June 10, 2021

Posted by orrinj at 6:50 PM


Trump still loves Putin -- and says he trusts him more than US intel (Matthew Chapman, June 10, 2021, Raw Story)

On Thursday, former President Donald Trump issued a new statement proclaiming that he still trusts Russia and Vladimir Putin over members of the U.S. intelligence community -- even while blasting his closeness with Russia as "phony" and a "hoax."

"As President, I had a great and very productive meeting in Helsinki, Finland, with President Putin of Russia," wrote Trump. "Despite the belated Fake News portrayal of the meeting, the United States won much, including the respect of President Putin and Russia. Because of the phony Russia, Russia, Russia Hoax, made-up and paid for by the Democrats and Crooked Hillary Clinton, the United States was put at a disadvantage -- a disadvantage that was nevertheless overcome by me."

"As to who do I trust, they asked, Russia or our 'Intelligence' from the Obama era, meaning people like Comey, McCabe, the two lovers, Brennan, Clapper, and numerous other sleezebags, or Russia, the answer, after all that has been found out and written, should be obvious," continued Trump. 

By their hatred of Comey, McCabe, Brennan, Hilary, and Steele shall you know them. 

Posted by orrinj at 1:11 PM


Poll: U.S. image abroad rebounds sharply with Biden in office (Jacob Knutson, 6/10/21, Axios)

More than 6 in 10 people in the surveyed countries said they have confidence in Biden to do the right thing in world affairs.

In 12 of the surveyed countries, a median of 75% expressed confidence in Biden, compared with 17% for Trump in 2020.

A median of 62% across 12 nations had a favorable overall opinion of the U.S., while only 34% held that view last year.

Joe Biden is having just as little success as predicted but seems like James K. Polk in comparison to his Wilsonesque predecessor. 

Posted by orrinj at 9:59 AM


As Iran Prepares to Vote, Battered Economy a Major Worry  (Associated Press, June 10, 2021)

Almost six years ago, Iranians poured into the streets to celebrate Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers. They saw it as a chance for the Islamic Republic to re-enter the world economy and create opportunities like purchasing airplanes and selling its oil on the international market.  

Today, that dream has faded into a daily grinding nightmare of high inflation, an ever-weakening national currency and high unemployment worsened by the coronavirus pandemic.  

The West considers Iran's nuclear program and Mideast tensions as the most important issues facing Tehran, but those living in the Islamic Republic repeatedly point to the economy as the major issue facing it ahead of its June 18 presidential election.

Posted by orrinj at 8:13 AM


'Miraculous' mosquito hack cuts dengue by 77% (James Gallagher, 6/10/21, BBC)

Dengue fever cases have been cut by 77% in a "groundbreaking" trial that manipulates the mosquitoes that spread it, say scientists.

They used mosquitoes infected with "miraculous" bacteria that reduce the insect's ability to spread dengue.

The trial took place in Yogyakarta city, Indonesia, and is being expanded in the hope of eradicating the virus.

The World Mosquito Programme team says it could be a solution to a virus that has gone around the world. [...]

The trial used mosquitoes infected with Wolbachia bacteria. One of the researchers, Dr Katie Anders, describes them as "naturally miraculous".

Wolbachia doesn't harm the mosquito, but it camps out in the same parts of its body that the dengue virus needs to get into.

The bacteria compete for resources and make it much harder for dengue virus to replicate, so the mosquito is less likely to cause an infection when it bites again.

But will it work if the fever escaped from a lab?

Posted by orrinj at 8:05 AM


Football has led the way in building an inclusive Englishness - time for others to step up too (Sunder Katwala, 6/10/21, CapX)

English football helped to rewrite our national story again in the 1990s. This was surprising, since the era of hooliganism had made football central to the problem of how national identity could take xenophobic and violent forms - and had led to English clubs being banned from European competition when Italia '90 took place.

It was the magical summer of 1996 that made me much more confident about England. Fans of my generation remember the great sporting moments against Scotland, the Netherlands and Germany. What happened off the pitch felt just as important. As the St George's flags flew around Wembley stadium, in Three Lions we found a new unofficial national anthem too. "It created a very unusual thing - a non-aggressive, non-triumphalist patriotism. It was a soft, sad type of pride being expressed, not a vanquishing, overcoming one," its creator David Baddiel said recently, his wistful tone reflecting on how national identity seems more polarising now.

Yet, 25 years on, football still provides much the most confident expression of an inclusive English identity.

New research from British Future and the Centre for English Identity and Politics finds that an inclusive, civic idea of Englishness remains a work in progress - across both minority and majority groups. Confidence that English identity can belong to those of all ethnicities is shared by three-quarters of the white English, along with two-thirds of ethnic minority respondents. Almost a fifth of ethnic minorities in England do still feel that you have to be white to be considered truly English, while approximately one in ten white respondents prefer an ethnically exclusive idea of who can be English. Older Black and Asian respondents are more sceptical than young people, who are more likely to have been born in England.

The England football team commands most confidence as a symbol of English identity shared across ethnic groups. The research finds broader confidence in the England flag as a healthy sign of an inclusive patriotism when it flies during a tournament than the rest of the year around.

As for taking a knee, the Marcus Rashford generation feels there is more to do to tackle racism in sport and society, and this gesture is how they have chosen to show that.

Reasonable as well as unreasonable points can be found on both sides of these arguments. This gesture does split opinion more than other anti-racism messages. Attitudes to players taking a knee tend to correlate closely with opinions of the Black Lives Matter anti-racism protests themselves, which secured the broad support of two-thirds of ethnic minorities in Britain, and about half of the white population. Views differed notably by age, education and political views. The England squad has an average age of 25, so the players' stance reflects the view of a broad majority of their generation, that 'taking a knee' is a simple and important anti-racist statement.

Some critics suggest a more unifying gesture should be chosen, as with the Premier League evolving from putting Black Lives Matter on shirts to a "no room for racism" slogan. Yet the players were hardly likely to want to retreat after the gesture was booed in the pre-tournament friendlies at Middlesbrough. Gareth Southgate and his players have explained what it does and does not mean to them.

...soccer doesn't care about your race.

Posted by orrinj at 8:01 AM


Ex-Mossad chief Tamir Pardo: Netanyahu broke policy with Iran, US (YONAH JEREMY BOB,  JUNE 9, 2021, Jerusalem Post)

Former Mossad director Tamir Pardo on Wednesday said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has broken the country's strategy for dealing with Iran with the support of the US.

Speaking at the Meir Dagan conference at Netanya Academic College, Pardo said it was a massive strategic error for Netanyahu to be in open conflict with the Obama and Biden administrations over Iran.

The former Mossad chief asked how Netanyahu could dare to say Jerusalem will completely ignore Washington, when it is America which provides both the aircraft and the weapons which the Jewish state uses and needs to defend itself.

Pardo said, "we must do everything to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon," but that it was a mistake for Netanyahu to call it an existential threat as if, should the Islamic Republic someday get such a weapon, all of the Jews would need to flee from the Middle East.

The particular problem is that Bibi/Donald make no bones about Israel/America being an existential threat to Iran, but then expect it to acquiesce.  

Posted by orrinj at 7:54 AM


Taking Evangelical Christians Beyond the Partisan Divide (MAGGIE PHILLIPS, JUNE 10, 2021, Tablet Magazine)

In Romans 12:2, Paul urges his readers, "Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect." It's a message intended for a community of early Christians in a specific time and place who were confronting a set of issues unique to them. However, it has resonated through the ages for believers in Jesus Christ the world over.

Its plea for detachment from the grubbiness of secular life has been taken up again by David French: senior editor of The Dispatch, Harvard-educated lawyer and First Amendment advocate, one-time almost third party presidential candidate, and believing evangelical Christian. In late 2019, he started the faith-focused Sunday edition of his three-times-weekly Dispatch newsletter The French Press, which typically covers (among other topics) politics and law.

Despite its bright play on words, French says The French Press has an "urgent mission" to "get people to shed partisan identity as part of their religious identity." He calls this political identity "the partisan mind," and he is the voice of one calling in the wilderness, urging increased understanding between various interest groups, together with the disentanglement of what is "good, pleasing, and perfect" from the temporal pettiness of politics--regardless of who sits behind the Resolute desk. [...]

French asserts that what he calls the evangelical "siege mentality" prevents many from appreciating the strength and reach of their own institutions, even as, he says, they tell him that "the left controls every major institution."

To which French replies: "It doesn't control the Southern Baptist Convention. And I guarantee you, the Southern Baptist Convention--on a day-to-day basis--reaches far more people with a far more sustained, prolonged moral instruction than many of the most potent institutions on the secular left. And that's just one denomination."

At the same time, many secular Americans or non-evangelicals tend to view this bloc as a monolith, when in fact there's just as much internecine conflict as any political or religious group in the country.

On the one hand, French is hopeful that non-evangelicals will find this cultural fractiousness relatable, a sort of, "evangelicals--they're just like us!" realization. On the other hand, evangelical-skeptic readers may take comfort from his honest portrayal of the flaws and shortcomings within the world of white evangelicalism, in which he says there are emerging signs of change. Among them, he describes "discontent with the extreme devotion to Trump," as well as a discontentment "with reflexive dismissals of racial critiques of the church."

French says this inchoate, roots-level discontentment among his fellow evangelicals has yet to coalesce around a single denomination or movement (although he cites Russell Moore and Beth Moore--no relation, and lately of the Southern Baptist Convention--as popular, high-visibility critics of evangelicalism in the immediate post-Trump era). That isn't to say, however, that an identifiable movement of religious conservatives dissatisfied with the status quo hasn't emerged.

It has--in opposition to David French.

For some of his fellow conservatives, as well as Christians of various denominations, French isn't the voice calling in the wilderness, but the call coming from inside the house. His denunciation of Trump's character, together with his preference for persuasion and 20th-century conservative, small-government solutions, and his commitment to First Amendment neutrality, have earned him detractors. Perhaps most notably, he's attracted critics like New York Post op-ed editor Sohrab Amari, who favors a gloves-off approach to the culture war, and promotes a social conservatism ready to counter by virtually any means necessary what he perceives to be existential threats to a way of life. In the most malign critiques, to those in and around the Ahmari camp, "French-ism" actively enables the destruction of the nuclear family and the wisdom of centuries of tradition.

Nearly two years after his high-profile college campus debates with Ahmari about the future of social conservatism, French forges on through the virtual Nineveh of American political and religious discourse, steadfastly proclaiming his message of reconciliation through understanding. With regard to the tone of The French Press, its author says he finds transparency is key. His goal is to describe issues within white evangelicalism as dispassionately as possible, drawing upon lifelong experience both as an insider and insights gleaned from his career as a religious liberty lawyer. But he'll also tell readers why, in his opinion, satanic pregnancies as a concept are problematic.

Posted by orrinj at 7:46 AM


Biden Should Offer the Vaccine to Iran (Eli Lake, Jun. 9th, 2021, Bloomberg)

President Joe Biden's plan to provide 500 million doses of the Covid vaccine to countries suffering from a deadly pandemic is welcome news for many reasons. The most obvious is that it's in everyone's interest to inoculate as many people as possible in order to diminish the chances that the virus and its mutations will spread.

It also happens to be true that donating vaccines is good public diplomacy. As National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said: "We are not seeking to extract concessions, we're not extorting, we're not imposing conditions the way that other countries who are providing doses are doing." That was a veiled jab at China and Russia, which have for months been providing the Sputnik and Sinopharm vaccine to many of America's traditional allies in Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe.

The current U.S. plan is to offer the vaccine first to poor countries. That's smart as far is it goes. But Biden should make a point of offering the vaccine to a longtime U.S. adversary: Iran.

Our war on Iran has been completely one-sided and totally counter-productive.  Time to return to amity. 
Posted by orrinj at 7:38 AM


Polls show little evidence of difficulty voting in 2020 elections (KARLYN BOWMAN AND SAMANTHA GOLDSTEIN, 06/09/21, The Hill)

None of eight possible impediments in the VSG survey was experienced by more than 3 percent of Americans nationally. No more than 7 percent of any racial or ethnic group faced any of the impediments. The responses of those who said they voted for President Biden and Trump were consistently low and virtually identical to one another. 

Three percent nationally said they couldn't find the correct polling place, and 2 percent said they missed the registration deadline. Hispanics gave higher responses on this question than whites and Blacks, with 7 percent saying they could not find the correct polling place and 5 percent who missed the registration deadline. The VSG survey asked separate questions about mail-in ballots that never arrived or arrived too late to be processed. In both cases, 3 percent nationally experienced this. Seven percent of Hispanics, the highest response for a racial/ethnic group, said they never received the mail-in ballot they requested and 6 percent said it had arrived too late. Five percent of blacks, compared to 1 percent of whites, said the absentee ballot they had requested arrived too late.

Once at their polling places, small numbers of voters experienced problems. Three percent nationally indicated the lines were too long and that they gave up (7 percent of Hispanics, 4 percent of Blacks, and 1 percent of whites). Three percent nationally said they were told their name was not on the registration list (7 percent of Hispanics, 4 percent of Blacks, and 1 percent of whites). Three percent nationally said they had been harassed or bothered while trying to vote; again, Hispanics were slightly more likely to report this (5 percent) than Blacks (3 percent) or whites (2 percent). Finally, 2 percent were told they didn't have the correct identification; once again, Hispanics were more likely to give this response (5 percent) than Blacks or whites (1 percent each).

Seven percent, the highest percentage recorded on any impediment, is not inconsequential. But the vast majority did not experience these obstacles. State and local officials appeared to rise to the challenge during the pandemic. The question now is whether the problems that have been identified are best addressed at the state and local level or through a federal election law overhaul. 

It was fun when Kobach got the Secretaries of State together to ask them about the voter fraud they oversaw and then was shocked when they all said their elections were clean and well run. 
Posted by orrinj at 7:35 AM


With Murdoch's Encouragement, Carlson Promotes White Nationalist 'Replacement' Theory (Matt Gertz, June 10 | 2021, Media Matters)

Here are eight examples of Carlson pushing the white nationalist "great replacement" theory in the two months since Murdoch claimed that he had actually repudiated it, most recently on Monday night. While Carlson is generally careful not to directly say that Democrats want white people replaced by nonwhite ones, his remarks -- referencing migrants from Congo, Haiti, and across the U.S.-Mexico border -- leave no one confused that that is what he is talking about.

June 7: "How did migrants get from Congo to Lewiston, Maine, and why?" Carlson asked about President Joe Biden's immigration policy. "Well, because [Biden White House adviser] Susan Rice and ideologues like her very much want to change Maine's demographics as well as the population mix in every other state in the union." He went on to accuse Democratic leaders of "importing huge numbers of new voters into the United States" because they "no longer believe in democracy as constituted, and they definitely don't plan to lose another election," calling this "the most radical possible attack on the core premise of democracy."

May 24: After the Biden administration extended temporary protected status preventing the removals of Haitian nationals residing in the U.S. who fled following a 2010 earthquake in that country, Carlson accused the Democrats of "trying to change the population of the United States, and they hate it when you say that because it's true, but that's exactly what they are doing." During the segment, a chyron read, "Dems want to import millions of new voters."

May 21: Responding to a guest who claimed that COVID-19 case counts were spiking in border states due to migrants spreading the virus, Carlson commented, "Public health doesn't apply when we're changing the demographic mix to favor the Democratic Party."

April 30: Carlson accused Democrats of "an attack on our democracy" because "they only care about stacking the electorate." He added: "They want to change who votes, so they win. They're diluting the votes of Americans, of all backgrounds, and that is an attack on democracy, period."

April 29: Carlson described the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 as "an assault on democracy, a permanent one." The law repealed the national origins quota system that "was designed to favor Western and Northern European countries and drastically limit admission of immigrants from Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Southern and Eastern Europe," according to the Migration Policy Institute. Carlson explained: "That law completely changed the composition of America's voter rolls, purely to benefit the Democratic Party." (In fact, the bill passed by huge bipartisan margins, and Republican presidential nominees won five of the next six elections.)

April 21: After Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) responded to Rep. Scott Perry's (R-PA) invocation of the "great replacement" theory by tweeting, "with every passing year, there will be more people who look like me in the US," Carlson glossed Lieu's remarks as follows: "In other words, you're being replaced, and there's nothing you can do about it. So, shut up."

April 15: Carlson claimed that Democrats "are changing everything, whether we like it or not," including "a brand-new national population." He called that a "revolution" reminiscent of how "Germany got Hitler."

April 12: The day after Murdoch sent his letter claiming that Carlson had actually repudiated "replacement" theory, Carlson said on his program that "the secret to the entire immigration debate" is that "demographic change is the key to the Democratic Party's political ambitions. In order to win and maintain power, Democrats plan to change the population of the country." He added, "All across the country, we have seen huge changes in election outcomes caused by demographic change."

Over the same period, Carlson has also claimed that immigration "makes the country more volatile," that migration across the U.S.-Mexico border should trigger "a real insurrection," and that Democrats who supposedly support open borders "hate" America" and are "trying to destroy it."

Posted by orrinj at 7:30 AM


Democratic establishment tightens its hold on the party as far-left candidates fall short (Jun. 9th, 2021, Washington Post)

Democratic primary voters have been turning away this year from the anti-elite furies that continue to roil Republican politics, repeatedly choosing more moderate candidates promising steady leadership over disrupters from the party's left wing.

Tuesday's elections in Virginia, which brought the renomination of former governor Terry McAuliffe and primary losses by three of the Democrats' most outspoken liberal delegates, only underscored a pattern that was previously apparent in special House elections in Louisiana and New Mexico. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, a moderate Democrat, won his party's nomination without a challenge from the left after two protest candidates failed to collect the 1,000 signatures needed for ballot access.

Posted by orrinj at 6:53 AM


Even Tennessee's conservative evangelical ex-governor admits the GOP is too extreme: 'I think it's fear' (Alex Henderson, 6/08/21, AlterNet)

Bill Haslam, who served as mayor of Knoxville from 2003-2011 and governor of Tennessee from 2011-2019, is a right-wing Republican and an evangelical Christian fundamentalist. No one would mistake the conservative Haslam for a liberal or a progressive, and he is too socially conservative for libertarian right-wingers. But in an interview with The Atlantic's Emma Green, the 62-year-old Haslam admits that the Republican Party and the Christian Right have become extreme -- even for long-time conservatives like himself.

"Bill Haslam is not a natural fit for the Donald Trump-era Republican Party," Green explains. "The former Tennessee governor checks certain GOP boxes: He favors low taxes and opposes abortion rights; his background is in business, including an executive role in his family's highly successful truck-stop chain. But during his time in office, Haslam also got in trouble with his base for vetoing a bill that would have declared the Bible as Tennessee's official state book.... And his temperament is a poor fit for Trump-style culture wars. When Haslam was elected during the 2010 Tea Party wave, a local commentator complained that 'these other states have superhero action figures for their new governor, and we are stuck with Mr. Rogers.'"

Green goes on to say that the former Tennessee governor and ex-Knoxville mayor "is disturbed by some aspects of the national Republican Party's recent direction -- particularly, the way politicians and activists have frequently used religion as a cudgel."

Haslam told Green, "I have heard enough pastors who are saying they cannot believe the growth of the QAnon theory in their churches. Their churches had become battlegrounds over things that they never thought they would be. It's not so much the pastors preaching that from pulpits -- although I'm certain there's some of that -- but more people in the congregation who have become convinced that theories (such as QAnon) are reflective of their Christian faith." [...]

When Green asked Haslam why he believes that the "evangelical movement" has "gotten offtrack," he responded, "I think it's fear."

Fear is no excuse. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:50 AM


New Report Ranks NH Number One in Job Opportunities (Andrew Mahaleris, 6/09/21, NH Journal)

A new report from the data analysts at WalletHub found that New Hampshire is the top-ranked state in the country in job opportunities and also has the nation's third-lowest unemployment rate. As NHJournal reported last month, New Hampshire had the lowest unemployment rate in the country, while national unemployment numbers ticked up. [...]

Sununu continues to enjoy sky-high approval ratings coming out of the pandemic, and the red-hot economy is likely a contributing factor. New Hampshire was the first New England state to ditch its mask mandate and lift capacity restrictions on businesses, and now the economy is soaring.

In a Granite State Poll from the University of New Hampshire released late last month, Sununu's approval rating for his handling of the virus was an impressive 72 percent. His approval was even higher among independent voters, at 80 percent.

Posted by orrinj at 6:48 AM


What happened before the Big Bang?: Asking science to determine what happened before time began is like asking, "Who were you before you were born?" (MARCELO GLEISER, 09 June, 2021, Big Think)

Still, our curiosity insists on pushing the boundaries toward t = 0. What can we say? In the 1980s, James Hartle and Stephen Hawking, Alex Vilenkin, and Andrei Linde separately came up with three models of quantum cosmology, where the whole universe is treated like an atom, with an equation similar to the one used in quantum mechanics. In this equation, the universe would be a wave of probability that essentially links a quantum realm with no time to a classical one with time -- i.e., the universe we inhabit, now expanding. The transition from quantum to classical would be the literal emergence of the cosmos, what we call the Big Bang being an uncaused quantum fluctuation as random as radioactive decay: from no time to time.

If we assume that one of these simple models is correct, would that be the scientific explanation for the First Cause? Could we just do away with the need for a cause altogether using the probabilities of quantum physics?

Unfortunately, not. Sure, such a model would be an amazing intellectual feat. It would constitute a tremendous advance in understanding the origin of all things. But it's not good enough. Science can't happen in a vacuum. It needs a conceptual framework to operate, things like space, time, matter, energy, calculus, and conservation laws of quantities like energy and momentum. One can't build a skyscraper out of ideas, and one can't build models without concepts and laws. To ask from science to "explain" the First Cause is to ask science to explain its own structure. It's to ask for a scientific model that uses no precedents, no previous concepts to operate. And science can't do this, just as you can't think without a brain.

The mystery of the First Cause remains. You can choose religious faith as an answer, or you can choose to believe science will conquer it all. But you can also, like the Greek Skeptic Pyrrho, embrace the limits of our reach into the unknowable with humility, celebrating what we have accomplished and will surely keep on accomplishing, without the need to know all and understand all. It's okay to be left wondering.

Posted by orrinj at 6:44 AM


Mexicans save their democracy (CS Monitor's Editorial Board, 6/09/21)

On her first trip to Central America to promote good governance, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris found a pleasant surprise in one stop. Despite a wave of campaign violence, Mexican voters turned out strong on June 6 for the country's largest, and perhaps cleanest, elections.

They also sent a message to a populist president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, that he should not jeopardize the independence of the election watchdog and the courts. His Morena party lost dozens of seats in Congress, dashing hopes of a supramajority that would allow him to alter the constitution.

For a democracy that ended one-party rule only a quarter-century ago, Mexico now emerges as a potential model for a region backsliding in electoral integrity and toward strong-man rule. A whole range of civic-minded people, from a million poll workers to public intellectuals, stood up for the endurance of Mexico's democratic institutions. They affirmed the need for a check on the executive branch and a higher level of debate and consensus.