May 3, 2021

Posted by orrinj at 9:40 PM


Second Steele dossier contained evidence of additional compromising Trump sex tapes: report (Bob Brigham, May 03, 2021, Raw Story)

"The former MI6 spy Christopher Steele produced a second dossier for the FBI on Donald Trump while he was in the White House, sources told The Telegraph. Mr Steele filed a series of intelligence reports to US authorities during the Trump presidency, including information concerning alleged sexual exploits," the British newspaper reported Monday evening.

"Mr Steele's continued involvement supplying intelligence to the FBI appears to give credibility to his original dossier, which sparked a Special Counsel investigation by prosecutor Robert Mueller into Russian interference into the 2016 US presidential elections," the newspaper noted. "The second dossier contains raw intelligence that makes further claims of Russian meddling in the US election and also references claims regarding the existence of further sex tapes. The second dossier is reliant on separate sources to those who supplied information for the first reports."

Posted by orrinj at 7:06 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:48 PM


The foundations of mathematics are unproven: Philosopher and logician Kurt Gödel upended our understanding of mathematics and truth. (JONNY THOMSON, 30 April, 2021, Rightly Understood)

Imagine the whole of mathematics as a huge sack, and inside are all the possible things math can do. It's a mighty big sack, indeed. What Gödel proved is that, first, there exists in this sack a set of things which cannot be proven or disproven, such as axioms. Second, there is no possible way to prove these axioms from within that sack. It's impossible for math, on its own, to prove its own axioms.

Essentially, it's a problem of self-reference. It's an issue seen, too, in Russell's paradox about sets. More famously, the liar paradox imagines a sentence like, "This sentence is false." When you examine it closely, it creates a logical circularity. If the sentence is true, then it's false; but then if it's false, it's true. It's enough to make a robot's brain explode.

Gödel applied a similar logic to the whole system of mathematics. He took the sentence, "This statement is unproven," and converted it into a number statement about numbers (with a code system known as "Gödel numbering"). He discovered that this proposition cannot be proven within that system.

Going even further than this, Gödel concluded that in every system that's rich enough to allow for arithmetic, there will be a proposition within it that cannot be proven by it's own tools. We need some kind of "meta language" to prove the rules by which a system operates. It's a bit like how we can't see our own eyes or draw around the hand that's holding the pencil.

How postmodernists weaponized Gödel
Gödel has been misrepresented, even in his lifetime. For instance, certain postmodernist philosophers used him to say, "There is no truth! Even math is groundless!" They wanted to show how everything was meaningless, and truth amounted only to opinion.

But this isn't the point. Gödel only showed that truth does not always need to be proven.

Posted by orrinj at 6:35 PM


Republicans feared Democrats' voting protections bill polls well. A new poll says they're right. (Andrew Prokop,  May 3, 2021, Vox)

Back in March, the New Yorker's Jane Mayer obtained a recording of an adviser to Mitch McConnell privately bemoaning, on a call with conservative group leaders, that Democrats' big voting rights bill, the For the People Act, polled quite well. "When presented with a very neutral description" of it, "people were generally supportive," the adviser said.

A new Data for Progress poll conducted as part of a partnership with Vox backs up that assessment. The poll surveyed 1,138 likely voters nationally between April 16 and April 19, and it finds that much of what the 800-page bill claims to do is overwhelmingly popular.

More than 80 percent of respondents said they supported preventing foreign interference in elections, limiting the influence of money in politics, and modernizing election infrastructure to increase election security. More than 60 percent of respondents supported requiring nonpartisan redistricting commissions, a 15-day early voting period for all federal elections, same-day registration for all eligible voters, automatic voter registration for all eligible voters, and giving every voter the option to vote by mail.

Posted by orrinj at 4:06 PM


China Is a Paper Dragon: U.S. policy makers should look to the future with a little more confidence and a lot more trust in trade, markets, and the superior potential of a free people. (David Frum, 5/03/21, The Atlantic)

 In 2018, the Tufts University professor Michael Beckley published a richly detailed study of Chinese military and economic weaknesses. The book is titled Unrivaled: Why America Will Remain the World's Sole Superpower. [...]

When Chinese forces do train, Beckley argues, the exercises bear little resemblance to the challenges the People's Liberation Army would face in a great-power conflict:

PLA exercises remain heavily scripted (the red team almost always wins) ... Most exercises involve a single service or branch, so troops lack the ability to conduct joint operations, and assessments are often nothing more than "subjective judgments based on visual observation rather than on detailed quantitative data" and are scored "based simply on whether a training program has been implemented rather than on whether the goals of the program have been achieved."

Worried about Chinese students' high scores on comparative math tests? You're looking at the curated outputs of highly selective groups of students.

Whereas public school is free through high school in the United States, China's government only covers the costs of elementary and middle school. At many Chinese high schools, families have to pay tuition and other expenses, and these outlays are among the highest in the world. Consequently, 76 percent of China's working-age population has not completed high school.

Things don't improve at the college level.

Many Chinese college students describe their universities as "diploma factories," where student-teacher ratios are double the average in U.S. universities, cheating is rampant, students spend a quarter of their time studying "Mao Zedong thought," and students and professors are denied access to basic sources of information, such as Google Scholar and certain academic journal repositories.

Surely China is winning the industries of the future? Not really.

Chinese firms' total spending on R&D as a percentage of sales revenue stalled at levels four times below the average for American firms. ... Chinese firms remain dependent on foreign technologies and manual labor and have a rudimentary level of automation and digitization: on average Chinese enterprises have just nineteen robots per ten thousand employees; U.S. firms, by contrast, use an average of 176 robots per ten thousand employees.

But isn't China sprinting to overtake the United States? Yes, but it's stumbling badly in that pursuit.

China now leads the world in retractions of scientific studies due to fraud; one-third of Chinese scientists have admitted to plagiarizing or falsifying results (versus 2 percent of U.S. scientists); and two-thirds of China's R&D spending has been lost to corruption.

Undergirding these examples and dozens more like them is Beckley's clarifying theoretical insight: Repression is expensive.

Comparing China's military spending to that of the United States, for example, doesn't make much sense. The Chinese military's first and paramount mission is preserving the power of the Chinese Communist Party against China's own people. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:02 PM


Man Allegedly Plowed Pickup Truck into Picnic Birthday Party After Complaining About 'Asians,' 'Yuppies with Dogs' (ALBERTO LUPERON, May 3rd, 2021, Law & Crime)

A man in Chicago, Illinois allegedly plowed a pickup truck into a running club that was holding a picnic birthday party. Police say Timothy Nielsen, 57, jumped a curb to hit the picnickers, striking a 42-year-old woman.

Posted by orrinj at 1:49 PM


Why Not Turn Airports Into Giant Solar Farms? (MATT SIMON, 05.03.2021, Wired)

So why aren't we covering our airports--dedicated spaces that can't be used for anything other than the business of air travel--with solar arrays? Well, it turns out that airports not only have a lot of empty space, they also have a lot of rules.

But let's talk about their potential first. New research out of Australia shows how massively effective it would be to solarize 21 airports in that country. Researchers scanned satellite images of the airports for open roof space, where solar panels best avoid shadows, and found a total of 2.61 square kilometers, or 1 square mile, of usable area. 

For comparison, they also scanned satellite imagery and found 17,000 residential solar panels in the town of Bendigo, just north of Melbourne in southern Australia. The researchers calculated that the airports could potentially produce 10 times the amount of solar energy as those 17,000 residential panels--enough to power 136,000 homes. Perth Airport alone would generate twice as much as Bendigo. (Perth is very sunny, and the airport has lots of big buildings.) They further calculated that solarizing all 21 airports would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 152 kilotons a year, the equivalent of pulling 71,000 passenger cars off the road.

With their plentiful sunshine, Australians are sitting on the energy equivalent of a gold mine; large swaths of blank rooftop space in airports provide an opportunity to centralize solar energy production. Installing panels house by house is great--and no one is saying we should stop, because we need all the solar power we can get. But commercial panels are bigger and more efficient, so they can generate more power. Plus, residential roofs come in all shapes and sizes, making them more difficult to work with than a commercial roof, which is usually flat. "Just imagine the labor to install on all the different shapes of residential buildings," says Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology geospatial scientist Chayn Sun, the corresponding author on the new paper describing the modeling in the Journal of Building Engineering. "Compare that with flat-roof, low-rise airport buildings."

Solarizing airports could potentially power the airport itself and even export energy. "Not only can they be self sufficient, they may have excess electricity they can send to the grid to supply the surrounding area," says Sun.

Installing solar panels over California's canals could yield water, land, air and climate payoffs (Brandi McKuin & Roger Bales, 5/03/21, The Conversation)

Climate change and water scarcity are front and center in the western U.S. The region's climate is warming, a severe multi-year drought is underway and groundwater supplies are being overpumped in many locations.

Western states are pursuing many strategies to adapt to these stresses and prepare for the future. These include measures to promote renewable energy development, conserve water, and manage natural and working lands more sustainably.

As engineers working on climate-smart solutions, we've found an easy win-win for both water and climate in California with what we call the "solar canal solution." About 4,000 miles of canals transport water to some 35 million Californians and 5.7 million acres of farmland across the state. Covering these canals with solar panels would reduce evaporation of precious water - one of California's most critical resources - and help meet the state's renewable energy goals, while also saving money.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Europe is back in recession. It's not just the virus. (Ryan Cooper, May 3, 2021, The Week)

Europe is in the unaccustomed position of being roundly whipped by the United States at a public health effort. Thanks apparently to bureaucratic disasters and widespread anti-vaccine paranoia, the coronavirus vaccine rollout there is going much more slowly than here -- the share of Americans with at least one vaccine shot is 60 percent greater than in Germany, and twice the figure in France (admittedly contrary to my own expectations).

As a result, many E.U. countries have been forced back into partial lockdowns, and the region's economy is suffering. Whereas America saw powerful economic growth in the first quarter of this year, the E.U. actually shrank slightly and is now technically in recession once more.

The European vaccine rollout does seem to be accelerating finally after the slow start, and E.U. authorities have planned some programs to goose their economy. But it's critical to realize that even before the pandemic hit, the E.U. had profound economic problems -- it basically never got even close to recovering from the Great Recession. 

Other than that, how's transnationalism working out?
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Where Are the Filibusters?Psst. Don't tell anyone but the Senate is passing bills and Biden has been signing them. (Bill Scher, May 3, 2021, Washington Monthly)

[D]uring the course of Joe Biden's first 100 days as president, the Senate passed 13 bills and filibustered zero. 10 of the 13 bills have been signed into law by President Biden, and the remaining three should soon follow suit.

Maybe the place still works.

Of course, those numbers don't paint the entire picture. The biggest of the 13 bills, by about $2 trillion, is the American Rescue Plan which passed through budget reconciliation on a party-line vote and could not be filibustered. No other major priority of Biden's has a clear path to passage because the mere existence of the filibuster power constrains the ability of the majority to act.

But Senate resistance to a president's ambitions is hardly equivalent to Senate dysfunction, which is what many were expecting and, to be fair, not without reason. Back in March, political scientists Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson explained in The Atlantic, "Why McConnell Gets Away With Filibustering," which characterized the now-Senate Minority Leader's strategy during the Obama presidency as complete and total obstruction at every point possible: "Everything that could be filibustered was -- even routine and trivial matters, even bills and appointments that the Republicans ultimately planned to support."

Whatever there is to say about Mitch McConnell's soulless approach to politics, we cannot say that today he has organized his party to filibuster everything he can. In fact, McConnell has voted "Yea" on most of the 13 successful bills, including legislation to authorize $35 billion for water infrastructure, strengthen the Justice Department's ability to prosecute hate crimes, extend a suspension of automatic Medicare cuts, extend the pandemic small business relief loan program and waive the law that would have prevented Lloyd Austin from becoming Defense Secretary. Neera Tanden's nomination tanked, but no major presidential nomination has led to thermonuclear war.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The U.K.'s Future May Be in the Hands of Scotland's Rebel Youth (Katharine Gemmell, May. 3rd, 2021, Bloomberg)

Scotland heads into an election on May 6 that's become a pitched battle over whether the nation should get another say on its place in the U.K. after Brexit. Polls predict the pro-independence camp is on course to win big and intensify a standoff with the government in London.

The problem for the integrity of the U.K. is that the demographics look increasing stacked against it the longer the wrangling rumbles on. While Scotland is roughly evenly split between support for independence and remaining in the U.K., its rebel youth is disproportionately in favor of going it alone. John Curtice, Britain's most prominent psephologist, calls it a gradual erosion of the foundations of support for the union.

A recent YouGov poll found that 70% of people age 18-24 would vote "yes" in an independence referendum when excluding "don't knows." A Believe In Scotland poll, commissioned by PanelBase, showed that the disparity with older voters ran even deeper: It found 72% of voters between 16--the minimum voting age in Scotland--and 35 would vote "yes." 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


DHS: Migrant family reunifications to begin this week (Ivana Saric, 5/03/21, Axios)

Michelle Brané, executive director of the Family Reunification Task Force, said that over a thousand families have been identified thus far.

Mayorkas added that the files the Biden administration inherited from their predecessors had a "significant number of issues" and that officials have been working to verify much of the information in them. [...]

What they're saying: "This is just the beginning. We continue to work tirelessly to reunite many more children, with their parents in the weeks and months ahead," Mayorkas said.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The One Question I Hate Getting About My Home's Solar RoofYes, it can power my home and two cars. No, that isn't the point. (RYAN CORNELL, APRIL 26, 2021, Slate)

The fact that it is possible to power an entire house and two cars with today's technology seems to intrigue most people. It also inevitably leads to another question. The question that drives me a little bit crazy:

When will the roof pay for itself?

I can hear the comments coming my way: What's wrong with that question? Why wouldn't someone want to know the payback? So, before I dig too deep of a hole, let me state that I don't begrudge anyone that asks it. It is a completely valid question, and while there are problems with the question itself, I still understand why someone wants to know.

The problem with the question is that it is a gross oversimplification. It's a bit like making a yearly budget, but only tracking purchases made on your debit card and ignoring those made with cash. You're tracking, but you'll miss out on the bigger picture. The standard payback calculation for solar is no different: You learn something about some of the benefits of your system, but you completely ignore the environmental benefits and other factors. Many rooftop solar systems will pay for themselves in five to 10 years using a simple cost-benefit calculation, but that only tells us part of the story. We need to factor in a variety of other costs and benefits, which might be a little less obvious but are still just as real.

The environmental impact of electricity generation is a complex calculation that involves a host of variables. But, if we simplify it down, you are essentially replacing a kilowatt hour of electricity (kWh) from the grid with a kWh that comes from your roof. We can then ask: How much pollution is caused from a kWh of coal or natural gas? What are the health and climate costs? How much are these costs reduced if we replace that kWh from fossil fuels with a kWh from solar? The answer: a lot.

A study by the Harvard School of Public Health demonstrated that a single kWh from a coal power plant costs society between 9 cents and 26 cents (taking into account health costs, climate costs, and other damages). Another study found that the health costs of fossil fuels represented 14 cents to 35 cents per kWh. These types of studies are essential, as they tell us about the "social cost" of electricity generation. The social cost gives us a true understanding of what something actually costs, as it factors in the real impact to the climate, human health, and other costs that are outside the normal market transaction.

If we take into account the fact that an average American household consumes more than 10,000 kWh of electricity per year, we can see that a single household could correspond to thousands of dollars in costs to society (if those kWh are coming from fossil fuels). That is incredibly significant. Now, a kilowatt hour produced from solar power has its own costs; the panels aren't made with magic and fairy dust. But the social costs are undeniably far less than combusting fossil fuels.

How much less? Well, that is going to vary from home to home and region to region. But even a 10 cent per kWh reduction in social costs would represent a yearly decrease of over a thousand dollars of damages to our climate, our collective health, and our environment. That's a big deal and it's imperative that we take it into account.

But that's not the only benefit. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Hitler liked women peeing on him during sex and was incestuous with niece, doc claims (James Caven, 2 MAY 2021, Daily Star)

Hitler is said to have had an incestuous relationship with his niece Geli Raubal, which is believed to have lasted for six years.

Former Hitler ally Otto Strasser, who later broke with the party, went on to claim the tyrant liked women to urinate on him.

He said Geli was among those who had been forced to take part in it.

Geli was later discovered dead at Hitler's apartment in Munich, Germany in 1931 after being shot in the chest, aged 23, fuelling suspicions he murdered her.

She reportedly claimed Hitler demanded "simply repulsive" things from her, according to the Sun.

Professor Robert Kaplan, an Australian historian and forensic psychiatrist, told the publication: "Sadomasochistic practices fit perfectly in with Hitler's personality.

"He internalised everything he didn't like, like the losses in his life, and he projected his rage on everybody.

"It's quite feasible that somebody like that would have these sexual practices."

Actress Renata Mueller, who plunged to her death after engaging in sadomasochistic acts with Hitler, also revealed he had pleaded with her to kick him.

She reportedly told film director Alfred Ziesler she kept kicking him as he lay on the floor begging for more.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Let's Cut Child Poverty In Half -- By Making Tax Credit Permanent (Suzan Delbene, May 03 | 2021, American Independent)

Most other developed countries offer a child benefit that gives families money to help cover the basic necessities of raising children.

In the United States, we have the Child Tax Credit, but it is much more narrow than the benefit in other countries. Until recently, it didn't serve the people who needed it most, leaving behind one-third of all children who live in families that didn't make enough money to qualify for the full benefit.

That's why Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Ritchie Torres (D-NY) and I introduced the American Family Act, which would give families up to $300 per month per child and make sure all low- and middle-income families can access the full credit.

A one-year version of our proposal was included in the American Rescue Plan. That's because the New Democrat Coalition, a group of 94 forward-thinking Democrats that I lead in the House, endorsed the American Family Act and pushed for its inclusion as a way to rebuild the middle class. The federal government is expected to start issuing these monthly checks to families in July, to help pay for groceries, rent, and other regular bills.

This is only the beginning of this effort. We cannot lift children out of poverty for just one year. Parents need consistency and predictability knowing this support will be here for the long term as they raise their families. Some might contend this will cost too much or will be too hard to achieve. I say how can we afford not to? Childhood poverty costs the nation upwards of $1 trillion a year. Permanent expansion of the benefit is supported broadly by Democrats, including the New Democrats and Progressives. Giving children a fair chance at success is a position that shouldn't be partisan. The permanent enhanced credit is estimated to save eight dollars for every dollar it costs. This means better health and education outcomes for children and more stability and predictability for parents.