrats than either has with the Left/Right.

Posted by orrinj at 5:48 PM


How Trump Sealed the GOP's Suicide (RICHARD NORTH PATTERSON,  OCTOBER 15, 2020, The Bulwark)

As president, Trump has pushed the boundaries of our constitutional democracy to achieve unprecedented executive power. Not only do his followers support this, but elected Republicans have done nothing to stop him.

The GOP is no longer about ideas like limited government, or the higher ideals of inclusiveness and an American Dream open to all. Its toxic compound of raw anger and nativist passion is, at bottom, about subjugating the demographic "other."

Before Trump, the GOP's better angels were already enfeebled. In 2016 he killed them off.

It is barely possible now to imagine the GOP had Trump been different. He came without ideology, propelled by a gift for embodying a potent but undefined populism. He might have become an agent of constructive reinvention, eschewing racism and xenophobia in favor of offering embattled middle-class and blue-collar workers genuine economic uplift. He could have reinstated fiscal responsibility by disdaining tax cuts for the wealthy. He might even have taken steps--if not to drain the swamp--at least to reform it.

But that would have required real talent, sustained attention, and a genuine interest in governance. Instead this irredeemably vicious, vacant, and narcissistic demagogue unleashed white identity politics and the endless overreach of Republican donors. This leads inexorably to the deadest of ends--a demographic death knell for his party and, for our democracy, the most grievous of wounds.

Fittingly, they're crashing in rural oblivion, killing Americans, but not impacting Washington.

Posted by orrinj at 5:43 PM


IS THE SLIDE OF EUROPEAN POPULISM PERMANENT? (Sam Jones, Miles Johnson and Guy Chazan, 10/15/20, OZY)

It's an "infinitely painful" result, says Herbert Kickl, a leader of Austria's rightwing populist Freedom party, the FPÖ. "Any attempt to gloss it over is doomed to failure."

Kickl is speaking about Sunday's municipal elections in Vienna that saw the FPÖ's share of the vote collapse from 31 to 9 percent. "This time it wasn't other parties that defeated us: the FPÖ did our opponents' work for them," he tells supporters.

The FPÖ is emblematic of a broader trend. Across Europe, far-right populist parties that once seemed unstoppable are stumbling, riven by infighting and challenged by upstart rivals. They have watched in impotent fury as the coronavirus pandemic has boosted governing parties such as Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union and incumbent leaders such as Giuseppe Conte in Italy, pushing them to the political margins.

Matteo Salvini, leader of Italy's anti-immigration League party, exemplifies the populists' difficulties. He has been unable to dominate the domestic political agenda the way he used to before the pandemic and is leaking support to a rival rightwing party, Giorgia Meloni's Brothers of Italy. 

"People vote for populists when things are going well ... but, when things get serious, they vote for parties they can trust, that will get them through the crisis," says Armin Laschet, the CDU leader of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany's most populous state. "That's one of the reasons why the CDU is on 35 percent."

Nowhere has the populists' decline been more striking than in Germany, where the rightwing Alternative for Germany (AfD) has descended into civil war. Last month, Germans witnessed the bizarre spectacle of two AfD parliamentary groups in effect imploding, in circumstances that highlighted the stark ideological divisions tearing the party apart.

The AfD regional branches in both Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein have long been split between hardliners and moderates. But the internal tensions climaxed in September when moderates quit the AfD parliamentary groups in both states. They were then forced to disband because they lacked the statutory minimum of MPs, and AfD lawmakers suddenly found themselves stripped of their privileges.

Dana Guth is one of the defectors in Lower Saxony. "The AfD must finally decide what ideological direction it wants to take," she says, "because these constant power struggles between the opposing camps are paralyzing the whole party."

Latest polls put the AfD at 9 percent, down from 13 percent at the last national election in 2017, when it emerged as the biggest opposition party in the Bundestag. Kai Arzheimer, a political scientist at Mainz university, says the internecine feuding had turned off voters, "as has the realization of how many extremists there are in the AfD and how many ties there are between [them] and the classic far-right movement in Germany."

Beyond the power struggles and scandals, another decisive factor in the decline of rightwing populism is the diminishing importance of immigration among voters' concerns. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:38 PM


Donald Trump Sounds So Happy Describing How His Government Killed a Man (Tim Murphy, 10/15/20, Mother Jones)

Trump, speaking at a rally in Greenville, North Carolina, on Thursday afternoon, described the death of Michael Reinoehl, an antifa activist who had been suspected of shooting a Trump supporter in Portland in late August and was confronted by US Marshalls a few weeks later. What exactly happened in that confrontation is still unclear, but there are significant reasons to be skeptical of the official government narrative; the New York Times reported last month that "[i]n interviews with 22 people who were near the scene, all but one said they did not hear officers identify themselves or give any commands before opening fire" and killing Reinoehl.

"I said, 'What happened?' 'Well we haven't arrested him,'" Trump said, recalling his conversations with local authorities.

"Two days, three days went by, we sent in the US Marshalls, took 15 minutes it was over. Fifteen minutes it was over, we got him," Trump continued. "They knew who he was, they didn't want to arrest him, and 15 minutes that ended."

Posted by orrinj at 4:08 PM


Team Trump humiliated as Rudy Giuliani's attempted 'October surprise' backfires (Amanda Marcotte, 10/15/20, Salon)

 His latest apparent effort to smear former Vice President Joe Biden with false accusations of Ukrainian corruption has imploded, as the narrative has morphed into questions about what kinds of shenanigans Giuliani might be involved with and the legalities thereof rather than anything Biden has done. On the contrary, the story ends up painting Biden in a glowing light, making the current Democratic presidential nominee look incorruptible.

For that, thank the House Democrats for impeaching Trump back in December. If it weren't for the impeachment trial, there's a very good chance that Giuliani's efforts to get the mainstream media to elevate baseless smears against Biden would have worked.

To quickly recap the latest in Giuliani's impotent machinations: Steve Bannon, the former Trump strategist currently indicted on federal money laundering and obstruction charges, tips off the New York Post that the former NYC mayor has had in his possession what they claim are emails from Biden's son, Hunter Biden. Giuliani's story of how he got these emails is, to put it charitably, implausible. He says they were obtained from a computer supposedly left at a Delaware repair shop which the owner then turned over to him, for some reason. Perhaps a likelier explanation, as New York magazine's Jonathan Chait suggests, is that the emails may have been sourced from Russian agents that Giuliani knows.

Posted by orrinj at 3:54 PM


Venezuela's 'Socialist Revolution' Just Made a U-Turn (Wes Michael Tomaselli, October 15, 2020, Vice News)

In a major flip-flop, Venezuela's socialist President Nicolás Maduro is now preparing to privatize state-run businesses that were once nationalized by his predecessor and founder of the country's 'socialist revolution,' Hugo Chávez.

A new piece of legislation known as the "anti-blockade law" will help Maduro's government further consolidate power by allowing some foreign private investment into the country's beleaguered oil sector. The legislation also allows the creation of permits that sell parts of state businesses such as beer-brewers and food-producers to raise money for social programs.

"Those on the left are decrying the opening of the door to private investment and privatization as a violation of sovereignty and a betrayal of 'Chavismo,'" said Paul J. Angelo, a Latin American fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Posted by orrinj at 1:45 PM


Posted by orrinj at 8:43 AM


Trump Is Suffering From Trump Derangement Syndrome (John F. Harris, 10/15/20, Politico)

Recent days have raised an arresting possibility: Trump himself appears to be suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome.

This isn't really surprising. A practitioner of germ warfare would need to wear an airtight suit to avoid being infected by the virus intended for his or her enemies. Unless Trump has been very careful in the lab, it's not hard to imagine that his various experiments in conspiracy theory, self-mythologizing, insult, grandiosity and fact denial might be seeping into his own consciousness. At a minimum, there are plainly a lot of people living in his head, and it's hard to believe he is collecting rent from all of them.

When it comes to discussions of Trump's mental health, there are always two questions. One relates to measurement. He's been saying wild stuff for a long time. Is any particular new statement really more daffy than things he has said before? The other question relates to motive. He says things all the time that sound bonkers, or at least would sound that way from any other politician. But, at least some of the time, he is doing so because such behavior is the essence of his brand as an anti-establishment political disrupter. Trump's efforts to sound like he may really be losing his mind may be evidence of his rationality.

But this binary framing--yes, he is nuts; no, it's just an act--could be a false choice. In the pathology of TDS, living in the agitated psychic state required to make his performance convincing may over time lead to the performance no longer being a performance at all. Trump has gaslit himself.

At a minimum, his words lately follow a logic that is opaque even to many supporters.

Posted by orrinj at 8:38 AM


 I won't work in Attorney General William Barr's Justice Department any longer (PHILLIP HALPERN, OCT. 14, 2020, san Diego Union Tribune)

Unfortunately, over the last year, Barr's resentment toward rule-of-law prosecutors became increasingly difficult to ignore, as did his slavish obedience to Donald Trump's will in his selective meddling with the criminal justice system in the Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn and Roger Stone cases. In each of these cases, Barr overruled career prosecutors in order to assist the president's associates and/or friends, who potentially harbor incriminating information. This career bureaucrat seems determined to turn our democracy into an autocracy.

There is no other honest explanation for Barr's parroting of the president's wild and unsupported conspiracy theories regarding mail-in ballots (which have been contradicted by the president's handpicked FBI director) and his support for the president's sacking of the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, whose office used the thinnest of veils to postpone charging the president in a criminal investigation along with Michael Cohen (who pled guilty and directly implicated the president). It took federal Judge Alvin Hellerstein to stop Barr's unprecedented "retaliatory" demands to silence the president's former lawyer as a condition for staying out of jail.

Similarly, it took federal Judge Reggie Walton (who sharply criticized Barr for a "lack of candor") to at least temporarily stop Barr from dismissing all charges against Flynn, the president's former national security adviser, who admitted lying to the FBI about conversations he had with the Russian ambassador. Rather than representing the interests of the American public, Barr chooses to act as Trump's lap dog.

More recently, Barr directed federal officers to use tear gas in Lafayette Park to quell what were, at that time, peaceful protesters. Barr's assertion the square was not cleared due to the president's desire for a Bible-carrying photo op is laughable. It is certainly a case that Barr would lose before a jury (again, though, this may not be clear to him due to his unfamiliarity with jury trials).

Barr also turned his back on the rule of law by supporting the president's selective use of federal troops to assault citizens protesting the killing of George Floyd in Portland, Oregon. Yet he stood silently by when armed right-wing protesters stormed the Michigan state Capitol building to protest the Democratic governor's public health orders.

Barr's longest-running politicization of the Justice Department is the Durham investigation -- a quixotic pursuit designed to attack the president's political rivals. Confirming his scorn for honest apolitical prosecutors, Barr refers to some as "headhunters" who pursue "ill-conceived charges against prominent political figures." It does not appear to be a coincidence that all of these prominent political figures happen to be friends of the president. However, if I'm a headhunter because I charged and convicted disgraced local House members Duncan D. Hunter and Randy "Duke" Cunningham, so be it. It's a badge that I will wear with honor.

Posted by orrinj at 8:33 AM


US intelligence analysts feared Russia would dump hacked and forged Burisma emails targeting Biden as an 'October surprise,' report says (Sonam Sheth, 10/15/20, MSN)

After US intelligence identified plans to dump stolen emails, analysts contacted "several people with knowledge" of the Burisma hack, The Times reported.

The paper said the analysts were concerned "Burisma material would be leaked alongside forged materials in an attempt to hurt" the candidacy of the Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden.

Earlier Wednesday -- the month after US intelligence was said to be aware of plans to release the hacked and forged material -- the New York Post published a dubious story about a "smoking-gun email" between Biden's son Hunter and a top Burisma executive.

Posted by orrinj at 8:28 AM


THE AGATHA CHRISTIE CENTENNIAL: 100 YEARS OF THE MYSTERIOUS AFFAIR AT STYLES: Christie's debut novel was famously rejected by a host of publishers. Many, many editions later, it's an iconic mystery. (J. KINGSTON PIERCE, 10/15/20, Crime Reads)

Styles was an early and influential contribution to what's now called the Golden Age of detective fiction, a period that stretched arguably from the 1920s through the 1940s. The book tosses us into the company of Captain Arthur Hastings, a soldier who's been invalided home from World War I's Western Front and has accepted an invitation to spend part of his sick leave at Styles Court, the Essex country estate of his boyhood acquaintance John Cavendish. However, his peace there is soon upset by the slaying of Cavendish's elderly, widowed, and wealthy stepmother, Emily Inglethorp--an incident that awakened the household near the close of a summer night. Afterward, Hastings seeks help with the investigation from Hercule Poirot, a retired but once illustrious Belgian police detective Hastings had met before the war, and who has recently been living as a refugee in a cottage near Styles.

In short order, Poirot confirms his suspicions that the deceased was done in by strychnine, "one of the most deadly poisons known to mankind," though precisely how she was dosed with that bitter neurotoxin is unknown. As is the identity of her killer. The suspects, however, are plentiful, among them John Cavendish and his younger brother, Lawrence, whose claim on their stepmother's fortune is in doubt; Emily's most recent and significantly more junior husband, Alfred Inglethorp, described as "a rotten little bounder"; Evelyn Howard, the late grandame's hired companion, who exhibits singular animus toward Alfred; Mary Cavendish, whose love for husband John has suffered severely amid his dalliances and her own drab flirtations; and Cynthia Murdoch, Emily's protégée, who happens to work in a dispensary. It's up to Poirot, with aid from Hastings and Scotland Yard Inspector James Japp, to weigh motives and opportunities and finally suss out who among the Styles Court habitués was responsible for Mrs. Inglethorp's premature dispatching.

Although Christie's prose here is quite economical, her efforts at misdirection are masterful and her plotting elaborate. The idea of using strychnine as a weapon came, of course, from the author's hospital experiences. It "could not have come to her otherwise," explains Laura Thompson in her 2018 biography, Agatha Christie: A Mysterious Life, "as it depends upon a knowledge of poisons. In fact it is impossible to reach the solution to Styles without this knowledge: the reader may guess right as to the culprit, but the guess cannot be proved without knowledge of the properties of strychnine and bromide. So Agatha's first detective novel was, in a sense, her only 'cheat.'"

Over the last century, myriad editions of The Mysterious Affair at Styles--the first of Christie's 33 Poirot novels--have reached print, some of them quite handsome, while others make you wonder what their designers were thinking. To commemorate this month's anniversary, I've gathered examples from all points on that spectrum.

And David Suchet owns the filmed versions.

Posted by orrinj at 8:21 AM


Warren Buffett spoke to Joe Biden about America's opportunity to 'lead the whole damn world' (Theron Mohamed, Oct. 15, 2020, Business Insider)

Joe Biden spoke to Warren Buffett about America's global leadership and boundless potential, the Democratic presidential nominee revealed at a virtual fundraiser on Wednesday.

"Just got off the phone with Warren Buffett, talking about how we have position unlike 50, 70, 80 years ago to lead the whole damn world in a way that no one else can," Biden told the group of Wall Street executives, according to Bloomberg.

"There's no limit to America's future," the former vice president added.

The crushing of this Administration was barely even a skirmish in the Long War.

Posted by orrinj at 8:15 AM


Posted by orrinj at 7:13 AM


Christian Group Hits Trump: 'The Days Of Using Our Faith For Your Benefit Are Over' (Ed Mazza, 10/15/20, HuffPo)

A new bipartisan Christian super PAC is taking on President Donald Trump with a new ad that accuses him of hypocrisy when it comes to matters of faith.  

"Mr. President, the days of using our faith for your benefit are over," the ad from Not Our Faith warns. "We know you need the support of Christians like us to win this election. But you can't have it."

The spot also accuses Trump of "using Christianity for his own purposes," and shows footage of his Bible-toting photo op in front of St. John's Episcopal Church, across from the White House, after having peaceful protesters teargassed to clear the area for him. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:04 AM


The GOP Is Not Destined to Be Dominated by Cranks (ISAAC SCHORR, October 15, 2020, nATIONAL rEVIEW)

In Delaware, Lauren Witzke is channeling the ghost of Christine O'Donnell. Witzke is the Republican challenger to incumbent Democratic senator Chris Coons, who has won his past two elections by double-digit margins in a state that has not sent a member of the GOP to the upper chamber since 1994. Following in the footsteps of O'Donnell, the controversial candidate who faced off against Coons in 2010, Witzke is doing everything she can to damage not only her own long-shot bid, but the GOP brand across the country.

Last Wednesday, Witzke tweeted "Most third-world migrants can not assimilate into civil societies. Prove me wrong." This wasn't the first time she made plain her disgustingly disparaging views on immigrants. On October 4, Witzke granted an interview to the white-supremacist website VDARE in which she lamented that "people are so worried about being labeled a white supremacist when we are giving our country away to foreigners" before going on to blame them for "dismantling our culture," "taking down our historical monuments," and "voting against our interests." She's also defended the QAnon conspiracy theory as "just a bunch of people who want pedophiles and sex traffickers to be arrested" and insisting that "there's a place" for them in the Republican Party.

Witzke's tweet commanded quite a bit of attention -- Republican loons tend to command quite a bit more than their Democratic counterparts -- and her brief, regrettable moment in the spotlight comes after the nominations of the similarly execrable Laura Loomer and Marjorie Taylor Greene for Congress in Florida and Georgia, respectively. My esteemed colleague Jay Nordlinger, responding to Witzke and recognizing a trend that he and I have both been discouraged by, asserted that "in all likelihood, there will be more of this, not less of it, in GOP and conservative politics." Very rarely do I find myself in disagreement with Nordlinger, but I break with him on this prediction.

The disagreement might be easier to accept if you weren't writing in a magazine that publishes Nativists who laid the the groundwork for Donald--Mark Krikorian, Yoram Hazony, etc.--and is edited by a guy who wrote a book in defense of Nationalism--Rich Lowry. National Review is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

October 14, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 9:33 PM


Experts dismiss "garbage fire" Hunter Biden exposé in NY Post: "Seems like a complete fabrication": "It's a garbage fire story with obscene numbers of legal holes and flaws," one expert tells Salon (ROGER SOLLENBERGER, OCTOBER 15, 2020, Salon)

The Rupert Murdoch-owned New York Post published a series of stories on Tuesday surrounding alleged emails between Hunter Biden and officials connected with the Ukrainian energy company Burisma, which the outlet obtained from a source who met multiple times over the last year with an individual whom the U.S. Treasury Department has sanctioned as an active agent of Russia.

The Post, which published the unverified emails on Wednesday, reported that the information came from Rudy Giuliani. The former LifeLock spokesperson attempted to distance himself from Andrii Derkach last month after the Treasury Department accused the Ukrainian lawmaker of being a Russian agent and running a "covert influence campaign" directed at the 2020 U.S. presidential election since late 2019.

Giuliani met with Derkach in late 2019. He interviewed the Ukrainian parliamentarian, in his role as President Donald Trump's personal attorney, on a trip aimed at digging up dirt on Joe Biden. The former vice president was then viewed as the Democratic frontrunner for the presidential nomination; he is now the party's official nominee.

On that trip, Derkach and Giuliani discussed the much-debunked allegations about Biden in a segment which later aired on One America News Network (OAN). Giuliani also broadcast an interview with Derkach on his personal podcast a few months later.

Derkach worked in the interests of the Russian government to inject "false and unsubstantiated narratives concerning U.S. officials in the upcoming 2020 presidential election" into the U.S. media through interviews, press conferences and other statements, according to the Treasury Department. 

His efforts include releasing edited audiotapes purporting to document improprieties by Joe Biden in his dealings as vice president with the Ukrainian government. Derkach's disinformation also played a key role in a roundly discredited report recently released by the Republican-led Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.

This is what's left once you get rid of all adult supervision.

Man Who Reportedly Gave Hunter's Laptop to Rudy Speaks Out in Bizarre Interview (Jordan Howell & Erin Banco, Oct. 14, 2020, Daily Beast)

Mac Isaac appeared nervous throughout. Several times, he said he was scared for his life and for the lives of those he loved. He appeared not to have a grasp on the timeline of the laptop arriving at his shop and its disappearance from it. He also said the impeachment of President Trump was a "sham." Social media postings indicate that Mac Isaac is an avid Trump supporter and voted for him in the 2016 election.

Mac Isaac said he had a medical condition that prevented him from actually seeing who dropped off the laptop but that he believed it to be Hunter Biden's because of a sticker related to the Beau Biden Foundation that was on it. He said that Hunter Biden actually dropped off three laptops for repair, an abundance of hardware that he chalked up to the Biden son being "rich."

Throughout the interview, Mac Isaac switched back and forth from saying he reached out to law enforcement after viewing the files in the laptop to saying that it was actually the Federal Bureau of Investigation that contacted him. At one point, Mac Isaac claimed that he was emailing someone from the FBI about the laptop. At another point he claimed a special agent from the Baltimore office had contacted him after he alerted the FBI to the device's existence. At another point, he said the FBI reached out to him for "help accessing his drive."

Mac Isaac referenced the infamous Seth Rich conspiracy theory--which holds that a DNC staffer who police say was murdered in a botched robbery was actually killed off by Clinton allies because he leaked committee emails--as reason for his paranoia. He said he made a copy of the hard drive for the purposes of personal protection.

Posted by orrinj at 7:13 PM


Posted by orrinj at 7:08 PM


Anti-Biden Disinformation Decried by Disinfo Experts, Social-Media Giants: A Trump-tied newspaper floats dubious accusations. Will others bite? (Patrick Tucker, OCTOBER 14, 2020, Defense One)

Disinformation watchers on Wednesday were quick to point out the deeply problematic nature of the story and urge journalists and news outlets to be careful in how they covered it.

Peter Singer, a strategist at New America and the co-author of LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media, a book about disinformation, tweeted: "as I read stories like this, it makes me reflect on what some in media (especially on security beat) have learned from 1) the experience of being an unintentional player in info ops and 2) the perils of #bothsides equivalence."

Kyle Cheney, a congressional reporter for Politico, tweeted, "The 'smoking gun' email in the NY Post story -- even if it is authentic, given the massive red flags -- doesn't actually say what the story says it does."

Marc Ambinder, a security expert in residence with the University of Southern California Annenberg School, pointed out that that chain of events had all the hallmarks of a Russian disinformation operation.

John Scott-Railton with the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab project highlighted a thread on the subject by cybersecurity researcher Thomas Rid, author of Active Measures: The Secret History of Disinformation And Political Warfare.  "Every journalist should read this thread: Critical advice on vetting of questionable stories that involve emails," said Railton. 

Rid's thread picks apart the story and urges "journalists considering writing about this toxic story: don't--unless you can independently verify more details. And even if you can verify something, acknowledge the possibility of disinformation up-front, especially against the backdrop of 2016. Not doing so is bad practice."

The rapid, uniform and strict reactions of social media companies suggest the intelligence agencies must have warned them this is a hoax.

Posted by orrinj at 6:18 PM


US Jews mostly back Biden as Trump's support slips among Christians: Poll (Sheren Khalel,14 October 2020, Middle East Eye)

About 70 percent of US Jews plan to support Biden, according to Tuesday's poll, compared with the 27 percent that plan to vote for Trump. 

The poll, which surveyed more than 10,000 US voters of different faiths, shows that American Jews have largely kept to the historic pattern of backing Democrats despite Trump's moves in support of Israel, which he has made a focus of his presidency. 

"Trump has proven himself to be a hateful authoritarian leader who has directly and intentionally emboldened white nationalists and antisemites across the US," Beth Miller, government affairs manager at the political and advocacy arm of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP Action), told Middle East Eye. 

"It's unsurprising that the overwhelming majority of American Jews will be voting him out of office this coming November." [...]

Pew's poll indicated that the only groups with less support for Trump than Jews were Hispanic Catholics, atheists, Black Protestants, and the religiously unaffiliated.

Posted by orrinj at 6:08 PM


DOJ Admits to Federal Court That Trump Lied to His Supporters on Twitter About Declassifying All Russia Docs (JERRY LAMBE, Oct 14th, 2020, Law & Crime)

The Department of Justice was placed in the awkward position of having to argue that President Donald Trump was not telling the truth when he told his supporters and the world that he had declassified "any and all" documents related to the federal government's investigation of the "Russian Hoax"--which would have applied to the investigatory records from Robert Mueller's team and even the full Mueller Report.

In response to an emergency motion filed by BuzzFeed News journalist Jason Leopold seeking unredacted portions of the Mueller Report and FBI witness interview materials (302s), attorneys from the DOJ insisted that it was simply not so that the president had given any such declassification order.

Posted by orrinj at 4:57 PM


Trump's Great "Unmasking" Hoax Is Finally Dead: Another "Deep State" non-scandal goes down the memory hole. (TIM MILLER  OCTOBER 14, 2020, The Bulwark)

[T]he president's lawyer daddy struck out. Again. Thus bringing to a close a matter that--in a saner world--would have been the stupidest fake scandal in decade. But in our timeline, turned out to not even be the stupidest fake scandal of the day.

It was eclipsed in the crazy-rankings by President Trump twice suggesting that President Obama may have killed Osama Bin Laden's body double and worked with secret Muslim John Brennan to pay the Iranians to murder Seal Team Six. Which, for those of you obsessing about "media bias," is the most insane conspiracy ever publicly suggested by a sitting president and yet will not even make page A-16 in today's newspapers.

As for The Great Unmasking fake scandal: It brings to an end a fantasy in which Obama administration officials--including Joe Biden!--had wrongfully requested the "unmasking" of Trump campaign officials who showed up in intelligence memos because of their communications with Russia.

In this conspiracy theory the unmasking was part of a broader Deep State effort by the U.S. government to spy on the 2016 Trump campaign staffers, frame them for the "Russia Hoax," and smear them in the media. If you would like to become further steeped in the various related subnontroversies, the very fine people at the Federalist have an entire page dedicated to "unmasking" that you can peruse.

Though--spoiler--you probably shouldn't bother looking for updates or corrections.

16 years of scandal-free presidencies spoiled us.

Posted by orrinj at 4:47 PM


Posted by orrinj at 1:25 PM

NOT COINCIDENTALLY... (self-reference alert):

Defining Deviancy Down: The president retweets a story suggesting that Barack Obama had Seal Team 6 murdered. And the world barely notices. (WILLIAM KRISTOL  OCTOBER 14, 2020, The Bulwark)

In fact, as a respite from Trump's tweets, but also from the often disingenuous and uninspiring sparring before the Senate Judiciary Committee, here's the whole text of Judge Hand's brief remarks. Read the whole thing:

We have gathered here to affirm a faith, a faith in a common purpose, a common conviction, a common devotion. Some of us have chosen America as the land of our adoption; the rest have come from those who did the same. For this reason we have some right to consider ourselves a picked group, a group of those who had the courage to break from the past and brave the dangers and the loneliness of a strange land. What was the object that nerved us, or those who went before us, to this choice? We sought liberty; freedoms from oppression, freedom from want, freedom to be ourselves. This we then sought; this we now believe that we are by way of winning. What do we mean when we say that first of all we seek liberty? I often wonder whether we do not rest our hopes too much upon constitutions, upon laws and upon courts. These are false hopes; believe me, these are false hopes. Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it. While it lies there it needs no constitution, no law, no court to save it. And what is this liberty which must lie in the hearts of men and women? It is not the ruthless, the unbridled will; it is not freedom to do as one likes. That is the denial of liberty, and leads straight to its overthrow. A society in which men recognize no check upon their freedom soon becomes a society where freedom is the possession of only a savage few; as we have learned to our sorrow.

What then is the spirit of liberty? I cannot define it; I can only tell you my own faith. The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which seeks to understand the mind of other men and women; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which weighs their interests alongside its own without bias; the spirit of liberty remembers that not even a sparrow falls to earth unheeded; the spirit of liberty is the spirit of Him who, near two thousand years ago, taught mankind that lesson it has never learned but never quite forgotten; that there may be a kingdom where the least shall be heard and considered side by side with the greatest. And now in that spirit, that spirit of an America which has never been, and which may never be; nay, which never will be except as the conscience and courage of Americans create it; yet in the spirit of that America which lies hidden in some form in the aspirations of us all; in the spirit of that America for which our young men are at this moment fighting and dying; in that spirit of liberty and of America I ask you to rise and with me pledge our faith in the glorious destiny of our beloved country.

Learned Hand was a representative of an older conservatism, long-gone and presumably never to return. Or could it return? 

The Grandfather Judd was one of his clerks.
Posted by orrinj at 1:16 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:46 PM


The Town That Went Feral: When a group of libertarians set about scrapping their local government, chaos descended. And then the bears moved in. (Patrick Blanchfield, October 13, 2020, New Republic)

"In a country known for fussy states with streaks of independence," Hongoltz-Hetling observes, "New Hampshire is among the fussiest and the streakiest." New Hampshire is, after all, the Live Free or Die state, imposing neither an income nor a sales tax, and boasting, among other things, the highest per capita rate of machine gun ownership. In the case of Grafton, the history of Living Free--so to speak--has deep roots. The town's Colonial-era settlers started out by ignoring "centuries of traditional Abenaki law by purchasing land from founding father John Hancock and other speculators." Next, they ran off Royalist law enforcement, come to collect lumber for the king, and soon discovered their most enduring pursuit: the avoidance of taxes. As early as 1777, Grafton's citizens were asking their government to be spared taxes and, when they were not, just stopped paying them.

Nearly two and a half centuries later, Grafton has become something of a magnet for seekers and quirky types, from adherents of the Unification Church of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon to hippie burnouts and more. Particularly important for the story is one John Babiarz, a software designer with a Krusty the Klown laugh, who decamped from Big-Government-Friendly Connecticut in the 1990s to homestead in New Hampshire with his equally freedom-loving wife, Rosalie. Entering a sylvan world that was, Hongoltz-Hetling writes, "almost as if they had driven through a time warp and into New England's revolutionary days, when freedom outweighed fealty and trees outnumbered taxes," the two built a new life for themselves, with John eventually coming to head Grafton's volunteer fire department (which he describes as a "mutual aid" venture) and running for governor on the libertarian ticket.

Although John's bids for high office failed, his ambitions remained undimmed, and in 2004 he and Rosalie connected with a small group of libertarian activists. Might not Grafton, with its lack of zoning laws and low levels of civic participation, be the perfect place to create an intentional community based on Logic and Free Market Principles? After all, in a town with fewer than 800 registered voters, and plenty of property for sale, it would not take much for a committed group of transplants to establish a foothold, and then win dominance of municipal governance. And so the Free Town Project began. The libertarians expected to be greeted as liberators, but from the first town meeting, they faced the inconvenient reality that many of Grafton's presumably freedom-loving citizens saw them as outsiders first, and compatriots second--if at all. Tensions flared further when a little Googling revealed what "freedom" entailed for some of the new colonists. One of the original masterminds of the plan, a certain Larry Pendarvis, had written of his intention to create a space honoring the freedom to "traffic organs, the right to hold duels, and the God-given, underappreciated right to organize so-called bum fights." He had also bemoaned the persecution of the "victimless crime" that is "consensual cannibalism." ("Logic is a strange thing," observes Hongoltz-Hetling.)

While Pendarvis eventually had to take his mail-order Filipina bride business and dreams of municipal takeovers elsewhere (read: Texas), his comrades in the Free Town Project remained undeterred. Soon, they convinced themselves that, evidence and reactions to Pendarvis notwithstanding, the Project must actually enjoy the support of a silent majority of freedom-loving Graftonites. How could it not? This was Freedom, after all. And so the libertarians keep coming, even as Babiarz himself soon came to rue the fact that "the libertarians were operating under vampire rules--the invitation to enter, once offered, could not be rescinded." The precise numbers are hard to pin down, but ultimately the town's population of a little more than 1,100 swelled with 200 new residents, overwhelmingly men, with very strong opinions and plenty of guns.

The town's population swelled with 200 new residents, overwhelmingly men, with very strong opinions and plenty of guns.
Hongoltz-Hetling profiles many newcomers, all of them larger-than-life, yet quite real. The people who joined the Free Town Project in its first five years were, as he describes, "free radicals"--men with "either too much money or not enough," with either capital to burn or nothing to lose. There's John Connell of Massachusetts, who arrived on a mission from God, liquidated his savings, and bought the historic Grafton Center Meetinghouse, transforming it into the "Peaceful Assembly Church," an endeavor that mixed garish folk art, strange rants from its new pastor (Connell himself), and a quixotic quest to secure tax exemption while refusing to acknowledge the legitimacy of the IRS to grant it. There's Adam Franz, a self-described anti-capitalist who set up a tent city to serve as "a planned community of survivalists," even though no one who joined it had any real bushcraft skills. There's Richard Angell, an anti-circumcision activist known as "Dick Angel." And so on. As Hongoltz-Hetling makes clear, libertarianism can indeed have a certain big-tent character, especially when the scene is a new landscape of freedom-lovers making "homes out of yurts and RVs, trailers and tents, geodesic domes and shipping containers."

If the Libertarian vision of Freedom can take many shapes and sizes, one thing is bedrock: "Busybodies" and "statists" need to stay out of the way. And so the Free Towners spent years pursuing an aggressive program of governmental takeover and delegitimation, their appetite for litigation matched only by their enthusiasm for cutting public services. They slashed the town's already tiny yearly budget of $1 million by 30 percent, obliged the town to fight legal test case after test case, and staged absurd, standoffish encounters with the sheriff to rack up YouTube hits. Grafton was a poor town to begin with, but with tax revenue dropping even as its population expanded, things got steadily worse. Potholes multiplied, domestic disputes proliferated, violent crime spiked, and town workers started going without heat. "Despite several promising efforts," Hongoltz-Hetling dryly notes, "a robust Randian private sector failed to emerge to replace public services." Instead, Grafton, "a haven for miserable people," became a town gone "feral." Enter the bears, stage right.

Hampshiremen rooted for the bears.

Posted by orrinj at 12:44 PM


'Something is happening with the seniors' (LAURA BARRÓN-LÓPEZ. 10/14/2020, Politico)

As Betsy Chandler delivered and installed Joe Biden yard signs at a house in Mesa recently, a senior couple approached her eagerly asking for "Republicans for Biden" signs. Chandler had to apologize -- as a Democrat, she doesn't usually carry any of those.

She gave them a standard Biden-Harris sign instead. When Chandler, a local Democratic Party vice-chair, asked why, as Republicans, they were voting for Biden, the woman said: "[Donald Trump] wouldn't wear a mask."

That was four days before the president tested positive for coronavirus and an outbreak ensued among Trump allies and staff.

In Arizona as elsewhere, Trump's handling of the pandemic -- even prior to his diagnosis -- is proving costly, leaving him struggling to match his 2016 performance among those over the age of 65. October polling shows Biden is chipping away at Trump's support among older white voters, especially among the once reliably Republican senior population in populous Maricopa County.

"Something is happening with the seniors in [Arizona]," said Chandler. "They are livid about the whole COVID thing."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Right-wing protester pepper-sprays anti-Netanyahu demonstrators in Holon (Times of Israel, 10/14/20)

Police on Tuesday arrested four far-right activists for harassing protesters demonstrating against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the central city of Holon, as video footage showed one of them attacking the demonstrators with pepper spray.

October 13, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 7:07 PM


Biden leads Trump by 17 points as election race enters final stage (David Smith,  13 Oct 2020, The Guardian)

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden's lead over Donald Trump has surged to a record 17 points as the US election enters its final sprint, an Opinium Research and Guardian opinion poll shows.

Some 57% of likely voters intend to vote for Biden, while just 40% say they will vote for the incumbent president, the survey shows.

The 17-point gap is even bigger than than 57%-41% margin found by CNN earlier this month. It is just short of the lead in the popular vote that Ronald Reagan enjoyed in his second landslide victory in 1984.

Posted by orrinj at 7:03 PM


Tom Rath, Longtime N.H. GOP Leader, Backs Biden For President (DANIELA ALLEE, 10/13/20, NHPR)

Rath said Trump has further divided the country, and that right now, he sees Biden as a president who can bring people together.

"It's not about policy, it's about character, decency and the way we should treat each other as Americans," he said.

In a statement Monday, Rath wrote that personal integrity and character are key in this election.

"Donald Trump has none of these qualities; Joe Biden has them all in abundance," Rath said. "Joe Biden understands who we are and who we can be as a nation. He does not demean, insult or divide."

Rath has been a longtime player in New Hampshire Republican politics. He spent a decade as a state Republican National Committeeman, served as delegate to multiple Republican National Conventions, and was an advisor to the presidential campaigns of George W. Bush and Mitt Romney, among others. He also helped lead the campaigns of two of New Hampshire's most prominent Republican U.S. senators: Warren Rudman and Judd Gregg.

Posted by orrinj at 6:49 PM


Solar becomes the new king of electricity...  (IAEA, October 2020)

Renewables grow rapidly in all our scenarios, with solar at the centre of this new constellation of electricity generation technologies. Supportive policies and maturing technologies are enabling very cheap access to capital in leading markets. With sharp cost reductions over the past decade, solar PV is consistently cheaper than new coal- or gasfired power plants in most countries, and solar projects now offer some of the lowest cost electricity ever seen. In the STEPS, renewables meet 80% of the growth in global electricity demand to 2030. Hydropower remains the largest renewable source of electricity, but solar is the main driver of growth as it sets new records for deployment each year after 2022, followed by onshore and offshore wind. The advance of renewable sources of generation, and of solar in particular, as well as the contribution of nuclear power, is much stronger in the SDS and NZE2050. The pace of change in the electricity sector puts an additional premium on robust grids and other sources of flexibility, as well as reliable supplies of the critical minerals and metals that are vital to its secure transformation. Storage plays an increasingly vital role in ensuring the flexible operation of power systems, with India becoming the largest market for utility-scale battery storage.

Posted by orrinj at 6:43 PM


'Unmasking' probe commissioned by Barr quietly concludes without charges or any public report (Matt Zapotosky and  Shane Harris, Oct. 13, 2020, Washington Post)

The federal prosecutor appointed by Attorney General William P. Barr to review whether Obama-era officials improperly requested the identities of individuals whose names were redacted in intelligence documents has completed his work without finding any substantive wrongdoing, according to people familiar with the matter.

The revelation that U.S. Attorney John Bash, who left the department last week, had concluded his review without criminal charges or any public report will rankle President Trump at a moment when he is particularly upset at the Justice Department. The department has so far declined to release the results of Bash's work, though people familiar with his findings say they would likely disappoint conservatives who have tried to paint the "unmasking" of names -- a common practice in government to help understand classified documents -- as a political conspiracy.

Donald may have a strozk.
Posted by orrinj at 4:58 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The electric car market is buzzing with Europe and China taking the lead (BLOOMBERG, October 13, 2020)

Sales of electric vehicles in Europe are growing at such a pace that the continent looks increasingly likely to outpace China in the near future.

That's one of the findings of a report released Tuesday by London-based automotive research firm Jato Dynamics. However, it found that Europe and the U.S. still have a few things to learn from China, the world's biggest EV market, including prioritizing affordability, centralizing planning, and using data to better understand consumers.

Demand for cleaner and smarter cars is rising globally, particularly in Europe where the market has been bolstered by tighter emissions regulations along with an increasing awareness of climate change. EV sales in Europe in the first half exceeded China for the first time since 2015.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The pandemic has provided fertile conditions for conspiracy theories and "conspirituality" in Australia (Anna Halafoff, Enqi Weng, Cristina Rocha, Andrew Singleton, Alexandra Roginski, and Emily Marriott, 13 Oct 2020, ABC REligion & Ethics)

Charlotte Ward and David Voas first coined the term "conspirituality" in 2011, to describe the merger of conspiracy theories and New Age spirituality. They argued that these conspiritualist movements are united by a "politico-spiritual philosophy," which posits that a group of elites has covert control of society and then calls for a "'paradigm shift' in consciousness" that harnesses cosmic forces to emancipate society from the grip of those elites.

It seems to us that Ward and Voas's insights remain highly applicable to the current viral outbreak of what we call "(con)spirituality," which has arisen in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and is focussed on a critique of modern technology, medicine, and governance. We chose to bracket the "con" because many spiritual people and groups' questioning of modernity is critical, informed, and non-violent, particularly where they are working toward more holistic and sustainable ways of living and healing, and employing ideas and practices whose validity is bolstered by science. Concurrently, there are rising numbers of people with conspiritual views who are claiming that the COVID-19 pandemic is a construct of the deep-state and a sign of end-times, often aligned with ideas emanating from the far-right, apocalyptic QAnon movement which frequently draws on Christian millenarianism.

Adherents to QAnon argue that COVID-19 isn't real, and instead was created by deep-state government officials and elites. The movement focuses on a "Great Awakening," whereby people will be able to discover this hidden truth. As Adrienne LaFrance highlights, QAnon "is a movement united in mass rejection of reason, objectivity, and other Enlightenment values" and "propelled by paranoia ... populism ... [and] religious faith." Facebook hosts thousands of QAnon groups with millions of members, and QAnon itself has been identified as a domestic terror threat by the FBI.

What QAnon and conspiritualists share with many other religious extremist movements are their exclusive religious and spiritual narratives which depict adherents as privy to the "real truth" and thus more enlightened than mainstream society. They tend to see themselves as persecuted and believe that they will ultimately be vindicated. Contemporary spirituality is individualised, based on personal choice, and commodified, which is why conspiritualists are particularly irate about coronavirus restrictions that threaten their personal freedom. At the same time, these individuals have formed conspiritual social movements -- what Nancy Ammerman calls "spiritual tribes" -- which are deeply social with distinct and exclusive beliefs, language, and codes, calling for societal transformation.

Eric Hoffer really nailed how empty peoples' lives have to be for them to join these movements.
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Revisiting the Simon-Ehrlich Wager 40 Years On (Marian L. Tupy and Gale L. Pooley, 10/13/20, Quillette)

In fact, that's exactly what has happened to the affordability of 50 basic commodities between 1980 and 2018. Over those 38 years, the world's population rose from 4.458 billion to 7.631 billion or 71.2 percent. Over the same time period, basic commodities, including energy, food, materials, and metals became 71.6 percent more affordable on average. For every one percent increase in population, in other words, resources became slightly more than one percent more abundant. Put differently, the time it took to earn enough money to buy one unit in that basket of 50 commodities in 1980 bought 3.62 units in 2018. The compounded growth rate of abundance came to 3.44 percent per annum. That means that the affordability of our basket of commodities doubled every 20.49 years. This relationship between population growth and resource abundance is deeply counterintuitive, yet it is no less true. The facts surprised us, and they will surprise you too.

Generations of people throughout the world have been taught to believe that there is an inverse relationship between population growth and availability of resources, which is to say that as population grows, resources become more "scarce." That was, historically speaking, true. In the animal world, a sudden increase in the availability of resources, such as grass after unusually plentiful rain, leads to an animal population explosion. The population explosion then leads to the exhaustion of resources. Finally, the exhaustion of resources leads to population collapse. If you take the Theory of Evolution seriously--and we do--you'll appreciate that human beings evolved from much humbler beginnings and were, as such, much more exposed to vicissitudes of fortune.

Over time, however, humans have developed sophisticated forms of cooperation that increase their wealth and chances of survival. Consider, for example, trade and exchange. As the British writer Matt Ridley observed in his 2010 book The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves, "There is strikingly little use of barter in any other animal species. There is sharing within families, and there is food‐for‐sex exchange in many animals including insects and apes, but there are no cases in which one animal gives an unrelated animal one thing in exchange for a different thing." Trade is particularly important during famines. A country struck by drought, for example, can purchase food from abroad. This is not an option available to other animals.

But the most important difference between people and nonhuman animals is our superior intelligence and the use of that intelligence to invent and to innovate. "In a way, everything is technology," noted one of the world's greatest economic historians Fernand Braudel (1902-1985) in his book Civilization and Capitalism. "Not only man's most strenuous endeavors but also his patient and monotonous efforts to make a mark on the external world; not only the rapid changes... but also the slow improvements in processes and tools, and those innumerable actions which may have no immediate innovative significance but which are the fruit of accumulated knowledge."

And so, over many millennia of trial and error, we have accumulated a store of knowledge that has allowed us to reach escape velocity--from scarcity to abundance--somewhere toward the end of the 18th century. 

One of the core beliefs that unites Left//Right is zero-sum economics.  Of course, it also distances them from reality.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Cost of owning Tesla Model 3 much less than rival BMW 330i (Bridie Schmidt, 13 October 2020, The Driven)

Modelling by consumer advocacy group Consumer Reports has highlighted the fact that drivers can save significant amounts of money owning an electric car compared to a fossil-fuelled competitor.

How big? In the case of the Tesla Model 3, which is priced from $US49,990 before on-road costs, as much as $US17,600 ($A24,259) can be saved in total ownership costs compared to owning a BMW 330i (which has a sticker price from $US40,750 to $42,750 depending on options and before on-road costs), the US-based report says.

Electric cars are becoming an increasingly popular choice amongst drivers, particularly in markets like the US, Europe and China, but their higher sticker price is still cited as a key factor deterring buyers, even if they place reducing personal carbon emissions as a priority.

But according to the new report published by the group on Thursday (US time), if a buyer can make the stretch to buy a more expensive electric vehicle (EV) over a combustion engine car, it will pay off in the long term.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


"Checkerboard" solar cell design could boost output and make panels much cheaper (Joshua S Hill, 13 October 2020, Renew Economy)

The researchers found that the checkerboard grating design performed the best, so much so in fact that they show it could enhance light absorption by 125%.

The checkerboard design particularly improves diffraction, which in turn enhances the probability of light being absorbed, which is then used to create electricity.

"We found a simple trick for boosting the absorption of slim solar cells," said Dr Christian Schuster from the Department of Physics at the University of York.

"Our investigations show that our idea actually rivals the absorption enhancement of more sophisticated designs -- while also absorbing more light deep in the plane and less light near the surface structure itself.

"Our design rule meets all relevant aspects of light-trapping for solar cells, clearing the way for simple, practical, and yet outstanding diffractive structures, with a potential impact beyond photonic applications.

"This design offers potential to further integrate solar cells into thinner, flexible materials and therefore create more opportunity to use solar power in more products."

A potential major outcome from this study is not only the increased light absorption for solar cells, but the simplification of the design, which could lead to the production of thinner, lighter, and more flexible solar panels.

This, in turn, could lead to solar panels being used on more homes and in a wider array of products and applications. The researchers also believe these new grating designs will reduce the need for thicker, more complex solar panels, making them cheaper and more environmentally friendly.

"In principle, we would deploy ten times more solar power with the same amount of absorber material: ten times thinner solar cells could enable a rapid expansion of photovoltaics, increase solar electricity production, and greatly reduce our carbon footprint," Dr Schuster added.

"In fact, as refining the silicon raw material is such an energy-intensive process, ten times thinner silicon cells would not only reduce the need for refineries but also cost less, hence empowering our transition to a greener economy."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Why China Is Losing The Global Public Relations BattleHere's Beijing's problem: It takes us for fools. (Elisabeth Braw, 10/13/20, National Interest)

[F]or China, the presidency of Donald Trump and the world's struggle with coronavirus have been a splendid opportunity to reshape its image and indeed to gain power. I recall an occasion early on in Trump's presidency when an organization in a European capital hosted an event, funded by the Chinese embassy with the Chinese ambassador as a speaker, about China as a partner of Europe. Given the disapproval of Trump around the world, such a message is, of course, an easy sell. At Davos in 2017, President Xi Jinping explained why the world needed Chinese leadership.

The coronavirus pandemic presented another opportunity for Chinese power gains vis-à-vis America, the European Union, and other rivals. With China having managed to suppress the virus at a time when other countries were just descending into COVID-19 misery, it had the capacity to send facemasks, other personal protective equipment, and even ventilators to suffering countries around the world. And it did so with great fanfare. Chinese media energetically reported on the arrival in Italy of Chinese equipment and some medics, and Chinese diplomats and media likewise made sure the world learned about deliveries to Spain, France, Serbia, and many other countries. The delivery to Italy was, however, only partially a gift (the Italians had to buy the rest), and in some other countries the rather meager supplies turned out to be defective.

Now the results of China's attempts at global soft power are in, and they are devastating. According to a new Pew Research Center poll, the share of citizens in Western countries who hold unfavorable views of China has skyrocketed over the past year. 74 percent of Britons now view it unfavorably, up by 19 percentage points from last year; so do 85 percent of Swedes (up by 15 percentage points), 73 percent of Americans (up by 13 percentage points), and 71 percent of Germans (up by 15 percentage points). Even in Italy, long the target of Chinese charm offensives, 62 percent now hold unfavorable views of China, an increase of five percent since last year. That's remarkable given that this summer 25 percent of Italians said China had been the country's most useful ally during the coronavirus pandemic, compared to only four percent who said the EU.

Here's Beijing's problem: It takes us for fools. It thinks it can make us forget its Uighur internment camps, its persistent intellectual property theft, and its censorship of Hollywood movies (not to mention NBA teams) simply by sending some PPE and disseminating dance videos mixed with menacing messages such as one from China's ambassador to Sweden did earlier this year that compared Sweden to a light-weight boxer and China to a heavy-weight one.

And Donald will be forgotten by February.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Report: Second Hasidic leader secretly treated at home for COVID-19 (Times of Israel, 10/13/20)

A second Hasidic spiritual leader was secretly treated at home for the coronavirus by an Israeli hospital in recent months, a report said Monday.

Following reports that the rabbi at the head of the Belz Hasidic sect was treated by medics from Jerusalem's Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital, Channel 13 reported that the leader of the Sanz Hasidic dynasty received similar treatment.

Rabbi Zvi Elimelech Halberstam, based in Netanya, received medical equipment from the city's Laniado hospital after he refused to be hospitalized, according to the report. [...]

The treatment started after Rokeach, who has ordered his followers to ignore coronavirus restrictions, refused to be hospitalized, the report said. All the necessary medical equipment was brought to his home and his room there was effectively converted into a mini intensive care unit, the report said.

Why Hasidic Brooklyn Was Ready for MAGA Chaos (Elad Nehorai, Oct. 13, 2020, Daily Beast)

In fact, Tischler's rhetoric is not so different from the rhetoric that has come from many Haredi leaders for years.

As the community member explained, for over a decade, some Hasidic community groups have repeatedly used a simple argument to distract from their failures: They are coming for you.

"They always framed every failure as the government coming after them. And what's happening now is that these people grew up with this messaging, and so they're now acting on it," the community member told The Daily Beast. "Whether it was leadership by the measles crisis, by education reform, [controversial circumcision ritual] metzitzah b'peh... they framed it as 'we're hated.'"

All of these examples are moments when the government attempted to restrict the Haredi community, and when their leaders spread the message that the problem wasn't communal. For instance, the problem was not anti-vaxx sentiments leading to the measles crisis. The problem wasn't poverty caused by the lack of secular education in the community. The problem wasn't the dangers of the practice of sucking the blood from a baby's circumcision.

Instead, leaders said, the government--whether it was Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, or someone else--had it in for the Jews.

The rise of Heshy Tischler, then--a nobody wannabe City Council candidate--should be seen as the logical extension of a rhetoric that simply hasn't fully been acted upon until now. As Asher Lovy, an anti-abuse activist who grew up in Orthodox Borough Park, put it, "I don't think it starts with Tischler. It just ends with him."

In other words, the way grievances of the Haredi and Hasidic communities in Brooklyn have been long nursed by self-interested leaders could be considered analogous or even deeply tied to the existential fear many Trump supporters feel about losing their version of America.

All Identitarianisms are the same.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Why Are We in the West So Weird? A Theory: a review of THE WEIRDEST PEOPLE IN THE WORLD: How the West Became Psychologically Peculiar and Particularly Prosperous By Joseph Henrich (Daniel C. Dennett, Sept. 12, 2020, NY Times)

According to Joseph Henrich, some unknown early church fathers about a thousand years later promulgated the edict: Don't marry your cousin! Why they did this is also unclear, but if Henrich is right -- and he develops a fascinating case brimming with evidence -- this prohibition changed the face of the world, by eventually creating societies and people that were WEIRD: Western, educated, industrialized, rich, democratic.

In the argument put forward in this engagingly written, excellently organized and meticulously argued book, this simple rule triggered a cascade of changes, creating states to replace tribes, science to replace lore and law to replace custom. If you are reading this you are very probably WEIRD, and so are almost all of your friends and associates, but we are outliers on many psychological measures.

The world today has billions of inhabitants who have minds strikingly different from ours. Roughly, we weirdos are individualistic, think analytically, believe in free will, take personal responsibility, feel guilt when we misbehave and think nepotism is to be vigorously discouraged, if not outlawed. Right? They (the non-WEIRD majority) identify more strongly with family, tribe, clan and ethnic group, think more "holistically," take responsibility for what their group does (and publicly punish those who besmirch the group's honor), feel shame -- not guilt -- when they misbehave and think nepotism is a natural duty.

These differences, and more, are manifest in surveys of attitudes and many other data sources, and more impressively in hundreds of psychological experiments, but the line between WEIRD and not WEIRD, like all lines in evolution, is not bright. There are all manner of hybrids, intermediates and unclassifiable variations, but there are also forces that have tended to sort today's people into these two kinds, genetically indistinguishable but profoundly different psychologically.

WEIRD folk are the more recent development, growing out of the innovation of agriculture about 10,000 years ago, the birth of states and organized religions about 3,000 years ago, then becoming "proto-WEIRD" over the last 1,500 years (thanks to the prohibition on marrying one's cousin), culminating in the biologically sudden arrival of science, industry and the "modern" world during the last 500 years or so. WEIRD minds evolved by natural selection, but not by genetic selection; they evolved by the natural selection of cultural practices and other culturally transmitted items.

October 12, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 5:46 PM


Humans are still evolving, and maybe faster now than ever (ROBBY BERMAN, 12 October, 2020, Big Think)

The study was authored by scientists from Flinders University and the University of Adelaide in South Australia. It's published in the Journal of Anatomy.

The median artery supplies blood to a fetus' forearm in the womb during early gestation. It typically atrophies and is replaced by the radial and ulna arteries before birth. Few adults have historically had all three arteries -- median, radial, and ulna -- but this has been changing.

The study's senior author Maciej Henneberg says, "This is micro evolution in modern humans and the median artery is a perfect example of how we're still evolving because people born more recently have a higher prevalence of this artery when compared to humans from previous generations."

If we were finches they'd say this was speciation.

Posted by orrinj at 5:35 PM


The Vampire Ship: How the seizure of Europe's largest heroin shipment created bloody fallout throughout the world--and sparked still-raging political corruption scandals in Turkey, Greece, and the Middle East (Alexander Clapp, September 28, 2020, New Republic)

On April 28, 2014, a fishing trawler intercepted an oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman, a day after the tanker had left Dubai for Greece. Three men climbed aboard the tanker and spent the night packing hundreds of small sacks of heroin, weighing at least two metric tons in total, into its ballast boxes. After they finished, two of the men sailed back to the coast. One stayed behind. He carried a handgun and ordered the tanker's crew to keep sailing.

By late May, the tanker, which was called the Noor One, had passed through the Suez Canal. Early on the morning of June 6, it nosed into Elefsina, a grimy port just west of Athens. The next afternoon, four Kurdish men in a black Mercedes SUV pulled up in front of the ship, hauled the sacks of heroin out of the Noor One's ballasts, and began transporting them toward Athens.

The Kurds had spent years preparing for the heroin's arrival. They had negotiated to pay more than $20 million for the Plaza Resort on the Attic Riviera, planning to use the tourist destination as a money-laundering site for proceeds from its sale. They had leased a warehouse and an industrial chicken coop in the olive groves near Athens International Airport; here, the Noor One's heroin would be diluted with more than five tons of marble dust from a quarry on nearby Mount Pentelikon. To transport the shipment, they had purchased a forklift and several hundred canvas bags stamped "Pakistan White Sugar." In early May, an associate from Belgium had arrived in a cargo truck outfitted with secret compartments. The truck was supposed to move most of the heroin to a port in northwest Greece, then across the Adriatic by ferry to Italy. From there, it would be distributed to the street corners of Belgium and the Netherlands, kicking back hundreds of millions of euros to its owners.

All the pieces were in place, in other words, for a latter-day Mediterranean sequel to The French Connection. But as was the fate of that famed heroin transaction, the Noor One deal quickly unraveled. Four days after the oil tanker reached the port at Elefsina, a figure on the fringe of the operation, unnerved by the idea of trafficking heroin, entered a police station. He explained that somewhere outside Athens a huge haul of drugs was being prepared for export. The next day, Georgios Katsoulis, the head of the Piraeus branch of Greece's coast guard, was informed--on the basis of this insider's testimony--that "half a ton" was to be found in a small town east of the capital. On June 11, Katsoulis sent five of his men to observe the squat cinderblock warehouse where the heroin was supposed to be held. The next evening, at around 9 p.m., Katsoulis dispatched 30 armed agents to surround the building.

"We got some sense of what we were dealing with when the dogs went berserk," Katsoulis told me. "Normally they sniff the heroin and move right toward it. But in this case, there was so much heroin, the dogs didn't know where to go. They just started convulsing and barking violently."

Inside the warehouse were six Kurds and Greeks, 500 kilograms of uncut heroin, and a handgun. Katsoulis's team arrested the men without struggle and took them to Piraeus. At approximately the same time, another coast guard squad raided a mansion in the lush Athenian suburb of Filothei and found another half-ton of heroin stacked in its garage.

Over the next several days, the plotline shifted from The French Connection to The Wire: Greek intelligence services picked up one member of the operation after another and flipped them. To hide the identity of the original informant, the police also arrested him or her; at the same time, they allowed others with known ties to the operation to escape. "It was important to make it unclear who'd talked and who hadn't," an officer told me.

On June 22, acting on information from one of these sources, Katsoulis's officers stormed the chicken coop near Athens airport and discovered another ton of heroin. In Elefsina, thanks to a tip from a different source, they swarmed the Noor One and arrested its crew members. Another source eventually led them to Dubai. By August, 33 people were in custody. Greek authorities had disrupted the largest known movement of heroin in European history.

But that was just the beginning of the story. The seizure of the drugs shipped on the Noor One has triggered a long series of seismic aftershocks in Greece and around the world. The planners of the smuggling operation have turned on one another in a war of retribution that has left at least 17 people dead on three continents. Phone records are exposing scores of police whom the smugglers bought off, from Turkey to the United Arab Emirates. In Greece, an investigation into the Noor One captivated the national press--and then spurred a new wave of public interest in the case via a preliminary criminal trial and the rise of a new media magnate. The country's current prime minister and one of his predecessors have accused each other of having connections to the heroin. And an ongoing investigation into who funded the Noor One threatens to ensnare Greek oligarch Evangelos Marinakis, one of the most powerful figures in global shipping and soccer.

Posted by orrinj at 5:18 PM


Beijing Believes Trump Is Accelerating American Decline (RUSH DOSHI, OCTOBER 12, 2020, 1Foreign Policy)

We are now living through a third strategic shift. The process began four years ago when the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union and Donald Trump was elected president of the United States. Beijing was shocked that the world's most powerful democracies were withdrawing from the international order they had helped erect. As Chen Jimin at China's Central Party School observed, when it came to facilitating China's rejuvenation, "The Trump administration and Brexit delivered star performances."

Shortly thereafter, the Chinese Communist Party's familiar euphemisms for U.S. power all began to point toward a belief that the Trump era was not merely contributing to American relative decline but accelerating it.Shortly thereafter, the Chinese Communist Party's familiar euphemisms for U.S. power all began to point toward a belief that the Trump era was not merely contributing to American relative decline but accelerating it. "Multipolarity" was now frequently deemed irreversible at the very highest levels. The "international balance of forces" was said to be "increasingly balanced." But most importantly, and only one week before Trump's inauguration in early 2017, China debuted a new phrase to guide its strategy--one that inverted a Qing dynasty-era statement of humiliation into a Xi Jinping-era statement of ascent: The world was experiencing "great changes unseen in a century."
This sweeping phrase has pride of place in most of Xi's major speeches, in official white papers, and in thousands of articles by Chinese strategists and scholars. The confidence behind this statement has been common in the party's authoritative sources ever since 2016. One official commentary written for party cadres on an important foreign-policy speech by the Chinese leader noted, "Although Western regimes appear to be in power, their willingness and ability to intervene in world affairs is declining. The United States may no longer want to be a provider of global security and public goods, and instead pursue a unilateral and even nationalist foreign policy." And as Xi himself put it at a foreign-policy gathering in 2018 that has been convened only a handful of times in the country's history, "China is in the best development period since modern times, and the world is in a state of great changes unseen in a century, and these two [trends] are simultaneously interwoven and mutually interacting."

Prominent Chinese foreign-policy scholars have been even more pointed in this period. They have argued that the "greatest change" in the "great changes unseen in a century" is the shifting balance of power between China and the United States. Zhu Feng, for example, declared that as Western countries were consumed by populism "the East rises and the West falls." Yan Xuetong argued that "Trump has ruined the U.S.-led alliance system" and ushered in "the best period of strategic opportunity for China since the end of the Cold War." Wu Xinbo assessed that the United States was "spiritually exhausted, physically weak, and could no longer carry the world." Jin Canrong modified an official formulation to note "that world structure is changing from one superpower, many great powers, to two superpowers, many great powers."

This shifting perception of the United States preceded the COVID-19 pandemic. And just as past reassessments of American power triggered strategic adjustment, so did this one. During Trump's first year in office, Xi delivered a series of major speeches that suggested it was time to "leave behind" the era of "hiding capabilities and biding time" and to now move toward the "world's center stage."

This third Chinese grand strategy is focused on expansion. It seeks to spread China's influence beyond Asia and contest the foundations of U.S. global order. Since Trump's election, Xi has repeatedly encouraged Beijing to "lead in the reform of the global governance system" and to offer "Chinese solutions" to various international challenges--these are now the top-funded research priorities in the country's think tanks and universities. As part of this global turn, Beijing has also begun to pursue a global military with overseas facilities, to directly challenge U.S. financial power with sovereign digital currencies, to reshape global and not merely regional institutions, and to self-consciously compete in the technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution--all with an eye toward filling a growing U.S. void.

Posted by orrinj at 5:01 PM


The Avett Brothers Are Figuring Out Their True Selves (TYLER HUCKABEE, OCTOBER 5, 2020, Relevant)

This is something else Avett thinks about a lot: his own shortcomings. As much as he believes in a unified nation, he also believes that he himself can feel very divided. He's aware of his failings but, in a roundabout way, is grateful for them. He believes they bring him closer to God. 

"C.S. Lewis said that the people that are presumably living under the Golden Rule and being all moralistic -- they're likely further from God than the ones that are doing crummy things," he says. He says the people who are aware of their own crumminess are "in a place where a Higher Power is actually starting to wrap its hands around you." 

Avett calls his own flaws "Failings in the Department of Golden Rule Navigation." In the grand scheme, it's not such a bad thing to fail. At least, it's better than pretending you're not failing at all. Those who refuse to own up to their own shortcomings have lost sight of something human. Those who are aware of how far they've fallen short are in a better place to hear God tell them, as Avett puts it: "'Poor, fragile, little thing I've got you. I'm part of you. You're going to be called.'" 

Avett enjoys citing the sources of his thoughts, as if humbly dispelling any notion that he came up with all this on his own. "This is all Richard Rohr and Thomas Merton," he says at one point. "And Jesus. And C.S. Lewis." 

He's talking about a "true self" and a "false self." The ego, which Avett calls a "shell" and can easily take control, is something we have to actively resist. And then there's the true self -- the one that probably makes mistakes, and has off nights and might not feel as lovable as we'd like. It's who we are.

"It seems like insecurity is bred," he says. "And it's harbored. [People] won't bring along their insecurities and help foster security and confidence and spiritual health or mental health, emotional health. And what happens is they become defensive in so many elements. And I always feel bad because I've been there," he says. "I've been there."

There's a brief break and then he continues. 

"I've gone on stage many times and still occasionally do, going 'I'm not worth this. I'm a fraud. I'm not good enough.' But those are not the real me," he says. "The real me goes up there and says 'I'm just another one of the children of God that is up here aspiring to live up to that role.' I believe that's everyone's right. I'm saying we're all God's children and we don't have to earn it. I thought I had to earn this right to do this. But, no, I already had it. I have to continuously get my mind in check and my heart in the light. And then, I can't be stopped."

The Carpenter is especially good.

Posted by orrinj at 4:50 PM


Investors are warming to a 'blue wave' that could keep driving a stimulus-hungry market higher (Patti Domm, 10/12/20, CNBC)

"The market is pricing in a Democratic wave. It's not scared," said Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential Financial. "The market is accepting this in lieu of a contested election...The market, I think is beginning to understand a blue wave doesn't necessarily mean an ultra progressive agenda."

Posted by orrinj at 2:27 PM


Poll: Biden up 8 points in Michigan, 10 points in Wisconsin (QUINT FORGEY, 10/12/2020 , politico)

A New York Times/Siena College poll released Monday reports that 48 percent of likely Michigan voters surveyed back Biden, while 40 percent favor Trump -- an 8-point edge for the former vice president. [...]

The latest poll also shows Biden enjoying a wider, 10-point advantage among likely voters in Wisconsin, with a majority -- 51 percent -- of those surveyed preferring him to the Republican incumbent.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump's task: Resetting campaign that GOP fears is slipping (JONATHAN LEMIRE, ZEKE MILLER and JILL COLVIN, 10/12/20, AP)

The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg animated conservatives but also electrified Democrats, driving a tsunami of cash toward Biden and down-ballot Democrats. Trump's heavily derided debate performance only exacerbated the problem, as even his own supporters found him rude as he so frequently interrupted Biden.

Reviewing data afterward, campaign aides worried as they started to see Trump's support begin to slip. They saw the president's coronavirus diagnosis as only compounding the problem, particularly with seniors. [...]

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said Friday if that people are depressed and upset on Election Day, "I think we could lose the White House and both houses of Congress, that it could be a bloodbath of Watergate proportions." In November 1974, the first congressional election after the Watergate scandal drove Republican President Richard Nixon from office, Democrats added significantly to their majorities in both houses. They took back the White House in 1976 and added still more seats in Congress.

Trump's campaign worries that it is losing support among suburban voters, women and older voters. The loss of older voters would be especially concerning in states like Florida and Arizona, where aides felt pre-debate Trump had pulled even with or slightly ahead Biden in part due to his improved standing with Latino voters.

Advisers privately concede that Trump, who has not moderated his tone on the virus after getting sick, has little chance of victory without Florida, which will be the site of his first post-diagnosis rally on Monday. And a loss in Arizona would require Trump to hold onto Pennsylvania.

Biden in recent weeks has pushed into states that once were considered safe for Trump, among them Iowa, Georgia and Texas, forcing the president to spend valuable time and resources to play defense. The Democrat on Monday will make a trip to Ohio for his general election campaign, another state Trump won convincingly in 2016.

"He's in trouble, there's no question. By every traditional measuring stick, this looks like a Biden landslide," said Ari Fleischer, former press secretary for President George W. Bush. "It's hard to predict what will happen in Congress, but anytime there is a large-scale victory, it has the potential to create tides to sweep people out."

The fate of the Senate has increasingly weighed on Republicans, who see tough races in Maine, Colorado, Arizona and North Carolina and even worries in deep-red Kansas and South Carolina. Some Trump backers are warning that GOP Senate candidates are now at an inflection point and some, including Sens. John Cornyn of Texas and Martha McSally of Arizona, took small steps to distance themselves from the president in recent days.

Dan Eberhart, a prominent GOP donor and Trump supporter, said there is no doubt that Trump's handling of the pandemic is eroding support for down-ballot Republicans and could lead to a Democratic sweep of government.

"I hope the polls have it wrong," Eberhart said. "But Republicans ... need to develop a campaign strategy committed to protecting the Senate at all costs, even if it means sacrificing the Oval Office."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Bank of England asks banks about readiness for negative rates (Reuters, OCT 12 2020)

The Bank of England asked banks on Monday how ready they are for zero or negative interest rates, following up its announcement last month that it was considering how to take rates below zero if necessary.

Other central banks have pushed rates into negative territory in an attempt to spur banks to lend more, and the BOE said in September it was looking into what such a policy might mean in Britain.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Case for Shrinking the Supreme Court (MICHAEL STOKES PAULSEN, October 19, 2016, National Review)

Senator John McCain made minor headlines this week by stating that a Republican Senate might well be justified in refusing to confirm any nomination that a president Hillary Clinton might make to the Supreme Court. The only problem with such a statement is that it does not go far enough: The Senate should decline to confirm any nominee, regardless of who is elected. More than that, it is time to shrink the size of the Supreme Court.

Congress should pass a law reducing the Court's membership to six Justices rather than nine -- a return to its original size -- and in so doing both take the question of Supreme Court appointments off the table for this election cycle and also thereby reduce the capability of the Court to engage in judicial activism harmful to the Constitution. And if the president vetoed such a bill, the Senate should accomplish the same thing by acting on its own, as an exercise of its "advice and consent" power.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Like Lincoln, Biden at Gettysburg Urges Reunification (Walter G. Moss, 10/10/20, HNN)

On October 6, Joe Biden gave a 22-minute speech near the famous battlefield of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. He began it succinctly, "On July 4, 1863, America woke to the remains of perhaps the most consequential battle ever fought on American soil. It took place here on this ground in Gettysburg. Three days of violence, three days of carnage. 50,000 casualties wounded, captured, missing or dead. Over three days of fighting." In November 1863, President Lincoln came to the battlefield to deliver the Gettysburg Address, which historian James McPherson called "the most famous speech in American history . . . only 272 words in length and took two minutes to deliver," short enough to be reproduced on the walls of D. C.'s Lincoln Memorial.  [...]

In his Gettysburg speech, alluding to Lincoln's House Divided Speech of 1858, Biden stated that "once again, we are a house divided. But that, my friends, can no longer be." He warned of our shipwrecked state being "on the shoals of anger and hate and division." 

Again citing Lincoln's words, this time his Second Inaugural--"With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds"--he pledged to "work with Democrats and Republicans," to "work as hard for those who don't support me as for those who do." For our times of bitter rancor, he offered the balm of trying to "revive a spirit of bipartisanship in this country, a spirit of being able to work with one another." (For lists of the large numbers of Republicans, already opposing Trump and supporting Biden, including many conservative columnists, see here and here.)

Although Biden did not mention Barack Obama, the leader and friend he worked so closely with for eight years, his remarks also reflected the spirit of the former president. A spirit demonstrated in his keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, when he was still an Illinois state senator, in which he called for overcoming Red-state-Blue-state divisions, for overcoming "those who are preparing to divide us." A spirit also demonstrated frequently as president, for example during his 2010 commencement address to University of Michigan graduates, when he told them, "We can't expect to solve our problems if all we do is tear each other down. You can disagree with a certain policy without demonizing the person who espouses it." 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Joe Biden's polling better than any challenger since 1936 (Harry Enten, October 11, 2020, CNN)

The ABC News/Washington Post poll released on Sunday was the latest poll to indicate Biden's strength. Biden led Trump by a 55% to 43% margin among likely voters. The poll was the third high quality national poll published this week that had Biden up by at least 10 points and above 50%. The other two being from CNN/SSRS and Fox News.

Indeed, the average of polls has Biden at around 52% or 53% and up by somewhere between 10 and 11 points. This is an unprecedented position for a challenger with a mere 23 days to go until Election Day.

In the 21 previous presidential elections since 1936, there have only been five challengers who led at this time. Of those five, only one (Bill Clinton in 1992) was ahead by more than 5 points. None of those five were earning more than 48% of the vote in the polls.

In other words, Biden is the first challenger to be above 50% at this late juncture in the campaign.

George McGovern would be over 50% too.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump drained 'the swamp' to his own properties in Florida and Washington, The New York Times details (The Week, 10/12/20)

Once elected, though. "Trump did not merely fail to end Washington's insider culture of lobbying and favor-seeking," The New York Times reports. "He reinvented it, turning his own hotels and resorts into the Beltway's new back rooms, where public and private business mix and special interests reign," building "a system of direct presidential influence-peddling unrivaled in modern American politics."

To map Trump's own swamp, centered at his hotel in Washington, D.C., and Doral and Mar-a-Lago clubs in Florida, the Times pored over the tax information it has obtained, reviewed hundreds of social media posts by patrons of his properties, and interviewed nearly 250 business executives, lobbyists, and club members.

The Times investigative team uncovered more than 200 companies, foreign governments, and special interest groups giving money to Trump's properties and reaping benefits from his administration, including 60 customers with business before the government spending $12 million at his family businesses in 2017 and 2018.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump has turned Texas and Arizona purple, maybe even blue, Republicans worry (The Week, 10/12/20)

"Modern Texas as a swing state?" David Weigel asks at The Washington Post. "Democrats started to dream it after 2008," and "Republicans started to warn about it in 2013," but in 2014, "Republicans dominated every statewide race -- as they had for 20 years -- and made inroads with Hispanic voters. 'Blue Texas' became a punchline. Then came Donald Trump."

California and New Mexico have become fairly reliable Democratic states, and Republicans in neighboring Arizona and Texas are starting to get nervous about a solidly blue Southwest. Some blame President Trump.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Future Is Female: COVID-19 Fuels a Surge in Women Entrepreneurs (Barbara Stewart, 10/12/20, Enterprising Investor)

A "pandemic pause" is giving the world the opportunity to reflect and recalibrate on such causes as diversity and the environment. We saw clear skies during lockdowns, and are asking how to make those permanent. #BLM is everywhere. And women are starting three quarters of new businesses, at least according to some early indicators I've identified.

Why does this matter? Because the start-ups of today are the giant companies of the future. There have been multiple obstacles to female-founded companies over time -- lack of funding and systemic sexism, among them -- and the pipeline problem has been a particular impediment.

October 11, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 6:11 PM


Trump is losing ground even in deep-red states like Kansas -- according to 'private GOP surveys': NYT  (Brad Reed , 10/09/20, Raw Story)

The New York Times reports that "private G.O.P. surveys" show that Trump "is trailing not just in must-win battlegrounds" but is "repelling independents to the point where Mr. Biden has drawn closer in solidly red states, including Montana, Kansas and Missouri."

Trump's standing among voters has made Republicans particularly worried about the so-called "Sun Belt" states where they have been politically dominant for decades, including Georgia, Texas, and Arizona.

Nebraska district could prove pivotal for Biden in November (JULIA MANCHESTER,10/10/20, The Hill)
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden appears poised to flip Nebraska's critical 2nd Congressional District in November, giving Democrats hope in a red state that doles out Electoral College votes per congressional district.

A poll conducted for the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) PAC released this week showed Biden with support from 53 percent of likely voters in the district, while Trump garnered 42 percent support.

Additionally, a New York Times/Siena College survey released last week showed 48 percent of likely voters in the district said they support Biden, while only 41 percent said the same about President Trump.

Posted by orrinj at 5:53 PM


REVIEW: of Joachim Cooder: Over That Road I'm Bound (Bob Fish, 10/05/20, Spectrum Culture)

While bloodlines are important, what's even more important to a musician is the ability to hear the music in your heart and soul. Joachim Cooder does just that on Over That Road I'm Bound. A distillation of banjo player Uncle Dave Macon's music, Cooder eschews a traditional vantage point, instead reworking the lyrics and melodies to create a hybrid that works with his chosen instrument, an electric mbira (a variation on the African thumb piano). From that starting point, with his young daughter as his musical director selecting the songs, what emerges is an album unlike anything you might expect.

Taking late 19th- and early 20th-century country tunes and transforming them into something combining world, folk and ambient music is a tall order. Yet Cooder's approach pays dividends as these songs now feel like a natural part of this century's musical order. Macon played a seminal role in the evolution of American music, and the cast of characters assembled to perform these tunes includes a couple of other seminal figures, Ry Cooder and Vieux Farka Touré. Especially important to the sound are fiddle player Rayna Gellert, bassist Sam Gendel and backing vocalist Juliette Commagere.

A song like "Come Along Buddy" shakes off the rust of generations that inhabits lines like, "Left my home months ago/ Now I'm standing at your window/ Something sure is smelling good/ Maybe you'll share some if you could." They detail a life that has long since passed. Yet, musically, it feels like something surprisingly modern thanks to the way the mbira changes the nature of the song. It places things in a different strand of time, forcing one to look at the song in a new light.

Posted by orrinj at 2:47 PM


Buzz grows around Cuomo as Biden's attorney general pick (Alayna Treene, Hans Nichols, 10/11/20, Axios)

Democrats are so convinced that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo could be considered for Joe Biden's attorney general that aides at the National Governors Association, which Cuomo chairs, are looking into contingencies for replacing him, two sources familiar with the situation tell Axios.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Revealed: Soviet spies targeted George Orwell during Spanish civil warNewly unearthed files reveal that the author and his wife were under Soviet surveillance while fighting in civil war (Harriet Sherwood, 11 Oct 2020, The Observer)

[N]ew evidence has emerged that one of the most famous international fighters on the Republican side of the Spanish civil war was under surveillance by communist military intelligence.

George Orwell, whose book Homage to Catalonia became a celebrated account of fighting in the civil war, and his wife Eileen were spied on in Barcelona at the time of a vicious internal conflict on the Republican side of the war in May 1937.

Reports on the couple's actions, lodged in a Moscow archive after the war, were unearthed by author Giles Tremlett while researching a book, The International Brigades: Fascism, Freedom and the Spanish Civil War, published by Bloomsbury on 15 October.

"The papers are documentary evidence that not only Orwell, but also his wife Eileen, were being watched closely. They add fuel to the thesis that Orwell developed in Homage to Catalonia, and later in Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four, that Stalin was intent on transforming communism from a social and political ideal into a tyranny headed by a single man," Tremlett told the Observer.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Republicans Call D.C. Circuit|Nominations 'Court-Packing' ((RYAN ABBOTT, 10/30/13, CN)

Republicans at a House Judiciary Committee hearing condemned President Obama's nominations to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals as political court-packing that will cost U.S. taxpayers an unnecessary $1 million per judge per year.

"These three nominations, with the confirmation of another, is intended to pack the D.C. Circuit to capacity of 11 authorized judgeships," said Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., at the Monday hearing his party called "Are More Judges Always the Answer?"

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Strapped for cash, Trump yanks TV ads in key states as Biden spending surges (Michael Finnegan, James Rainey Oct. 10, 2020, LA Times)

President Trump stopped all of his television and radio advertising in three states and substantially reduced it in four others in recent weeks after his lackluster fundraising left him unable to match a surge in spending by his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden.

Trump's retreat from Ohio, Iowa and New Hampshire reflects his struggle to change the dynamics of a race that polls suggest he is on track to lose. In the six weeks since his party's national convention, Trump's campaign has yanked more than $17 million in ads he'd previously booked in those states.

Two of them, Ohio and Iowa, are must-wins for the Republican president. Polls show him running almost dead even with the former vice president in both. Trump's withdrawal of advertising in those states -- despite the risk -- is a sign of his campaign's poor financial condition.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Powered by trust on the pandemic, Biden leads by 12 points nationwide: POLL (Gary Langer, October 11, 2020, ABC News)

Also damaging to Trump: 58% disapprove of how he's handled the pandemic -- essentially steady since July -- and a new high, 73%, are worried they or an immediate family member might catch the coronavirus (or say it's already happened). Worry about the virus remains a significant independent predictor of support for Biden over Trump.

The presidential race stands at 53%-41%, Biden-Trump, among registered voters, and a similar 54%-42% among likely voters, with minimal support (in the low single digits) for the Libertarian and Green Party candidates. Biden's advantage rests on his support among women, racial and ethnic minorities, independents and an unusually wide lead among moderates.

The race is tied among men, 48%-48% in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, while Biden is up 59%-36% among women, the widest margin among women for any presidential candidate in exit polls dating to 1976. (That includes 62%-34% among suburban women and 54%-41% among suburban white women.) Biden's vast 69%-25% lead among moderates, if it holds, would be a record by far. And his result among independents, while not a statistically significant lead, is the widest for a Democrat in exit polls since 1988.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Crisis of Conservatism: The right has been the natural party of government in America and Britain for four decades. Now it needs to reinvent itself. (John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge' October 11, 2020, Bloomberg)

This points to the second great wave: The need to reform and revitalize government. This should be natural territory for the right, which is mercifully free from the ties to public-sector unions that stymie the left's thinking. (Search for "government reform" in this year's Democratic platform. You won't find it.) What the right needs is a new conservatism that goes beyond the withered husk of faux-Reaganism and the heady drugs of Trumpery and Brexit.

Tomorrow's conservatives should instead draw on two things: the rich tradition of conservative and classical liberal political thought, and a pragmatic assessment of what works in government around the world. "Smart-government conservatism" should begin with the idea that if you believe in a small state, then you need a focused, efficient, competent one. That credo goes back to John Stuart Mill and the Victorian radicals who reduced the size of the British state from 80 million pounds in tax receipts in 1816 to under 60 million pounds in 1846 even as they increased its services -- simply by stripping out all the aristocratic perks and sinecures. Its modern incarnation is on display in tiny Singapore, which boasts the world's best schools and public health system by doing what Silicon Valley does: It hires selectively, pays well (its civil servants can make $1 million a year) and weeds out poor performers (including -- please note, Joe Biden -- bad teachers).

Next, smart-government conservatism should concentrate its spending on the poor. Why dole out money to hedge-fund managers, while leaving public hospitals so bereft of equipment that doctors have to bring in ski goggles to operate? A new generation of "blue-collar conservatives" who want to expand the state to help the poor are halfway there. The Republicans should get rid of all $1.6 trillion of exemptions (which go to the well-off) and introduce lower tax rates for all. Why do nine in 10 Americans need accountants to fill out their tax forms?

Conservatism has reinvented itself many times before: That is the secret of its endurance. The best way to think about its current malaise is to borrow from another Italian -- this time, a Marxist. Observing the Great Depression, Antonio Gramsci, in his "Prison Notebooks," offered this observation: "The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born. In this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear."

Look around the conservative Anglosphere and morbid symptoms abound -- from the heretical (embracing protectionism) to the silly (criticizing mask wearers). But those should be a prompt to forget the old and find the new. Conservatives need to remind themselves that they have repeatedly reinvented their philosophy in the past -- in the light of the rise of democracy, the spread of industrialization and the emergence of the welfare state. 

October 10, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 1:48 PM


Posted by orrinj at 11:19 AM


A Barrett Court could carry on Trump's deregulatory agenda long after he's left the White House, experts say (Chris Matthews, 10/10/20, Market Watch)

Judge Amy Coney Barrett's nomination to the Supreme Court has brought the public's attention to divisive social issues like abortion rights, but replacing the late Justice Ginsburg with a more conservative figure could have an equally important effect on business regulation and the U.S. economy. [...]

Of central importance to this debate is the doctrine of Chevron deference, which the Supreme Court established in 1984, and which requires judges to defer to agency interpretation of statutes as long as that interpretation is reasonable. Conservatives have long railed against this principle as one that has led to the growth of the administrative state.

"[Chevron deference] has become a direct threat to the rule of law and the moral underpinnings of America's constitutional order," wrote Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, a Republican, in a 2016 policy brief. "For three decades, Chevron deference has helped to midwife a kind of shadow government operating within the federal Executive. This Fourth Branch of government imposes and enforces the vast majority of new federal laws without being subject to public consent or checks and balances."

After returning social issues not recognized in the Constitution to the states, forcing administrative laws to be at least approved by the Legislative branch (if not also written) is the next best thing a conservative court can achieve. 

Of course, corporations have no constitutional rights so the idea of expanding them is exactly the sort of judicial activism that is anti-conservative, but legislatures write corporation law and they can just do things like barring political contributions on condition of losing liability protections. 

Posted by orrinj at 10:42 AM


Donnafugata Dilemmas: Reading 'The Leopard' Again (Randy Boyagoda, July 22, 2020, Commonweal)

The Prince, modeled on Lampedusa's great-grandfather, is an ambivalent, self-preserving, and self-defeating actor in these developments, which pose clear risks to himself and his family. The prospect of change also calls into question the nature of his responsibilities to the many people in his greater household and lands who have long depended on his laissez-faire leadership and largesse, whether gratefully or resentfully. As the novel begins, he wanders with melancholic languor around his house and properties, all marked with variations on the family's leopardine coat-of-arms. He spends his days and nights eating with his seven children, sleeping with his wife, sleeping with his mistress, hunting, dabbling in astronomy, chatting up his loyal Great Dane and long-suffering family priest, receiving peasants bearing meager gifts in place of payments for what they reap on his land. Lampedusa makes it clear that the Prince, like the princes before him, has always lived like this and can't imagine his descendants living otherwise--but now he has to decide how to respond to the approach of a new world in which this way of life can no longer be taken for granted. I can't think of another novel that provides such an intimate and fine-grained sense of what it means for a family man of public standing to confront the pressures of modernity increasing day by day, visitor by visitor.

Lampedusa evokes this pressure through the novel's most famous line, when the Prince conferences with Tancredi (his charismatic, hustling nephew) about Garibaldi's encroaching presence and the greater implications for the Prince's life. Tancredi tells him: "'If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change. D'you understand?'" He does, and he doesn't, and the novel movingly presents the Prince's attempt to understand and live out a relationship between continuity and disruption he struggles to accept, whether it has to do with supporting family members' marriages to new-money people with vulgar mores, or deciding whether--and then how--to vote in a plebiscite about Italian unification or join a new Italian Senate. Given the Prince's standing, his participation legitimates the very thing that delegitimizes that standing, some portion of which he might be able to preserve if he joins a greater popular movement that seeks to deny his hereditary primacy altogether.

Lampedusa brilliantly captures the Prince's dilemma in a sequence where he and his family journey to their palatial holding in the town of Donnafugata. The trip takes place a few months after Garibaldi's initial landing and a couple of weeks before Garibaldi and his men take Naples, the decisive event in this stage of the Risorgimento. It's a tense time, and the Prince looks forward to a kind of stability and reassurance otherwise increasingly imperiled: "'Thanks be to God, everything seems as usual,' thought the Prince as he climbed out of his carriage" to be greeted by the mayor, the local monsignor, assorted civic leaders and dignitaries, and the rustic masses. All of them watch in respectful silence while "according to ancient usage" the Prince and his party process into the cathedral for a Te Deum. Pro-Garibaldi slogans are painted on nearby walls: they're fading, but they're there, and the Prince can't help but notice them. Following prayers in the cathedral, he returns to the town square and warmly invites everyone there to visit the family in its palace after dinner that night. "For a long time Donnafugata commented on these last words," Lampedusa writes, "And the Prince, who had found Donnafugata unchanged, was found very much changed himself, for never before would he have issued so cordial an invitation; and from that moment, invisibly, began the decline of his prestige." [...]

Most contemporary readers won't agree with the Prince's general approach to life and will rightly reject the embittered passivity that wins out over his better qualities. He is an example of someone at work and play in the modern world who gets a few things right and many things wrong. But his struggle can help us think about our own daily decisions a little more, and a little differently. It can help us reflect on how we relate to the institutions that matter most to us--how we enact our loyalty to them. This matters as much for the health and well-being of the institutions as for ourselves and those we care about. Making small, sincere contributions in difficult situations creates the conditions for others to join us and do likewise. This is often the most we can do; sometimes it is even enough--even if it's just reading a novel and telling someone else the story.

I can't think of a book i enjoyed more on the second reading than the first. Whether that's a function of the translation, advancing years, or both.
Posted by orrinj at 10:34 AM


Georgia Senate Races Look Runoff Bound (PPP, October 10, 2020)
PPP's newest Georgia poll finds that both of the state's Senate seats appear headed for runoffs. In the regular Senate election Jon Ossoff is getting 44% to 43% for David Perdue, with Libertarian Shane Hazel's 4% well exceeding the difference between the two of them.

In the special Senate election, Raphael Warnock continues to grow his support and now has a 17 point lead over the rest of the field at 41% to 24% for Kelly Loeffler and 22% for Doug Collins. The other Democratic candidates are non entities at this point- Matt Lieberman comes in at 3% and Ed Tarver gets less than 1%.

Warnock is proving to be easily the most popular of the major candidates in the field. He has a +17 net favorability rating at 43/26. By contrast Kelly Loeffler has a -11 net approval rating at 31/42 and Doug Collins has a -4 net favorability rating at 32/36.

Posted by orrinj at 10:17 AM


TRADITION, INNOVATION, AND MODERN AGE (Peter Augustine Lawler, Spring 2017,  Modern Age)

For us conservatives, "cultural" points toward the authentic realism, a comprehensive understanding that incorporates all that we know to be true about the greatness and misery and the joys and struggles of human beings--those open to the truth and born to trouble. There are, in one sense, many cultures, and we conservatives cherish the multicultural world of genuine moral and intellectual diversity that graces our country and our planet. And it's through the experiences of being embedded in particular living cultures that we have some access to the "universal culture" of educated and responsible men and women across time and space, as well as the universal culture of the City of God. That doesn't mean that being conservative means being theoretical; the particular person or particular way of life shared by persons can't be subsumed into some theory.

Well, all that might seem too pretentious and too ambitious to be genuinely conservative. Part of my intention is to think conservatively in a way that will include all the conservative schools of thought and modes of expression around today. We're open to anyone who eloquently tells the truth about who we are and what we're supposed to do. Does that mean there are no definite limits to what can be called culturally conservative? Not at all! It's fairly easy to begin by saying what being conservative is not.

For one thing, conservative thought is emphatically unideological. So it is very suspicious of all words ending in "ism"--such as Marxism, Darwinism, progressivism, globalism, libertarianism, and even conservatism. The point of ideological thought is to reduce each of us to less than he or she really is in order to make us easy to comprehend and control. Ideological reductionism generates a corresponding fanaticism. All means necessary, the ideological thought is, must be deployed to secure an unprecedented future--a world in which we will be perfectly happy without having to endure the alienated obsessiveness of having to be good, a world full of unlimited privileges without corresponding responsibilities. So the family, religion, and the "state," with all the love and work required to sustain them, will wither away. Ideological thinking typically conceives of the individual as less than he or she is in order that we all can, in some indefinite point in the future, become more than we really are.

For much of the twentieth century, and still today, the core of conservative thought has been a critique of ideology. It's true enough that nobody much accepts the whole teaching of Marx anymore. The more pervasive and less rigorous ideology these days is progressivism, which is all about being on "the right side of history." Progressivism is sometimes about the march toward bigger and better government. But it's more likely to be something like the progress away from repressive authority toward unfettered personal autonomy. Progress toward justice and freedom, the thought is, has authoritatively discredited the societies and intellectual achievements of the past. And so education in politics, literature, religion, and so forth has to be just as cutting edge and resolutely forward looking as education in technology and the sciences. What conservatives call tradition, progressives call the legacies of oppression. What conservatives call manners, progressives call patriarchal stereo­typing. What conservatives call the personal identity we've been given by a relational God and a purposeful nature, progressives call outmoded and illusory barriers to autonomous self-expression.

For conservatives, history doesn't have right or wrong sides, and things are typically getting both better and worse. Technological progress, which we should regard as both a wonderful gift and a revelation of our freedom, typically has relational costs. And, as the dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn told us, it's a huge challenge to free will these days to live well with the collateral damage of the unlimited progress of technology. Not many conservatives believe that most of us have the option of going back to Wendell Berry's farm, and perhaps there's not even much future for the virtues associated with "skilled labor." But the point of the whole development of Western civilization couldn't possibly be a world in which so many do little more than lose themselves in the degrading diversions of the screen. These are hardly the best of times when it comes to knowing and discharging the responsibilities that accompany our relational privileges. And it might be harder than ever to be in love in the present or accepting of death.

Because our high-tech world is full of preferential options for the young and their proudly disruptive innovations, it's easy to forget what conservatives know: it's impossible to think clearly or act confidently without reliance on established personal authority, the authority embedded in tradition. Tradition provides us the guidance--the interpersonal world--with which we can know and love together, and our tradition provides us multiple points of access to unfashionable sources of wisdom about, for example, love and death. It gives us help we couldn't possibly provide for ourselves in knowing ourselves. The Bible, Plato's Republic, and Shakespeare's plays all make claims to "know man," and what Shakespeare knows, a literate person discovers, he wouldn't have known without careful attention to the Bible and Plato.

Now, as Kirk described in detail, American tradition is a large and somewhat amorphous array of heritages. He borrowed from the remarkable Orestes Brownson the thought that our written Constitution is less fundamental than our providential constitution, than what we've been provided by Greek politics and philosophy, Roman law, Christian revelation, Anglo-American common law, the Enlightenment, and so forth. The moral and intellectual diversity of our tradition is deployed by conservatives both in thought and in the art of living to fend off the one-dimensional despotism of progressivism.

Although conservative thought and faith aspire to universal truth, conservatives don't think that practical life--a particular community--is best guided by an overarching theory or even a wholly binding tradition. It's conservative to privilege sustainable relational life over any and all intellectual or individualistic pretensions. Kirk called himself a "bohemian Tory," a Stoic, a Catholic, and much more. He was much more concerned with how to live well as a privileged and responsible person in a particular time and place than with the coherence of any particular doctrine or mixture of doctrines. The mixture of bohemian and Tory, we can say, is deeply conservative; significant personal freedom and even ironic enjoyment depend on a settled life or sense of place. And the bohemian Stoic tells the more somber and beleaguered Stoics--even Marcus Aurelius himself--to lighten up and be happy with the unbought gift that is life. The future of being or even the environment is not in our hands.

Conservatives are always quick to discern that a worthy and sustainable moral and political world depends on claims for intellectual liberation and heroic greatness being chastened by the complexities of "real life." Conservatives often note that our Declaration of Independence was much better than the Enlightenment theory of Mr. Jefferson, precisely because his original draft was amended by the more Christian members of the Continental Congress. Legislative deliberation and compromise secured a place for the providential and judgmental God of the Bible in our understanding of who we are by nature as beings with inalienable natural rights. Our Founders built better than they knew, because they built as statesmen, not theorists, taking into account all the real possibilities presented by our providential constitution. Conservatives tend, in general, to be "fusionists," to put together what's true about various doctrines and practices to capture all that's true about persons sharing a life in a particular part of our world.

The classic form of conservative fusionism mixes libertarianism with traditionalism. In one way, that mixture is singularly American, insofar as the traditional impulse to revere our wise and virtuous Founders produces a narrative of American decline from their "classical liberalism" down the road to nanny-state serfdom. Hayek--like the "originalist" constitutional theorists today--preaches that a real or classical liberal is the true American traditionalist. And the greatest living conservative thinker, the English writer Roger Scruton, observes that the conservative curbs the liberationist and reductionist pretensions of liberalism without rejecting the Enlightenment achievements of the separation of church and state, representative government, and the free economy. For a true conservative, libertarianism and traditionalism both suffer from the extremism of all "isms." Libertarianism presents an unrealistic view of the free individual as absolutely sovereign or unencumbered by relational duties. Traditionalism slights the obvious fact that those who inhabit a vital tradition don't associate their way of life with some generic "ism." The truth is that free persons depend for their personal significance on a stable and enduring "lifeworld."

So we can say that conservatives oppose progressivism with the intention of mending, not ending, the real achievements of liberalism. And in the tradition of Kirk, Scruton, and many others, we conservatives distinguish between conservative liberals, with whom we often agree and certainly admire, and liberal conservatives, who we are. A liberal conservative makes the realistic observation that liberal political and economic life depends on "conservative sociology," and so they think of the family, religion, citizenship, and so forth as indispensably functional. Conservative institutions--often called mediating structures--must be cultivated for the benefit of the maximum possible individual liberty. Conservative liberals often push civic education, because a country that secures individual liberty has no future without literate and loyal citizens. A conservative liberal deploys conservative means for liberal ends.

No one would have been happier and more excited to begin restoring the culture post-Donald than our friend Peter Lawler.  

Posted by orrinj at 9:45 AM


Here's the Pitch: Cricket explains India and Australia while baseball is central to America and Japan. And all four nations are playing together to contain an ambitious China. (Markos Kounalakis, October 10, 2020, Washington Monthly)

Life in the 21st century continues to evolve, however. Sports that once never hit American TV screens now are highlighted by ESPN. Cricket used to be strangely distant, not stumbled across while channel surfing. Sports sections in American newspapers never carried cricket tournament results that now are just a click away.

Suddenly, globalization makes every sport and activity on Earth seem more accessible -- if not entirely understandable -- to everyone. It makes distant events more familiar and immediate. Cricket fans now get dugout views of World Series games. Bleacher bums homebound because of COVID-19 might become mesmerized by a two-month Australia vs. India "Test series to start with pink ball game in Adelaide" on TV this November.

The Quad countries play different, if related, political games. Regardless, these countries are working to harmonize their approach, rules, and desired winning outcomes. India, Australia, Japan, and the United States want to play the same game because their shared democratic and free-market ideals are enhanced by their mutual understanding of common threats.

The Quad recognizes that while its constituent nations compete against each other for global markets, they coalesce in their fight for human rights and transparent governance. They all recognize China as a strategic competitor, though not always in the same way or with the same language.

In Tokyo this week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo got on the mound and pitched the Quad on a mutually assertive stance against China's "exploitation, corruption and coercion." Japan -- the country that initiated the Quad in 2007 -- batted away that undiplomatic approach. Tokyo's new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said that he wants to "build stable relations with neighboring countries, including China and Russia."

China, of course, is generally unhappy with the Quad. Beijing prefers to divide the Quad politically and conquer it economically. It accuses the four nations of trying to contain China, trying to create a NATO-like military alliance in the Indo-Pacific. Beijing says the Quad is forming an "exclusive clique" aimed at curtailing China's ambitions.

All the while, the Quad is trying to find a cautious way to integrate its members without alienating them. India, for example, is wary of any alliances. In fact, it was central to the development of the 20th century Nonaligned Movement. New Delhi's colonial experience and the current rise of political nationalism at home makes any move toward a military or political alliance with Quad nations nearly impossible.

On the other hand, a recent direct conflict with China on disputed Himalayan territory has slightly opened up India's thinking towards coordinating with likeminded This brings us back to cricket and baseball, neither of which are China's national sports. They play ping-pong, where a kill shot is the way to win.

Posted by orrinj at 9:38 AM


Republicans' key electoral coalition appears to be 'in danger of coming apart' (Roxanne Cooper, 10/10/20, Raw Story)

"Nowhere has [President Donald] Trump harmed himself and his party more than across the Sun Belt, where the electoral coalition that secured a generation of Republican dominance is in danger of coming apart," Martin and Burns explain. [...]

"Many of the Sun Belt states seemingly within Mr. Biden's reach resisted the most stringent public-health policies to battle the coronavirus," the Times reporters note. "As a result, states like Arizona, Georgia and Texas faced a powerful wave of infections for much of the summer, setting back efforts to revive commercial activity."

Two of the Republicans who candidly discussed the GOP's problems in the Sun Belt are former Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake and Oklahoma City Mayor David F. Holt. Flake, a conservative who has endorsed Biden, said of Trump, "There are limits to what people can take with the irresponsibility, the untruthfulness, just the whole persona." And Holt told the Times, "Cities in states like Arizona and Texas are attracting young people, highly-educated people and people of color -- all groups that the national Republican Party has walked away from the last four years. This losing demographic bet against big cities and their residents is putting Sun Belt states in play."

If recent polls are accurate, Biden has a good chance of winning more Sun Belt states than Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton did in 2016. Clinton carried Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico and, of course, deep blue California, but Trump won Florida, Georgia, Texas, Arizona and both of the Carolinas.

"Even as he stunned Hillary Clinton in three crucial Great Lakes states, (Trump) lost Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico and fared worse in Arizona, Texas and Georgia than Mitt Romney had four years earlier," Martin and Burns note. "Two years later, Democrats performed even better in a series of high-profile races across the region with college-educated white voters and people of color."

"Hate Your Neighbor" politics is a tough sell in America.

Posted by orrinj at 9:19 AM


A Great Country Album from the Rust Belt : Arlo McKinley's Die Midwestern captures the struggles of southern Ohio (ROBERT VERBRUGGEN, October 10, 2020, National Review)

His real contribution has more to do with his region than it does with his genre. He's written a set of great songs, sorrowful tracks that bring to life the malaise of the 21st-century Rust Belt in a way that's far more personal than political.

The opioid epidemic haunts McKinley's music, and he speaks from firsthand experience. A stand-alone single he released earlier this year, called "Ghost of My Best Friend," is about a friend's overdose, and 2020 also brought the overdose of his mother. The best song on Die Midwestern is called "Bag of Pills"; the lyrics involve both dealing and using drugs:

You want it, I can feel it
Got a bag of pills I've been dealin'
So I can take you drinkin'
Don't tell me about a love thing
We'll get high and talk until mornin'
Then you can catch me sleepin'.

It's also one of the least country tracks here. In its instrumentation and overall vibe, it almost reminds me of the Smashing Pumpkins' "Disarm."

And if the album is anchored in Ohio's troubles, it's also saturated with thoughts of leaving. In the record's opening lines, our protagonist and his girlfriend "hit the road" -- a happy scene that carries the baggage of past troubles, as the chorus notes that "for the first time in a long time, we were all right." There's an old joke that when you play a country song backward, you get your wife back, your dog back, your pickup truck back, and so on, and this would appear to turn that convention on its head: Things are looking up! But eventually the bridge comes around, and it turns out that fleeing was just a dream. When he wakes up, the guy's girlfriend is on the phone and wants him to get his stuff out of her house.

The title track, which comes immediately after, is even more direct about leaving Ohio in particular:

I've been thinking that I should go
'Cause if I don't leave now
Then I'm never gonna leave Ohio, Lord
And that's a chance that I just can't take
Now that I'm getting older

"The Midwest is full of drugs that end up controlling people," McKinley told The Fader about the song. "It's about my love/hate relationship with Ohio. I love it because it's everything that I am but I hate it because I've seen it take my loved ones' lives, I've seen it make hopeful people hopeless. Temptations run all along the Ohio River, but it's so hard to watch the Ohio fade in the rearview mirror."

Similarly, he remarked to Forbes that "there are a lot of people I know here who have talent, who could do something if they just went somewhere else."

One of the most obvious manifestations of the Right's rejection of conservatism and enthusiasm for Identitarianism/racism lies in its embrace of denying poor whites any agency.  Where inner city blacks are all held responsible for living in poverty, using drugs, shooting each other, attending crappy schools, etc., Appalachians are victims of Big Pharma for their addictions and of immigration, for not accepting jobs, and so on and so forth.  Get out. 

Posted by orrinj at 9:04 AM


Posted by orrinj at 8:58 AM


The Trumpist Death Cult: The president is an egotistical, narcissistic shaman who promises his adoring worshipers that he will right all wrongs. (BRIAN KAREM, OCTOBER 10, 2020, The Bulwark)

In 1993, during the Branch Davidian standoff at the Mount Carmel compound outside Waco, Texas, in between doing live-shots for Fox News and Sky News, I met a curiosity-seeker.

He stood among the members of the press, general public, and even t-shirt vendors--I still have a hat that says "Waco: We Ain't Coming Out"--who arrived daily to try and get a closer look at the madness inside the compound.

"What makes someone want to join a cult like this?" the man asked me.

That question has stuck with me--years after the ATF raid and two-month FBI siege that culminated in gunfire and flames and scores of dead.

The study of Koresh's death cult was intense. The Waco Tribune-Herald ran a series of investigative reports on the Branch Davidians and David Koresh called "The Sinful Messiah," exposing allegations of Koresh abusing children and committing statutory rape, as well as fathering several children from a variety of women and girls, some as young as 13, among the Branch Davidians who lived with him.

"I don't think he was a madman," Bob Ricks, the FBI's main media spokesman throughout the standoff, said of Koresh 25 years later. "I think probably the best description of him is a master manipulator."

H.L. Mencken, unflinchingly clear-eyed, said that every great religion was susceptible to cults. Mystics, he wrote, drive many cults and the "essence of mysticism is that it breaks down all barriers between the devotee and his god, and thereby makes the act of worship a direct and personal matter."

David Koresh did that.

Jim Jones did that.

So does Donald Trump.

Steve Hayes (I think) had it nailed when he said that Trumpism is a life-style brand.  Adherents substitute it for the Christianity they used to believe in.

(profanity alert)
Posted by orrinj at 8:53 AM


Trump's Captain Queeg Crackup: Yesterday's bonkers behavior--from his paranoid tweets to his f-bomb on Rush Limbaugh's show to his bizarre pseudo-checkup on Fox--show he has gone utterly around the bend. (RICHARD NORTH PATTERSON,   OCTOBER 10, 2020, The Bulwark)

Was it only yesterday that I analogized Donald Trump to an ersatz Wizard of Oz afflicted with a disabling psychological condition? In the profoundly disturbing hours since, Trump has evoked an even more emblematic and instructive fictional character: Captain Philip Francis Queeg of Herman Wouk's Pulitzer prize-winning novel of World War II, The Caine Mutiny.

Queeg is a frightening, pitiable caricature of naval leadership whose increasingly dangerous behaviors compel his officers to save their ship by seizing command. Perhaps you've seen the movie, anchored in Humphrey Bogart's indelible rendition of a man cracking up before our eyes, raving on the witness stand about "disloyal" officers until becoming incoherent. But not even Bogart could capture, nor Wouk imagine, the terrifying self-indictment of a president far sicker than Captain Queeg.

Nonetheless, the fictional Queeg serves as prototype for the all-too-real Trump--and the dilemma he presents us. Queeg is incompetent, paranoid, given to bullying, prone to blame-shifting, obsessed with appearances, unable to admit error, and determined at all costs to cover up grievous misjudgments and mistakes.

As evidence of their captain's mental fragility accumulates, his officers fear that he may crack under pressure. But after resolving to report his behaviors to a higher authority, they temporize.

The crisis comes--a deadly typhoon in the Pacific. Inevitably, Queeg's panicky misjudgments threaten to capsize the Caine. In extremis the captain's second-in-command, supported by his fellow officers, displaces him to save the ship.

Over the last 24 hours, Trump's statements provide an uncanny parallel to the behaviors which moved Queeg's officers to consider turning him in. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:48 AM


Posted by orrinj at 8:37 AM


GOP can only rid itself of Trump's 'stench' by letting him lose and then shutting out his enablers: conservative. (Tom Boggioni, 10/10/20, Raw Story)

"What I am about to propose is admittedly heavy-handed. It will be called 'undemocratic.' But whoever said a political party is supposed to be a democracy? It might even be called a 'coup' by people who call everything that. What I am suggesting is a return of the establishment... of smoke-filled rooms with party bosses. What I am saying is that the empire must strike back," the columnist proposed. "I am now convinced that if Trump loses on Nov. 3, sane Republicans must impose order and discipline, or wait for the next Trump to emerge."

According to Lewis, certain behavior and rhetoric, of the type used by Trump, should be forbidden and strict messaging about Republican ideals should be adhered to.

"The GOP should be a big tent, so I'm not talking about imposing an ideological litmus test so much as I am talking about imposing a moral one. Support from the new party apparatus should be contingent on character and comportment," He wrote. "Without writing a manifesto on acceptable behavior (I'm spitballing here. Presumably, someone smarter than me would pick up this idea and run with it), I think racism should be a deal-breaker. So should threats against democratic institutions (calling the media 'fake news,' or saying you won't accept the results of an election, etc.). Likewise, any affiliation with conspiracy theories like QAnon would be cause for a blackball."

As for that "blackball"...

"What kind of discipline could they impose? It depends how much leverage they can wrangle. But let's say a Republican QAnon supporter is running for Congress. They get zero funds from any party committee. Zero. Any member who gives them money immediately loses his committee membership. That and maybe they make an example of you and drop a million bucks into your next primary race," Lewis suggested. "Any radio host who has this candidate on loses access to every Republican who wants the support of The Team. Basically, you're with us or you're with the terrorists (a line George W. Bush might be able to deliver). Oh, and, by the way, the train is leaving the station. We might look past your previous behavior, but you can sign up to me on the new team, or not. Your call. This has to be hardball."

Writing the election may "flush the system" of Trumpism, Lewis said the "adults" in the party need to step forward after the election and assume control to thwart any Trump wannabes from trying to keep the departed president's spirit alive.

While primaries can be useful to weed out weaker potential nominees, candidacy is too important to be left entirely to such a process, particularly where laws have been passed that constrain the private parties.  We also need campaign finance reform that allows unlimited contribution to the parties but limits or eliminates it--in favor of government funding--to individuals.  

Posted by orrinj at 8:29 AM


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Where Do You Get Your News? Ever Heard Of Daybreak? (SEAN HURLEY, OCT 9, 2020, NHPR)

NHPR currently has a survey where we're asking you how you'd like us to cover the upcoming elections. One question we're asking - to learn more about you - is where you get your news.  And your answers to this question caught the attention of reporter Sean Hurley.

Along with NHPR, The New York Times and The Washington Post, many tell us they get their news from something called Daybreak. What in the world was Daybreak, Sean wondered? Here's what he found out.

Here's another way to get your news - sign for one or more of NHPR's newsletters today!

As he's done for almost two years now, Rob Gurwitt wakes at 4:30 every morning. He goes downstairs, starts the coffee, turns on his laptop...and begins to write. "It started as an experiment," Gurwitt says, "I had no idea whether it was going to last beyond a week, let alone you know a year and a half now, but it started with 25 friends.  So the voice in it was just me talking to friends."

At 62, Gurwitt has been a journalist for most of his career, but in the last few years the long-form reporting work he was good at was getting harder and harder to find. 

"I spent the bulk of my career writing, you know, 3,000 to 8,000-word articles," he says, "those days are gone in the magazine world. And oddly I really like writing these short things."

"Writing these short things" is nearly Gurwitt's new job in the form of a daily email newsletter called Daybreak, a charmingly written harvest of world and local news from the Upper Valley, Vermont and New Hampshire.

Posted by orrinj at 8:05 AM


Marilynne Robinson's Essential American Stories: The author of "Housekeeping," "Gilead," and, now, "Jack" looks to history not just for the origins of America's ailments but for their remedy, too. (Casey Cep, September 25, 2020, The New Yorker)

It is the only one left. A hundred years ago, Robert Frost bought a ninety-acre farm near South Shaftsbury, Vermont; it came with an old stone house and a pair of barns, but he also wanted an orchard, so he planted hundreds of apple trees. Time and wind and winter storms have had their way with them, and today only one remains.

Earlier this summer, Marilynne Robinson followed a path through the fallow field that used to be Frost's orchard, then looked for a long time at the last of his plantings. She does not generally like visiting the houses of writers gone from this world. "They feel like mausoleums," she says. "I prefer to think of my favorite writers off somewhere writing." Because of the pandemic, though, it had been months since she had left her summer house, by a lake in Saratoga Springs, so she was open to an adventure. She ambled around the farmhouse and its grounds, looking at Frost's books and through his windows, studying his barns, recalling her grandfather's flower gardens while photographing the poet's, and admiring a bronze statue of Frost before posing obligingly beside it.

But it was the apple tree that seemed particularly charged in Robinson's presence. More trunk than tree, barren except for a single branch with a few withered attempts at fruit, its shadow was barely longer than hers. As a writer, Robinson is a direct descendant of Frost, carrying on his tradition of careful, democratic observations of this country's landscapes and its people, perpetually keeping one eye on the eternal and the other on the everyday. As a Calvinist, she has spent a lot of her life thinking about apple trees.

This one seemed very far from Eden, but Robinson is accustomed to tending gardens that others have forsaken. She has devoted her life to reconsidering figures whom history has seen fit to forget or malign, and recovering ideas long misinterpreted or neglected. Her writing is best understood as a grand project of restoration, aesthetic as well as political, which she has undertaken in the past four decades in six works of nonfiction and five novels, including a new one this fall. "Jack" is the fourth novel in Robinson's Gilead series, an intergenerational saga of race, religion, family, and forgiveness centered on a small Iowa town. But it is not accurate to call it a sequel or a prequel. Rather, this book and the others--"Gilead," "Home," and "Lila"--are more like the Gospels, telling the same story four different ways.

Although Robinson began her career by writing a book she believed was unpublishable, and has persisted in writing books she believes are unfashionable, she has earned the Pulitzer Prize and the National Humanities Medal, the praise of Presidents and archbishops, and an audience as devoted to her work as mystics are to visions. At seventy-six, she is still trying to convince the rest of us that her habit of looking backward isn't retrograde but radical, and that this country's history, so often seen now as the source of our discontents, contains their remedy, too.

Hardly surprising that the greatest living American novelist is a Puritan.

Posted by orrinj at 8:02 AM


Jaishankar's bland speech at Quad said nothing. But look at the naval ties India is forging (TARA KARTHA, 8 October, 2020, The Point)

Foreign Minister Jaishankar's bland statement at the Quad meeting said precisely nothing. But consider this. New Delhi is quietly forging strong military ties, particularly naval ones, with Quad members on a bilateral basis, while keeping the language of Quad itself vague in the extreme, and thus avoiding an increase in tensions with China. But India is still keeping all its irons in the fire. 

Alongside, there is the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative - referenced in Jaishankar's statement - which was launched at the East Asia Summit 2019, and includes maritime security in its charter. New Delhi invited Vietnam to be a part of it, even as Hanoi considers filing an international arbitration case against Beijing in the South China Sea. Both will be non-permanent members of the UN Security Council next year. Vietnam, together with New Zealand and South Korea, was also part of an online 'Quad plus' meeting earlier. All are countries sitting on important sea lanes. As Pompeo observed, the Quad has an expansion plan, and it seems New Delhi is already on the job. 

At a time when the Chinese are digging in opposite Ladakh, India seems to have realised that the Quad can only be of value in a crisis if - and it's a very big if - it can effectively interdict Chinese shipping across the Malacca Straits, particularly since Beijing depends on the sea for 80 per cent of its oil imports. New Delhi can't be sure of anything at this stage, which is why it's firing up its missiles and buying aircraft, guns and munitions from the weapons market. In war, reliance on 'friends' is foolhardy.

But it's nice to have that ace in the hole, gambling on the fact that China cannot retaliate against everybody at the same time. As to whether that threat is working, there is the fury of the Chinese Foreign Ministry on what it calls a "Mini NATO". Whether this view suits India's China playbook is yet unclear, probably even in the Ministry of External Affairs. That's actually a large part of the problem.

Posted by orrinj at 7:55 AM


The next US president won't be great for H-1B visas, no matter who he is (Ananya Bhattacharya, October 8, 2020, Quartz)

In contrast to what Trump has been saying about H-1B workers taking away American jobs, several studies have revealed that immigrants actually help bridge the skills gap plaguing several industries in the US, including big tech and healthcare.

Around 45% of Fortune 500 companies have been founded by immigrants or children of immigrants.

In 2015, New York-based immigration research and advocacy organisation New American Economy said the H-1B visas awarded in 2012-13 would create 700,000 local jobs by 2020. And a new study released in July found that immigrants are 80% more likely to be entrepreneurs and create new jobs, than natives in the US.

The Indian American demographic is "one of the most educated and influential communities in America," said Watson, citing the examples of Indian-origin tech leaders like Microsoft's Satya Nadella and Alphabet's Sundar Pichai, who started their careers in the US on H-1B visas.

There are several examples of how the US has lost out on opportunities because of its unfavourable visa policies. For instance, Wharton-educated Kunal Bahl returned to India after he had to quit his job at Microsoft because of a failed brush with the H-1B lottery. Back in India, Bahl founded e-commerce firm Snapdeal, which at one point provided jobs to over 6,000 people.

Today, Indian Americans may comprise just 1.6% of the US population but they are still the second-largest immigrant group in the US after Mexicans.

"Indian Americans have the opportunity to influence the US election, especially as (more) are moving to swing states like North Carolina, which may be key to the outcome of the election," said Mark Davies, global chairman at Davies & Associates. "That said, Indian-Americans should not be viewed a monolithic voting bloc influenced by immigration policy alone, but rather thousands of individuals who will make their own decisions based upon what is best for their families and their businesses."

Indian-Americans also yield some influence when it comes to elections.

"Where they can make a big difference is in their campaign contributions," said Poorvi Chothani, managing partner at immigration law firm LawQuest. Indian Americans have contributed over $3 million to 2020's campaigns--more than Hollywood's donors. Two-thirds of this amount has reportedly gone to Democrats. The other million went to incumbent Trump.

...it should also allow entrants to take their citizenship test at any time.

October 9, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 7:29 PM


Trump's Focus on the Past Leaves Republicans Without a Future (Francis Wilkinson, October 9, 2020, Bloomberg View)

When the coherent half of the Republican ticket participated in the vice presidential debate this week, it was an opportunity for viewers to learn what the future holds. Yes, Vice President Mike Pence may be a talking-point machine, but to a debate audience that's a more useful device than a random-lie generator. You can learn things from talking points.

There's only one problem: Republicans have no points to talk about. If elections are about the future, the GOP plans are the blank piece of paper to which President Donald Trump affixed his signature in his Covid photo-op at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

The Republican Party attracted a lot of attention, most of it bad, when it declined to produce a platform at its convention in August. In lieu of an explanation of its positions, it issued a short proclamation whining about the news media conspiring with Joe Biden and being mean. Less noticed is that the Trump campaign website offers no better guidance. The future doesn't exist there, either.

We obviously can't rule out the possibility that the GOP will choose not to have a future, that it will stick to the old white make grievance politics of Donald.  In such a case, demographics takes care of the rest.  

There is also a possibility, maybe even a likelihood, that we are head for a few wilderness years.  Ego and bankruptcy could give us a separate Trump party, allied with the ONAN network and publications like The Federal, First Things, etc., and dedicated to nothing but the Identitarian causes of the Right.  This would peel off a third of the Republican Party which would then be forced to modernize.

But if the Party stays relatively whole and chooses to reform, there really isn't any question about its future: it will return to compassionate conservatism, the Third Way of the right.  This would involve a panoply of market-oriented reforms of the welfare state: school choice; personal retirement accounts; universal HSAs; etc. It would also look to restore the free flow of goods and peoples.  It would put America back on the side of democracy and the oppressed in the Arab World, China, etc. It could also propose more fundamental reforms like strengthening federalism on issues like abortion, sexuality, drugs, and the like.  And envision weakening the Executive by constraining the Administrative State and limiting executive orders and such.  These latter ideas would mesh well with the potential rulings of the Court and offer a clear path forward should the Justices start scaling back the "rights" their predecessors invented.  This emphasis on free markets, self-determination, personal responsibility and republicanism is not just comfortable territory for the party historically, it affords a way to start bringing the naturally conservative members of other cohorts across the aisle.  Right now, there is no way a self-respecting black, Muslim, Asian, Latino, female, etc. can vote for Donald, but polling consistently shows that none of those groups are actually monolithic in their policy views.  Welcome them and let the ideas do your sales job and the party would become competitive again in short order.  

Posted by orrinj at 6:27 PM


Newt Gingrich and Our Hyperpartisan Moment: a review of Burning Down the House: Newt Gingrich, the Fall of a Speaker, and the Rise of the New Republican Party by Julian E. Zelizer (Michael Kimmage, 08 Oct 2020, American Purpose)

In Burning Down the House, Julian Zelizer, a Princeton historian and CNN contributor who writes prolifically on American political history, finds a new solution to an old problem. He explains the extreme partisanship of today's America by chronicling a single moment in the late 1980s, a clash of personalities and political ambitions that "opened up a new period in American politics." Burning Down the House is a brilliant microhistory of a year in the life of the U.S. Congress. It is a snapshot of overlapping transitions--in the media, in political style, in the structure of the Democratic and Republican parties--that document the story of our times. It is too slender and too circumscribed a subject to explain the rise of Trump, however, or to get to the bottom of the Spy vs. Spy acrimony of domestic American politics. It is a piece of a piece of the puzzle.

For Zelizer, the world before the fall was that of the midcentury United States. It corresponds to Washington in the "committee era" of congressional history, which ran from the 1930s to the 1960s. The decades between the Great Depression and the Vietnam War witnessed lots of political tumult, but within the halls of Congress there was a baseline consensus on how business was to be conducted. Committees could expect a degree of bipartisan compromise. The press was held at a certain distance, and seniority within Congress was a crucial commodity, keeping in check the ambition and fire of youth. Zelizer does not celebrate all of this. Congress in the committee era could be clubby and insular; it could be backwards-looking. Its value was that it could legislate, which it did on civil rights and many other issues.

In Zelizer's irony-filled telling of the tale, key transitions took place in the 1970s. Investigative journalism brought down President Nixon, releasing a wave of reform sentiment in Congress. The "Watergate babies," who were elected to Congress in 1974, were eager to tighten the rules on ethical conduct. This they did up to a point, without eliminating "the nexus between money and politics" that in fact grew stronger in the 1970s. Private money in politics, lobbying, and the burdensome costs of campaigning created incentives for members of Congress to bend the rules. At the same time, an emboldened news media was hungry for shocking revelations and front-page scandals. In the 1980s, they would not be disappointed: They feasted on a steady diet of information that might previously have been kept behind closed doors.

National politics was more paradoxical than polarized in 1980, when Ronald Reagan won the White House as a conservative. He admired Franklin Delano Roosevelt--yet wanted to retire the New Deal, convinced that the free market needed to be unleashed. By contrast, the House of Representatives was "the last bastion for the liberalism that Democrats had championed since FDR," Zelizer notes. Democrats had had the upper hand in Congress since 1954, the year Senator Joseph McCarthy went down in flames. Whereas Reagan promised a break with the past, the House of Representatives was the guardian of New Deal tradition, and it could do a great deal to slow Reagan down. A clash was bound to come.

The Republican dog caught two cars between 1988 and 1994 and didn't really know what to do with either.  First, Ronald Reagan toppled the Soviet Union and with the end of the Cold War, the glue that held various factions on the right together disappeared, along with one of the big substantive issues that had separated right and left. Second, the GOP took the House, which had been considered unachievable for decades and found itself forced to actually govern, which meant effectively jettisoning six decades of opposition to a welfare state that voters had come to depend on.  Meanwhile, the Democrats had stolen a march and arrived at the Third Way first, so you had Bill Clinton who was free of the taint of foreign policy anti-Americanism and who was eager to put said welfare state on a more stable--capitalist--footing.  Indeed, Clinton and company were prepared to embrace free markets on nearly all economic questions.  So the GOP and the Democrats found themselves meeting in the middle--where the polities of the English-speaking world had already arrived. This led to a uniquely fruitful bipartisan legislative epoch and, not coincidentally, explosive economic growth and budget balancing.

But with nearly no significant issues to separate the parties anymore, folks began to grasp on to the mere fact of their party affiliation and opposition to the 'other" party as the cause to which their lives were dedicated.  After all, the only difference between Newt and Bill was the "R" or "D" after their names.  Ever since, our national elections are won by whichever candidate is most closely identified with the Third Way, irrespective of party.  But the wings of the two parties then work themselves up into frenzies of hatred against their own leaders precisely because they could lead the other party with so few adjustments.  

As in all things, Donald is sui generis in this regard.  Despite being rejected by the great majority of the GOP in the primaries and losing to Hillary in the general, precisely because he ran on an old ideology--racism--he managed to take office and empower the Right.  Democrats, stunned by their failure in 2016, happily punted on Progressivism and nominated Uncle Joe, who would have been right at home in the 80s GOP.

We are left with a Right whose experiment in governing crashed and burned around their ears and a Left who thought their time had come, only to discover that a Democratic Party made up of everyone but old white men is rather conservative.  So we have hysterical hyperpartisanship between the wings of the parties at a time when there is overwhelming consensus among the electorate on nearly every major issue.  

All this presents Joe Biden with the opportunity that Florida denied W, to not just govern from the middle but to be seen to do so. He could easily co-opt Republicans by including a few in his cabinet and reaching out to Ben Sasse and any other willing Senators to see if they would be willing to work on a set of institutional/governmental reforms and to try and get them to participate in legislating, rather than just retreating to the McConnell obstruction model. The enire party might still vote against something like an Obamacare improvement bill, but by including a few ideas that are precious to reform-minded conservatives he could show himself to be governed by more than mere partisanship abn=nd perhaps get them to turn down their temperature too.   

Posted by orrinj at 6:16 PM


The Stones of Lewis, Portals in Time (Hugh Raffles, 10/09/20, The New Yorker)

Lewis is a small place, but its story is immense. Four hundred and forty thousand years ago, ice, in places almost a half-mile thick, covered this land, turning the Outer Hebrides into something like northern Greenland today. The ice flowed east across the Minch to Scotland and back again; it flowed west into the ocean as far as St. Kilda, more than forty miles offshore. It transfigured the islands, scouring and splitting the bedrock, gouging out valleys and hills, advancing and retreating until the onset of warmer temperatures and heavy rains around 7000 BCE. The landscape it left was ragged and dramatic: roches moutonnées, whalebacks, crag-and-tail ridges, and frost-shattered pinnacles; giant erratics and smaller boulders dropped far from their origins; the desolate cnoc-and-lochan moors that trap the northern sun in countless pools like a splintered mirror.

As the ice ages melted away, the peat bog that now blankets much of Lewis began to grow. That peat, formed mostly from sphagnum moss and heather buried and compacted in acidic, waterlogged soils above the impermeable glacial till, was once the sole fuel for the island's crofters; and even today, it's cut and stacked to dry in dark, cairnlike piles. The peat here can be four thousand years old and deep enough to disguise or entirely cover ancient monuments. And below it, below the glacial till, is the bedrock, Lewisian gneiss, close to three billion years old, among the oldest rock on the planet, rock that started life as churning magma dozens of miles underground in the Earth's mantle, cooling, solidifying, and crystallizing into igneous granites, granodiorites, tonalites, basalts, and gabbros, then buried, reheated, sheared, and recrystallized, crushed, twisted, stretched, pressed, and folded in at least two major metamorphic, mountain-building events occurring over the next 1.5 billion years--warped and recast in such tortured ways that their original features, the defining traits of the protoliths of these islands, were thoroughly erased.

Lewisian gneiss, in the words of the archaeologist Colin Richards, is "rock that once seen and handled is never forgotten." Returning from Calanais one summer afternoon, I picked up two unassuming, hand-sized blocks on a jagged hillside littered with glacial debris as if from the aftermath of a planetary collision. As I write, they sit before me on the table: rough, coarse-grained granitic rocks, one with thick, confused layers of pale pink, the other larger, darker, "houndstooth stone" Seamus Heaney might have called it, implacable and exacting, he might have said, stippled black and gray matrix, thin parallel pink veins. One billion years ago, following millennia of uplift and erosion, the gneiss breached the surface with its psychedelic ripples and baroque bands--the gray and pink of quartz, feldspar, and granite; the dark green and black of hornblende and biotite mica. Resting on the sidelines in the Hebridean terrane, a foreland of the North American craton Laurentia on the margins of the long-closed, ancient Iapetus Ocean, it escaped the tectonic drama of the Caledonian orogeny, and so preserved the evidence of far older geological events.

The most solid of rocks, they're heavy; wary of dropping them, I hold them tight and think of them traveling through the frozen earth, the floating earth, the molten earth, the places they've been, the life they've seen, two-thirds of the way back to the beginning of the planet, far beyond the Ordovician with its horseshoe crabs, its cartilaginous fish, and its marine mass extinctions; far beyond the Cambrian with its trilobites, its brand-new chordates, and its paradigm-confounding explosion of multicellular organisms, the first eukaryotic cells, and the build-up of atmospheric oxygen; back beyond the Proterozoic and into the Archaean, the formation of the first bacteria and the first continental plates, an unsettled, still-cooling planet taking shape beneath an ammonia-and-methane-filled atmosphere; stopping just short of the lip of emptiness, the cusp of what geologists imagine as a liquid surface of swirling gas, brimstone, and fire, the hellish Hadean.

The A859 road to Calanais follows the stream of the Black River through northern Lewis, keeping close to what was probably the main land route to the monument in Neolithic times.

Approaching from the east, a succession of circles is silhouetted starkly against the sky on hilltops and outcroppings above the valley. Colin Richards and his team walked this and a second route to the principal monument at Calanais. It was as if they were moving through "a process of unwrapping," a theatrically structured and choreographed journey in which concealment progressively gives way to unveiling as the protected central space is neared. Richards and his colleagues decided that the sites they passed were something like movie flats, simulacra of monuments--circles flattened into ellipses to increase the visual impact from below, slabs selected for their prominent veins of reflective quartz and positioned to catch the sun, large stones propped up with blocks rather than mounted in sockets--quick, jerry-built structures in an architecture of deception and illusion.

By contrast, ever since the arrival of the writer Martin Martin in 1696, visitors have recognized that the central monument and its satellites were built to last. Martin, a native of nearby Skye, traveled to Lewis at the behest of the antiquarian, collector, and founding benefactor of the British Museum, Hans Sloane, then secretary of the Royal Society. A speaker of Gaelic, graduate of Edinburgh University, and tutor to chiefs of the Highland clans, Martin could move between two elites--the ideal envoy to a region that was as remote, primitive, and exotic to most Scots as it was to the London literati. Calanais, he reported, was "a place appointed for worship in the time of heathenism" where "the chief druid or priest stood near the big stone in the center, from whence he addressed himself to the people that surrounded him." Set high on its broad ridge, the site had an unusual cruciform layout. An imposing avenue leads to a small circle dominated by a giant monolith nearly fifteen feet tall; additional, shorter avenues reach out from either side, and, to the south, a single line of stones once stretched all the way to Cnoc an Tursa, a large outcrop of Lewisian gneiss, the rocky crag a hundred feet above sea level that I used to climb from Franki's house.

Posted by orrinj at 1:39 PM


Man charged in plot to kidnap Whitmer shared stage with West Michigan sheriff at rally (Aaron Parseghian, Oct 08, 2020, Fox 17)

William Null was spotted on stage standing alongside Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf, a guest speaker at the event.

FOX 17 spoke with Sheriff Leaf Thursday night.

"I haven't read everything up on it, I've got other duties to do, it wasn't our investigation. I was shocked, did not see this coming with those guys, but still we can't convict them in the media here, they do have a right to a fair trial," Leaf said.

Leaf says he doesn't know of Null's alleged involvement in the plot and doesn't have any regrets about being on stage with him.

"Do you have any regrets about being on stage, sharing a stage with a guy who's now being charged in a plot to kidnap the governor?" asked FOX 17's Aaron Parseghian.

"It's just a charge, and they say a 'plot to kidnap' and you got to remember that. Are they trying to kidnap? Because a lot of people are angry with the governor, and they want her arrested. So are they trying to arrest or was it a kidnap attempt? Because you can still in Michigan if it's a felony, make a felony arrest," Leaf said.

Barry County sheriff raises fraud concerns after ballot application sent to wrong address (Michael Krafcik, 6/09/20, Newschannel 3)

Michigan's absentee voting push won't cause mass election fraud, election experts said, but that didn't stop the Barry County sheriff from voicing his concern about the possibility.

Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf claimed in a Facebook post that absentee ballot applications sent to the wrong address could lead to voter fraud.

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Trump under investigation for improperly inflating value of land deal that got him a $21 million tax break  (Sky Palma , 10/09/20, rAW sTORY)

According to a new report from the Washington Post, a promise Donald Trump made 5 years ago to preserve the forest around his luxurious mansion in Westchester County, New York, got him a $21.1 million tax break. Now, an investigation is underway to determine if he inflated the value of the land.

"The size of Trump's tax windfall was set by a 2016 appraisal that valued Seven Springs at $56.5 million -- more than double the value assessed by the three Westchester county towns that each contained a piece of the property," the Post reports. "The valuation has now become a focal point of what could be one of the most consequential investigations facing President Trump as he heads into the election."

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Militia tied to plot to kidnap Gov. Whitmer was removed from Facebook in boogaloo purge (Taylor Hatmaker, 10/08/20, Tech Crunch)

Whitmer, a Democrat, became a major target of pervasive anti-lockdown sentiment on the political right earlier this year when states imposed restrictions to slow the spread of the coronavirus. According to the affidavit, at a June in-person meeting, members of the group "talked about murdering 'tyrants' or 'taking' a sitting governor." Thirteen people have been charged in relation to the kidnapping plot.

The group grew its numbers after contacting a Michigan-based militia known as the Wolverine Watchmen that shared overlapping interests. While it was not named at the time, Facebook  removed the Wolverine Watchmen group from its platform in June when it purged a number of groups connected to the anti-government boogaloo movement. Wolverine Watchmen recruited on Facebook for seven months, from November of last year until June. [...]

Adam Fox, one of the group's alleged organizers, live-streamed to a private Facebook group earlier this year, complaining that Michigan's restrictions were keeping gyms closed. In the video, Fox referred to Governor Whitmer as "this tyrant bitch," and stated, "I don't know, boys, we gotta do something."

In April, Trump cheered on protests against those measures in Virginia, Minnesota and Michigan, three states with Democratic governors. Many of these early events were organized on Facebook, but anti-Whitmer sentiment quickly became ubiquitous on the right across social networks and traditional media.

By July, the group considered attacking a Michigan State Police location but landed on abducting Whitmer from her private vacation home or governor's summer residence. The same day that decision was made, Fox wrote on a private Facebook page "We about to be busy ladies and gentlemen . . . This is where the Patriot shows up. Sacrifices his time, money, blood sweat and tears . . . it starts now so get [******] prepared!!"

The group alternated between planning to kidnap Whitmer for a private "trial" and killing her on sight. Over the course of the coming months, they conducted surveillance of Whitmer's vacation home, collected supplies and planned detailed logistics for the kidnapping plot, including the idea of blowing up a nearby bridge to divert police attention. The group discussed those detailed plans in an encrypted chat.

It is the consistency with which the Trumpbots always rave about the same targets--women, Muslims, blacks, Jews, etc.--that binds them. 
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Trump steel tariffs bring job losses to swing state Michigan (Rajesh Kumar Singh, 10/09/20, Reuters)

Four years later, Great Lakes Works - once among the state's largest steel plants - has shut down steelmaking operations and put 1,250 workers out of a job. A year before the June layoffs, plant owner United States Steel Corp called off a plan to invest $600 million in upgrades amid deteriorating market conditions.

Trump's strategy centered on shielding U.S. steel mills from foreign competition with a 25% tariff imposed in March 2018. He also promised to boost steel demand through major investments in roads, bridges and other infrastructure.

But higher steel prices resulting from the tariffs dented demand from the Michigan-based U.S. auto industry and other steel consumers. And the Trump administration has never followed through on an infrastructure plan.

Posted by orrinj at 8:20 AM


A Rising Orthodox Populist Is Leading A Violent Campaign Of COVID Denial In Borough Park (JAKE OFFENHARTZ, OCT. 8, 2020, The Gothamist)

Harold "Heshy" Tischler strolled onto 13th Avenue in Borough Park at 9 p.m. Wednesday night, bare-faced and hoarse from days of screaming, and into the arms of an adoring crowd. Hundreds of ultra-Orthodox demonstrators chanted his name, waving Trump and Thin Blue Lines flags as they jockeyed for a chance to meet the brash right-wing radio host leading the campaign to stop the new COVID-19 lockdown measures.

"We are at war!" Tischler shouted to the crowd of protesters. "You are my soldiers!"

An hour later, Tischler directed an angry mob of young Hasidic men as they surrounded and attacked Jacob Kornbluh, a veteran reporter with Jewish Insider. At Tischler's urging, the group hissed and spit at Kornbluh, labeling him a Nazi and a "moser" -- a term for a Jewish person who informs on their own community.

As NYPD officers attempted to extract Kornbluh from the ugly scene, the group pinned their target against a wall, lunging and kicking at him.

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What the next president has to gain from opening the US borders (Annalisa Merelli, 10/09/20, Quartz)

"Having expanded immigration relative to where the US is now, or even relative to where the US was in 2016, almost certainly has major advantages," says Jeffrey Miron, an economist at Harvard University and at the libertarian think-thank Cato Institute.

Expanding immigration, Miron says, benefits the US economy--and it would any economy. New immigrants compete with natives or previous immigrants, bringing in new ideas and skills, and broadening the talent pool for employers. This happens whether the immigrants hold advanced degrees--the kind that would come into the US with an H1B visa to work in tech, or other specialized field--or if they provide unskilled labor, such as seasonal agriculture workers.

"There's tons of evidence that expanded immigration contributes to innovation and dynamism in an economy, because the new people coming in have new ideas and new ways of doing things, and because they help generate more competition," Miron says.

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How down-ballot candidates could help Democrats flip Texas: The fate of the presidential race in Texas could be tied to dozens of legislative and congressional races in the state's suburbs. Those seats have often gone to Republicans. But Democratic candidates are raising and spending big. (ABBY LIVINGSTON, OCT. 8, 2020, Texas Tribune)

Members of the state Democratic Party first noticed changes on election night in 2016. While Democrats across the country were inconsolable over Hillary Clinton's loss to Donald Trump, the Texas Democratic Party's then-executive director, Crystal Kay Perkins, left her election night party with a sense of optimism.

"We won four state House seats," she said that night, also ticking off obscure victories like school board wins in small cities.

Within weeks, it became clear that while Trump won the state, the Republicans lost ground in several suburban areas. Those margins gave Texas Democrats a playbook for the next four years: a greater focus on candidates for state legislative races, municipal campaigns and community college and school board contests. In 2018, they made inroads with gains in the state House and Congress, though nothing quite as flashy as a statewide victory.

Rebecca Acuña, the lead Biden staffer in Texas and a veteran of several Texas political showdowns, credits Democratic operatives and politicians who kept going through the party's years in the wilderness.

"We have been through hell and back in the past decade, but all the while focused on building the infrastructure at the Texas Democratic Party necessary to meet this very moment," said Manny Garcia, the executive director of the Texas Democratic Party.

That strategy has continued in 2020, where Democrats have a chance of flipping the state House and winning more congressional seats. A slew of candidates are running in and around all of Texas' big cities, in seats that were never intended to be competitive when the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature redrew congressional and legislative districts in 2012.

But in those eight years, millions of people moved to Texas; and Republicans have witnessed a collapse among college-educated voters and increasingly diversifying suburbs.

And with more national and local money pouring into those down-ballot races, political experts say that could have a major effect upstream on the ballot.

"Normally, House and down-ballot candidates are desperate for presidential investment," said Amy Walter, a political analyst at the Cook Political Report. "In this case, I think that all the money being poured into suburban [congressional districts] and battleground state [legislative] districts could help boost Biden."

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Not objects but presences: Considering the poems and achievements of Louise Glück, this year's winner of the Nobel prize in Literature (Beverley Bie Brahic, 10/09/20, TLS)

Glück has an "unmistakable poetic voice ... with austere beauty", the Nobel Committee writes in its announcement of this year's literature prize; few critics, I think, would argue with that, not even Glück herself, a poet famously chary of adjectives who in the course of publishing her twelve collections has not only found her own voice but also repeatedly broadened its reach and timbre. Her work, courageous in its exposure of socially unacceptable emotions, has long captivated American readers, much like that of other New England poets with Puritan sensibilities such as Emily Dickinson and Sylvia Plath. Her place in American poetry owes much to the rightness - that is, the succinct plainness - of her language, which she has willingly used to wrest meaning from painful subjects.

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MAGA-Crazy Retirement Village Now Fears COVID--and Pence (Francisco Alvarado & Kelly Weill, Oct. 09, 2020, Daily Beast)

"The virus was a hoax here until Trump got it," Chris Stanley, president of The Villages Democratic Club, said of the MAGA crowd's attitude. "The other night they did a prayer vigil and for the first time, they posted in a big font, 'You must wear a mask.' I looked on the webcam and didn't see many wearing masks, but they now seem to be accepting this is not a Democrat hoax at all."

Marissa Levine, an infectious disease expert at the University of South Florida, said it was on elected officials to demonstrate safe habits. That category does not include campaign rallies among vulnerable communities when you have recently been proximal to a possible superspreader event.

"It is really important for leaders to role-model the behaviors that are being recommended from a public health point of view," Levine told The Daily Beast. "In effect, they are flouting the CDC guidelines."

People exposed to COVID-19 should comply with adequate testing, contact tracing, and isolation measures, especially when preparing to meet with senior citizens, Levine said. "In an area where there are individuals, based on age alone, at higher risk for complication and death, that seems like a concerning thing to do," she said of a Pence Villages visit.

Sumter County, where a majority of the sprawling housing development is located, has reported a total of 2,593 coronavirus cases since the pandemic began. Two hundred and sixty people have been hospitalized and 75 have died--a mortality rate of 3 percent of all positive cases, which is 1 percentage point higher than the statewide average for deaths, according to the latest update from the Florida Department of Health.

Over the past week, Sumter County has experienced some of the highest daily positivity rates in the state. On Sept. 30, the daily positivity rate was 21.86 percent. Then it dropped below 10 percent for six consecutive days. But on Oct. 7, the daily positivity rate sprang up to 15.3 percent. The daily case count jumped from just 14 on Tuesday to 98 on Wednesday.

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Biden maintains lead over Trump; most voters are certain about their choice

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PODCAST: Free Exchange: Johan Norberg on the importance of being open (John Ashmore, 10/09/20, Cap X)

In his latest book the Swedish historian Johan Norberg argues that that every truly successful civilisation is defined by one key ingredient - openness. To new ideas, new people and new technology.

At a time when much of that life-enhancing, economy-expanding openness seems under threat from pandemic panic and populist demagoguery, his optimistic message feels particularly urgent.

Our editor John Ashmore sat down with Johan for to discuss his new book, Open:The Story of Human Progress, and what the pandemic means for the future of trade, innovation and human flourishing.

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UN World Food Program wins Nobel Peace Prize (KARL RITTER and FRANK JORDANS, 10/09/20,  Associated Press

The United Nations' World Food Program on Friday won the Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts to combat hunger and food insecurity in regions of conflict and hardship around the globe.

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Scoop: Barr tells Republicans Durham report won't be ready by election (Alayna Treene, 10/09/20)

 Republicans had long hoped the report, led by U.S. Attorney John Durham, would be a bombshell containing revelations about what they allege were serious abuses by the Obama administration and intelligence community probing for connections between President Trump and Russia.

"This is the nightmare scenario. Essentially, the year and a half of arguably the number one issue for the Republican base is virtually meaningless if this doesn't happen before the election," a GOP congressional aide told Axios.

Barr has made clear that they should not expect any further indictments or a comprehensive report before Nov. 3, our sources say.

The Justice Department declined to comment. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

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This game-changing solar company recycles old panels into new ones (ADELE PETERS, 10/09/20, Co.Exist)

At a recycling plant in Ohio, next to the company's manufacturing facility, First Solar uses custom technology to disassemble and recycle old panels, recovering 90% of the materials inside. It runs similar recycling systems in Germany and Malaysia. Right now, the holistic lifecycle approach isn't common among other solar producers. But Wade says that now is the time to think about the problem. "Our aim for solar is to help our customers decouple their economic growth from negative environmental impacts," he says. "So it is kind of a mandatory point for us to address the renewable-energy-circular-economy nexus today and not 20 years from now."

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This Company's Simple Blood Tests Could Reimagine Telemedicine (LEIGH BUCHANAN, 10/09/20, INC. MAGAZINE)

The pandemic's acceleration of interest in telemedicine should significantly increase demand. The U.S. telemedicine market is expected to approach $10 billion this year, with 76 percent of hospitals providing some services remotely, according to the research firm Arizton.

The keystone of Tasso's system, called OnDemand, is a big red button, reminiscent of the one labeled "EASY" that Staples made ubiquitous more than a decade ago. A patient places the button--made of injection molded plastic--on her upper arm, an area most people find less sensitive than others to pain. (Fingertips, by contrast, are very sensitive. Think paper cuts.) She clicks the button, releasing a tiny lancet, which needs only reach the capillary network right under the surface of the skin. "The needle doesn't go in very deep at all, so it doesn't even get to the nerves," Casavant says. "And because it all happens so fast you hardly feel anything."

The patient removes and caps the blood-collection tube and sends it to the lab in pre-paid packaging provided by Tasso. The tubes are designed to fit directly into standard blood-analysis machines, so results are fast. Tasso also provides a logistics service, managing all the shipping for its lab and hospital clients.

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Virgin Hyperloop Announces the Winner Of Its Big New Test Site (Sissi Cao, 10/08/20, NY Observer)

The idea was first pioneered by Elon Musk in the early 2010s. In 2014, venture capitalist Shervin Pishevar founded Hyperloop One with the goal to bring Musk's idea to life. Hyperloop One completed its first full-scale test in Nevada in 2017. The same year, the "Virgin" logo was plastered onto the startup, followed by a $50 million investment by Virgin Group and the appointment of Branson as the company's chairman. 

"It could be make a big difference in the future," said Branson.

Multiple hyperloop systems are being developed around the world, including Canada, India and Spain.

Construction of Virgin's West Virginia certification center and test track is set to begin in 2022 on the site of a formal coal mine in the state's Tucker and Grant Counties, the company said. Commercial operations are expected to start by 2030.

October 8, 2020

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Lincoln Project the Latest to Find Seniors Jumping Ship From Trump After His COVID-19 Diagnosis (ADRIAN CARRASQUILLO,  10/8/20, Newsweek)

The Lincoln Project is the latest group to find seniors souring on President Donald Trump after his COVID-19 diagnosis, a development that threatens to derail his reelection effort with just 26 days remaining before November 3.

Beyond running ads on Facebook and YouTube, part of the group's analytics effort includes a sophisticated campaign that serves ads to seniors based on the news they're reading, and the group has seen a marked increase in engagement in Florida,Texas, and to a lesser extent in Ohio from seniors who are reading about Trump contracting COVID-19.

"Once the president got COVID, everything moved with seniors," Mike Madrid, a Lincoln Project co-founder told Newsweek. "We've been investing for months to push that demo when that late break suddenly came."

The data follows a CNN/SSRS poll this week--conducted almost entirely after the president's announcement that he had contracted the virus--showing Biden leading among voters 65 and older by 21 points, with a CNN analysis declaring Biden "well on his way to doing better with seniors than any Democratic nominee in at least 24 years." The 2016 exit poll shows Trump won seniors by seven points over Hillary Clinton.

This drastic change is also what Fernand Amandi, a pollster for Obama during both campaigns, is seeing in Florida, he told Newsweek.

His Bendixen & Amandi firm did a September poll and saw Trump's unfavorables rise 6 points in October. 

[N.B.: the deleted reply reads, "Andy Cuomo...blah...blah...blah...]

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Jonathan Mayhew: Colonial Pastor against Tyranny (Eric Patterson, October 8, 2020, Providence)

The most potent of these sermons was Jonathan Mayhew's 1750 "Discourse Concerning the Unlimited Submission and Non-Resistance to Higher Authorities." This sermon was printed and reprinted numerous times in the colonies and London. Mayhew begins:

Let us now trace the apostle's reasoning in favor of submission to the higher powers, a little more particularly and exactly. For by this it will appear, on one hand, how good and conclusive it is, for submission to those rulers who exercise their power in a proper manner: And, on the other, how weak and trifling and unconnected it is, if it be supposed to be meant by the apostle to show the obligation and duty of obedience to tyrannical, oppressive rulers in common with others of a different character.

Mayhew distinguishes between the moral duty of the Christian to submit to lawful authority and the citizen's duty toward "lawless, unreasonable" tyranny:

Those who resist a reasonable and just authority, which is agreeable to the will of God, do really resist the will of God himself; and will, therefore, be punished by him. But how does this prove, that those who resist a lawless, unreasonable power, which is contrary to the will of God, do therein resist the will and ordinance of God?

Consequently, Mayhew argues:

Thus, upon a careful review of the apostle's reasoning in this passage, it appears that his arguments to enforce submission, are of such a nature, as to conclude only in favor of submission to such rulers as he himself describes; i.e., such as rule for the good of society, which is the only end of their institution. Common tyrants, and public oppressors, are not entitled to obedience from their subjects, by virtue of anything here laid down by the inspired apostle.

This lays the groundwork for action against "tyrants and public oppressors." Mayhew's argument goes on at length but clearly articulates a rationale that became increasingly part of the colonial consciousness: the purpose of government was the common good, and citizens, working with established political authorities at the local and state level, had a moral duty to resist tyranny.

It's a Puritan nation.

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Only Half in Fun: William F. Buckley's NYC Mayoral Campaign, 50 Years Later (Thomas E. Lynch, October 19, 2015, Intercollegiate Review)

The campaign began with a promise of low effort and high art. Buckley, who had warned the Conservative Party that the race would not disrupt his already crowded schedule, had privately committed no more than a day a week to the effort. To the assembled press, he noted that he expected to campaign when he had time.

From the first press conference, it was clear that he would be running on his own terms. The candidate read his statement of principles in a tone Murray Kempton described as that of "an Edwardian resident commissioner reading aloud the 39 articles of the Anglican establishment to a conscript assemblage of Zulus."(8)

Buckley was as committed to enjoying himself as he was to fulfilling his objectives:

Press:  Do you want to be mayor, sir?
Buckley:  I have never considered it. . . .
Press:  How many votes do you expect to get, conservatively speaking?
Buckley:  Conservatively speaking, one.(9)

Within days of launching the campaign, Buckley would make his most lasting contribution to American campaign lore by telling the press that if he were elected, his first action would be to "demand a recount."(10)

Joking aside, Buckley had at his disposal one powerful advantage, namely that he "did not expect to win the election, and so could afford to violate the taboos."(11) From the start, his campaign sought to undermine the basic vocabulary of New York City politics: ethnic-group and other bloc voting.

For most of the twentieth century, the Democratic Party's dominance was rooted in the hundred or so local ethnic clubs--Irish, Italian, Jewish, black, Puerto Rican--that enfranchised recent immigrants and traded votes for municipal jobs and petty graft. By the early 1960s, reform movement Democrats--often from the left wing of the party--had taken over many of the old clubs. But the habits of political affiliation were ingrained in the political culture; ethnic-bloc voting was reality in New York City political life.

Buckley launched a frontal attack on these patterns. Bloc voting of all kinds, he argued, was the enemy of good governance. There was "marginal disutility" involved in appealing to voting blocs; the politician's desire to satisfy the needs of the largest and most powerful blocs ultimately undermines the welfare of the individual members of those blocs. The taxi driver might enjoy the enforced oligopoly that government provides, but political concessions to other blocs result in higher taxes, greater congestion, weaker schools, and hundreds of problems that ultimately outweigh the value of the oligopoly.

The city's problems, Buckley claimed, were rooted in maladministration and the capitulation to special interests. Much of the latter could be resolved if politicians engaged voters as individuals, "depriving the voting blocs of their corporate advantages" and "liberat[ing] individual members of those voting blocs."(12) Buckley committed to this idealistic form of campaigning: "I will not go to Jewish centers and eat blintzes," he declaimed, "nor will I go to Italian centers and pretend to speak Italian."(13)

THROUGH the summer, Buckley's campaign barely qualified as back-page news. The leading local political story was the September Democratic Party primary, in which City Comptroller Abraham Beame emerged the victor. Other stories occupied the city's attention: the drought and the New York World's Fair continued through the summer, and many working-class Catholics were buying televisions so they could witness the pope's first visit to New York (and America) in early October.

Buckley's program was scarcely registering with voters until, on September 17, the campaign caught a huge break: the Newspaper Guild called a general strike. The city newspapers, largely in the thrall of the Lindsay campaign, would not publish for twenty-three days. The mayoralty campaign now would be waged on television: in four televised forums, Buckley's wit, manners, and mercilessly adept debating style transformed him into the central figure in this campaign. "Love him or hate him, TV fans found it difficult to turn off a master political showman," wrote one scribe,(14) while famed campaign chronicler Theodore White deemed Buckley a "star" who would be "Oscar Wilde's favorite candidate for anything."(15)

The effect in the field was even more surprising, especially to those inside the campaign. Television was allowing Buckley's seemingly academic attack on voting blocs to gain traction not among the intellectual or business class but with the ethnic voters themselves. The largely Catholic ethnic vote--increasingly alienated from both the old and the new reformist clubs--was warming to Buckley's conservative message of low taxes, individual accountability, and law and order.

"I can tell you that it surprised me," campaign aide Neal Freeman recalled. "I suppose that I was expecting our supporters to be National Review types--car dealers, academic moles, literate dentists. . . . As soon as we hired halls, though, we learned that [Buckley] was speaking for the people who made the city go--corner-store owners, cops, schoolteachers, first-home owners, firemen, coping parents."(16)

The polls showed Buckley rising to 16 percent of the vote--one poll put him at 20 percent--mostly with support from largely disaffected and strongly Catholic voters. Any sense of the campaign's being a "lark" quickly disappeared, and Buckley, instead of limiting his political activity to a day a week, began to campaign every day.

One of the best aspects of the book is WFB's surprise with--and annoyance at--himself as he begins to take his own candidacy seriously even though he has far too little political experience to campaign effectively.    

The Unmaking of a Mayor : The following is the prologue from William F. Buckley's now-classic memoir of his campaign for mayor of New York City, The Unmaking of a Mayor, just reissued in a fiftieth-anniversary "deluxe edition."  (William F. Buckley, October 21, 2015, Intercollegiate Review)

Q. Why haven't you availed yourself of the two-party system in New York and fought your fight with John Lindsay in the primaries?
A. Because if I had entered the Republican primary and lost to John Lindsay I'd have felt obliged to support him in the election. Party loyalty demands that sort of thing. Since I could not in good conscience have endorsed Mr. Lindsay, I could not in good conscience have accepted the implicit discipline of a Primary contest. To avoid this dilemma, I am running as a Republican but on the Conservative ticket, whose platform is wholly congruent with the Republican National Platform of 1964.

Q. If the Republican Party in New York City is oriented toward Democratic principles, then isn't that because New York Republicans wish it to be so, and don't New York Republicans have the right to shape the character of their own Party?
A. (1) John Lindsay got 135,000 votes in New York in 1964, having repudiated the national candidacy of Barry Goldwater. (2) Barry Goldwater, in 1964, got 800,000 votes in New York City. Granted that Lindsay ran only in a single Congressional District. But grant, also, that he won a lot of Democratic votes. If there are 800,000 people in New York City willing to vote for Barry Goldwater, you have to assume that the Republican Party, understood as a party reflecting an alternative view of government to that of the Democratic Party, isn't dead in New York. The question, then, is whether the Republican Party should have tried, by evangelizing the Republican faith, to double that 800,000 votes, sufficient to win an election, or do as John Lindsay is doing, which is to unsex the Republican Party and flit off with the Democratic majority--which effort would ultimately convince the voters that the Republican Party, as commonly understood, offers no genuine alternative.

Q. Isn't John Lindsay engaged in revitalizing the Republican Party?
A. No, he is engaged in devitalizing the Republican Party. A party thrives on its distinctiveness. John Lindsay's decision, made years ago, to bestow himself upon the nation as a Republican rather than as a Democrat was clearly based on personal convenience rather than on a respect for the two-party system, let alone a respect for the Republican alternative. The two-party system, if it is meaningful, presupposes an adversary relationship between the parties. John Lindsay's voting record, and his general political pronouncements, put him left of the center of the Democratic Party. As such he is an embarrassment to the two-party system.

Q. Does the Conservative Party's position in New York bear on the struggle for power within the Republican National Committee?
A. It appears to me obvious that it does. Mr. Bliss, understandably hungry for any victory by anyone who, off the record, concedes a formal affiliation with the Republican Party, has shown enthusiasm for Mr. Lindsay's campaign. That enthusiasm is not shared by an important wing of the Party, probably the dominant wing of the Party, some of whose spokesmen have directly encouraged me to run for office and thereby uphold nationally authorized Republican principles.

Q. Granted John Lindsay is running for Mayor of New York alongside a Democrat and a Liberal. He has said that the problems of New York require a fusion approach. What do you think of that?
A. It is a relief when John Lindsay rises from banality, if only to arrive at fatuity. 

[originally posted 10/23/15]
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Trump refuses to participate in virtual debate on Oct. 15: 'I'm not going to waste my time' (Christina Wilkie, 10/08/20, CNBC)

The second presidential debate between President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden, slated to take place on Oct. 15, will be held virtually, the bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates said Thursday. 

Minutes after the announcement, however, Trump said he would not participate.

"No I'm not going to waste my time on a virtual debate," he said during an interview on the Fox Business channel.

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Cultural Marxism's Origins: How the Disciples of an Obscure Italian Linguist Subverted America (Sam Jacobs, 10/07/20, Ammo)

It was in prison that Gramsci began formulating the core of his theory, which would later form the core of leftist thought throughout the West. In the Prison Notebooks, he broke from Classical Marxism, formulating a new and largely distinct ideology:

Cultural hegemony is a more important factor in maintaining capitalism than economic or political hegemony.

Cultural and social education of workers must be performed to create a class of worker-intellectuals capable of combating capitalism.

Civil society is distinct from political society. The latter rules through domination and coercion, whereas the former rules through normalization and consent.

A rejection of materialism (the primacy of the material world) in favor of a semi-mystical view of history, as well as a greater degree of cultural relativism.

Further critiques of economic determinism (the notion that economics is the primary driver of human history and civilization) and philosophical materialism (the philosophical claim that the material world is either the only reality or the most important one).

Later theorists, including the famous Frankfurt School, which introduced elements of Freudian psychoanalysis, antipositivism (the notion that human society cannot be studied using the scientific method) and existentialism, a philosophical movement that posits that "being determines consciousness" and sees humanity as necessarily hemmed in by a variety of forces beyond their control.

There has been an attempt to smear the identification of the Frankfurt School and similar currents as Cultural Marxism as an expression of anti-Semitism and (of course) a "conspiracy theory." While there are certainly anti-Semites who talk about Cultural Marxism, they often do so from the perspective of an obsession with the alleged "Jewish" nature of the intellectual tendency. We reject both the characterization of Cultural Marxism as somehow "Jewish" as well as the notion that its existence is a "conspiracy theory."

Indeed, it is Cultural Marxism that is inevitably Anti-Semitic, given that it rejects the Judeo-Christian culture of the West.  And Gramsci was quite right that it is this cultural hegemony--the dignity of the Created individual--that maintains capitalism, democracy and protestantism, the End of History that globalization imposed on the entire world, defeating the Marxism that rejected it rather handily.

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Stephen Colbert Mocks Mike Pence's Debate Hair Fly, Calls It His Only 'Black Friend' (Matt Wilstein, Oct. 08, 2020, Daily Beast)

The dude serves the Lord of them; inevitable he picks up a few strays.

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The furniture resale market is booming (Chavie Lieber, Oct 8, 2020, Vox)

For Jeremy Adams, a software engineer living in the San Francisco Bay Area, the score was a Pottery Barn sectional for $400 on NextDoor.

For Anne Hersh, it was a $800 sideboard buffet she bought on Facebook Marketplace for $30.

And for Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt, it was a $13,000 Roche Bobois sofa set she got for free from a neighbor.

The furniture resale market is having a moment. With people fleeing cities for more space in the face of coronavirus lockdowns, unemployed millennials moving back home with their parents, and boredom-induced redecorating taking the country by storm, tons of people have been selling their furniture, often at rock-bottom rates. For prowlers like Chizhik-Goldschmidt, Adams, Hersh, and many, many others, their neighbor's trash is their latest treasure.

"It is like Black Friday every single day, where I can just type a piece of furniture I'm looking for into Facebook Marketplace and buy it for, like, 80 percent off," Adams gleefully said. He's been redecorating his apartment with used furniture sold by other engineers leaving the Bay Area. "I will probably never buy another new piece of furniture again."

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The first post-VP debate poll says Kamala Harris won (Andrew Prokop,  Oct 8, 2020, Vox)

The poll, conducted by CNN and SSRS, found that 59 percent of debate watchers thought Harris won, and 38 percent thought Vice President Mike Pence won, an impressive margin of victory for Harris.

It wasn't losable. 

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34 people connected to White House, more than previously known, infected by coronavirus: Internal FEMA memo (Josh Margolin andLucien Bruggeman, October 7, 2020, ABC News)

The coronavirus outbreak has infected "34 White House staffers and other contacts" in recent days, according to an internal government memo, an indication that the disease has spread among more people than previously known in the seat of American government.

Posted by orrinj at 7:18 AM


Kamala Harris's Indian uncle 'felt sorry for Pence' (AFP, 10/08/20)

Kamala Harris' uncle back in India watched her vice-presidential debate with pride on Thursday, feeling "a little sorry" for Mike Pence, who he said came up against a better-qualified foe.

"Expectations were too much of Kamala -- 'she'll wipe the floor', etc. But Pence has also been a Congressman knows how to debate. But Pence has an albatross around his neck -- and that's Trump," Balachandran Gopalan, 79, told AFP in New Delhi after the US election debate in Salt Lake City.

"I felt a little sorry for Pence. You can't ask about the judiciary -- she was on the judiciary committee, was attorney general, on Black Lives Matter she's an expert, on the pandemic, he's on weak ground," the academic said.

October 7, 2020

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Trump's antibody treatment was tested using cells originally derived from an abortion (Antonio Regalado, October 7, 2020, MIT Technology Review)

This week, President Donald Trump extolled the cutting-edge coronavirus treatments he received as "miracles coming down from God." If that's true, then God employs cell lines derived from human fetal tissue.

The emergency antibody that Trump received last week was developed with the use of a cell line originally derived from abortion tissue, according to Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, the company that developed the experimental drug.

He'd eat a baby if he thought it would help him.

Posted by orrinj at 4:14 PM


Donald Trump Is Canceling TV Ads In Midwest States That Made Him President (Henry J. Gomez, 10/07/20, BuzzFeed News)

President Donald Trump's reelection campaign is slashing television spending in the Midwest, canceling millions of dollars in advertising in states that carried him to victory in 2016.

He's been off the local airwaves completely in Iowa and Ohio. The campaign also has given up at least $2 million worth of reservations in both Michigan and Wisconsin since early September. And in Minnesota, a state Trump almost won four years ago and has expressed confidence in flipping, his team already has chopped about $5 million from its projected fall TV budget.

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Justice Department acknowledges 'inadvertently' altering Flynn document with sticky note (KYLE CHENEY, 10/07/2020, Politico)

The erroneously dated notes also mark the third time the DOJ and Flynn's legal team misdated the meeting as potentially occurring before Jan. 5. On June 24, the DOJ filed an earlier version of Strzok's notes that included an inaccurate date range as well.

Bill Barr's  Department of Obstruction of Justice.

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Why so many Americans are allergic to peanuts (David Anderson and Rebecca Wilkin, 10/07/20, Business Insider)

 The US has an epidemic on its hands. Peanut allergies. Between 1997 and 2008, the number of American children with a peanut allergy has tripled. And today, an estimated 1.8 million kids in the US have one. That's larger than the entire population of Philadelphia. And the US is not alone. The UK, Canada, and Australia have seen a similar rise in child peanut allergies. But, that's not the case for other countries like China, Thailand, Korea, the Philippines, and Israel.

So, what do these countries have that the US doesn't? In Israel, there is a joke that the first three words out of every toddler's mouth are: abba, which means dad, ima, which means mom, and Bamba. Bamba is a popular peanuty snack. An estimated 90% of Israeli families buy it on a regular basis. And guess what? The peanut allergy rate in Israel is 1/10 the rate that it is in the UK. And in China and Thailand, many children eat peanut rice porridge for breakfast. And wouldn't you know it? Peanut allergies are relatively low there too.

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Lindsey Graham's 17-Year Run as SC Senator Now a Toss Up With Democrat Jaime Harrison (MATTHEW IMPELLI, 10/7/20, Newsweek)

The South Carolina Senate election is now a toss-up between 17-year Senator Lindsey Graham and Democratic candidate Jaime Harrison, according to the Cook Political Report.

The Cook Political Report rates election races in each state and analyzes the vulnerability of Senate races. According to the report, the South Carolina Senate election is now a toss-up, meaning that either party has a good chance of winning the election.

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'It is a slaughter': Infectious disease icon asks CDC director to expose White House, orchestrate his own firing (Brett Murphy & Letitia Stein, 10/07/20, USA TODAY)

Dr. William Foege, a renowned epidemiologist who served under Democratic and Republican presidents, detailed in a private letter he sent last month to CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield his alarm over how the agency has fallen in stature while the pandemic raged across America.

Foege, who has not previously been a vocal critic of the agency's handling of the novel coronavirus, called on Redfield to openly address the White House's meddling in the agency's efforts to manage the COVID-19 crisis and then accept the political sacrifice that would follow. He recommended that Redfield commit to writing the administration's failures -- and his own -- so there was a record that could not be dismissed.

"You could upfront, acknowledge the tragedy of responding poorly, apologize for what has happened and your role in acquiescing," Foege wrote to Redfield. He added that simply resigning without coming clean would be insufficient. "Don't shy away from the fact this has been an unacceptable toll on our country. It is a slaughter and not just a political dispute."

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Jeff Sessions Reportedly Told U.S. Attorneys 'We Need to Take Away Children' (Matt Stieb, 10/06/20, New York)

On Tuesday, the New York Times published details from a draft of a Department of Justice inspector general report into the administration's family separation policy. Naturally, the minds behind a plan to cleave children from their parents while in custody weren't concerned with the humanity of their idea. In a May 2018 meeting with five U.S. attorneys along the border, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions said, "We need to take away children," according to the notes of those in the room. In shorthand, one participant captured the deterrence policy quite succinctly: "If care about kids, don't bring them in. Won't give amnesty to people with kids."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump support craters after contracting coronavirus, new FPU/Herald poll reveals (JOE BATTENFELD, October 6, 2020, Boston Herald)

In two days of polling before Trump got COVID, the president trailed Biden by just a 46%-41% margin. In the three days of polling after the coronavirus diagnosis, Biden held a 55%-34% lead. That means Biden's lead grew by a whopping 16 points from pre-COVID to post-COVID.

Among all the 1,003 registered, likely voters in the nationwide Franklin Pierce-Herald poll, Biden now holds a 51%-37% lead over Trump less than a month before Election Day. Three percent support a third party candidate while 8% say they are still undecided.

Wait'll the sympathy wears off so we can test the floor.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump's tweeting has been unusually erratic, and even some aides question if it's the COVID drugs (Peter Weber, 10/06/20, The Week)

Speculation also swirled inside the eerily empty White House, where some staff members wondered whether "Trump's behavior was spurred by a cocktail of drugs he has been taking to treat the coronavirus, including dexamethasone, a steroid that can cause mood swings and can give a false level of energy and a sense of euphoria," The New York Times reports.

The revelation Sunday that Trump was being treated with dexamethasone immediately raised red flags among medial experts, in part because it suggested Trump's condition was worse than the nebulously upbeat assessments from White House physician Sean Conley, but also because of the "concerning side effects, ranging from blood clots, blurred vision, and headaches to 'psychic derangements,' such as insomnia, mood swings, and 'frank psychotic manifestations,'" The Washington Post notes, citing the drug label.

Dexamethasone's side effects also include "grandiose delusions," New York notes, but pulmonologist Dr. Bryan McVerry, who co-authored a recent study on steroid treatments for COVID-19 patients, said "increased energy" is more typical. Asked if Trump's "erratic" tweeting could be a side effect, McVerry told New York it's not clear if Trump is still on dexamethasone, but "getting doses of steroids can certainly sort of activate you and energize you, so to the extent that he's feeling better and activated and energized as a result of that, I suppose it's possible."

Whatever the cause, the Post reports, "several former administration officials said they were appalled at the president's conduct over the past few days," one of them describing Trump's decision to leave the hospital for a drive-by of supporters "so monstrously wrong," probably "the most appalling thing I've seen a president do for a political stunt," and "genuinely unhinged." 

October 6, 2020

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Orthodox say Cuomo 'blindsided' them as he shuts community down during High Holidays (Ari Feldman, October 6, 2020, The Forward)

"In Jewish teaching, one of the most precious principles is saving a life," Cuomo said at the press conference, at which he discussed Jewish communities more than any other group. He was explicitly evoking the Jewish ethic of pikuach nefesh, which requires breaking religious rules to preserve life. Cuomo said that he was imposing the harsh rules "out of respect, and it's out of love, and it's because I want to protect them."

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Grand jury indicts St. Louis couple who pointed guns at protesters (CELINE CASTRONUOVO, 10/06/20, The Hill)
A grand jury in St. Louis on Tuesday indicted Mark and Patricia McCloskey on counts of exhibiting a weapon and tampering with evidence four months after footage circulated showing the couple pointing guns at Black Lives Matter protesters outside their home.

Posted by orrinj at 6:34 PM


The Met's Stream of Wagner's 'Ring' Offers a Chance to Consider the Meaning of Life (James Jorden • 10/06/20, NY Observer)

The company is streaming videos of its legendary 1990 presentation of Richard Wagner's stupendous tetralogy Der Ring des Nibelungen free on the Met Opera website as part of a week-long festival of the composer's works. The four related but self-contained operas arrive Wednesday October 7 through Saturday October 10, with each installment available for a 24-hour window.

The work could be described in an oversimplified way as "Lord of the Ring for adults," a drama of intrigue in which mortals and supernatural beings grapple over ownership of a magical band of gold that confers mastery over the world. What sets the Wagner apart is its intricately thoughtful analysis of how ambition for power is always ultimately destructive.

Though the Ring does offer moments of breathtaking visual spectacle--the procession of the gods over a rainbow bridge to their fortress Valhalla is beautifully realized by director Otto Schenk--the emphasis is less on what happens in real time and more on the psychological and moral meaning of those events.

By far the best thing about this version of the Ring is the participation of the late dramatic soprano Hildegard Behrens in the central role of Brünnhilde, the disgraced Valkyrie who learns compassion. Yes, her singing is sometimes less than luxurious, but especially in video closeup the entire drama seems reflected on her face.

In a long scene in the second act of Die Walküre, the god Wotan confesses his complicity in the theft of the magic ring. Bass James Morris sings this scene with vocal beauty and sound musicality, but the focus is (as it should be) on Behrens' listening Brünnhilde as she slowly comprehends and ponders the complex morality of Wotan's actions.

As in another, more recent time-intensive tetralogy, the Avengers film series, the action of the Ring includes the death of a hero, self-sacrifice, the end of one universe and the beginning of another. All this should happen sometime not too long before midnight on Saturday, when the combination of Behrens' electric performance, the Met's spectacular special effects, and, above all, Wagner's transcendent music bring the 15 hours of the Ring to its redemptive close.

Posted by orrinj at 6:31 PM


Why Trump lost his battle against the trade deficit (DOUG PALMER, 10/06/2020, Politico)

As President Donald Trump enters the final month of his reelection campaign, it's increasingly clear that he has failed at one of the signature goals of his presidency: reducing the U.S. trade deficit.

And critics of his trade policy argue Trump's "magical thinking" created little chance for success.

New figures out Tuesday show the U.S. trade gap is on track to exceed $600 billion this year. That would be the highest since 2008, just before the global financial crisis. 

The greatest trick the devil ever played was to convince people he'd been president. 

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Delaware County prosecutors are bringing a proven, data-driven gun violence prevention program to Chester (Vinny Vella, October 5, 2020, Philadelphia Inquirer)

Modeled after the focused deterrence program used in such major cities as Philadelphia, Boston, and Indianapolis, CPSN will target the small percentage of Chester's population that commits the majority of its violent crime. Through regular call-in meetings, prosecutors from Stollsteimer's office will meet with young people in the city deemed to be at risk of being affected by gun violence and tell them the penalties for carrying guns will be steep -- and shared..

If one member of a neighborhood crew is carrying a gun, for instance, police will be vigilant toward the people they're known to associate with, assuming that they, too, are armed. The week after a shooting, the county sheriff's office might prioritize serving warrants, even low-level ones, in the city, or stiffen probation reporting requirements for associates of the alleged shooter.

But the program will also extend another option. If a teen surrounded by criminal activity wants help getting stable housing or food for his family, that can be arranged through the county's Department of Human Services at the call-in meetings. The department can also open the door to longer-term aid, like GED classes, trauma therapy, or jobs.

Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer, seen here in June, said the Chester Partnership for Safe Neighborhoods will seek out the most "at-risk" individuals in Chester, and offer them services from the county's DHS.
"We hope that that young person, because we're doing such great work clearing cases, might stop and think: 'Well, wait a minute, I'm going to get arrested. I'm actually going to go to jail. Maybe I should stop,'" Stollsteimer said. "And if we can stop them because we're giving them a better alternative, or we can stop them because we're going to arrest his ass. It doesn't matter to me.

"But at the end of the day," he said, "we got to get them to stop shooting each other."

Posted by orrinj at 2:20 PM


Biden takes 16-point lead over Trump in new poll as president tweets he's 'feeling great' (Robert Schroeder, 10/06/20, Market Watch)

Biden's lead in the CNN poll was 57% to 41%, in a survey taken after the first presidential debate and mostly after Trump's COVID-19 infection was made public. Taken together with other polls, including an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll showing a 14-percentage-point Biden lead after the debate but before Trump's diagnosis was known, Biden's lead is a smaller -- though still significant -- 9.2 percentage points in the latest RealClearPolitics average. In an average of top battleground states, Biden's lead is just over 4 points.

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What Biden Told Me on the Train After Trump's First UN Speech: In the Biden-Harris vision, my multi-ethnic family is the fulfillment of America's promise to the world. (CHANDRIMA DAS, PRESIDENT, INTERNATIONAL CAREER ADVANCEMENT PROGRAMS FELLOWS ASSOCIATION, OCTOBER 6, 2020, Defense One)

On the train back in 2017, I told Biden that my sister and I owe our accomplishments to our parents for keeping us focused on education and taking us back to India to remember our roots. Biden told me that during one trip to India, he learned that one of his relatives had been a trader and settled in India. There are now five Biden families in Bombay. Biden then said to me with a wink, "You and I might be related." I replied, "It would be an honor," to which he said, "You are too kind."

I wish I had been surprised by Trump's comments earlier that day, but he already had been undermining U.S. leadership at the United Nations from the outset of his presidency. In his first budget request, he proposed cutting funding for the UN by 44 percent, stating that the UN was "working against U.S. foreign policy interest." In June 2017, he announced the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, a global action plan to fight climate change. He withdrew from UNESCO in October 2017, a UN organization that preserves historical and cultural sites. Later that year, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said she was "taking names" of UN member states critical of the U.S. embassy's move to Jerusalem. After a year of warnings, in June 2018, Trump withdrew the United States from the UN Human Rights Council, a move that has weakened our diplomatic clout and ability to counter increasing violence and human rights abuses around the world. Perhaps most egregiously, in May he cut U.S. funding for the World Health Organization in the middle of the COVID-19 global pandemic. As of this week, the virus has killed 210,000 Americans. From day one, Trump's words and actions were meant to pull the United States back from its historic leadership role at the UN, one that dates to the institution's founding 75 years ago. For four years, Trump has carried out a decades-old dream of far-right conservatives who have feared the institution and wanted to abandon it altogether.

It is clear that in order to reclaim America's standing in the world we must start at home, especially during these grim days living through a pandemic and witnessing police violence and injustice against black and brown people. I am hopeful that Biden will restore the Voting Rights Act and work with federal, state, and local officials to address systemic racism in our justice system. I believe a Biden-Harris administration will pursue policies to promote racial and social justice, so that my 10-month old son, Kiran, is judged by the content of his character and not the color of his skin. I welcome a president who strongly and unequivocally condemns white supremacy, and does not harness it for his own political gain.

That day on the train, I got a glimpse that a President Biden would be a leader who could unify America and reclaim the U.S.'s leadership role in the world, where once again we could be seen as an ally, not an adversary.

As the train brought us home from Trump's disconcerting speech that evening, I felt that Biden restored my faith in humanity, reassured me that our institutions are strong, and reminded me that 'We The People' are resilient. Vice President Biden and Senator Harris' vision for America is one in which my family is not the other but is the fulfillment of America's promise.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


George Bush always refused to leave D.C. until the day after Christmas; here's why (Yellowhammer)

Curl said they went with the President to Texas every summer -- "often for a month" -- and in the winter, too. But even though it is the President's prerogative to go and come whenever he pleases, Curl said President Bush gave the "hundreds and hundreds of people" accompanying him everywhere a very special gift each Christmas he was in office.

"In December, we never left Washington, D.C., until the day after Christmas. Never," he recalled. "Mr. Bush and his wife, Laura, would always depart the White House a few days before the holiday and hunker down at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland. After a few years, I asked a low-level White House staffer why.

"I still remember what she said: 'So all of us can be with our families on Christmas.'"

"For me, that one-day delay was huge," Curl continued. "My kids were 6 and 8 years old when Mr. Bush took office. When he went home to Prairie Chapel that last time in 2009, my girl was driving, the boy was 6 foot 1. But in the meantime, I was home for eight Christmas mornings, playing Santa, stoking the fire, mixing up hot chocolates."

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Biden bets big on Texas as Trump drags down Republicans in the Lone Star State: report (Sarah Toce, 10/05/20, Raw Story)

Democrats may have written off the state of Texas to Republicans during an election year for decades, but the tone is changing with a new ad buy reverberating through the southern part of the U.S. Democratic candidate Joe Biden is investing $5.8 million in the Lone Star State this election cycle. The advertising blitz is scheduled to run the duration of the next 29 days until Election Day 2020.

While Biden has yet to pay a visit during his presidential campaign, his investment is "a hell of a lot more than anybody else ever spent, that's for sure," said Texas Democratic Party chairman Gilberto Hinojosa. "This is a very good sign."

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Eric Trump deposed in New York probe into family business (Fadel Allassan, 10/05/20, Axios)

President Trump's son Eric Trump was questioned under oath Monday as part of New York's investigation into the Trump Organization's financial dealings, Bloomberg first reported and Axios can confirm.

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2020 U.S. Election Tracker: Biden Leads by 9 Points Nationally; Democrats Up 6 on the Generic Ballot (Morning Consult, OCT 5, 2020)

In the latest round of polling, Morning Consult finds former Vice President Joe Biden leading President Donald Trump by 9 percentage points -- his largest margin since late August -- while Democrats maintain a 6-point lead over Republicans on the generic congressional ballot.

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Being woke is no joke (Kit Wilson, 10/05/20, CapX)

[A]s pretty much every psychological theory of humour attests, jokes deliberately smudge the line between expectation and reality. The snappily titled "ontic-epistemic theory" of humour, for instance, asserts that laughter is a reaction to a "cognitive impasse" -- the momentary realisation of two completely contradictory things coming together. But for those who genuinely believe we can bring about utopia here on earth, this reminder that the world is messy, not clean-cut and pure, is not the cause of hilarity, but horror.

All play is treated, therefore, with suspicion. Indeed, the trend on the left in recent years has been to boil all human interactions down to their most functional form -- simmering off mysterious and volatile things like intentions and body language, and leaving at the bottom only words: good words, and bad words.

The goal seems to be, since "language is power", to make our speech -- and by extension, our lives -- easier to control by reducing words to little more than 1s and 0s.

But the result is -- funnily enough -- utterly robotic. Think of the way Robin DiAngelo describes trying to patch up a relationship with a black colleague in White Fragility: "Would you be willing to grant me the opportunity to repair the racism I perpetrated toward you in that meeting?". Or the now infamous case of the social justice activist Melissa Fabello tweeting that, among friends, "asking for consent for emotional labour... should be common practice". Fabello subsequently provided a template for how to respond to a friend should "emotional labour" not be possible: "Hey! I'm so glad you reached out. I'm actually at capacity / helping someone else who's in crisis / dealing with some personal stuff right now, and I don't think I can hold appropriate space for you. Could we connect [later date or time] instead / Do you have someone else you could reach out to?"

Most of us recoil at this empathy-by-algorithm. Humans are not automatons, and we do not simply process each other's sentences like spools of binary code -- play, ambiguity and laughter are essential aspects of life. Indeed, one of the strangest things about today's activists is how blind they are to this (to everyone apart from them) obvious fact. If they logged off for a moment and looked around, they'd realise that cultures around the world rely on humour -- often quite uncomfortable humour -- not only to soften the hardships of life, but also to bridge gaps with others.

The DiAngelo book is as funny as anything you're likely to read, not just for stuff like that but because it's a White Savior text.  Particularly delicious is her pushing Latinx on folks who don't want to be identified that way.  But, after all, she knows what's good for them...

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'I just want to kill Jews': New report links Trump and NRA to rise of militias behind violent threats ( Igor Derysh, 10/06/20, Salon)

The report links the National Rifle Association's (NRA) "potentially radicalizing messaging" to the "gun rights fanaticsm" driving the modern militia movement, which was further emboldened by Trump's "conspiratorial rhetoric." The trend was on full display at the first presidential debate when Trump, who said there were "fine people" on both sides of the deadly white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Va., urged the violent extremist group the Proud Boys to "stand back, and stand by" when he was asked to condemn white supremacy. Trump denounced white supremacy days later, but not before his message was celebrated by the far-right and emblazoned onto the Proud Boys' logo.

"The fact of the matter is the commander-in-chief of the United States, who is supposed to be doing everything in his power to protect the American people, just made them less safe from the debate stage," Nick Suplina, the managing director for law and policy at Everytown, said in an exclusive interview with Salon.

"The rise of extreme right violence is thanks in no small part to the fear mongering and enabling by the NRA, and more recently to Trump in encouraging these groups . . . including his statement to 'stand back, and stand by,'" Suplina continued.

NRA leader Wayne LaPierre under investigation for tax fraud (Mark Maremont Aruna Viswanatha, 10/05/20, Market Watch)

The Internal Revenue Service is investigating longtime National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre for possible criminal tax fraud related to his personal taxes, according to people familiar with the matter.

LaPierre was paid $2.2 million by the NRA in 2018, the most recent year available, the nonprofit group's public filings show. His total reported pay from 2014 to 2018 was $11.2 million.

In August, he was charged in a civil suit by New York Attorney General Letitia James with taking millions of dollars of allegedly undisclosed compensation from the NRA and its vendors, in the form of free yacht trips, private jet flights for his family, exotic safaris and other benefits.

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How do Sweden's rape statistics compare to Europe? (The Local, 6 October 2020)

Holmberg said there were three key differences in how rapes are reported and recorded which could make it tough to compare countries.

Firstly, there is the question of how to define rape. Sweden recently followed the lead of several other countries in defining all non-consensual sex as rape, and its definition of rape covers acts of sexual violence which are categorised as 'assault' or other crimes elsewhere. According to Brå, around 40 percent of reported rapes in Sweden in 2016 did not involve violence, something which was a requirement for a classification of rape in Spain, for example, up until 2020.

Sweden also counts every incidence of assault or rape as a separate incident, whereas in other countries repeated rape within a relationship are counted as one incident. In the city of Malmö, for example, more than a third of all reported rapes in 2019 could be traced back to one single court case of a man accused of raping another person more than 140 times.

And Sweden's reported rape statistics include every incident where the victim claims to have been raped, unlike countries which only register reported rapes once an investigation is concluded and determines that a rape took place.

Brå's researchers tested the extent to which these factors might skew the reporting rate by recalculating Sweden's rape statistics using the legal and statistical definitions in Germany.

Eurostat figures show that Sweden had 64 reported rapes per 100,000 residents in 2016, compared to 10 in Germany. When Sweden's figures were recalculated using the German definitions, the new figure was 15 reported rapes per 100,000 residents. 

That's still 50 percent more than in Germany, but it would place Sweden around the middle in terms of reported rape in Europe if the same standards were used as in Germany (although without recalculating other countries' statistics using the German definitions).

"Those things are clear mathematics. "

October 5, 2020

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The Proud Boys Are Furious That Gay Men Have Taken Over #ProudBoys On Twitter (Abram Brown, 10/05/20, Forbes)

The demonstration that Takei and the others took part in is a response to the spotlight recently put on the Proud Boys after President Trump mentioned them in last week's presidential debate. The Proud Boys--an organization labeled as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center--describe themselves as a "western chauvinist" organization and have publicly broadcast white supremacist messaging since their founding in 2016.

The Proud Boys have no official presence on Twitter since the social media site banned them in 2018, so they have spent the last few days in gleeful celebration over their newfound, Trump-fueled fame on Parler, a two-year-old social media app popular among conservatives. And it's their absence on Twitter--the result of toxic and abusive language--that allowed the gay activists to seize control of #proudboys on Sunday. 

The Proud Boys took none too kindly to this, filling up Parler with the type of hateful messages that got them kicked off Twitter in the first place. Much of the action was carried out by the Proud Boys' official account on the app, which has 60,000 followers. Enrique Tarrio, the Proud Boys' chairman, said in a separate Parler post that the left was attempting to turn the group's name into "a slur" and that the gay pride campaign with #proudboys was an attempt "to drown out the voices of our supporters."

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The five-lined skink is the only lizard native to New England. (BRETT AMY THELEN, 10/5/2020, Valley News)

New England is home to dozens of species of mammals, hundreds of varieties of birds, and tens of thousands of different insects, but only one lizard: the five-lined skink. Though I am fond of reptiles and often seek them out, I have never seen a skink. Unless you're lucky, determined, or a rock climber -- or some combination of the three -- I'm betting you haven't either, at least not in our neck of the woods.

These shiny-scaled, fleet-footed lizards measure from 5 to 8½ inches long and are most active in New England from April through early October. Juveniles and adult females are recognizable by the five cream-colored stripes running the length of their bodies. Young skinks also have electric blue tails, which fade to gray as they age. Older males retain only the faintest trace of their eponymous stripes, morphing instead into a uniform olive-brown, though they do sport reddish chins during the spring courtship season (ooh la la).

Five-lined skinks dine primarily on insects, including crickets, grasshoppers, and beetles. To the delight of one Vermont kayaker -- who witnessed a skink leaping from lily pad to lily pad before launching itself directly into their boat, no doubt in hot pursuit of a meal -- they also eat mayflies, dragonflies, and other arthropods fond of freshwater.

While skinks are widespread throughout the Southeast, where they can be found in almost any woodland, in the Northeast they're limited to rocky summits, talus slopes and exposed ledges, typically near large bodies of water. They don't exist at all in New Hampshire, Maine or Massachusetts, and the entire known population of Vermont skinks occurs at just a handful of sites in two towns, almost all within one mile of Lake Champlain.

Posted by orrinj at 5:02 PM


Trump's touting of 'racehorse theory' tied to eugenics and Nazis alarms Jewish leaders (SEEMA MEHTA, OCT. 5, 2020, LA Times)

President Trump has alarmed Jewish leaders and others with remarks that appeared to endorse "racehorse theory" -- the idea that selective breeding can improve a country's performance, which American eugenicists and German Nazis used in the last century to buttress their goals of racial purity.

"You have good genes, you know that, right?" Trump told a mostly white crowd of supporters in Bemidji, Minn., on Sept. 18. "You have good genes. A lot of it is about the genes, isn't it? Don't you believe? The racehorse theory. You think we're so different? You have good genes in Minnesota."

Rabbi Mark Diamond, a senior lecturer on Jewish studies at Loyola Marymount University, was stunned.

"To hear these remarks said at a rally in an election campaign for the presidency is beyond reprehensible," said Diamond, the former executive vice president of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California.

"This is at the heart of Nazi ideology... This has brought so much tragedy and destruction to the Jewish people and to others. It's actually hard to believe in 2020 we have to revisit these very dangerous theories."

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Humans Are All More Closely Related Than We Commonly Think (Scott Hershberger, October 5, 2020, Scientific American)

The family tree of humanity is much more interconnected than we tend to think. "We're culturally bound and psychologically conditioned to not think about ancestry in very broad terms," Rutherford says. Genealogists can only focus on one branch of a family tree at a time, making it easy to forget how many forebears each of us has.

Imagine counting all your ancestors as you trace your family tree back in time. In the nth generation before the present, your family tree has 2n slots: two for parents, four for grandparents, eight for great-grandparents, and so on. The number of slots grows exponentially. By the 33rd generation--about 800 to 1000 years ago--you have more than eight billion of them. That is more than the number of people alive today, and it is certainly a much larger figure than the world population a millennium ago.

This seeming paradox has a simple resolution: "Branches of your family tree don't consistently diverge," Rutherford says. Instead "they begin to loop back into each other." As a result, many of your ancestors occupy multiple slots in your family tree. For example, "your great-great-great-great-great-grandmother might have also been your great-great-great-great-aunt," he explains.

The consequence of humanity being "incredibly inbred" is that we are all related much more closely than our intuition suggests, Rutherford says. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


How Mark Meadows Became the White House's Unreliable Source (Tim Alberta, 10/04/20,  Politico Magazine)

In January of 2013, after an unsuccessful attempt by Tea Party conservatives to overthrow House Speaker John Boehner, a rookie congressman from North Carolina slinked into the Speaker's office complex inside the U.S. Capitol. Mark Meadows had not voted against Boehner on the House floor. But he had participated in the plotting--and word had since leaked out naming him as one of the conspirators. Frightened that he would be exiled to the hinterlands of the House, the freshman sought an audience with the speaker.

"He's on the couch, sitting across from me in my chair, and suddenly he slides off the couch, down onto his knees, and puts his hands together in front of his chest," Boehner recalled to me. "He says, 'Mr. Speaker, will you please forgive me?'" (This incident was witnessed by several people, including Boehner's chief of staff, Mike Sommers, who described it as "the strangest behavior I had ever seen in Congress.")

The Speaker took pity. He figured Meadows was just a "nervous new member who wanted to be liked" and told him there was no harm done. The two men carried on fine over the next couple of years--until Meadows surprised his colleagues by voting against Boehner's reelection in 2015. "And then he sends me the most gracious note you'll ever read, saying what an admirable job I've done as Speaker," Boehner recalled. "I just figured he's a schizophrenic."

That's one diagnosis of Meadows--and trust me, there are plenty to go around in Washington. Friends would describe him as a respectable player--calculating and slippery but decent to a fault. Enemies would liken him to a political sociopath, someone whose charm and affability conceal an unemotional capacity for deception. What both groups would agree upon is that Meadows, the 61-year-old White House chief of staff, is so consumed with his cloak-and-dagger, three-dimensional-chess approach to Washington that he can't always be trusted.

Which makes him precisely the wrong person to be at the center of an international crisis.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Trump COVID-19 diagnosis reveals yet another way he has corrupted our national life (Chris Truax, 10/05/20, USA Today)

What's left of Trump's campaign is now in tatters with the next debate likely to be canceled, the president unable to campaign, and his campaign itself decapitated. Depending on how many Republican senators get sick and how badly, Barrett's Supreme Court nomination may even end up on hold. This accelerated karma is about as close as you can come to irrefutable proof that God exists and that he has an excellent, if slightly dark, sense of humor.

It is also correct for us to take note of the facts that brought us here. Acknowledging those facts and learning from them is the way we give meaning to tragedy. Feeling sympathy for someone who is suffering doesn't preclude us from recognizing that they brought it on themselves. This fiasco wasn't "bad luck." It was bad judgment, even foolishness, on a grand scale.

Images of the Rose Garden super-spreader event reveal no masks and no social distancing. But that has been par for the course with Donald Trump. Trump has repeatedly mocked mask-wearing, even taunting Joe Biden about it at Tuesday's debate and claiming that there had never been any adverse consequences from his flaunting the coronavirus rules laid down by his own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At the debate itself, the first family refused to wear masks even though they were required to do so. To her undying shame, Melania Trump was very likely infectious at that point. "National embarrassment" doesn't begin to cover it.

On top of that, we've avoided a constitutional crisis by an accident in the seating arrangement. Pictures from the Rose Garden event show Vice-President Pence sitting directly across the central aisle from Melania Trump with KellyAnne Conway immediately behind her. Had Pence been seated in a slightly different place, he might now be infected. There is no formal mechanism for replacing an incapacitated vice-president. If both Trump and Pence become severely ill, literally no-one will be in charge.

And yet, the president and his advisers have learned absolutely nothing. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Why walking will be an important freedom this winterIt's a good time to embrace the most accessible form of exercise. )JONN ELLEDGE, 10/05/20, New Statesman)

Just as I can't really explain why I started, neither can I explain why I continue. There are things I've seen on my walks that count as interesting curios or which have aided my understanding of the city. (Three, off the top of my head: the Downham Estate is essentially the Becontree Estate, plus hills; one of the poshest areas of the capital has, for some reason, a statue of St Volodymyr commemorating the millennial anniversary of the Christianisation of Kievan Rus; and Croydon is a hell of a lot bigger than you think it is.) But these aren't the point of the exercise, any more than finding that line in the road was.

Partly, of course, it's that the internet has ruined my attention span, and so I often find the best way of getting through a long or difficult book is to have someone, preferably Anton Lesser, read it to me. Partly, too, it's about exercise: as a former fat child who disliked sports even before he didn't get picked for them, any form of activity that leaves me pleasantly knackered without forcing me to interact with other human beings is welcome.

(A sidenote: even in the age of Fitbits and 10,000 steps, you might think the idea that a walk can count as exercise sounds silly, because we all walk every day. To which I respond: you haven't walked far enough. Get above 15 miles, say, and the next day you might find you ache all over, even those parts of the body that seemingly have nothing to do with walking. Do it in the wrong shoes, and you might even damage yourself in such a way that walking as far as the coffee machine is enough to make you nauseous. I do not recommend this part. Wear the right shoes.)

But the reason I walk, I suspect, has nothing to do with exercise or audiobooks or the city around me. Rather, it's to do with my brain. There's a quote from Toni Morrison's Beloved that has always stayed with me: "The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order." The character who speaks these words is talking about a lover; but a long walk can have much the same effect, focusing your mind on one activity while your subconscious quietly sorts through all the things that are bothering you, throwing up solutions without the need to consciously search for them. Walking is exercise; walking is also therapy.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Rural Pennsylvania voters don't hate Biden as much as they hated Clinton -- and Trump may need them to (Andrew Seidman, Updated: October 4, 2020, Philadelphia Inquirer)

Polls and interviews with about 20 voters in Cambria County last month show Trump retains deep support in a region that was anchored for much of the 20th century by steel and coal industries but has struggled to find a postindustrial identity. The president's supporters praise his forceful opposition to illegal immigration, his confrontation with China on trade, and his emphasis on "law and order." They call him a fighter and express dismay about a future without him in the White House.

"Trump has to win," said Joseph Juretic, 69, a retired union electrical worker who lives in Johnstown. "Trump is holding the line as far as trade, the economy, the pandemic, all the riots."

"If Biden gets in," he added, "it's all gonna fall apart."

But Biden doesn't generate the kind of intense, visceral opposition many voters held -- and still hold -- for Clinton.

Two polls of Pennsylvania voters last week showed Biden with almost a double-digit lead in the state, fueled partly by his strength in the suburbs. Trump is holding strong in central Pennsylvania. But he has lost some support among rural voters overall in the state, according to a New York Times poll. And both the Times survey and a Washington Post poll found that Trump's advantage with white voters who didn't go to college -- especially women -- has slipped.

Trump's announcement Friday that he had tested positive for the coronavirus added new uncertainty to the race, and at a minimum was likely to keep the pandemic at the forefront of a campaign in which he's tried to focus on just about anything else.

Analysts and strategists in both parties see Pennsylvania as the state most likely to decide the election. If Trump is to mount a comeback in the final 30 days of the race, he'll likely need an even bigger landslide in the broad swath of Pennsylvania between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh known in political parlance as "The T."

Cambria County was already trending more Republican by 2016, but Trump accelerated the shift. Mitt Romney won 58% of the vote in 2012, and Trump's share jumped to 67%. The population has been declining for decades, and the county is whiter, less affluent, and has a greater share of residents who didn't go to college than Pennsylvania as a whole.

Losing by only three million votes also required that Hillary be the other option.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


VIDEO: 1 in 5 vegetative patients is conscious. This neuroscientist finds them. (Adrian Owen, 10/05/20,  Big Think)

Dr. Adrian Owen is a Professor at The Brain and Mind Institute, Western University, Canada and the former Canada Excellence Research Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience and Imaging. His research combines neuroimaging (MRI and EEG), with cognitive studies in brain-injured patients and healthy participants. He has spent the last twenty years pioneering breakthroughs in cognitive neuroscience. Find out more at OwenLab.uwo.ca.

What if vegetative patients are conscious? Neuroscientist Adrian Owen, author of Into The Gray Zone and a professor at Western University in Canada, is using fMRI technology to try to reach the people who may still be aware of their surroundings.
Consciousness has traditionally been assessed by asking patients to respond to verbal commands. Through brain imaging, Dr Owen and his team were able to prove that these tests are inadequate, and it's estimated that 20 percent of vegetative patients are conscious but are physically incapable of communicating it.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Biden to end US support for Yemen war (MEMO, October 5, 2020)

Democratic presidential candidate, Joe Biden, has pledged to end his country's support for Saudi Arabia's war in Yemen if he becomes president.

"Under Biden-Harris Administration, we will reassess our relationship with the [Saudi Arabia] Kingdom, end US support for Saudi Arabia's war in Yemen, and make sure America does not check its values at the door to sell arms or buy oil," Biden said in a statement on his campaign website.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump's last rally: A catalog of worst pandemic practices (DAVID SIDERS, 10/04/2020, Politico)

The rally was a story of worst practices in a pandemic, with Duluth as the collateral damage. Before Trump's hospitalization and wall-to-wall coverage of his evolving condition, it was in Duluth that the recklessness of his campaign fell plainly into view -- from his scoffing at mask-wearing to his insistence on assembling large crowds.

By the weekend, local public health officials were warning rally attendees about their risk of exposure, and prominent Republicans in the state were in quarantine. Emily Larson, the city's Democratic mayor, asked anyone who attended the rally to "please get tested, self isolate."

"Contact tracing President Trump in Minnesota: Who hung out with him for how long?" blared a headline in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The Duluth News Tribune's above-the-fold front page read simply, "[Rep. Pete] Stauber traveled with Trump." No further context was necessary.

Photographs of the Duluth rally appeared on social media with red circles drawn around people standing closest to the lectern -- and to Trump. Stauber and two other Republican congressmen who traveled with Trump on Air Force One were pilloried for returning to the state on a Delta Airlines flight on Friday night -- apparently flouting airline rules.

The House members' "stupidity and disregard for the well-being of their fellow passengers is staggering," Ken Martin, chairman of Minnesota's Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, said in a prepared statement.

Gary Anderson, the Democratic president of the Duluth City Council, said Sunday that Trump "took risks with the health of our community, clearly, and I think that's how our community is worse off in the most direct way."

October 4, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 5:38 PM


Trump Didn't Disclose First Positive Covid-19 Test While Awaiting a Second Test on Thursday (Michael C. Bender and Rebecca Ballhaus, Oct. 4, 2020, WSJ)

Mr. Trump received a positive result on Thursday evening before making an appearance on Fox News in which he didn't reveal those results. Instead, he confirmed earlier reports that one of his top aides had tested positive for coronavirus and mentioned the second test he had taken that night for which he was awaiting results.

"I'll get my test back either tonight or tomorrow morning," Mr. Trump said during the interview. CBS News first reported that by that point, Mr. Trump had received a positive result on a rapid test. At 1 a.m. on Friday, the president tweeted that he indeed had tested positive. [...]

As the virus spread among the people closest to him, Mr. Trump also asked one adviser not to disclose results of their own positive test. "Don't tell anyone," Mr. Trump said, according to a person familiar with the conversation.

Mr. Trump and his top advisers also aimed to keep such a close hold on the early positive results that his campaign manager, Bill Stepien, didn't know that Hope Hicks, one of the president's closest White House aides, had tested positive on Thursday morning until news reports later that evening, according to a person familiar with the matter. The Trump campaign said Friday evening that Mr. Stepien had tested positive.

The initial secrecy within Mr. Trump's inner circle has created a sense of anxiety within the West Wing. Publicly, the White House has issued evolving and contradictory statements about the president's health that has some officials worried about their own credibility.

"I'm glued to Twitter and TV because I have no official communication from anyone in the West Wing," an administration official said.

Yeah, but...he gave us exactly the same judges literally any Republican would have!
Posted by orrinj at 12:57 PM


Biden leads Trump by 14 points nationally a month from Election Day, NBC/WSJ poll finds (Jacob Pramuk. 10/04/20, CNBC)

Biden garners the support of 53% of registered voters nationally, versus 39% for Trump, according to the survey released Sunday. The advantage of 14 percentage points in the poll, taken after Tuesday's first presidential debate but before the early Friday announcement of Trump's Covid-19 diagnosis, compares with Biden's edge of 8 percentage points in an NBC/WSJ survey taken last month.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Joe Biden has foreign policy ideals that can work in this chaotic world (MICHAEL O'HANLON, 09/28/20, The Hill)

Then there is the issue of Russia and Europe since the Cold War ended. In this matter, Biden has argued consistently for the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and more recently, a prudent buttressing of its military capabilities in eastern Europe. On the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, I believe Biden was largely mistaken, given the predictable effects on relations with Russia, but this notion sets me, not him, outside of the mainstream of foreign policy opinion. [...]

Finally, Biden supported the North American Free Trade Agreement and promoted the Trans Pacific Partnership. The latter, which Hillary Clinton and Trump both opposed in 2016, sought to raise standards in trade on issues like labor rights, intellectual property, and environmental policy. Ironically, despite his opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership, these principles were adopted by Trump in the United States Mexico Canada Agreement. Further, Biden wisely supports the latter as well.

What emerges from this partial review for the vast foreign policy record of Biden over the years is neither perfection nor consistent failure. The grade from Gates does not hold up. Biden has shown us consistent principles of military caution, multilateralism, support for democracy, and international engagement. Those sound mantras do not by themselves ensure the best decisions in difficult situations. But arguably, for this chaotic world which we find ourselves in today, they are not a bad place to start.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Choice blindness: Do you know yourself as well as you think? (David Edmonds, 10/04/20, BBC World Service)

Swedish experimental psychologist Petter Johansson loves magic. He's not formally trained but he's taught himself some basic sleight of hand techniques. Magicians have long understood the phenomenon of "change blindness". By distracting you, a magician can change a card, say the King of Clubs for the King of Spades, and the chances are you won't notice.

Johansson's rudimentary magic skills are useful for his experiments - for, some years ago, he and his colleagues decided to test not change blindness but "choice blindness".

Let me explain. In his earliest experiment, Petter Johansson showed participants pairs of pictures of faces. The subjects had a simple task: to choose the one they found most attractive. Then they were given the picture and asked to justify their selection. But unbeknown to them, Johansson had deployed his magic to make a switch; they were actually handed the picture of the man or woman they had not picked.

Petter Johansson showing a female participant two photographs of men
image captionPetter Johansson shows a female participant two photographs of men
You might assume that everyone would notice. If so, you would be wrong. Amazingly, only a quarter of people spot the switch. To repeat, the faces were of different people, and there were easily identifiable differences between them. One might be brown-haired and with earrings; the other might be blonde and with no earrings.

After the switch, the subjects explained why they had chosen the person they had actually not chosen! "When I asked them, why did you choose this face?" says Petter Johansson, "they started to elaborate on why this was the preferred face, even if, just a few seconds before, they had preferred the other face."

When he explained to them what he had done, he was usually met with surprise and often disbelief. The most intriguing cases were those in which people justified the manipulated choice by highlighting something absent in their original choice. "For instance, if they say, 'Oh, I prefer this face because I really like the earrings,' and the one they originally preferred didn't have any earrings, then we can be certain that whatever made them make this choice, it can't have been the earrings."

What can we conclude from this? Well, it turns out that we don't have a clear understanding of why we choose what we choose. We often have to figure it out for ourselves, just as we have to figure out the motives and reasons of others. The window through which we try to observe our own soul is dim and murky.

Our choices just don't much matter.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Other Democratic Party: To Understand Trump's Appeal Look to the Tradition of Boss Politics in the Democratic Party. (STEPHANIE MURAVCHIK AND JON A. SHIELDS  OCTOBER 4, 2020, The Bulwark)

The local patron-or boss-has long embodied the Democratic Party for his loyal voters in the places we studied. Elliott County's judge/executive (an elective executive position) David Blair was the Democratic machine for decades. He remains popular there, even after being forced out of office in 2011 due to corruption charges. Mayor Joe Polisena, meanwhile, controls Johnston's powerful Democratic machine. In Ottumwa the boss tradition faded years ago when city reformers pushed Jerry Parker out of the mayor's office. Yet it lives on in the fond memories of the city's old-timers. To the dismay of many in Ottumwa's small professional class-whom Parker calls the "Indian Hill people" (after the local community college)-they continue to elect him to the office of county supervisor.

The boss and his supporters are held together by a paternalistic social contract, one that exchanges promises of protection and provision in return for respect and loyalty. It's a model of politics that grows up from the patriarchal, working-class family. Boss rule also includes a degree of tolerance for corruption. "Getting the job done" in the service of loyal supporters is what matters, which means that scrupulousness about the law or maintaining tidy distinctions between public and private boundaries can interfere with good governance.

In these communities, the "Democratic" label does not even suggest a commitment to progressive views on race, gender, guns, or immigration. On many such issues, in fact, the Democrats we spoke with are moderate, some even staunchly conservative. Rather to be a Democrat long meant that one was part of a paternalistic social contract, one brought to life through an informal network of alliances.

For almost three decades, for example, David Blair was Elliott County's judge/executive until he was forced out of office by the federal government on corruption charges. Blair was indicted for currying favor with voters by providing them public gravel for the upkeep of private backroads on their farms. But he remains popular. A number of county residents we spoke to lauded him for personally helping constituents out, including hiring them when they needed jobs and using his own company's equipment to clear snow.

He first became a local patron decades ago through his connection to the carpenter's union, which allowed him to become a critical gatekeeper for jobs. "All the boys came to me who wanted in the carpenters' union," he told us. "They were just farm boys. I'd take them up there [to union headquarters] and get them a union card, and send them to Cincinnati to work. They could earn good money up there then." Later Blair continued this strategy when he bought his way into a pipefitters' union. And when Blair eventually acquired a coal business, his ability to offer jobs to loyal supporters expanded once again.

Like Blair and machine politicians everywhere, Polisena is inundated by a constant stream of favor seekers. Unlike boss rule in Johnston's old days, Polisena says he tries to help his constituents, so long as they don't ask him to break the law, which they sometimes do. "People come in here. They'll ask for something off the wall. I tell them . . . . 'I can't do that [often because it's illegal], but I can do this," the mayor told us.

In exchange, Johnston's Polisena-much like Blair in Elliott County-demands loyalty. "If you're not a Democrat in Johnston, you would never get anything, you wouldn't even get your street swept," one local told us. True or not, that's what Johnstonians believe. For this reason, Johnstonians often only expressed reservations about the mayor's rule "off the record." One accounted for their reluctance by saying,"You know how this town is."

Trump fashions himself more an old-style Democratic boss in the mold of a Blair or Polisena than a modern Republican. Like these men, Trump offers his supporters not a grand ideological vision, but rather a promise to take care of them by cutting deals-and corners if need be.

These boss-centered Democratic communities and the Trump White House have also indulged in nepotism. Many are appalled that Trump was set to appoint his daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner, who are neither public health experts nor economists, to the Council to Reopen America. But in the towns we visited, extended family ties are often the basis of common enterprises, including politics. In Johnston a handful of family cliques control town politics. Thus, it seemed normal to people we talked to that Trump's relatives would play important roles in his administration. As one Johnstonian told us, "What do you want his kids to do?" "They're backing their father."

The Democratic machine in Johnston has been stitched together by extended ties that link families across generations, including the Lombardis, the Uccis, and the Delfinos. Mayor Polisena's son-Joe Polisena, Jr.-was just recently elected to the town council. This continuity of families in politics builds trust and familiarity among local supporters.

Donald would have been an ideal governor of IL.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Trump in Walter Reed Photo-Op Signs Blank Paper to Show He's Well and 'Relentless'
(KHALEDA RAHMAN, 10/4/20, Newsweek)

President Donald Trump was seen in a photo taken at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center apparently signing a blank piece of paper with a marker, further undermining the credibility of the White House when it comes to the president's health.

October 3, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 7:41 PM



After spending months denying the dangers of COVID-19, Trump is expressing an emotion aides have rarely seen: fear. On Friday, Trump grew visibly anxious as his fever spiked to 103 fahrenheit and he was administered oxygen at the White House, according to three Republicans close to the White House. Two sources told me Trump experienced heart palpitations on Friday night--possible side effects of the experimental antibody treatment he received. Trump has wondered aloud if he could defeat the disease. "Am I going out like Stan Chera?" Trump has asked aides, referring to his friend, New York real-estate developer Stan Chera, who died of COVID in April.

Posted by orrinj at 7:22 PM


Buying Nazism: In the early years of Nazi rule, the vagueness of much Nazi ideology enabled many Germans to see in Nazism what they wanted to see. (Bill Niven, 10/02/20,  History Today)

Föllmer's understanding of culture is broad. Often he uses it to mean lifestyle. It was here that the Nazis offered much. Föllmer explores how consumerism boomed in the early years of the Third Reich (and even, for a time, during the war). For all that Nazism was a dictatorship, ordinary non-Jewish Germans felt they had choices they had not had before. As the economy improved, Germans travelled widely, a process supported by Nazi organisations such as Strength Through Joy, which offered a range of affordable holidays. Travel-writing journalism developed as a form. The Nazis made theatre and concerts available to wider audiences. For artists who had been struggling to make ends meet during the Weimar Republic, the corporate organisation of the arts under Goebbels brought with it the prospect of social insurance (if patchy) and of course employment - especially as the Jews and other artists considered 'undesirable' by the Nazis were squeezed out.

Again and again Föllmer shows how it was precisely the vagueness of much Nazi ideology, at least in the early years of Nazi rule, that appealed to many Germans, because it enabled them to see in Nazism what they wanted to see. Often it was enough that the Nazis seemed to be committed to ideas of national pride and regeneration - that this commitment involved excluding Jews was all too wilfully overlooked. Nazi ideas of völkisch unity meshed with an expanding participation in bourgeois traditions and modern trends (for instance, in design and clothing) in ways which made this exclusion easier to accept. Föllmer demonstrates how easy it was for German teachers, academics, artists and others to 'buy' into Nazism. 

I think it was Stephen Hayes who I first heard describe Trumpism as less a political movement than a lifestyle brand--per the American Marketing Association:

"A lifestyle brand is a company that markets its products or services to embody the interests, attitudes, and opinions of a group or a culture. Lifestyle brands seek to inspire, guide, and motivate people, with the goal of their products contributing to the definition of the consumer's way of life."  Certainly the confluence of yoga and Qanon (conspirituality) suggests the truth of the claim.

Posted by orrinj at 7:09 PM


Lies at the Heart of Identity Politics (Philip Carl Salzman, September 30, 2020, Doc Emet Productions)

Identity politics was born and nurtured in universities, in women's and feminist studies, in gay and queer studies, in black and ethnic studies, Islamic studies, and in whiteness studies. Whiteness studies is the only one to take as its mandate the vilification of its subject population; the others frame their subject populations as victims of white and male oppression. Under the now official and exclusive university policy of "diversity and inclusion," universities have jettisoned universalistic criteria such as achievement, merit, and potential, now regarded by "progressives" as "male supremacist talking points," in favor of sex, race, and sexuality bases for selection, preferences, and benefits.

What "diversity and inclusion" means in practice is that females, African Americans, and Hispanics, and, in Canada, members of First Nations, are given preferences, funding, and special benefits, while better qualified males, Jews and other whites, and Asian Americans and Asian Canadians are excluded to make places for the preferred. This is the most prominent form of systemic racism that exists in North America today. Furthermore, what "diversity" never means is diversity of thought and opinion, for deviations from the far-left narratives are punished, those taking a critical view of identity politics are "cancelled," marginalized and fired. Universities have entirely abandoned academic values in favor of so-called "social justice" identity politics.

Identity politics celebrates the idea that people should be judged, not as individuals, but on the basis of their sex and race, but also by their claimed identity, whether sexual, ethnic, or religious. What a marvelous formula for dividing people, and setting them at odds and in conflict with one another. This is a strategy by its advocates to gain power for their subgroup at the expense of others. Where groups are small, "intersectional" alliances are called for to strengthen their challenge to their target. Is the feminist strategy any more than anti-male sexism? Is the race activist strategy any more than anti-white racism? Treating people according to their census category rather than as individuals is deeply illiberal, a violation of equality before the law, and thus a violation of their human rights. Dividing the population according to their census categories rather than viewing others as fellow citizens is deeply antisocial and anti-American.

Posted by orrinj at 7:01 PM


Early Works by Edward Hopper Found to Be Copies of Other Artists (Blake Gopnik, Sept. 28, 2020, NY Times)

Most grad students in art history dream of discovering an unknown work by whatever great artist they are studying. Louis Shadwick has achieved just the opposite: In researching his doctorate on Edward Hopper, for the storied Courtauld Institute in London, Mr. Shadwick has discovered that three of the great American's earliest oil paintings, from the 1890s, can only barely count as his original images. Two are copies of paintings Mr. Shadwick found reproduced in a magazine for amateur artists published in the years before Hopper's paintings. The reproductions even came with detailed instructions for making the copies.

Mr. Shadwick spells out his discovery in the October issue of The Burlington Magazine, a venerable art historical journal."It was real detective work," Mr. Shadwick explained, Zooming from his sunny apartment in London. At 30, he's older than most of his graduate-school peers because of a longish spell fronting an alt-rock trio (White Kite), a past not revealed in the blue button-down he wore when we talked and his close-cropped dark hair. Mr. Shadwick was working out the earliest influences on Hopper's art -- one aspect of his Ph.D., half-finished so far -- when he figured out that an American Tonalist painter named Bruce Crane (1857-1937) might have played some kind of role.

Then, early this summer, in what Mr. Shadwick called a "eureka moment" of pandemic Googling, he landed on "A Winter Sunset," a painting by Crane from an 1890 issue of The Art Interchange that was an almost perfect match for one of Hopper's teenage works, long known as "Old Ice Pond at Nyack," circa 1897, depicting a winter landscape with a streak of waning light. (A gallery is selling it now, with a price estimate of $375,000; the change in its status might affect buyers' offers.) Mr. Shadwick went on to discover similar sources for all but one of Hopper's first oils.

Posted by orrinj at 6:09 PM


The Southern Hemisphere skipped flu season this year, likely because of social distancing (CNN, 10/01/20)

To measure the potential impact of the coronavirus on flu infections, the CDC evaluated flu activity recorded by the World Health Organization in three "robust sentinel sites" in the Southern Hemisphere -- Australia, Chile and South Africa -- between June and August, typically an active period for flu activity in the hemisphere.

All three sites showed "very low" flu activity, the CDC reported. In Australia, among the 60,031 people tested for the flu, only 33 test results were positive. In Chile, 12 out of 21,178 tests were positive for flu, and in South Africa, only 6 out of almost 2,100 people had the flu.

That's a total of 51 people who tested positive for flu among 83,307 tested, or a 0.06% positivity rate. Previous flu tests from April to June in 2017 through 2019 showed about over 13% flu positivity rate overall in those same countries, the CDC said.

The findings suggest that methods like social distancing, wearing masks and closing schools reduced the number of flu infections in the Southern Hemisphere -- and could do the same in the Northern Hemisphere.

Posted by orrinj at 6:05 PM


The White House Is Spreading Virus and Lies (Olivia Nuzzi and Ben Jacobs, 10/03/20, New York)

The White House is at war with the virus, with itself, and with reality -- though not necessarily in that order.

With President Trump hospitalized for COVID-19 at Walter Reed medical center, officials spent Saturday sowing doubt about his condition instead of offering clarity and reassurance. Doctors and members of the White House staff provided conflicting information about the timeline and progression of the president's illness, making a bad situation even worse. Asked what it's been like for insiders trying to get information about the president and the virus spreading through the government, a senior White House official told Intelligencer, "That's easy. We don't get any."

On Thursday, officials learned that Hope Hicks, one of the president's closest aides, tested positive for COVID-19 just before Trump boarded Marine One en route to a fundraiser at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club. The White House sought to keep the story from getting out, which meant keeping much of its own staff -- who, like the president, had been exposed to Hicks -- in the dark. More than a dozen people connected to the White House tested positive by Saturday evening.

"Ninety percent of the [White House] complex most certainly learned about it in the news, as has been the case ever since," the senior official said. "There are reports that COVID is spreading like wildfire through the White House. There are hundreds and hundreds of people who work on-complex, some who have families with high-risk family members. Since this whole thing started, not one email has gone out to tell employees what to do or what's going on."

Posted by orrinj at 5:50 PM


Covering a cover-up in real time (Jonathan Swan, 10/03/20, Axios)

On Friday night, we chose not to publish information we'd learned from well-placed sources who told us the president had experienced a fever and was worse than the White House was letting on.

We chose not to publish because we weren't certain enough it was correct, and it was no time to lower our editorial standards.

Today, when we saw the doctors line up outside Walter Reed in their white lab coats, we thought we might finally get clarity.

The picture painted by the White House physician, Navy Commander Dr. Sean Conley, was rosy: Trump was in good spirits -- so good, apparently, he had been fever-free for 24 hours, and felt he could have walked out of Walter Reed today.

The Q&A didn't engender confidence. Trump's doctor was repeatedly evasive on the question of whether he'd received supplemental oxygen. But the picture remained rosy.

Then, minutes after the doctors' press conference, something extraordinary happened that crystallized this White House's credibility gap, and made a mockery of any reporter trying to responsibly cover this president's condition.

Posted by orrinj at 3:01 PM


Special treatment for the powerful? (Scott Sumner, 10/03/20, EconLib)

Should powerful people be treated differently? Should they get special treatment? Should their bad behavior be more easily excused?

...is that the special treatment is going to a VA hospital that the Right is hysterical about.

Posted by orrinj at 10:10 AM


Tear Down the Global Berlin Wall (Sir, Michael Cianci September 27, 2020, Exponents)

Whether it's wily immigrants stealing jobs, the perceived loss of culture, or demographic shifts threatening the 'whiteness' of America, there's nothing the populist-right likes to raise more than the threat of immigration. A triumvirate of Tucker Carlson,  Laura Ingraham, and Donald Trump want Americans to know that Joe Biden and the 'radical left' want to bring open borders to America. Sadly, that is not true. Like much of the developed world, we've put up a 'Berlin Wall' of our own, keeping millions out.

America is an immigrant nation, and American attitudes towards immigration are largely positive. Despite that, a sizable portion of Americans harbor many of those anxieties about immigration, and they are fueled by President Trump and his cronies. For them, open borders, would be chaos. And, contrary to what the right may say, those on the left aren't very receptive to the notion either. But the case for open borders is clear--not just as immigration policy, but also as foreign policy.

Imagine a world, to quote economist Bryan Caplan, author of the nonfiction graphic-novel, Open Borders: the Science and Ethics of Immigration, where "all nationalities are free to live and work in any nation they like". That's the world of open borders.

There is no denying that over the last quarter century global incomes have increased, poverty has decreased, and total global inequality has decreased. Seemingly, we live in the most prosperous era humanity has ever seen. Despite this period of global prosperity, suffering still persists. This begs what Caplan calls the "hundred-trillion-dollar question": why don't people from poor countries just go to rich countries to share the prosperity? [...]

Caplan's case for 'open borders' is pretty simple. First, Caplan establishes the economic benefits of such a policy. For many reasons, especially technological advances, workers are more productive in the developed world. If workers were able to come to the U.S. and work, they'd be massively more productive--even low-skilled ones. This is great for the economy because more productive workers produce more goods and services. [...]

Open borders would be even more of a boon for U.S. soft power. Soft power is the ability of a country to get what it wants through co-option rather than coercion. The U.S. already enjoys cultural hegemony and continues to be a top destination for immigrants. Imagine the boost the U.S. could get if it opened its borders to all who could come? Forging even greater societal and cultural links with the world would allow for the U.S. to exercise its power in restrained, cost-effective manner (rather than relying on force), to achieve its national needs.

Posted by orrinj at 9:38 AM


One Billion Americans: What if Leftists Loved America, and Conservatives Were Cosmopolitan Again? : a review of One Billion Americans by Matt Yglesias (Alex Armlovich, September 21, 2020, Exponents)

The book proposes we achieve One Billion Americans by two paths: The first is growing the existing US population by materially supporting American families. Most US women report having fewer children than they would like, in large part because of the high costs of childcare, education, and scarce family-friendly urban housing near good jobs. Weak parental leave and childcare options force high-income women into a tough choice between career and family, while a safety net system that tolerates child poverty leaves low-income women caring for children in conditions that would shock a middle-class conscience. Zoning regulations beginning in the 20th Century that forbid traditional "granny flats" and duplexes in suburbs (and on most land in most cities) prevent multigenerational families from living together affordably to share elder and childcare. These and similar other problems are technically fixable problems and the book offers a sensible framework for solving them without getting bogged down in the details of any one of many reasonable policy approaches.

The second way to achieve One Billion Americans is to increase legal immigration in the national interest. America was a nation of nations founded on the idea that anyone who believes in the Enlightenment ideals enshrined in our founding documents can become an American. Regardless of faith or race or partisan politics, anyone can swear an oath to uphold our Constitution and pledge allegiance to our flag--and it just so happens that at least 158 million adults around the world told Gallup that they would like very much to do just that.

Mr. Yglesias endorses two main approaches to steadily increasing immigration in the national interest. First, a "points-based" approach to targeting high-skilled and English-speaking immigrants as the first immigration priority in the national interest. This skill priority approach is already successful in Canada, Australia, and the UK. Second is a "place-based visa" approach for immigrants at a variety of skill levels, as suggested by the economist Adam Ozimek. It would allow regions that have lost population--from the Rust Belt to Appalachia to rural towns--to sponsor immigrant visas to fill up otherwise-abandoned homes and shops and offices. While still a new idea, it shows promise in repopulating shrinking cities and regions without imposing internal borders to enforce the visa locations: Those who voluntarily stay in the sponsoring regions would be rewarded with green card eligibility, while those who don't go to the back of the immigration line.

The rest of the book concerns the nitty-gritty of accommodating a larger population while stopping climate change--which, on a technical level at least, is eminently achievable. The initial millions of place-based visas could repopulate the Rust Belt, New England's small towns, and any other place in America hungering for a return to their greatness and energy in the early 20th Century. Beyond that, we would need to permit a lot more housing to be built, especially near transit. We would need to build a lot of new mass transit and sustainable infrastructure of all kinds in order to decarbonize, densify, and expand America's urban environment while preserving America's vast and pristine rural environment. We would need things like congestion pricing and parking pricing to manage America's existing traffic problems and prevent them from getting any worse. We've pulled off incredible growth in an earlier America, when millions of immigrants built cities like Chicago from a town of 30,000 in 1850 up to one of the world's largest cities by 1900. We even do it today in growth-friendly places like Houston, though regrettably without Chicago's environmentally friendly system of electric trains. Mr. Yglesias treats all these solvable technical problems--including preventing further climate change and adapting to baked-in climate change while growing--in reasonable detail.

The ambition is entirely admirable, but ignores one key reform.  The United States is already too large for optimal governance at 300+ million citizens.  Too many of us feel too disconnected from the central government, which inevitably undermines its legitimacy.  Just as at the Founding we knit a set of polities that considered themselves whole into a greater whole, so too ought we now stitch a set of discrete regions into a United Nations of America.  This would simply require establishing a set of associated constitutional republics with an overarching, but strictly limited, central authority. 

Posted by orrinj at 9:26 AM


"No One Knows Where This Is Going to Go": Pandemonium Inside the White House as Trump Contracts COVID-19 (GABRIEL SHERMAN, OCTOBER 2, 2020, Vanity Fair)

Hicks is said to be frustrated with Trump for taking such a cavalier approach to the virus. She was one of the few West Wing staffers to wear a mask in meetings, which her colleagues chided her for. "She was made fun of because she wore a mask," a friend said. Sources told me Hicks is also upset that news coverage has made it appear that she gave Trump the virus, when in fact no one knows where he got it. "It's so unfair she's sort of being blamed," the friend told me. 

Hope Hicks, the White House counselor who lets 'Trump be Trump' (PAUL HANDLEY, 10/02/20, AFP)

Her skill, according to a number of accounts, is channelling Trump's own thinking into messaging and, for media consumption, letting "Trump be Trump."

Posted by orrinj at 9:06 AM


Wind and solar supply more than 50 pct of Australia's main grid for first time (Giles Parkinson, 3 October 2020, Renew Economy)

The share of renewable energy broke new records for the third consecutive day on Saturday, with wind and solar providing more than 50 per cent of the demand on Australia's main grid for the first time, and for more than three hours.

Posted by orrinj at 8:59 AM


A Fox News host has cast Trump as a war hero who got the coronavirus because he 'put himself on the line' (Sinéad Baker, 10/03/20, Business Insider)

Gutfeld said: "He didn't hide from the virus. The reason he didn't hide from the virus is he didn't want America to hide from the virus. If he was going to ask America to get back to work, right? To get back to work and experience a risk, he was going to do the same thing.

...Quintus Servilius Caepio.  

Posted by orrinj at 8:55 AM


Virology versus idiots - This pandemic is making a point (Paul Wallis, 10/02/20, Digital Journal)

Current figures for the pandemic showed that the infection rate is rock solid with an immovable baseline of about 200,000 cases per day worldwide. The total number of cases worldwide is approximately 34,000,000 according to Johns Hopkins.  That's in a period of approximately 7 - 8 months.

At this rate, next year the number will be 68 million. The ongoing strain on economies, public health, and everything else, not to say peace of mind as well, will be extraordinary. The sheer cost and scope of this pandemic to date should be a warning to anyone that things can get drastically worse, very quickly.

The sudden need for vast amounts of research at breakneck speed doesn't exactly help, either. Researchers are being put in a particularly thankless position, having to assess new strains of the virus, track the infection rate, more than the pathology, and virtually do all the required research almost from scratch. This is what happens when you ignore branches of science.

Arguably much worse, the politicisation of the pandemic has also produced some very dodgy things like HCQ, even dodgier urban mythology, and blatant disinformation.

All this drivel has produced some of the greatest medical absurdities in history, with no even remotely plausible excuses at all. HCQ was research in Germany a couple of months after the start of the pandemic and found to be utterly useless. A few months after that, we have the revelation that the president of the United States, no less, is taking this stuff. Can anyone think of a better outcome? This nonsense was inflicted on the public at a time of extreme danger.

The problem with this coronavirus is that it is getting good at infecting people. It is not yet proven that of the new strains are more infectious, however, the fact that the infection rate is remaining extremely high does make a point.

The sheer level of irresponsibility of this type of imbecilic management cannot be overstated. The secondary effects of the virus are particularly nasty, including blood clots, vision loss, strokes, and of course death, presumably just to give people a choice. The management of information on this pandemic has been nothing less than shambolic, and has made the situation much worse than it ever should have been.

Presumably we've all had that initially odd experience of seeing Asian tourists wearing face masks and wondered why.  Turns out, it's because they aren't idiots.

Posted by orrinj at 8:48 AM


Michigan's effort to end gerrymandering revives a practice rooted in ancient Athens (John Rothchild, 9/30/20, The Conversation)

Unlike any other state, Michigan selected its 13 commission members almost entirely by lot from among those who applied for the position.

All Michigan registered voters who met the eligibility criteria - which excluded holders of political office and lobbyists, for example - were eligible to apply.

From 9,367 applicants, the secretary of state randomly selected 200 semifinalists. The process resulted in 60 Democrats, 60 Republicans and 80 independents. By the terms of the ballot initiative, the four leaders of the Michigan Legislature then eliminated 20 of those semifinalists.

In August 2020, the secretary of state randomly selected the 13 commissioners from the pool of 180 candidates - four Democrats, four Republicans and five independents, as required.

The commission - made up of citizens with no special qualifications for the office - will now perform one of the most important roles in a democratic system: creating the districts from which Michigan's state and federal legislators will be elected.

Random selection in ancient Athens
With the exception of court juries, the random selection of citizens to fill government office is almost unheard of. But it was not always that way.

Random selection was a prominent feature of ancient Athens, the birthplace of democracy. In the fifth and fourth centuries B.C., most important government offices were filled by lottery. The Athenians considered this selection of officials a hallmark of democracy. [...]

How, then, should Michigan's decision to assign unskilled members of the public the job of drawing nonpartisan election districts be evaluated?

Redistricting is a complex task. Michigan's Constitution says that the districts must be drawn in compliance with federal law. That includes a requirement that voting districts have roughly the same population. It also requires that the districts "reflect the state's diverse population and communities of interest," and "not provide a disproportionate advantage to any political party."

Dividing the map to meet all of these criteria is not likely to be within the capabilities of a group of randomly selected citizens.

There are several reasons to think that the redistricting commission will nevertheless prove adequate to the task.

First, the constitution authorizes the commission to hire "independent, nonpartisan subject-matter experts and legal counsel" to assist them. Second, there's precedent in government for citizens who have no specialized skills: Juries composed of randomly selected citizens regularly decide cases that are enormously complicated. An antitrust case may involve thousands of pages of documents. And a patent infringement case may require an understanding of complex engineering issues.

[You're smart and curious about the world. So are The Conversation's authors and editors. You can read us daily by subscribing to our newsletter.]

Finally, considering how far the Michigan Legislature's efforts have fallen short of achieving the fundamental democratic goal of selecting representatives who reflect the views of their constituents, there is reason to think that a balanced group of unskilled citizens will do better.

Bill Buckley smiled.
Posted by orrinj at 8:35 AM


Distance: The game belongs to Bob Gibson. (Roger Angell, September 22, 1980, The New Yorker)

Bob Gibson's one-game World Series record of seventeen strikeouts stands intact, and so do my memories of that famous afternoon. In recent weeks, I have firmed up my recollections by consulting the box score and the inning-by-inning recapitulations of the game, by watching filmed highlights of the play, and by talking to a number of participants, including Gibson himself. (He had had no idea, he told me, that he was close to a record that afternoon. "You're concentrating so hard out there that you don't think of those things," he said.) Gibson seemed to take absolute charge of that game in the second inning, when he struck out the side on eleven pitches. By the end of four innings, he had run off eight strikeouts. Not until I reëxamined the box score, however, did I realize that there had been only two ground-ball outs by the Tigers in the course of nine innings. This, too, must be a record (baseball statistics, for once, don't tell us), but the phenomenally low figure, when taken along with the seventeen strikeouts, suggests what kind of pitching the Tiger batters were up against that afternoon. Most National League batters in the nineteen-sixties believed that Gibson's fastball compared only with the blazers thrown by the Dodgers' Sandy Koufax (who retired in 1966 with an arthritic elbow) and by the Reds' Jim Maloney. Gibson's pitch flashed through the strike zone with a unique, upward-moving, right-to-left sail that snatched it away from a right-handed batter or caused it to jump up and in at a left-handed swinger--a natural break of six to eight inches--and hitters who didn't miss the ball altogether usually fouled it off or nudged it harmlessly into the air. The pitch, which was delivered with a driving, downward flick of Gibson's long forefinger and middle finger (what pitchers call "cutting the ball"), very much resembled an inhumanly fast slider, and was often taken for such by batters who were unfamiliar with his stuff. Joe Pepitone, of the Yankees, concluded the All-Star Game of 1965 by fanning on three successive Gibson fastballs and then shook his head and called out to the pitcher, "Throw me that slider one more time!" Gibson, to be sure, did have a slider--a superior breaking pitch that arrived, disconcertingly, at about three-quarters of the speed of the fastball and, most of the time, with exquisite control. Tim McCarver, who caught Gibson longer than anyone else, says that Gibson became a great pitcher during the summer of 1966 (his sixth full season in the majors), when he achieved absolute mastery of the outside corner of the plate while pitching to right-handed batters and--it was the same pitch, of course--the inside corner to left-handed batters. He could hit this sliver of air with his fastball or his slider with equal consistency, and he worked the opposite edge of the plate as well. "He lived on the corners," McCarver said. A third Gibson delivery was a fastball that broke downward instead of up and away; for this pitch, he held the ball with his fingers parallel to the seams (instead of across the seams, as was the case with the sailer), and he twisted his wrist counterclockwise as he threw--"turning it over," in mound parlance. He also had a curveball, adequate but unextraordinary, that he threw mostly to left-handers and mostly for balls, to set up an ensuing fastball. But it was the combination of the devastating slider and the famous fastball (plus some other, less tangible assets that we shall get to in time) that made Gibson almost untouchable at his best, just as Sandy Koufax's down-diving curveball worked in such terrible (to hitters) concert with his illustrious upriding fastball.

"Hitting is rhythm," McCarver said to me, "and if you allow major-league hitters to see only one pitch--to swing repeatedly through a certain area of the plate--eventually they'll get to you and begin to hit it, even if it's a great fastball. But anybody who can control and switch off between two first-class pitches will make the hitters start reaching, either in or out, and then the game belongs to the pitcher. Besides all that, Bob had such great stuff and was so intimidating out there that he'd make the batter open up his front shoulder just a fraction too fast, no matter what the count was. The other key to good hitting, of course, is keeping that shoulder--the left shoulder for a right-handed batter, I mean, and vice versa--in place, and the most common flaw is pulling it back. Gibson had guys pulling back that shoulder who normally wouldn't be caught dead doing it. Their ass was in the dugout, as we say."

Mike Shannon, who played third base behind Gibson in the 1968 Series opening game (he didn't handle the ball once), remembers feeling pity for the Detroit batters that afternoon. "Most of them had never seen Gibby before," he said, "and they had no idea what they were up against." Shannon, who is now a television game announcer with the Cards, told me that he encounters some of the 1968 Tigers from time to time in the course of his baseball travels, and that they almost compulsively want to talk about the game. "It's as if they can't believe it to this day," he said. "But neither can I. I've never seen major-league hitters overmatched that way. It was like watching a big-league pitcher against Little League batters. It was frightening."

Gibson, of course, was already a celebrated winning pitcher by 1968. Like many other fans, I had first become aware of his fastball and his unique pitching mannerisms and his burning intensity on the mound when he won two out of the three games he pitched against the Yankees in the 1964 World Series, including a tense, exhausting victory in the pennant-clinching seventh game. Then, in 1967, I had watched him capture three of the Cardinals' four October victories over the Red Sox, again including the seventh game--a feat that won him the Most Valuable Player award for that Series. I had also seen him work eight or ten regular-season games over the previous five years or more. Although he was of only moderate size for a pitcher--six feet one and about a hundred and eighty-five pounds--Gibson always appeared to take up a lot of space on the mound, and the sense of intimidation that McCarver mentioned had something to do with his sombre, almost funereal demeanor as he stared in at his catcher, with his cap pulled low over his black face and strong jaw, and with the ball held behind his right hip (he always wore a sweatshirt under his uniform, with the long, Cardinals-red sleeves extending all the way down to his wrists), and with his glove cocked on his left hip, parallel to the ground. Everything about him looked mean and loose--arms, elbows, shoulders, even his legs--as, with a quick little shrug, he launched into his delivery. When there was no one on base, he had an old-fashioned full crank-up, with the right foot turning in mid-motion to slip into its slot in front of the mound and his long arms coming together over his head before his backward lean, which was deep enough to require him to peer over his left shoulder at his catcher while his upraised left leg crooked and kicked. The ensuing sustained forward drive was made up of a medium-sized stride of that leg and a blurrily fast, slinglike motion of the right arm, which came over at about three-quarters height and then snapped down and (with the fastball and the slider) across his left knee. It was not a long drop-down delivery like Tom Seaver's (for contrast), or a tight, brisk, body-opening motion like Whitey Ford's.

The pitch, as I have said, shot across the plate with a notable amount of right-to-left (from Gibson's vantage point) action, and his catchers sometimes gave the curious impression that they were cutting off a ball that was headed on a much longer journey--a one-hundred-foot fastball. But with Gibson pitching you were always a little distracted from the plate and the batter, because his delivery continued so extravagantly after the ball was released that you almost felt that the pitch was incidental to the whole affair. The follow-through sometimes suggested a far-out basketball move--a fast downcourt feint. His right leg, which was up and twisted to the right in the air as the ball was let go (all normal enough for a right-handed pitcher), now continued forward in a sudden sidewise rush, crossing his planted left leg, actually stepping over it, and he finished with a full running step toward the right-field foul line, which wrenched his body in the same direction, so that he now had to follow the flight of the ball by peering over his right shoulder. Both his arms whirled in the air to help him keep his balance during this acrobatic maneuver, but the key to his overpowering speed and stuff was not the strength of his pitching arm--it was the powerful, driving thrust of his legs, culminating in that final extra step, which brought his right foot clomping down on the sloping left-hand side of the mound, with the full weight of his body slamming and twisting behind it. (Gibson's arm never gave him undue trouble, but he had serious difficulties with his knees in the latter stages of his career, and eventually had to have a torn cartilage removed from the right knee, which had pushed off to start all the tens of thousands of his pitches over the years and had then had to withstand the punishing force of the last stage of his unique delivery.) All in all, the pitch and its extended amplifications made it look as if Gibson were leaping at the batter, with hostile intent. He always looked much closer to the plate at the end than any other pitcher; he made pitching seem unfair.

The players in the Detroit clubhouse after Gibson's seventeen-strikeout game had none of the aggrieved, blustery manner of batters on a losing team who wish to suggest that only bad luck or their own bad play kept them from putting away a pitcher who has just beaten them. Denny McLain, the starting Tiger pitcher, who had won thirty-one games that summer but had lasted only five innings in the Series opener, said, "I was awed. I was awed," and Dick McAuliffe, the Detroit second baseman, said that he could think of no one he had ever faced with whom Gibson could be compared. "He doesn't remind me of anybody," he said. "He's all by himself."

I was awed, too, of course, but nothing I had seen on the field at Busch Stadium that afternoon startled me as much as Gibson's postgame comportment in the clubhouse. In October of 1964 and again in 1967, I had noticed that Bob Gibson often appeared to be less elated than his teammates in the noisy, jam-packed, overexuberant World Series locker rooms--a man at a little distance from the crowd. But somehow I must have expected that his astounding performance here in the 1968 opener would change him--that his record-breaking turn on the mound would make him more lighthearted and accommodating; he would be smiling and modest and self-depreciating, but also joyful about his feat, and this would diminish that almost immeasurable distance he had just established, out on the field, between himself and the rest of us. He would seem boyish, in short, and we, the grown-up watchers of the game, would then be able to call him by his first name (even if we didn't know him), and forgive him for what he had done, and thus to love him, as is the ancient custom in these high sporting dramas. But Gibson was unchanged. Talking to the sportswriters gathered in a thick, uncomfortable crowd around his locker, he looked at each reporter who asked him a question (Gibson is an exceptionally handsome man, with small ears, very dark skin, and a strikingly direct gaze) and then answered it gravely and briefly. When one writer asked him if he had always been as competitive as he had seemed on this day, he said yes, and he added that he had played several hundred games of ticktacktoe against one of his young daughters and that she had yet to win a game from him. He said this with a little smile, but it seemed to me that he meant it: he couldn't let himself lose to anyone. Then someone asked him if he had been surprised by what he had just done on the field, and Gibson said, "I'm never surprised by anything I do."

The shock of this went out across the ten-deep bank of writer faces like a seismic wave, and the returning, murmurous counterwaves of reaction were made up of uneasy laughter and whispers of "What did he say?" and some ripples of disbelieving silence and (it seemed to me) a considerable, almost visible wave of dislike, or perhaps hatred. This occasion, it should be remembered, was before the time when players' enormous salaries and their accompanying television-bred notoriety had given birth to a kind of athlete who could choose to become famous for his sullenness and foul temper, just as another might be identified by his gentle smile and unvarying sweetness of disposition. In 1968, ballplayers, particularly black ballplayers in near-Southern cities like St. Louis, did not talk outrageously to the press. Bob Gibson, however, was not projecting an image but telling us a fact about himself. He was beyond us, it seemed, but the truth of the matter is that no one at Busch Stadium should have been much surprised by his achievement that afternoon, for it was only a continuation of the kind of pitching he had sustained all through that summer of 1968--a season in which he won twenty-two games for the Cardinals while losing nine, and also compiled an earned-run average of 1.12 runs per game: the best pitching performance, by that measurement, in the history of modern baseball.

Posted by orrinj at 8:25 AM


Democracy vs Liberty in Annelien De Dijn's Freedom: An Unruly History (Michael Hoffman, October 1, 2020, Liberal Currents)

In a book covering such a great stretch of time, one should expect some simplification. In large part Freedom appears to do so judiciously and without much loss of nuance. However, the effort to portray democracy and liberty as representing fully separable intellectual combatants leaves at least one casualty that is hard to justify. John Locke is portrayed as embracing the ancient, democratic conception of freedom rather than a freedom centered on non-interference. I expect I would not be the only reader to find this a rather incomplete characterization of Locke's views. Locke famously argued that popular sovereignty followed from natural rights, and combined majoritarian decision making with clear limits on legislative authority. His theory of property and its influence on advocates for limited government is notorious. So instead of repeated salvos across an impregnable divide we have Locke, among a long line of political theorists, attempting to reconcile popular sovereignty and individual liberty. 

Freedom presents the concept of limited government as a rhetorical rather than substantive innovation, whose sole function has been to stifle nascent democratic movements and safeguard economic privilege. In short, De Dijn concludes that "concerns about the illiberal nature of democracy were sparked by fears about its redistributive effects" rather than genuine concerns about personal autonomy.  Freedom argues convincingly that limited government rhetoric has been repeatedly--and often to great effect--used in this way. But Freedom often leaves by the wayside any legitimate rationale for finite legislative power, enumerated rights, or independent courts. This omission is convenient for De Dijn's argument but might leave the reader wondering whether there are any justifiable boundaries on legislative authority and majority decision-making. Can majorities dictate religious beliefs, expropriate property without recourse, or incarcerate individuals without trial? We might take these boundaries for granted in secular, liberal democracies, but a model of governance based entirely on popular sovereignty and simple majority rule must reckon with these questions much more directly than Freedom does. One could argue that enumerated rights are mere "parchment barriers" or that majoritarian democracies are in fact highly respectful of individual rights, but Freedom does not make these arguments nor elaborate on any related evidence.

Should we think of the freedoms of the ancients and moderns as opposites, or something else? I think these concepts are closer than De Dijn argues, even in their ancient origins. While the popular sovereignty of Athens was a valuable institution and point of pride for Athenian citizens, it was not solely an end in itself. The free Athenian man was not merely an enthusiast for legislative procedure, he was engaged in a process to preserve his personal sovereignty, his right to make private decisions without requiring the permission of a master (or, by and large, a magistrate). Scholars of democratic Athens have documented, for example, respect for free speech as well as the importance of the rule of law in promoting private autonomy. Moreover, even when democracy and liberty represent clear and distinct concepts, it is plausible that a middle ground between them can secure both more dependably.

Republican liberty is dependent on democracy but also restricts it.  The key is that the majority be free to utilize the powers of the republic so long as they apply universally--limiting the majority, not just the minority; benefitting the minority, not just the majority.  

Posted by orrinj at 8:16 AM


Mitch McConnell's legacy is a conservative Supreme Court shaped by his calculated audacity (Al Cross, 10/01/20, The Conversation)

For most of the 40-plus years I have watched McConnell, first as a reporter covering Kentucky politics and now as a journalism professor focused on rural issues, he seemed to have no great ambition or goals, other than gaining power and keeping it.

He always cared about the courts, though. In 1987, after Democrats defeated Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork, McConnell warned that if a Democratic president "sends up somebody we don't like" to a Republican-controlled Senate, the GOP would follow suit. He fulfilled that threat in 2016, refusing to confirm Merrick Garland, Obama's pick for the Supreme Court.

Keeping that vacancy open helped elect Donald Trump. Two people could hardly be more different, but the taciturn McConnell and the voluble Trump have at least one thing in common: They want power.

Trump exercises his power with what often seems like reckless audacity, but McConnell's 36-year Senate tenure is built on his calculated audacity.

Unfortunately, the success with the Court is Mitch's only legacy and it represents nothing more than the proper use of Senatorial power.  Otherwise he has just overseen the continued bleeding away of Legislative power to the Executive and Judiciary and essentially killed the actual legislative and oversight functions of the institution.    

Posted by orrinj at 7:51 AM


Julius Caesar's assassins were widely regarded as heroes in Rome: review of The Last Assassin: The Hunt for the Killers of Julius Caesar by Peter Stothard (Philip Womack, September 2020, The Spectator)

Caesar was a tyrant, or near enough: he had a golden throne and his own priest, and he was even offered a crown; which, of course, he magnanimously refused. But did he do so because he really didn't want to be a king, or because he was testing the crowd? His powers as dictator for life were extensive. The Romans, or at least a large section of the aristocrats, were anti-monarchical: they had booted out their kings, the Tarquins, hundreds of years earlier, and they wouldn't stand for such quasi-regal shenanigans now.

The conspirators longed for the ideals of the Roman republic, where each arm of power was constrained. At first, they communicated in code, discussing the Epicurean philosopher Lucretius on power and liberty: it was much safer to talk at tangents. Stothard is excellent on the machinations and the murmurings that recruited the killers (including a somewhat dubious Cicero, who wouldn't do the bloody deed himself but was quite happy to hang about outside while it was happening). Potential members of the group were tested, quietly, in the dark. The excitement and danger of the times are skilfully drawn. [...]

Ultimately, as Stothard points out, this was an assassination that 'failed to change the world'. One brand of tyranny resembles another. Would a world under Julius Caesar have been that much different from the one that formed under Augustus? We can never know. This book reminds us powerfully of the supreme importance of individual freedom against an overweening state; of being able to speak truth to those in authority. If the actions of the conspirators did not have the desired outcome, at least their cause was noble, and one that resonates widely today.

Reading Ann Leckie's Ancillary Justice one is struck by its debt to the conspiracy.

Posted by orrinj at 7:44 AM


Freedom, Barbarism, and Triremes (Bernard J. Dobski, 9/30/20, Law & Liberty)

This stunning victory is critical to the life of the West because it was critical to the transformation of Athens over the next century. And to speak of the Athens that grew out of the remarkable victory Themistocles engineered is to call to mind the great Pericles.

As an influential Greek statesman, orator, and general during the period between the Persian and Peloponnesian wars, Pericles is most associated with the golden age of Athenian democracy. Indeed, his influence on Athenian society was so profound that Thucydides, his contemporary, acclaimed Pericles as "the first citizen of Athens"; when Pericles talked, people listened. It is fitting then that we remember Pericles as much for what he said as for what he did. And no speech of Pericles is as memorable--or as emblematic of the Athens that Themistocles "created"--as what tradition calls his Funeral Oration.

At the start of the Peloponnesian war in 431 BC, Pericles, as the leading man in Athens, was required to deliver a eulogy over those men who were the first to die in battle. There Pericles famously remarks of Athens that "as a city we are the school of Greece."

Athens is the school of Greece because, according to Pericles' lustrous praise, her citizens are generous, versatile, open to others, supremely confident in their abilities, and gracefully refined without sacrificing the manly virtues needed to defend their city. They are leisured, loving philosophy without becoming soft, and they are ambitious without being crudely self-seeking; they are daring and enterprising but just as comfortable discharging public duties as they are pursuing private interests; and their reason informs and moderates their passions without paralyzing their ability to act for the city. Such virtues explain why Pericles concludes that they "have forced every sea and land to be the highway of our daring, and everywhere . . . have left imperishable monuments behind us."

These are no idle boasts. In the span of less than a century this little city, whose territory and population were no larger than the central Massachusetts town where I teach, produced the treasures at the heart of Western civilization. In the structures adorning her Acropolis, in the famed sculptures of Phidias, and in the tragedies and comedies of its playwrights, Athens laid the foundations for Western art, architecture, and literature.

By becoming the home of Herodotus and Thucydides, Athens proved the birthplace of history. Through the golden words of her statesmen, Athens taught oratory to the Romans whose example, in turn, shaped the rhetoric of leaders like Edmund Burke, Winston Churchill, and John F. Kennedy. And as the world's most famous direct democracy, Athens strove to combine the example of political freedom and equality at home with an energetic, daring, and powerful maritime empire abroad. Finally, during this period Athens gave us Socrates, Plato, Xenophon, and Aristotle, men whose works made possible philosophy, that reasoned and joyful quest for the truth that has informed Western intellectual, moral, and political life for millennia.   [...]

Themistocles knew what the Greeks, and especially his fellow Athenians, could achieve at Salamis because he understood how their fleet of triremes could amplify the Athenian character. The acme of maritime power, triremes derived their name from the three banks of rowers, 170 souls in all, used to generate each ship's ramming speed. This meant that at Salamis, where Athens contributed nearly 200 ships, she had almost 34,000 citizens afloat on the wine-dark seas. This amounted to almost their entire free male population.

The experience of the whole city cramped together within the hot and stinking hulls of their ships, sweating and working away in silence as they kept their oar-strokes timed to the sound of a piper, proved critical to the formation of Athens' democratic psychology. Not only did it bring together the rich and the poor, the powerful and the powerless, in the service of a well-defined and genuinely common good. It also amplified the animating spirit of democratic freedom and equality. For what mattered most at Salamis was not one's wealth or birth, or the differences owing to custom or convention, but the respective daring, self-sufficiency, and capacity for civic spirit that nature bestowed on each Athenian.

It is in this space for and openness to nature that we see more clearly the roots of Athens' amazing vitality. In deciding to abandon their city and take to their ships, the Athenians, who took their civic religion seriously, had to surrender to the barbarian, at least temporarily, their sacred temples and olive groves, the graves of their heroes and their ancestors, and the temples that housed the rites of their gods.

In this momentary separation from their particular traditional and religious authorities, they made possible for themselves a magnificent discovery. On that fateful September morning, when the Athenians, relying on their own native genius, won a nearly miraculous victory against a vastly superior foe, they discovered for themselves the potential of human self-assertion. Through their revolutionary daring, they came face to face with the beauty and dynamism of mankind's natural independence.

This encounter with human nature changed the basis on which Athens would operate over the next century. For in their daring at Salamis, the Athenians, acting out of a jealous concern for one's own freedom, showed the world a willingness to sacrifice those moral and political verities that are merely given. As such, they anticipated the willingness to question tradition, ancestral authority, and conventional wisdom in pursuit of genuine human autonomy, an aspect of their civic character that would define life in Periclean Athens. And it is this capacity for self-critical reflection, undertaken in a spirit of generosity, that would become the hallmark of the cultural and intellectual flourishing in Western political communities for centuries.

It is true that the battle of Salamis resulted in great power for Athenians. But it also opened them to a standard of human health, a standard independent of the love of one's own, that could inform the responsible use of that power and point the way to genuine human excellence.  

Posted by orrinj at 7:26 AM


John Calvin and the American Republic (Matthew Carpenter, October 2nd, 2020, Imaginative Conservative)

One of the cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith is that of original sin. The first Church Father to give detailed attention to original sin was Augustine of Hippo.[4] One emphasis of the Reformation was the Augustinian view of sin and God's grace. John Calvin, from his study of Scripture and the Church Fathers (notably Augustine and Bernard of Clairvaux), presented a dim view of the nature of man after Adam's fall.

Calvin leaves no stone unturned in describing the depths of man's sinfulness. His detailed treatment of the topic is found in his Institutes, book two, chapters one through five. The title of chapter one summarizes it well, "By the Fall and Revolt of Adam the Whole Human Race Was Delivered to the Curse and Degenerated from Its Original Condition."[5] Calvin describes the issue this way: "It is the inherited corruption [from Adam], which the church fathers termed 'original sin,' meaning by the word 'sin' the depravation of a nature previously good and pure."[6] He notes that there was some contention among the Church Fathers in this area.[7] Calvin then cites Augustine as the foremost champion of the doctrine of the fall of man, commending him for standing up to the Pelagians' teaching that man was not tainted by original sin and that he only stood condemned for the sins he committed.[8]

Later Calvin gives an even clearer definition. "Original sin, therefore, seems to be a hereditary depravity and corruption of our nature, diffused into all parts of the soul, which first makes us liable to God's wrath, then also brings forth in us those works which Scripture calls, 'works of the flesh' (Galatians 5:19)."[9] The message is grim. Because of Adam's sin, all his posterity comes into the world fallen. There is not one part of our being that is untouched by the corruption of sin. Hence the nature of the common phrase, "total depravity." This term does not mean that man sins as much as he possibly can, but that every facet of his being is fallen and inclined to rebel against God.

One common misconception of the doctrine of the fall of man is to say that we are merely inclined to sin because of Adam's fall, and that sin is not imparted to us until we actually sin. Another mistaken view of the doctrine is that we are judged solely because of the sins of another, i.e. Adam. Neither of these are accurate. For Calvin, the stain of Adam's sin was passed on to all his posterity even before any of them commits actual sin. Man enters the world guilty before God because at conception sin is already on his account. "Yet not only has a punishment fallen upon us from Adam, but a contagion imparted by him resides in us, which justly deserves punishment."[10]

One helpful metaphor Calvin uses is that of comparing man to a field. "For our nature is not only destitute and empty of good, but so fertile and fruitful of every evil that it cannot be idle."[11] In his sinful state the field (man) is not only barren of good, nourishing fruit, but it yields an abundance of thorns, thistles, and poison plants that pollute all who come near. No one ever accused Calvin of raising man's self-esteem. [...]

H.A. Lloyd summarizes Calvin's words this way: "Magistrates, says Calvin, are duty-bound to intervene (pro officio intercedere) to protect the commons against the tyrannical ruler."[15] One distinction must be made here between anarchical resistance and biblical resistance as Calvin saw it. It is not the responsibility of normal citizens to forcefully resist their authorities. "But we must, in the meantime, be very careful not to despise or violate that authority of magistrates... For if the correction of unbridled despotism is the Lord's to avenge, let us not at once think that it is entrusted to us, to whom no command has been given except to obey and suffer. I am speaking all the while of private individuals."[16]

This doctrine of resistance to tyranny was embraced by many Protestant Reformers in addition to Calvin, most notably Heinrich Bullinger.[17] Bullinger's regular correspondence with Protestants in England and Scotland, in addition to the Marian exiles going to Geneva [18], ensured transmission of Protestant resistance theory to Britain.[19] Some of the Puritans in England and Scotland adopted a more aggressive form of resistance theory, saying that resistance to tyrannical authority was a duty to God, not just a right.[20] Works like Samuel Rutherford's Lex Rex and Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos called for a robust resistance to despotic rulers, even calling for a republican element to the government that would protect the people from monarchical overreach.[21] While not exactly the same as what Calvin taught, resistance theory was alive and well in Britain.

Over time the stronger form of Protestant resistance theory came to be associated with the Puritans and Scottish Presbyterians. As many Puritans, Separatists (aka Pilgrims), and Scottish settlers left the British Isles and came to the North American colonies, they maintained the doctrines of the Protestant Reformers. They pursued freedom from persecution and a desire to evangelize the new world.[22]

Over time, new political theories as new political theories and radicalization spread throughout Europe, American colonists remained stable, religious, and communal. The First Great Awakening, led by George Whitefield, Gilbert Tennant, and Jonathan Edwards, stirred the fires of religious revival and gave greater strength to the religious bonds of many low-church Protestants. Calvinism as a whole was the overwhelming theological position of the American colonists. Loraine Boettner in his essay, "Calvinism in History," says, "It is estimated that of the 3,000,000 Americans at the time of the American Revolution, 900,000 were of Scotch or Scotch-Irish origin, 600,000 were Puritan English, and 400,000 were German or Dutch Reformed... Thus we see that about two-thirds of the colonial population had been trained in the school of Calvin."[23] There was a unity among these colonists which had rarely existed in other places. This unity would be crucial in the coming years, as the British Parliament began tightening the strings that bound the American colonies to her mother country.

As the British taxes mounted and King George III refused to intervene before Parliament on behalf of his colonies, the Declaration of Independence was signed. This action cemented the hostilities between British and colonial troops into a full-fledged war. The British believed the blame should be assigned to the Presbyterians. Loraine Boettner summarizes it well in saying, "So intense, universal, and aggressive were the Presbyterians in their zeal for liberty that the war was spoken of in England as 'The Presbyterian Rebellion.' An ardent colonial supporter of King George III wrote home: 'I fix all the blame for these extraordinary proceedings upon the Presbyterians."[24] The Presbyterians in reference weren't only Presbyterian in soteriology. They were children of Reformed Protestant political theory. John Adams noted that Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos was quite a popular book at the time of the revolution.[25] The singing-school teacher William Billings wrote a poem and song about the war in 1778 that was popular throughout New England:

Let tyrants shake their iron rod,
And Slav'ry clank her galling chains,
We fear them not, we trust in God,
New England's God forever reigns.

Howe and Burgoyne and Clinton too,
With Prescot and Cornwallis join'd,
Together plot our Overthrow,
In one Infernal league combin'd.

When God inspir'd us for the fight,
Their ranks were broke, their lines were forc'd,
Their ships were Shatter'd in our sight,
Or swiftly driven from our Coast.[26]

While further evidence could be produced, it is safe to say that Reformed Protestant resistance theory found a strong home in colonial North America.

The Federalist No. 51, [6 February 1788]

To the People of the State of New-York [...]

[T]he great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department, consists in giving to those who administer each department, the necessary constitutional means, and personal motives, to resist encroachments of the others. The provision for defence must in this, as in all other cases, be made commensurate to the danger of attack. Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to controul the abuses of government. But what is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controuls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: You must first enable the government to controul the governed; and in the next place, oblige it to controul itself. A dependence on the people is no doubt the primary controul on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.

This policy of supplying by opposite and rival interests, the defect of better motives, might be traced through the whole system of human affairs, private as well as public. We see it particularly displayed in all the subordinate distributions of power; where the constant aim is to divide and arrange the several offices in such a manner as that each may be a check on the other; that the private interest of every individual, may be a centinel over the public rights. These inventions of prudence cannot be less requisite in the distribution of the supreme powers of the state.

It's how we were inoculated against Reason
Posted by orrinj at 7:20 AM


Want To Find Yourself? Stop Looking Within Yourself. (TREVIN WAX, OCTOBER 2, 2020, Relevant)

Recent studies show that 91 percent of Americans agree with this statement: "The best way to find yourself is by looking within yourself." In other words, if you want to discover who you are and what your purpose is, the place to look is inside your heart. You look inside for the answers. Trust your heart. Go with your gut. No one else gets to define you. This is the "looking in" approach to life.

The freedom you feel when you see your life this way can be mesmerizing. You get to determine your destiny. You are free to define yourself however you want. If you want to change your name and start over, go for it. You can define yourself by your career or your hobby or your talents. You and you alone are the ultimate determiner of who you are and how you express yourself. You alone possess intimate knowledge of what makes you unique, and you alone can determine how to bring that sense of specialness out for the world. 

Best of all, when you look inside to define yourself, whatever you find there is good. Whatever you find is beautiful. No one gets to tell you your self-definition is wrong or bad or ugly. Defining yourself is the ultimate adventure.

But there is a downside to this way of thinking: the whole project depends on you.

The entirety of becoming a decent person is looking outside yourself.  Christ never commanded us to love ourselves, but one another. Those who do are, in turn, lovable.

Posted by orrinj at 7:18 AM


Potential Biden Administration Defense Pick Outlines Pentagon Priorities for Next Decade (Steven Stashwick, October 02, 2020, The Diplomat)

In an interview this week, former senior U.S. defense official Michele Flournoy discussed the  [...]

Her assessment of the Trump administration's strategy towards China is blunt. Asked if it was working, she replied "Right now? No." She criticized the administration's narrow focus, in practice, on trade and tariff issues and pursuing policies mostly bilaterally, instead of building broad coalitions of partners and allies.

She recognizes the risks and threats China poses. In an essay earlier this summer, she captured attention with the proposal that being able to "credibly threaten to sink all of China's military vessels, submarines, and merchant ships in the South China Sea within 72 hours" would help deter China from attempting a fait accompli in the region.

Still, she rejects terms like primacy when discussing the military balance that the United States should pursue in relation to China. Instead she believes that the U.S. military needs only "enough of an edge" to deter China from threatening vital U.S. interests in the region - something that she believes need to be articulated more clearly - either by being able to thwart their effort, or making it too costly to be worthwhile.

For that reason, she is keen to find cost savings in the United States' nuclear weapons arsenal, which the Trump administration has proposed modernizing and expanding at enormous expense. She believes that instead of focusing on a nuclear competition with China, savings need to be invested in conventional deterrence and capabilities for competing in the low intensity "gray zone," where most of the strategic interaction between the two countries is likely to take place.

Posted by orrinj at 7:11 AM


The Asia Inheritance: Trump and US Alliances (Abraham M. Denmark and Shihoko Goto, October 01, 2020, The Diplomat)

The French philosopher Albert Camus once wrote, "In the middle of winter, I at last discovered that there was in me an invincible summer." He may as well have been describing U.S. alliances in East Asia after nearly four years of the Donald Trump administration. Despite weathering tremendous challenges, U.S. alliances with Australia, Japan, the Philippines, and South Korea have proven to be more resilient than many would have expected.

He leaves behind him no evidence that he was ever president.

Posted by orrinj at 7:06 AM


Lincoln and Presidential Character : Abraham Lincoln learned much of what made him a great president -- honesty, sincerity, toughness, and humility -- from his early reading and from studying the lives of Washington and Franklin. (David S. Reynolds, October 2020, American Heritage)

What makes a President great? How do we judge the character of candidates for high office? Those questions have been transcendent for American voters since the earliest days of our Republic. And since most people believe that Lincoln was our greatest President, it's worth examining what it was that made him great. 

Lincoln gained many of these traits through reading. Today, psychologists such as Geoff Kaufman at Dartmouth College point out that when we read about and identify with characters in fiction, we tend to subconsciously adopt their behavior. Lincoln proves that the same is true of nonfiction as well - his early reading exposed him to the role models of George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. And he absorbed core values from the Bible and Aesop's Fables, and learned from reading James Riley that America had the finest political system in the world, but it was also stained by the worst form of oppression. 

Lincoln's schooling experience was typical for a boy growing up on the Kentucky-Indiana frontier. His total time in school, he reported, was less than one year. Abe attended five schools for short terms, two in Kentucky before he turned seven and three in Indiana at the ages of eleven, thirteen, and seventeen.

Schools on the frontier at the time were often windowless and dirt-floored, single-room log structures. A school term customarily lasted two or three months and was scheduled not to conflict with the planting and harvesting seasons, when children were needed for farm work. 

However, in nineteenth-century America a sound education could be found outside the classroom as shown by the experiences of Frederick Douglass, who had no formal schooling yet became one of the century's most eloquent communicators, or Walt Whitman, the great poet who left school at eleven. This was the case with Lincoln. He absorbed the cultural energies of the frontier, and read books that helped shape his character. He was an attentive reader, and little was lost on him. He often repeated passages aloud and wrote them down whenever he could. 

When we survey these eclectic influences -- to which can be added newspapers, which he began reading in Indiana in the 1820s -- we see his mind was fed early on by all kinds of sources, high and low, sacred and secular.  Absorbing the new religious style of preachers at the same time as crude frontier humor, he was integrating culture in an extraordinarily wide-ranging manner.

...but that he was also raised by a Klansman.

Posted by orrinj at 7:04 AM


Scrutiny on Rose Garden event after Kellyanne Conway and other guests test positive for Covid (Lois Beckett ,  2 Oct 2020, The Guardian)

A crowded Rose Garden ceremony last Saturday at which Donald Trump announced Amy Coney Barrett as his supreme court nominee has come under scrutiny after at least seven figures in attendance tested positive for coronavirus, including the president himself.

On Friday, the president's former counsellor, Kellyanne Conway, announced she had tested positive and had "mild" symptoms.

Two Republican senators, Thom Tillis and Mike Lee, also announced they have also tested positive.

Lee, who did not wear a mask at the White House event, said he had "symptoms consistent with longtime allergies". Tillis, who did wear a mask, said he has no symptoms. Both said they will quarantine for 10 days - ending just before Barrett's confirmation hearings begin on 12 October.

Both senators serve on the Senate judiciary committee, raising questions about upcoming supreme court confirmation hearings and whether additional senators may have been exposed.

University of Notre Dame's president, John Jenkins, was also later diagnosed with the disease.

Trump was hospitalized on Friday, with the White House saying that he would spend "a few days" at the Walter Reed national military medical center following his diagnosis.

Speculation is growing that the event, which took place on 25 September, could have been the source of Trump's infection and possibly a super-spreader event, as confirmed cases rise. Barrett said Friday that she had not tested positive for the virus.

dang; wishing it fake seemed so likely to prevent infection...

October 2, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 6:28 PM


Federal Court Halts Trump's Ban on Nonimmigrant Visas (Peter Margulies, October 2, 2020, Lawfare)

In an important ruling on Oct. 1, Judge Jeffrey White of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California granted a preliminary injunction against President Trump's nonimmigrant visa ban (NIV ban). 

The ban would have suspended visas for many temporary skilled workers and their families, regardless of their country of origin. White's ruling in National Association of Manufacturers v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security means that the National Association of Manufacturers and members of other groups that challenged the ban can continue to benefit from skilled temporary foreign national workers who also aid the U.S. economy. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:53 PM


As Biden's election odds improve, the Russian ruble sinks (NATASHA DOFF AND BLOOMBERG October 2, 2020)

A slump in the currency in recent months has mirrored rising betting odds of Biden beating Trump on Nov. 3. After two days of gains, the ruble sank the most in emerging markets on Friday on news that the president had contracted the coronavirus.

The market is predicting a Democrat in the White House will more likely impose harsher sanctions on Russia, and the risk of such penalties might increase if the Kremlin tries to interfere in the vote to prevent a Biden victory.

The trend is the opposite of 2016, when the Russian currency appreciated as Trump gained in the polls.

Posted by orrinj at 11:42 AM


Tesla sales surge as global demand picks up speed (The Associated Press, October 2, 2020)
Tesla's third-quarter sales jumped 44% as global demand for its electric vehicles outpaced that of most other automakers.

Posted by orrinj at 10:53 AM


No, Debt Is Not at Scary Levels Right Now (Kevin Drum, 10/01/20, MoJo)

In the case of both corporate and household debt, it doesn't do to just show raw levels or BBB bond issuance or median income. The simplest view is to look at total debt as a percentage of something that accounts for the fact that everything is growing, not just debt. In the case of corporations, debt-to-equity levels are the usual way of gauging things. In the case of households, debt as a percentage of income is the most revealing. Both are at historically low levels.

Posted by orrinj at 10:23 AM


Posted by orrinj at 10:17 AM


Democrats Are Moving Fast on the Filibuster. Biden Isn't Yet. Nearly everything they want to achieve hinges on a step their candidate may not take. (Gabriel Debenedetti, 10/01/20, New York)

Since the pandemic shut down the country this spring, Joe Biden has repeatedly invoked a vision for his presidency as a New Deal-size national rejuvenation project, with himself playing the unlikely role of FDR. Again and again, to the applause of liberals and leftists who long viewed him skeptically, he has promised an administration that, fully realized, would be the most progressive in decades: trillions more in coronavirus stimulus spending, a climate plan backed by the authors of the Green New Deal, and perhaps even a public-health-insurance option. But he may also be one of the few remaining members of that progressive coalition in D.C. who think an agenda like that could be passed without first quickly abolishing the legislative filibuster. At the very least, he wants to try and work with post-Donald Trump Republicans first, before his party moves to strip the Senate minority of the ability to effectively veto legislation. Many liberals fret that even if Biden wins and Democrats take back the Senate, he won't have that luxury -- that he would have to make a choice early in his presidency whether to embark on a truly expansive administration that stretches the landscape of legislative possibility, or a restorationist one, which rebuilds self-restricting norms after Trump's destruction. Having it both ways is a way of achieving neither, they worry. But that concern is unlikely to stop Biden -- who still considers himself a consummate man of the Senate whose 36 years in the chamber give him unparalleled knowledge of its inner workings -- from trying. "We can do a great deal if we just start talking to one another," he said on a private Zoom call with 20 donors in mid-July. "Politics has become so dirty, so mean, so personal, it's hard to get anything done."

The most likely scenario for getting rid of the filibuster is not just general Republican obstructionism but Justic Barrett providing the vote to eliminate Obamacare.  at that point, Democrats can just get rid of the filibuster and pass a Democratic bill to replace Obama's Republican one.

Obviously, it would be better for at least a faction of the Senate GOP to participate in helping Uncle Joe legislate.

Posted by orrinj at 5:44 AM


There's a Proud Boys chapter in Israel (Molly Boigon, October 1, 2020, the Forward)

The Proud Boys, a club of self-identified "western chauvinists" who have been energized by President Donald Trump's request during Tuesday night's debate that they "stand by," have a chapter in Israel, despite the group's association with antisemites and white nationalists.

It's because of the mutual legitimization of Trumpist hatred of black fellow citizens and Zionist hatred of Palestinians.

October 1, 2020

Posted by orrinj at 11:10 PM


Trump blames low-income people, minorities for 'ruining' suburbia (MAYA KING and LAURA BARRÓN-LÓPEZ, 10/01/2020, Politico)

"By the way, just so we can get this straight, 30 percent of the people in the suburbs are low-income people. Thirty percent of the people in the suburbs are minorities. And so we're ruining this American dream for everybody," Trump said.

To Donald's credit: he realizes the only reason to support him is racism.

Posted by orrinj at 7:52 PM


Following rocky debate, Biden takes lead over Trump in latest exclusive Channel 2 poll (WSBTV.com News,  October 1, 2020)

For the first time, former Vice President Joe Biden is leading our exclusive Channel 2 Action News/Landmark Communications poll.

New numbers out Thursday have Biden leading President Donald Trump 47% to 45%.

Compare that to our Landmark poll from one month ago, when Trump was leading Biden 47% to 40%.

Posted by orrinj at 7:31 PM


Posted by orrinj at 7:20 PM


Russia Caught in Web of Middle Eastern Intrigues (Pavel K. Baev, September 28, 2020, Eurasia Daily Monitor)

The centerpiece of Russia's policy in the Middle East is certainly the intervention in Syria; but today, it has transformed into a multifaceted source of problems. The friction between Russian and US military patrols in northeastern Syria is actually the least of these troubles (RBC, September 20). Greater risks stem from tensions with Turkey, which resolutely rejects Russian plans for restoring the Bashar al-Assad regime's control over the rebel-held Idlib province. Moscow sought to strike a bargain by offering to expand the Turkish zone of control along the border with Syria; but Ankara asserts that it will move into Kobane and Manbij when it sees fit (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, September 21).

Even greater trouble is brewing--despite diplomatic geniality--in Russia's interactions with Iran. The COVID-19 pandemic and associated economic crisis hit the Islamic Republic so severely that they curtailed its external engagements, notwithstanding renewed pledges from Tehran to exact revenge for the US assassination of General Qasem Soleimani on January 3, 2020 (RIA Novosti, September 20). Moscow used to worry about an overly strong Iranian presence in Syria; but now it has begun to express concerns about its reduction. Russia cannot take on the full burden of rebuilding the war-desolated Syria and understands that Western aid will only materialize following the initiation of political reforms. However, despite cutting its own investments in Syria, Iran still maintains enough influence to block all meaningful reforms (Russiancouncil.ru, September 11). Moreover, in seeking to stop Israeli air strikes on its assets, the Iranian command moved to take control of parts of the Syrian air-defense system, effectively elbowing out Russia (Svobodnaya Pressa, September 23).

Troubles in Syria determine the timidity of Russia's policy in Libya, where Wagner Group mercenaries are supposed to be the key instrument but whose performance has been far from stellar (Lenta.ru, September 23). Egypt has taken on the central role in terminating the hostilities and building a minimally effective government in eastern Libya, perhaps calculating that a division of the troubled neighboring state is a relatively acceptable option (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, September 24). The lull in fighting has allowed the Libyan Oil Company to resume production and export, except from the oil fields where the presence of "gangs of Wagnerites" make it impossible to lift the force majeure (Kommersant, September 22).

One immediate consequence of this fragile pacification has been a further drop in oil prices, prompting some Russian experts to repeat their predictions that the propitious period of over-priced hydrocarbons may be over forever (Forbes.ru, September 23). Moscow claims a readiness to deliver on its commitments to cut oil production according to the OPEC+ deal with Saudi Arabia, but the implementation of this cartel arrangement remains shaky (Izvestia, September 17). Putin tries to keep engaging with Saudi royals but cannot talk them out of their proclivity to give special discounts to China in order to boost exports to this key market, where Russia has, heretofore, had a slight edge (Neftegaz.ru, September 25). Moreover, confrontation with Iran is central to Saudi regional strategy, and the joint Russian-Iranian naval maneuvers in the Caspian Sea (held as part of Moscow's large-scale Caucasus 2020 strategic exercises) invited strong resentment in Riyadh (TV-Zvezda, September 25).

Russia has positioned itself as a major opponent of US policy in the Middle East, but the benefits from this posturing are now mostly exhausted. Moscow cannot, in any meaningful way, fill the imaginary "vacuum" left by particular US withdrawals and disengagements, because local stakeholders are concurrently expanding their own influence. Moreover, the deepening disaster of the COVID-19 pandemic increases the need for economic assistance and humanitarian aid, but Russia cannot deliver anything except promises of sharing its dubious vaccine. 

Enmeshing Putin in Syria was a diplomatic coup (even if unintentional).

Posted by orrinj at 5:33 PM


Posted by Orrin Judd at 1:55 PM


I wrote this a while ago, so it will seem redundant to some, and I apologize for that. Also, I promised on pain of death never to reveal the identity of the gentleman mentioned herein--an entirely characteristic desire on his part not to be made to seem extraordinary, though he is. We reprint it now only because, having had the tv on for exactly twenty minutes, I just saw the American flag being burned on four different continents and even here in the U.S.:

I have to admit that I find most of the "Greatest Generation" stuff to be pretty annoying. I don't think the generation that survived Depression childhoods and fought WWII actually did anything that other generations of Americans would not have (let's hope we never have to find out). And I think they deserve our opprobrium for the job they did raising their kids and for the demands they placed on government, as if their service to the nation entitled them to fiscally irresponsible Social Security, Medicare, and other social welfare programs. Mostly I think the image of them as selfless and silent sufferers is a canard. This after all was the generation that first popularized divorce and the myriad social "freedoms" that did so much to destroy our social fabric in the 60s & 70s.

On the other hand, one of my personal heroes is a member of that generation and does exemplify all the qualities we attribute to them generally. I have a friend whose Dad was a poor Jewish kid from Louisiana. He was sent to fight the Germans in Europe and ended up in the Battle of the Bulge. He's a big, big man, not terribly tall but bull-like. Most of all, he's got big feet. One of the only things I've ever heard him complain about in all the years I've known him is that they could never get boots big enough for him, so his feet always hurt anyway, plus it was cold as heck marching around in the snow that winter. For years that was darn near all he told us about his service.

So here was this big, quiet guy, the kind of Dad that every boy sort of, or openly, wishes he had. One who doesn't feel compelled to "share his emotions, but whose feelings of love for his family, his friends, his God and his country are clear to anyone who pays attention. Simply by his presence and his authority he made us tone down, and improve, our behavior. It wasn't that we feared him--though once, when I swore in front of his wife, he did clobber me over the head and surprised even himself by splitting the plastic batting helmet I was wearing in two--it was more that we couldn't bear the thought of disappointing him.

Then, one night, I don't even remember how we got him going, he said a little more about his war. In quiet, almost reverential, tones, he just mentioned to us : "I had to bayonet a guy during the war. I could feel his weight at the end of the gun barrel." And, with that, he got a far away look in his eyes and he said no more.

Well, we were so quiet, so awed, that you could hear everyone breathing. No way would we have had the temerity to ask him anything more; even if our curiosity was killing us, as I assure you it was.

Why do I mention that now?

Today someone asked me a question : what does the American flag mean to you? I'm afraid my answer was neither eloquent nor memorable. She asked me about the flag burning case and didn't have a coherent response. But then this guy, whose Dad I mention, told me a story.

When that case was decided, he asked his Dad what he thought about it. His Dad, of course, is your garden variety New Jersey Jewish Democrat. He supports the right of people to do things he would never dream of doing himself and which he would strangle his own sons for doing. But he does support those rights. So my friend expected him to say the decision was okay.

Instead, his Dad said that he thought burning the flag was an act of sacrilege, like burning the Torah.

As my friend said :

"I don't know that you'll ever inculcate that level of love of country inthe classrooms where you're putting flags...but if you can get to 50% of that sentiment, it will be worth the effort...."

What a glorious gift those of us who are privileged to live in America have received. For it is only in America that a boy may be sent abroad to fight an evil that, while it is not even harming his countrymen, is killing his coreligionists by the million. Such are the ideals that we often vindicate, that evil shall not stand, that when freedom is threatened, we'll be there. Such are the values that the flag stands for.

How lucky we are that men like this end up here, where these values reign, where they endure through the efforts of such men. It has been one of the great privileges of my life to know him.

So, rather than dwell on the navel-gazing cretins who are defiling our flag and besmirching our streets in SF and Chicago and elsewhere, we choose instead to think of this utterly decent and wholly unrecognized hero and those like him, many of whom are abroad tonight in yet another blighted land, fighting for the same values sixty years later. Thanks to them, and in spite of the swinish demonstrators, if we ask ourselves "how stands the city on this winter night?", we can honestly answer: "not bad at all".

I repost this today in honor of the gentleman discussed, who passed in the early hours this morning. Godspeed, big guy. [originally posted: 3/21/03]
Posted by orrinj at 12:42 PM


Tesla drops China-made Model 3 price by up to 10% as it introduces cheaper batteries (Tim Levin, 10/01/20, Business Insider)

Tesla cut the price of its Chinese-market Model 3 sedans by up to 10%, according to pricing listed on the company's China website. The move came the same week that sources told Reuters Tesla would move to a cheaper battery in certain Chinese-made Model 3s, but it wasn't clear whether that caused the price drop.

Posted by orrinj at 11:11 AM



An Al Gross campaign ad sounds as if Old Spice and Dos Equis made a crossover episode. Rather than tout his political history -- the Juneau doctor and first-time Senate candidate has none -- his commercials cite the fact that he was born "in the wake of an avalanche," bought his first fishing boat with a bank loan at 14 years old, prospected for gold and killed a grizzly bear. Not with his bare hands, mind you, although at this point it wouldn't surprise us if he had.

Of course, most mainlanders haven't heard much about the Independent candidate's upstart campaign, given that staunchly red Alaska is rarely competitive in presidential elections. Gross may be changing that, though, making the Alaska Senate race relevant when most thought incumbent Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan was completely safe. One August poll had Gross even with Sullivan, while another, in September (paid for by a pro-Gross super PAC) had him down just one point -- well within the margin of error. [...]

The issue when Senate seats in Republican strongholds like Alaska or South Carolina become competitive is that they draw resources from other must-win states. It also has ramifications for Donald Trump in the presidential election, given that the same September poll had Trump also ahead by just a single percentage point over Joe Biden in Alaska. As a result, Alaska saw by far the biggest shift of any state in this week's presidential model -- a nearly 15 percentage point move in Biden's direction. While Tranter doesn't believe Alaska will actually abandon the GOP -- with a 72 percent chance of Trump victory, it's still rated "Lean Republican" -- that doesn't mean it's not troubling for Trump.

"In simulations where Trump wins, he nearly always carries Alaska, Montana, Missouri and South Carolina," Tranter says. "For these states to have drifted out of safety into even remotely competitive territory, coupled with Biden not ceding much ground in traditionally Democratic states, encapsulates why Trump's electoral outlook remains relatively bleak."

Indeed, typically safe red states are joining (or even replacing) this year's expected purple battlegrounds like North Carolina (where our model now gives Biden a 53 percent chance of victory), Florida (59 percent), Arizona (59 percent), Michigan (74 percent), Pennsylvania (72 percent) and Wisconsin (76 percent). The fact that Trump is playing defense in so many places is a major reason why the OZY/0ptimus forecast gives Biden an 82 percent chance of Electoral College victory in November.

Posted by orrinj at 8:33 AM


Biden Lead Looks Firmer as Midwest Moves His Way (Kyle Kondik and J. Miles ColemanIn, October 1, 2020, Sabato Crystal Ball)

-- With the first debate now in the books, we have close to 20 rating changes across the Electoral College, Senate, and House.

-- Joe Biden is now over 270 electoral votes in our ratings as we move several Midwestern states in his favor.

-- Changes in the battle for Congress benefit Democrats almost exclusively. We're moving two Senate races in their direction, as well as several House contests.

We Republicans have brought this on ourselves.

Posted by orrinj at 8:25 AM


These 3D-printed igloos could take us one step closer to life on the moon (NATE BERG, 10/01/20, fAST cOMPANY)

Building with moon dust is less improbable than it might seem. Common cinderblocks are little more than sand and glue, and advances in additive manufacturing have shown that 3D printers can be used to make habitable structures. These advancements are partly why NASA is funding the construction technology startup Icon, which has developed a 3D printer capable of constructing housing at scale (a project that won Fast Company's 2020 Innovation by Design Awards). Based in Austin, Icon was a finalist in NASA's 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge.

To figure out what exactly this 3D printer can and should build on the moon, Icon has announced a partnership with SEArch+, an architecture firm that has worked with NASA on human-centered designs for space exploration, and the Bjarke Ingels Group, one of the world's most prominent architecture firms. With projects like a ski-slope topped waste-to-energy plant in Copenhagen, a pyramid-like apartment building in Manhattan and the Lego House museum in Billund, Denmark, BIG is known for audacious and crowd-pleasing architecture.

Posted by orrinj at 8:13 AM


House Adopts Resolution Urging Peaceful Transition -- But Five Republicans Vote No (Alex Henderson, October 01 | 202, National Memo)

Claiming that Democrats are trying to use mail-in voting to promote voter fraud, President Donald Trump has refused to say that he will accept the election results if former Vice President Joe Biden wins in November. The House of Representatives, in response, adopted a resolution on Tuesday calling for a peaceful transfer of power in the presidential election -- and it passed 379-5. Most House Republicans voted in favor of the resolution, but five didn't: Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas, Rep. Steve King of Iowa, Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Rep. Clay Higgins of Louisiana.

Posted by orrinj at 7:35 AM


'Woke' Christians Are Eroding Donald Trump's Base and Dividing the Evangelical Church (PAUL BOND, 10/1/20, Newsweek)

"We need to talk about race," Phil Vischer says in a video posted June 14 on YouTube. The evangelical creator of VeggieTales, a children's show that tells Bible stories using animated vegetables with names like Junior Asparagus and Pa Grape, tells viewers in his 17-minute video that Black households have one-tenth the wealth as white ones and delves into the history of Jim Crow laws, the "war on drugs" and "militarized police." He talks about a TV news media that scares Americans with images of Black criminals and teachers who favor white kids due to their "unconscious bias."

Call Vischer the tip of the spear of what critics call a "woke" Christian movement whose members have not only embraced the language of the left but also its chief goal of defeating Donald Trump in the upcoming presidential election. They'll do so, some say, if they can convince as little as 2 percent of the evangelicals who voted for Trump in 2016 to vote for Joe Biden in November. After all, he won in swing state Pennsylvania, for example, by just 44,000 votes, courtesy of white evangelicals. Pew Research indicates that Trump got 81 percent of the vote nationwide from white evangelicals in 2016 and his support in that group as of three months ago was at 82 percent.

But Vischer's video can help chip away at that support, given it has been viewed 8 million times thus far, and Vischer told Newsweek 90 percent of the feedback he's received has been positive.

The most shameful aspect of the Donald years is not the man himself but the fact that Christians and conservatives supported him.
Posted by orrinj at 7:31 AM


Why the real estate boom could keep going for years (Dion Rabouin, 10/01/20, Axios)

There are a few big factors that could buoy the housing market for years to come, says Jonathan Woloshin, head of U.S. real estate at UBS Global Wealth Management.

Older millennials, a historically large generation, are reaching their late 30s -- an important marker, as there has been a persistent 20-percentage point gap between the percentage of homeowners under 35 and those 35-44.

Homebuilders have been slow to erect new housing since the global financial crisis, limiting supply.

And yes, "COVID put some extra juice in the market," Woloshin tells Axios.

But what's really driving things is a new "migration" out of major population hubs like New York and San Francisco and into lower-cost suburban areas and smaller, more affordable cities like Phoenix, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas and Boise, he says.

The bottom line: Even though prices have risen, the record-low mortgage rates have brought down the monthly bill new buyers will see in many cases, Tendayi Kapfidze, chief economist at LendingTree, tells Axios.

Posted by orrinj at 7:25 AM


Democrats Say Republicans Rushing Barrett Supreme Court Nomination (VOA News, October 01, 2020)

Democrats on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee said Republicans are rushing the Supreme Court confirmation process for Judge Amy Coney Barrett and reiterated calls for postponing the review of her nomination until after the presidential inauguration in January.

Donald has played this wrong; all most Republicans wanted was not-Hillary and judges.  Once we have the third Court seat he's of no use anymore.

Posted by orrinj at 7:04 AM


Trump Administration Proposes Limiting Refugee Admissions to 15,000 (VOA, October 01, 2020)

The Trump administration said late Wednesday it wants to cut the number of refugees admitting into the United States to 15,000 in fiscal year 2021, which begins Thursday.

The figure represents the latest in a series of annual cuts since President Donald Trump took office in 2017.

Uncle Joe can reopen the borders on day one, since it's mostly just administrative actions, but the lesson of the last few years is that he also needs to grant a mass amnesty to immigrants who already made it here. .