July 24, 2021

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Will there be an mRNA vaccine for cancer? (Deutsche-Welle, 7/23/21)

It's not only the success of the COVID mRNA vaccines that has scientists interested in making mRNA vaccines for other diseases.

"RNA is a lot easier to make," Cooke told DW. A lot of vaccines are protein-based, but with mRNA vaccines, scientists just need to write the code for a protein, rather than making the proteins.

Phillip Sharp, a professor of biology at MIT, co-won the 1993 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for his discovery of split genes and spliced RNA in the 1970s. His work contributed to the COVID mRNA vaccines that people around the world are being injected with today.

"Anyone who's ever experimentally studied RNA knows that your skin is covered with nucleases that destroy it, your blood is full of nucleases that destroy it," Sharp told DW.

The fact that scientists discovered a way to protect the RNA and make it in a sufficient quantity to be used as a vaccine was a big technical step forward, he said.

"It took a lot of innovation to do that," said Sharp. "Once you develop a new technology, such as the mRNA technology, man will use it for as long as there are societies who can deal with technology,"

Cooke doesn't think it is likely that there will be a universal vaccine against cancer, but he does believe that just like scientists have been able to eradicate some infectious diseases, the same will happen for some cancers.

"We're going to have another arrow in our quiver against cancer," Cooke said. 

July 23, 2021

Posted by orrinj at 5:42 PM


This is what conservative opponents of critical race theory don't want you to know (History News Network, July 23, 2021)

Critical Race Theory (CRT) has become a lightning rod for conservative ire at any discussion of racism, anti-racism, or the non-white history of America. Across the country, bills in Republican-controlled legislatures have attempted to prevent the teaching of CRT, even though most of those against CRT struggle to define the term. CRT actually began as a legal theory which held simply that systemic racism was consciously created, and therefore, must be consciously dismantled. History reveals that the foundation of America, and of systemic racism, happened at the same time and from the same set of consciously created laws.

Around the 20th of August, 1619, the White Lion, an English ship sailing under a Dutch flag, docked off Old Point Comfort (near present-day Hampton), in the British colony of Virginia, to barter approximately 20 Africans for much needed food and supplies. The facts of the White Lion's arrival in Virginia, and her human cargo, are generally not in dispute. Whether those first Africans arriving in America were taken by colonists as slaves or as indentured servants is still debated. But by the end of the 17th century, a system of chattel slavery was in place in colonial America. How America got from uncertainly about the status of Africans, to certainty that they were slaves, is a transition that highlights the origins of systemic racism.

Three arguments have been put forth about whether the first Africans arriving in the colonies were treated as indentured servants or as slaves. One says that European racism predisposed American colonists to treat these Africans as slaves. Anthony and Isabella, for example, two Africans aboard the White Lion, were acquired by Captain William Tucker and listed at the bottom of his 1624/25 muster (census) entry, just above his real property, but below white indentured servants and native Americans.

A second argument counters that racism was not, at first, the decisive factor but that the availability of free labor was. "Before the invention of the Negro or the white man or the words and concepts to describe them," historian Lerone Bennett wrote, "the Colonial population consisted largely of a great mass of white and black [and native] bondsmen, who occupied roughly the same economic category and were treated with equal contempt by the lords of the plantations and legislatures."

In this view, slavery was not born of racism, but racism was born of slavery. Early colonial laws had no provisions distinguishing African from European servants, until those laws began to change toward the middle of the 17th century, when Africans became subject to more brutal treatment than any other group. Proponents of this second argument point to cases like Elizabeth Key in 1656, or Phillip Corven in 1675, Black servants who sued in different court cases against their white masters for keeping them past the end of their indentures. Both Key and Corven won. If slavery was the law, Key and Corven would have had no standing in court much less any hope of prevailing.

Still, a third group stakes out slightly different ground. Separate Africans into two groups: the first generation that arrived before the middle of the 17th century, and those that arrived after. For the first generations of Africans, English and Dutch colonists had the concept of indefinite, but not inheritable, bondage. For those who came after, colonists applied the concept of lifetime, inheritable bondage. Here, the 1640 case of John Punch, a Black man caught with two other white servants attempting to run away, is often cited. As punishment, all the men received thirty lashes but the white servants had only one-year added to their indentures, while John Punch was ordered to serve his master "for the time of his natural life." For this reason, many consider John Punch the first real slave in America. Or was he the last Black indentured servant?

Clearly these cases show the ambiguity, or "loopholes," of the system separating servitude from slavery in early America. What is also clear is that one by one these loopholes were closed through conscious intent of colonial legislatures. In this reduction of ambiguity over the status of Africans, the closure of loopholes between servitude and slavery, are the roots of systemic racism.

Posted by orrinj at 11:33 AM


'It's time to start blaming the unvaccinated': Gov. Ivey on rise in COVID-19 cases, low vaccination rate (Phil Pinarski, Jul 22, 2021, WIAT)

"Let's be crystal clear about this issue. And media, I want you to start reporting the facts. The new cases of COVID are because of unvaccinated folks. Almost 100% of the new hospitalizations are with unvaccinated folks. And the deaths are certainly occurring with the unvaccinated folks. These folks are choosing a horrible lifestyle of self-inflicted pain," Gov. Ivey said during an event for Landing in Birmingham Thursday.

When asked how the state can get more shots into the arms of residents, Ivey did not hold back her displeasure with the lack of success previous plans have had.

"I don't know, you tell me. Folks are supposed to have common sense. But it's time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the vaccinated folks. It's the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down," she said. "I've done all I know how to do. I can encourage you to do something but I can't make you take care of yourself. 

Posted by orrinj at 11:28 AM


Alabama city leader who used n-word in council meeting says he won't apologize and might run for mayor (CBS/AP, 7/22/21)

A White city leader captured on video using a racial slur toward Black people during a council meeting said he won't apologize, and might run for mayor. Others are calling for his resignation.

Tarrant City Council member Tommy Bryant told news outlets his use of the word Monday night reflected something the city's Black mayor, Wayman Newton, had said during an earlier private meeting.

During a public session, Bryant used the slur to refer to a Black female council member, Veronica Freeman. Before the outburst, neighbors asked Bryant about controversial social media posts allegedly made by his wife about race, CBS affiliate WIAT-TV reports. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The world's first 3D-printed steel bridge has opened in Amsterdam (Andrea Núñez-Torrón Stock and Qayyah Moynihan, 7/22/21 , Business Insider)

The world's first 3D printed steel bridge has opened in Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

While the construction is a fantastic structural achievement in itself, it will also function as a living laboratory so researchers can study how other more complex architectural work can be achieved in the future.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Matt Gaetz and MTG's new fundraising committee is losing money -- big time (ALEX HENDERSON, JULY 23, 2021,  AlterNet.

At a time when Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida is facing a federal sex trafficking investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia has jumped to his defense and joined forces with him for a fundraising tour. The far-right MAGA Republicans are both aggressive fundraisers, repeatedly stressing their unwavering devotion to former President Donald Trump. But according to Daily Beast reporter Roger Sollenberger, the Gaetz/Greene tour has "spent four times as much as" it has raised.

Sollenberger explains, "Since Gaetz and Greene kicked off their joint fundraising committee with a May 7 event at The Villages in Central Florida, their campaigns and joint fundraising committee have posted a combined loss of $342,000. And according to recent filings with the Federal Election Commission, that joint fundraising effort, 'Put America First,' reported only $59,345.54 in contributions. That sort of meager haul would be fine for a dinner or one-time event, but Gaetz and Greene have repeatedly held high-profile events and spent a whopping $287,036.19 to hold them -- meaning they're in the hole by more than $225,000."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Republican politicians lost in Medicaid expansion standoff, and Missouri voters won (THE KANSAS CITY STAR EDITORIAL BOARD, JULY 22, 2021)

Thursday, the Missouri Supreme Court -- with a clear, unanimous voice -- said expanded Medicaid is constitutional. That means 275,000 people now eligible for Medicaid must soon be enrolled in the program if they apply.

It was a good day for the rule of law. It was a great day for the working poor, who will be able to get someone to take a look at that nagging cough or skin infection.

All Missourians should celebrate. They won their case.

The court reached its conclusion based on law and logic. It's true, the judges said, that the state constitution prohibits a voter initiative "that authorizes the expenditure and disbursement of a specified amount for a specified purpose, without providing new revenue."

But that didn't happen when voters expanded Medicaid, the court said. The Medicaid amendment doesn't spend a dime. It merely tells the state to enroll Missourians up to 138% of the federal poverty level, and that's what the state must now do.

That means individuals earning up to $17,774 a year, or a four-person family earning up to $36,570, will soon be eligible for health coverage if they don't have it now.

"This decision restores faith in our democracy and that the power of the people will continue to prevail over political grandstanding," Caitlyn Adams, executive director of Missouri Jobs with Justice, said in a statement.

I don't think the GOP comes here for the hunting....

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


PA authoritarianism grows in the face of Palestinian unity (Ramona Wadi, 23 Jul, 2021, New Arab)

In the absence of much-needed answers, the PA's security services have been abusing and detaining demonstrators calling for justice and for PA leader Mahmoud Abbas to step down. Reports continue to emerge detailing the abuse of protesters at the hands of the PA's security services.

The demonstrations caught the world's attention, and for a brief period, the PA's reputation shifted from being lauded as a pragmatic partner for peace, to a repressive authority wielding violence. Though the link between the PA's violence and international funding is glaringly absent in much commentary.

The PA's latest action shows a cornered leadership, one that is resorting to extreme aggression out of its desperation to cling on to power"
The PA's response towards the Palestinian people was noticeably devoid of any attempt to act as a responsible state. Besides the contempt shown towards Banat's grieving family, the PA's Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh personally made calls to a detained demonstrator, offering what was seen as an empty apology.

"His apology is not accepted, because he promised accountability and we did not see any accountability," Ubai Aboudi, a Palestinian-American activist asserted. 

Some days later, with full knowledge that its last vestiges of "authority" may unravel at the hands of the Palestinian people, Fatah called for a rally in support of Abbas and his policies, against a backdrop of purported concern over the Israeli colonisation of Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah.

Unlike the demonstrations calling for Banat's murder, the Fatah rally would have gone unnoticed had it not been for the aggressive public relations spectacle orchestrated by the PA's official news agency, Wafa, in covering an event whose main purpose was to bestow legitimacy upon Abbas. According to PA propaganda, thousands of supporters attended, though the photos testify to the contrary.

Any remaining sliver of doubt regarding how genuine the rally was, was been dispelled by Wafa's statement: "The protesters also voiced support for the Palestinian security forces in their commitment to achieving the rule of law." 

Free Barghouti and force the national elections.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


World's largest floating solar farm - more than 2GW - to supply Singapore (Michael Mazengarb, 23 July 2021, Renew Economy)

Singapore-based clean energy developer Sunseap says it will build a giant 2,200MW floating solar farm on a reservoir on Indonesia's Batam Island, after securing a memorandum of understanding with Indonesian government authority Badan Pengusahaan Batam.

The project will cover an area of 1,600 hectares and is expected to become the largest floating solar farm in the world.

It will also be paired with more than 4,000MWh of energy storage, making it one of the world's largest combined solar and storage projects - floating or otherwise.

July 22, 2021

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Wind and solar set new production records as they reshape Australia's grid (Giles Parkinson 23 July 2021 , Renew Economy)

Wind and solar have set new production records in Australia's main grid, for average generation over a quarter, record output in a single interval, and a record renewable energy share of 57 per cent in one interval in April.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Over 500 Islamophobia incidents in US in just six months: CAIR (The New Arab, 22 July, 2021)

Over 500 anti-Muslim incidents have been recorded in the first half of 2021, a US Muslim civil rights group has found, adding to growing concerns about a rise in Islamophobia.

There has been an increase in anti-Muslim reports - particularly attacks on mosques and assaults  - with a sharp uptick in May and June when Israel launched its assault on Gaza and Palestinian protesters were attacked in East Jerusalem.

Following Start of Mideast Violence, Antisemitic Incidents More Than Double in May 2021 vs May 2020 (ADL, June 7, 2021)

New analysis from ADL's Center on Extremism reveals that antisemitic incidents in the U.S. more than doubled during the May 2021 military conflict between Israel and Hamas and its immediate aftermath compared to the same time period in 2020.  After peaking between May 20-22, 2021, incident levels have gradually returned to a baseline level. These numbers should still be considered preliminary and are likely to change as additional information becomes available.

Incidents began a steep upward climb on May 11 as military operations intensified between Israel and Hamas. ADL logged 251 incidents from May 11 -- the official start of military action -- through the end of the month, an increase of 115% over the same period in 2020, when 117 incidents were recorded. We tallied 305 incidents in the entire month of May 2021. And while the violence between Israel and Hamas animated many of these incidents, it does not account for the full increase; when incidents that include explicit references to Israel or Zionism are excluded, the number still increased by 15% in the 20-day period of May 2021 compared to the same time period in May 2020.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Today It's Critical Race Theory. 200 Years Ago It Was Abolitionist Literature.: The common denominator? Fear of Black liberation. (ANTHONY CONWRIGHT, SEPTEMBER+OCTOBER 2021,  Mother Jones)

There have been many contributions to help make sense of the Republican obsession with critical race theory, a framework developed some 40 years ago to analyze the ways racism is endemic to our laws and policies. Conservatives have decided it's a domestic threat, and, as of this writing, 11 states have already banned teaching it in public schools. But perhaps the best explanation for the hysteria is in a journal entry written on April 7, 1829, by a schoolteacher named Susan Nye Hutchison, who lived in Augusta, Georgia, and whose diaries illuminate a quarter century of life before the Civil War. "Great fear begins to be prevalent that the negroes are about to rise," Hutchison wrote.

Georgians had experienced a spate of fires, as rumors of insurrection made the citizens of Augusta both negro- and pyro-phobic. Four days before Hutchison's entry, another "terrible fire" burned about a third of the city, according to a contemporary news article. Estimated damages totaled half a million dollars, with nearly 350 homes destroyed. Hysteria ensued, and enslaved Black people were blamed, rounded up, and tried without evidence.

Months later, a pamphlet named the Appeal, David Walker's polemic against slavery, emerged in the South. "My object is, if possible," Walker, a free Black man, wrote, "to awaken in the breasts of my afflicted, degraded and slumbering brethren, a spirit of inquiry and investigation respecting our miseries and wretchedness."

Southern politicians viewed Walker's Appeal and its repudiation of their values as "incendiary," a pyrotechnic of another kind. When Walker's treatise reached his hometown of Wilmington, North Carolina, magistrate James McKee issued a warning to Gov. John Owen:

The dissemination of Walker's pamphlet...[proves] beyond a doubt that a systematic attempt is making by some reckless persons at the North to sow sedition among the slaves [of] the South, and that this pamphlet is intended and well calculated to prepare the minds of the slave population for any measure, however desperate, that they may propose for accomplishing their emancipation...unless some measures are taken to counteract this design in time, I fear the consequences may be serious to the extreme.

North Carolina quickly passed two laws aimed at stemming slave rebellions by repressing the spread of abolitionist literature. An Act to Prevent the Circulation of Seditious Publications made it a felony to import and distribute "any written or printed pamphlet or paper...the evident tendency whereof would be to excite insurrection, conspiracy or resistance." A second law banned "the teaching of slaves to read and write," saying it "has a tendency to excite dissatisfaction in their minds and to produce insurrection and rebellion to the manifest injury of the citizens of this State." [...]

From 2012 to 2019, critical race theory was mentioned on Fox News only four times. From June 2020 to May 2021, it was mentioned in 150 broadcasts. By July, it was 250 times a week. Christopher Rufo, a Manhattan Institute fellow who started banging the CRT drum on the network, was quite frank about how and why he'd engineered the upward trend. "The goal is to have the public read something crazy in the newspaper and immediately think 'critical race theory.' We have decodified the term and will recodify it to annex the entire range of cultural constructions that are unpopular with Americans," he tweeted in March.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Is Tennessee Whiskey Actually Bourbon? We Have the Answer (Lew Bryson, Jul. 22, 2021, Daily Beast)

Anyone who has ever visited a Facebook or Reddit bourbon group has probably seen something very similar to this exchange. Someone innocent--or a troll--will ask, is Jack Daniel's or George Dickel actually bourbon? It usually starts an argument, with statements brasher than mine flying about.

"You'd be surprised, but people are mean on the Internet," remarked Nicole Austin when we recently chatted. Austin knows this controversy all too well. She is the master distiller and general manager at the Cascade Hollow Distillery in Tullahoma, Tennessee, which is home to George Dickel. And she's got a sharp sense of humor. You might suspect that she was slyly poking fun at this bar debate by deciding to release George Dickel Bourbon Whisky, but she's completely serious about the category.

It's for real, and I've been drinking it with pleasure over the past several weeks. The new bourbon is going to be a regular bottling, not a one-off like the excellent bonded bottlings of Dickel Tennessee Whisky she released the past three summers. It's 90 proof, 8-years-old, at a suggested retail price of $33. Which...wow. As Austin said, "you're welcome, world."

But where did a Dickel bourbon come from? Has this been a secret project that's finally coming to fruition?

No, Dickel Bourbon comes from the same mashbill, yeast strain, distillation, filtration and aging regimen that produce Dickel No. 12 Tennessee Whisky.

So what is the difference between this bourbon and the brand's signature No. 12 Tennessee whisky?

Essentially whether the brand calls it bourbon or Tennessee whiskey is Austin's call.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


China says WHO plan to audit labs in Covid origins probe 'arrogant' (The New Arab, 22 July, 2021)

China on Thursday said a WHO proposal to audit Chinese labs as part of further investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic showed "disrespect" and "arrogance towards science".

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Germany can fulfil entire energy demand with renewables in 10-15 years - report (Charlotte Nijhuis 22 July 2021, Renew Economy)

Germany's entire energy demand can be met through renewable energies alone within the next ten to fifteen years, according to a new report by the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin).

The prerequisite for this is that German expansion targets for both wind and solar energy are greatly increased, the authors write.

Onshore wind power will play a particularly important role, according to DIW, which is also calling for the expansion of wind farms - especially in the south of the country.

"100 percent renewable energies are technically possible and economically efficient - and above all urgently needed to be able to achieve the European climate protection goals," says Claudia Kemfert, Head of the Energy, Transport, Environment Department at DIW Berlin.

According to the calculations, not only the electricity demand, but the entire energy demand in this country could be secured with renewables.

We'll all be approaching it by 2030. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The U.S. Economy Desperately Needs Immigrants. Let's Reform the Process (Jonathan RussoJuly 22, 2021, RCM)

[I]t is time to be honest that the impoverished seeking work and hope believe that one way or another they can cross the border and disappear into the American economy. And you know what...they are correct. The labor shortage for unskilled and even skilled (carpenters, construction, cooks) will take them all. Law enforcement at the border cannot cope with the surge. Asylum laws are gamed, and the catch and release program is viewed as just another route into the underground economy.

There is tragic blowback to all this, however. The encouragement and strengthening of criminal gangs preying on the weakest of the weak. Girls and women are raped. Men are held in conditions so appalling most would get sick if they spent a minute in them. The more money that flows to these gangs the better their technology, their intelligence and the higher their rate of successful crossings. That of course draws more immigrants into their web. A super vicious circle starts, one that defeats all the noble humanitarian efforts of those who believe in lawful, dignified immigration.

For the life of me I cannot understand the failure of Congress to pass real immigration reform. Knowing what I do about immigrants' critical role in our economy, it defies logic to leave immigration to the law of the jungle. There is a crisis at the border and pretending there is not is only going to once again fuel the most ignorant and silliest of fixes. Like sending privately funded National Guard troops south. Nativists and those who have no understanding of how America became the global powerhouse it is will once again grandstand over the undocumented flood.

July 21, 2021

Posted by orrinj at 4:16 PM


McCarthy threatens to pull all his nominees from Jan. 6 committee after Pelosi rejects Republicans Jim Jordan, Jim Banks (Benjamin Siegel, July 21, 2021, ABC News)

After House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday rejected two of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's recommendations for the select committee investigating the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol, McCarthy said he would pull all his Republican nominees unless she reverses course.

Pelosi rejected two of McCarthy's recommendations -- Reps. Jim Banks of Indiana and Jim Jordan of Ohio, a staunch defender of former President Donald Trump.

Banks and Jordan both voted to overturn the election results on Jan. 6 and Pelosi said their appointments could impact "the integrity of the investigation."

Posted by orrinj at 3:28 PM


African immigrants are uniquely poised to influence US policy (Yaw Okyere Thompson,  July 21, 2021, Quartz)

Before a crowded room of election-night supporters--many of whom looked like her--newly elected congresswoman Ilhan Omar described the historic occasion of her victory. "I stand here before you with many firsts behind my name: The first woman of color to represent our state in Congress; the first woman to wear a Hijab to represent us in Congress; the first refugee elected to Congress; and one of the first Muslims elected to Congress." The Somali American politician paved the way to victory with the support of the Somali community in Minnesota.

Increasingly, the African immigrant community bears the hallmarks of a group well on the way to self-determination within the American political system. In a way, they are not much different from the American Jews who built the American Israel Political Affairs Committee (AIPAC) into one of the most influential lobbying groups in Washington, or the Cuban Americans who could be considered political gatekeepers in Florida, one of the most important swing states on the electoral college map.

As of 2018, sub-Saharan African immigrants made up 44% of all black immigrants to the US, with almost 20% of them listing Nigeria, Ethiopia, or Ghana as their country of birth. Many others were refugees, or the children of refugees, who were granted asylum in the US in the wake of the Rwandan genocide, and the armed conflicts that defined the great lakes in subsequent years. And a growing number of them are settling in states critical to the presidential elections, including Florida, Texas, and Ohio.

Beyond their numbers, African immigrants are among the highest educated when compared to other growing immigrant populations and native-born US population, which is correlated with earnings potential and has an impact on their naturalization prospects. As capable taxpayers and consumers, they are important contributors to the US as a whole, and critical to smaller cities scattered across the country that needed revitalization in the wake of globalization and the changing nature of work.

Posted by orrinj at 8:37 AM


Revealed: assistant attorney general in Alaska posted racist and antisemitic tweets (Jason Wilson, 21 Jul 2021, The Guardian)

Many of the tweets under the JReubenCIark moniker suggest antipathy towards Jews, who are the subject of hundreds of tweets that suggest that they are involved in conspiracies against white people, or that they already control the commanding heights of the economy, the media or education.

In 2016, the account sent a tweet evoking a past time when "real history was taught in school, angry yentas didn't rule, white men didn't play the fool".

The tweet - which suggests the malign influence of Jewish women and the decline of white men as problems in the contemporary world - tagged in two then prominent alt-right accounts at a time when that movement was at the height of its influence on social media.

In February this year, JReubenCIark wrote in reference to the Republican Jewish Committee's push for the expulsion of Marjorie Taylor Greene that he supported their efforts "to combat the conspiracy theory that Jews run everything by getting any member of Congress they don't like expelled from Congress".

The account also regularly denied the reality of anti-Black racism, attacked Black public figures and showed an extraordinary hostility towards anti-racist protesters associated with the Black Lives Matter movement. He also made casually racist remarks about other groups including Mexicans and Native Americans.

In a March tweet, JReubenCIark claimed that accusations of racism were "purely a tool to control people on the right", going on to ask "try to think of example of an accusation of racism that helped the right, or Christians, or whites in the last 10 years".

On 15 June last year, he riffed on a catchphrase of the so-called Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, tweeting: "The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its Consequences Have Been a Disaster for the Human Race."

The account also repeated familiar white nationalist talking points about the relationships between race, crime and IQ. He tweeted: "Is it 'white supremacy' to note that some racial groups have higher IQs than others based on IQ tests? I believe that and I am only a Deseret supremacist."

JReubenCIark also evinced a dismissive animus towards Latinos. On 25 June last year he wrote: "I can't believe there's a faithful Latter-day Saint out there who can look at the collapse of birthrates among the Latter-day Saints and say, 'Well, hey, at least lots of Catholic Mexicans are coming to the US.'"

On 30 June, as the protests in the wake of George Floyd's murder were in full swing, the account told a Utah BLM supporter he was arguing with on Twitter: "You and all of your lying violent criminal friends belong in prison." He later added: "#BlackLivesMatter is a criminal enterprise that murders people and destroys property. In a sane world you would all be in prison or worse."

On 2 July, discussing an incident in Provo, Utah, in which a man appeared to drive his car into a crowd of BLM protesters, he remarked: "No one had a right to block his car. You all belong in jail."

Hating black lives matter is a package deal. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:38 AM

IT'S A 60-40 NATION:

Are Americans More Trusting Than They Seem?: Political scientists say that our confidence in our institutions--and in one another--is running perilously low. Economists see a different story. (Idrees Kahloon, July 19, 2021, The New Yorker)

If trust appears to be languishing in the political realm, though, it appears to be thriving in another important institution of modern society--capitalism. The modern sharing economy is premised on leaps of faith in perfect strangers: we rely on crowdsourced restaurant reviews on Yelp, climb into a stranger's car through Uber, stay at someone else's house via Airbnb, and look for love on Bumble, Hinge, and sundry other dating apps. A financial-trust index set up by the economists Paola Sapienza and Luigi Zingales during the Great Recession has shown consistent growth in the past decade. The supply of money has more than doubled since the recession, and yet we've seen few paroxysms of goldbuggery or other disorders of mistrust. Interest rates, which rise when investors lose trust in repayment, remain close to zero. What's really going on?

People don't see the phenomenal trust embedded in the modern economy for the same reason that David Foster Wallace's fishes could not fathom water: everything is predicated on its existence. Adam Smith concluded that trust was a fundamental feature of humanity. ("Nobody ever saw a dog make a fair and deliberate exchange of one bone for another with another dog," he wrote in "The Wealth of Nations.") Kenneth Arrow, just before winning a Nobel Prize, extolled trust as a "lubricant" of a social system, an "extremely efficient" mechanism for easing transactions and promoting prosperity. "Unfortunately this is not a commodity which can be bought very easily," he warned. "If you have to buy it, you already have some doubts about what you've bought." Even in the aftermath of the Great Recession, Joseph Stiglitz, the tireless critic of inequality (who has a Nobel Prize of his own), observed, "It is trust, more than money, that makes the world go round."

Ask yourself the simple question "What is money?" and you'll have to come to grips with the fact that, at least since the dollar came off the gold standard, in 1971, our currency has been nothing more than trust itself, its value sustained by the power of communal belief. The humble, crumpled dollar bill in your pocket evokes the concept: "In God we trust." Less grandly, the thing you're trusting is the full faith and credit of the United States government. Fractional-reserve banking, which allows a bank to lend far more in credit than it has in deposits, has driven capitalism for centuries. Many economic crises, when examined closely, turn out to be crises of confidence. This is obviously true of a bank run, when depositors lose faith in the fractional-reserve system, but it's also true of hyperinflationary spirals, when worries about a country's handling of monetary policy yank down the value of its currency. There is a reason that the core language of commerce--of bonds and credits--is all about belief.

We had to travel last week and every single person at every airport was wearing their mask.  The military unit we saw was not just multiethnic and mixed-gender but soldiers posed for pictures with their native flags--Mexico, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico-- gays and lesbians serve openly, and there are military-issue hijabs. America is not Left/Right.  It is American. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:32 AM


Promote Open Source to a Full Member of the Intelligence Community: The exploitation of publicly or commercially available information must be recognized alongside spies, signals intelligence, and other established branches of practice. (MARK QUANTOCK, DAVID DILLOW and MCDANIEL WICKER, JULY 21, 2021, Defense One)

The U.S. intelligence community should elevate open-source intelligence to a core "int," alongside signal intelligence, human intelligence, and geospatial intelligence, and its agencies should better "integrate OSINT into collection and analytic tradecraft." That's what the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) recently recommended, and based on our extensive experience in the intelligence community and DoD, including multiple combat tours to the Middle East and South Asia, we firmly concur.

The United States' intelligence agencies and military intelligence functions were established during a time when national assets were needed to address information gaps. Secrets uncovered through classified means were often the only way to understand the world and the intentions of other countries. Today, such intelligence still offers invaluable insight, but the exponential growth of publicly and commercially available information allows unprecedented amounts of actionable intelligence to be generated from these open sources, all while freeing up expensive and resource-conscribed Ints to fill more challenging intel gaps. 

Some visionaries within government have taken important steps in this direction. The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency was an early "tea leaf reader" and saw the value of integrating commercial imagery data into analyses. Similarly, the Defense Intelligence Agency was the first to establish an OSINT career field to grow and develop professionals with the unique skillsets required for this domain. But if we are to keep pace with the rapidly evolving and expanding world of open-source intelligence, the DoD and intelligence community must more fully embrace the CSIS recommendation to treat OSINT "as a cornerstone of U.S. intelligence, relevant across the IC enterprise and in all aspects of its current and future missions." 

Sophisticated intelligence professionals understand that operational and strategic intelligence depends on open sources--and increasingly, so does tactical intelligence.

Donald's ties to Russia are an excellent illustration of the problem with keeping some information classified, which tends to give it a false sense of greater value.  Nevermind that data like the Steele Dossier was useful for investigations and to the American public, but the fact that Russian interference followed Donald's promises to lift anti-Vlad sanctions was treated as less significant than secret details. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:12 AM


For cramped New York, an expanding dining scene (Lucas Kwan Peterson, April 1, 2019 , LA Times)

The bright lights of New York City beckon to the restless and the hungry. In the city that never sleeps, as they say, the marquees of Times Square nearly make one forget the concrete dystopia of what is seemingly an unlivable urban wasteland. Surrounded by rats, black trash bags and graffiti-tagged storefronts on Broadway Street, New York's primary thoroughfare, I wondered aloud if I would be able to find a decent meal in what was surely a culinary heart of darkness.

In Los Angeles, we're spoiled by the breadth and quality of our dining options. In addition to outstanding year-round produce, I can get great huaraches, refreshing mul naengmyeon and impeccable chả giò within 15 minutes of where I live. But what about New York, a largely culturally bereft island that sits curiously between the Hudson and East Rivers at the foot of the Catskill Mountains? Sure, we've all heard of hot dogs, a staple of every New Yorker's diet, famously gnawed on by rodent and human alike in that "toddling town."

But as it turns out, there's more. A lot more. A number of daring restaurants have opened in recent years, vastly improving the city's scrappy culinary scene and making it a legitimate dining destination. Others are emphasizing seasonal fruits and vegetables in what seems to be a clear nod to Los Angeles. A weekend spent in the "city so nice they named it twice" leads this writer to recommend, rightly or wrongly, that food enthusiasts consider paying a visit to New York (The Big Apple in local jargon), a city that just years ago was terrorized by "Son of Sam" David Berkowitz.

My first culinary encounter was with pizza, a mysterious kind of baked tlayuda, covered in macerated tomatoes and milk coagulation, and occasionally smothered with a type of thinly sliced lap cheong called pepperoni. The odd dish, sometimes referred to as a pie, washed ashore from Naples some years ago. While the taste takes some getting used to, pizza can be enchanting when done properly.

July 20, 2021

Posted by orrinj at 5:53 PM


Tom Barrack charged with illegally lobbying then-President Trump on behalf of UAE (Dan Mangan, Christina Wilkie, Kevin Breuninger, 7/21/21, CNBC)

Thomas Barrack, a private equity investor who is a close friend of former President Donald Trump, was arrested Tuesday morning in Los Angeles on federal charges of illegally lobbying Trump on behalf of the United Arab Emirates.

Posted by orrinj at 12:17 PM


To Free Cuba, Make Guantanamo the New Ellis Island (IRA STOLL, July 19, 2021, NY Sun)

The drowning risk for incoming Cuban refugees could be entirely eliminated by inviting the Cubans seeking freedom and democracy to make their way by land to Guantanamo. At the navy base, their applications could be processed, they could be vaccinated against Covid-19, and they could eventually be transported safely to America by airplane or in seaworthy vessels.

The images of this exodus would help advance what Mr. Biden professes to be a core foreign policy objective. In his July 15 "Washington Declaration" with Chancellor Merkel, Mr. Biden said, "We must act now to demonstrate that democracy delivers for our people at home and that democratic leadership delivers for the world."

There's no better demonstration to the world that freedom and democracy beat the so-called socialist paradise of Cuba than hundreds of thousands of people voluntarily picking up and leaving.

A little confused here about how the Ellis Island model works.  Put them everywhere and process then transport our new fellow citizens. 
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Russian Tanks Move to Afghan Border Ahead of Drills (AFP, 7/20/21)

Russian tanks stationed at Moscow's base in Tajikistan have arrived at training grounds near the border with Afghanistan ahead of army drills next month, the Defense Ministry said Tuesday.

Getting Vlad, Xi and Pakistan bogged down in Afghanistan would be genius.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Henry Adams & The Force (Mark Tooley, July 19, 2021, Providence)

When Adams shared his unpublished memoir and its search for an imagined religious ideal with close friends, John Hay's widow admonished him: "But it seemed to me that you have studied too much to find that 'Force' you are still seeking. Why, instead of all those other books, you have gone to, to find it--did you not go back to your Bible?... I have wanted, for so long to tell you this, but have not had the courage."

Adams seems not to have heeded her counsel, preferring to idealize a past that never existed instead of finding God at work in the present. He aloofly condemned the supposed decadence of modern capitalist democracy, taking for granted his own extensive hereditary riches, comforts and privileges, while ignoring the unprecedented economic empowerment of millions who benefitted from industry and technology. His religious ideal was aesthetic and abstractly moral but largely indifferent to people outside his social class, whether arriving waves of immigrants or disenfranchised black people in the South after Reconstruction. He lamented the decline of religion but ignored the resurgent popular piety that infused his time, which he barely noticed and no doubt disdained.  After all, where were its great cathedrals and artworks?

A British diplomat described Adams in 1887 after his wife's death as "queer to the last degree; cynical, vindictive, but with a constant interest in people, faithful to his friends and passionately fond of his mother.... He has no cards and never goes out."

Adams was the archetype of a certain kind of American observer who revels in supposedly constant societal decline from the perspective of snobby reserve while disdaining improvements for and the popular piety of common, less erudite people. He was an ungrateful heir to the old New England Unitarian establishment. He rejected orthodox Christianity and even Unitarianism but wanted morality and a robust religious aesthetic.  

As Mrs. Hay discerned, Henry Adams was looking for "The Force" in all the wrong places.  So many are, in every age.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Motives of the Men Who Sought Hitler's Life (Christianity & Crisis Magazine on July 20, 2021, Providence)

"The Motives of the Men Who Sought Hitler's Life," by W. Von Eckardt
May 13, 1946

"Deo--Patriae--Humanitati," for God, country, and humanity, was the motto of the Germans who attempted to overthrow the regime which made their country the most hated nation in the world. The integrity and motives of the conspirators of the July 20th attempt to do away with Hitler are still doubted by many. The fact that the same group made any number of previous attempts since the first serious one was foiled by Mr. Chamberlain's fatal arrival in Munich on September 29, 1938, does not seem to clear it of the suspicion of having acted only in order to avoid total defeat. Defeatism was, of course, the motive of a few hard-boiled, calculating generals, who had refused for years to participate, playing both sides of the fence, and who were executed only for their last minute consent to support the putsch if it should succeed. The men, however, who had for years tried to move the army into action against the regime were motivated by even more than earnest patriotism. Throughout the utterances and convictions of all the real conspirators one finds a sincere spiritual premise, which seems sadly lacking in most of the victorious "anti-fascist" forces today.

Their basic conviction seems to me perfectly expressed in a passage of Peter Yorck von Wartenburg's testimony before the Nazi tribunal. We found the minutes of the People's Court trials of eight of the principal participants of the July 20th putsch when we came to Berlin. The trial was presided over by the notorious, sardonic Nazi "judge" Roland Freisler, who met his fate in an air-raid on Berlin early in 1945. Yorck von Wartenburg was one of the defendants charged with the attempted assassination of the Führer and conspiracy against the State.

Yorck von Wartenburg: "Mr. President, I have already stated during my interrogation, that the national-socialist ideology developed thus, that I..."

The President, Dr. Freisler: (interrupting) "...could not agree! To say it in concrete terms, you declared: In the Jewish question you disagreed with the extermination of Jews, you disagreed with the national-socialist conception of justice."

Yorck von Wartenburg: "The decisive factor, which connects all these questions are the totalitarian demands of the State towards the citizen, which force him to cast aside his religious and moral obligations to God."

It was the struggle against the totalitarian demands of the State which united the German opposition from the political left to the right. This strong anti-totalitarian feeling, based on a simple return to Christian ethics, dominated the thoughts and the, obviously rare, writings of all participants of the attempted putsch, in which almost all efforts of the German opposition culminated. Time and again we find this conscious return to Christian morality on which all was to be based, and which has nothing in common with church-politics, dogma, or ultramontane separatism.

Hellmuth von Moltke writes to his wife in his last letter, which was smuggled out of prison, that the Nazis could not prove his or his friends' active participation (he was, of course, most active). "But one thought remained: How can Christianity be an anker of salvation in times of chaos? This lone thought demands five heads tomorrow, and later those of Steltzer and Haubach."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


A Persistent Productivity Pickup (Goldman Sachs,12 July 2021)

Stronger productivity growth has been one of the silver linings of the pandemic, with 3.1% annualized growth in output per hour since the start of the crisis (vs. +1.4% in the previous business cycle). Higher-frequency measures indicate further gains in the middle of the year. In this Analyst, we explore the composition of the productivity acceleration to better understand its drivers and sustainability.

We find that productivity gains since 4Q19 are most pronounced in industries where virtual meetings are feasible and in-person expenses like travel & entertainment have scope to decline, for example information technology services, professional services, and product development/wholesale trade. These efficiency improvements from digitization continued in Q1 despite the reopening of the in-person economy and the partial return to corporate office buildings.

The retail sector ranks fourth across industries in terms of pandemic productivity performance, consistent with a boost from ecommerce and from evolving brick-and-mortar business models (expanding curb-side pickup, "Buy Online Pickup In Store"). Timely data indicate these gains persisted in Q2 even as malls reopened and the stimulus boost faded. The composition of retail employment is also consistent with efficiency gains from digitization, with four fewer cashiers and salespeople for every hundred workers (June 2021 vs. 2019).

The end of work is the rise or productivity. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Global investors pump hundreds of billions into renewables in shift from fossil fuels (Joshua S Hill, 20 July 2021, Renew Economy)

A total of $US501 billion ($A683 billion) was invested in the clean energy sector in the last financial year, an increase of 9% over the previous year and a new record level of clean energy investment.

Unsurprisingly, the renewable energy segment of the clean energy sector led the way with $US303 billion ($A413 billion), accounting for 60% of total investment committed towards the global low carbon energy transition.

These are the headline findings from a new report published on Monday by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) entitled Global Investors Move into Renewable Infrastructure.

The report highlights not only the record level of investment attracted by the low carbon energy transition, but also demonstrates the insistent move away from investing in fossil fuel projects caused by the threat of exposure to climate-related risks and the volatility in fossil fuel pricing and demand.

Hating environmentalists isn't actually good economics?  Who knew?
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Using plastic waste to help solve sand shortages (Bernd Debusmann Jr, 7/20/21, BBC)

To try to reduce the need for sand, a small but growing number of researchers are turning to technology and innovation in the hunt for alternatives.

These include Dr John Orr, a lecturer in concrete structures at Cambridge University. His research has found that plastic waste can be sorted, cleaned, shredded and crushed into a sand alternative for use in concrete.

He has looked specifically at the potential impact of the solution in India. Here the cost of sand has skyrocketed - while at the same time estimates suggest that 15,000 tonnes of plastic waste is dumped every day in the country.

"We found that you can replace up to 10% of the sand in concrete with the plastic, and it has the same strength and the same longevity," says Dr Orr.

Unlike sand, plastic won't stick to the cement paste around it, so it can only replace 10% of the raw material, he says. "But that still saves the need for a huge amount of sand, and helps to reduce the vast amount of plastic waste on India's streets.

"From a cost perspective, using the plastic can be cheaper, broadly speaking, especially as sand goes up in price as it becomes more scarce. For countries like the UK this isn't really an issue, as we don't build much, but in nations with a construction boom, using plastic in concrete could grow in popularity."

Dr Orr reckons that if using plastic in making concrete were adopted across India it could save 820m tonnes of sand a year.

At the same time, other research is being done into using other waste materials in concrete in place of sand, such as shredded old car tyres or ground-down glass.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Biden Just Explained Why His Version of Capitalism Is Better Than the GOP's
(WILLIAM SALETAN, JULY 19, 2021, Slate)

On Monday, the president spoke about the economic recovery and the threat of inflation. He poked fun at the GOP's warnings "that if I got elected, I'd bring the end to capitalism." "Six months into my administration, the U.S. economy has experienced the highest economic growth rate in nearly 40 years," he observed. "It turns out capitalism is alive and very well. We're making serious progress to ensure that it works the way it's supposed to work: for the good of the American people."

That last line is central to Biden's worldview. Capitalism is a means, not an end. It excels at producing wealth, not distributing it. 

That is the whole magilla. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Police arrested a heavily-armed Los Gatos man had a handwritten manifesto saying he wanted to wipe out Jews (Ryan Torok, Jul. 19th, 2021, Forward)

A Los Gatos, California man, found with a cache of weapons along with a manifesto containing antisemitic language, was arrested earlier this month, according to the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office.

Authorities are not revealing the exact language from the manifesto -which also featured writing targeting Blacks and Hispanics - but will put it into evidence during a bail hearing scheduled for July 21 in Santa Clara County Superior Court, said Sean Webby, public communications officer for the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office.


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Who Killed Essentialism?On the forbidden but unavoidable concept. (Charlie Riggs, 7/19/21, Hedgehog Review)

As recently as a few years ago, when I was in graduate school, anyone making an "essentialist" argument was generally thought to be committing an intellectual and moral error. Essentialism most often functioned as a pejorative term in left-leaning, academic parlance, naming the retrograde belief that groups, people, or identities were defined by immutable "essences"--ontological or biological substrates that determine action and behavior.

How strange, then, to find "essentialism" being flung as an accusation in the culture war du jour, the recent controversy over critical race theory--but now as an epithet against the Left. Florida governor Ron DeSantis says that "critical race theory is basically race essentialism." Pundit Ben Shapiro calls the pushback against CRT "a rejection of racial essentialism in favor of individualism." Christopher Rufo, the conservative activist who more than anyone else invented the campaign against CRT (on the cynical, though not incorrect, understanding that "strung together, the phrase 'critical race theory' connotes hostile, academic, divisive, race-obsessed, poisonous, elitist, anti-American"), accuses CRT-influenced pedagogues of "explicitly endorsing principles of segregationism, group-based guilt, and race essentialism--ugly concepts that should have been left behind a century ago."

The merits of these arguments--about the nature of critical race theory, and of the larger left-wing cultural politics for which it has lately become a symbol--are less interesting to me than the universal disrepute of "essentialism." No one in academia wants to be accused of essentialism, and conservatives seem to have selected the term partly because they know where to slip the knife in. It is a classic example of what Kenneth Burke called the "stealing back and forth of symbols."

But how did essentialism acquire its bad reputation, now on both sides of the ideological spectrum? And is that reputation deserved? As Rufo's comment suggests, at least part of the backlash against essentialism--or racial essentialism, at any rate--originated in the early-twentieth-century collapse of racial/biological deterministic thinking in the social sciences. The story of how Franz Boas and his merry band of cultural anthropologists debunked the scientific racism of the Madison Grant school, toppling rigid biological race categories with a careful attention to culture as a human artifice or "social construction," is a familiar tale. Charles King's recent book Gods of the Upper Air tells it as well as anyone, adorned with ample, colorful details on the lives of Boas, Margaret Mead, Ruth Benedict, Zora Neale Hurston, and others.

But anti-essentialism has other histories, too, some more recent. As Daniel T. Rodgers showed in Age of Fracture, his masterful intellectual history of the last quarter of the twentieth century, the radical politics of the 1960s and '70s produced notions of "essential" blackness--as well as "essential" womanhood--that came in for increasing skepticism from both Left and Right during the 1980s when the range of black and female experiences became more visible and the terrain of racial and gender politics shifted. The "post-essentialist" black writers of that time who sought to destabilize the concept of race--among whom the much-maligned critical race theorists can, ironically, be counted--were sometimes discomfited to find their ideas being mirrored or taken up by conservatives pressing a "color-blind" agenda against Affirmative Action, reparations, and other policies aimed at rectifying historical injustice. The more things change...

The irony, of course, is that it is CRT that holds race to be an artificial construct, while the critics on the Right are Identitarian. 

July 19, 2021

Posted by orrinj at 6:43 PM


Senate Democrats propose requiring women to register for military draft (BURGESS EVERETT and CONNOR O'BRIEN, 07/19/2021, Politico)

Senate Democrats are proposing a sweeping rewrite of the military draft laws aimed at requiring women to register for the Selective Service System, according to a draft authored by Senate Armed Services Chair Jack Reed and obtained by POLITICO.

The changes to Selective Service could be attached to the National Defense Authorization Act, a defense policy bill that's one of the few pieces of legislation considered a "must-pass" by Congress. The move would reignite a contentious debate over whether women should be required to register for the draft, a move the House and Senate have each considered in recent years, though the change has never become law.

The language proposed by Reed (D-R.I.) would expand registration for the service to "All Americans," striking explicit references to males. It's expected to be considered during committee markup this week; floor action on the bill would wait until later this year. A spokesperson for Reed declined to comment.

...and expand it to other social services like teaching, health care, and replacing police patrols.

Posted by orrinj at 6:28 PM


Joe Biden Is Right: Facebook Is 'Killing People' Says Infectious Disease Expert (Ethen Kim Lieser, 7/19/21, 1945)

One notable expert is Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, the founding director of the Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases at Boston University, who recently told CNBC that "social media is playing a big role in amplifying misinformation, which is leading to people not taking the vaccine, which is killing them."

She added: "It's the honest truth. COVID, right now, is a vaccine-preventable disease."

Bhadelia also pointed to survey results released by the Kaiser Family Fund, which found that 54 percent of Americans either believe in or aren't able to distinguish whether a common coronavirus vaccine myth is fact or fiction.

She asserted that these large tech companies can do more to stop such misinformation from reaching the general public. "They need to invest a lot more resources, and better enhance their balance of taking that information down more quickly, invest more resources in changing their matrix, because, right now, what gets on top of your page is not what's correct, it's what's popular," she noted.

Posted by orrinj at 6:25 PM


It's official: The Covid recession lasted just two months, the shortest in U.S. history (Jeff Cox, 7/19/21, CNBC)

Though the drop featured a staggering 31.4% GDP plunge in the second quarter of the pandemic-scarred year, it also saw a massive snapback the following period, with previously unheard of policy stimulus boosting output by 33.4%.

Two months does not a recession make.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Inside California's Planned Floating Wind Farms (Matthew Lackner, 7/19/21, The Conversation)

Northern California has some of the strongest offshore winds in the U.S., with immense potential to produce clean energy. But it has a problem. Its continental shelf drops off quickly, making building traditional wind turbines directly on the seafloor costly if not impossible.

Once water gets more than about 200 feet deep--roughly the height of an 18-story building--these "monopile" structures are pretty much out of the question.

A solution has emerged that's being tested in several locations around the world: making wind turbines that float. In fact, in California, where drought is putting pressure on the hydropower supply and fires have threatened electricity imports from the Pacific Northwest, the state is moving forward on plans to develop the nation's first floating offshore wind farms as we speak.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Limitations of Black Conservative Thought (Aaron Hanna, 6/24/21, Quillette)

Why do racial disparities persist in our country? This is the key question that divides black intellectuals. Why do racial disparities in income, wealth, education, incarceration, healthcare, and homeownership persist, despite the fact that legal discrimination ended in the mid-1960s? Candidates for explanatory pre-eminence abound: current racism, past racism (the legacy of slavery and segregation), structural racism, institutional racism, implicit bias, excessive government intervention, insufficient government intervention, structural changes to our economy (deindustrialization, globalization, digitization, etc.), individual psychology, and black culture.

Rather than attempt to clarify these contested terms, I want to explore why black conservatives and progressives rank these explanatory factors so differently. Blacks of all political persuasions would agree that we are not yet free to alter our genetic inheritance, and that genetic differences do not explain current racial inequalities. Where conservatives and progressives disagree--without always recognizing the fundamental point of departure--is on the extent to which we can choose to alter, embrace, reform, or disown our cultural inheritance.

I intend to explore these differences by focusing on the two main strands of contemporary black conservative thought--the victimhood hypothesis and the cultural hypothesis, represented here by conservative writers Shelby Steele and Thomas Sowell, respectively. Most conservatives today would probably object to such a neat division. Nevertheless, this narrowing of the scope of this essay is justified, I believe. Not all simplifications are over-simplifications, and my hope is that this device will clarify more than it obscures.

To the great frustration of black conservatives, progressive black thought has dominated the intellectual and cultural landscape over the last few years (decades, many would complain). As a result, conservatives have spent a great deal of energy criticizing progressive intellectuals such as Ta-Nehisi Coates, Nikole Hannah-Jones, Ibram X. Kendi, and Isabel Wilkerson, rather than engaging in the kind of self-criticism that would help them develop their own arguments. Like most black conservatives, I am not convinced that racism/anti-racism is the best framework for advancing racial equality, that "caste" is the best metaphor for describing race relations in our country, or that movements to "defund" the police will decrease crime in majority black neighborhoods. But what do black conservatives offer other than criticism of progressive ideas? [...]

Sowell's work on race revolves around two fundamental questions. The first: what are the causes of racial inequality? The second: do welfare programs alleviate poverty, as they were intended to do, or exacerbate it? Sowell answers both questions with a degree of confidence that the evidence does not support. Throughout recorded human history, "grossly uneven distributions of racial, ethnic and other groups in numerous fields of endeavor" has been the norm. This is a point Sowell makes over and over again in his work, drawing on the experience of minorities here and abroad. We have different histories, religions, parenting styles, attitudes toward education, work traditions, and definitions of success, among other things, and these cultural differences, Sowell argues, lead to precisely the kind of inequalities that progressives attribute to racism.

It's important to point out that Sowell is not dismissive of the impact of racism. The history of race is a story of "hostility and hatred," he writes in Intellectuals and Race, and "racial issues show no sign of going away." At the same time, no subject is more in need of dispassionate analysis: race needs to be studied in an international, comparative context so that we do not misunderstand the nature of our own racial challenges. Two examples of the kind of comparative analysis he supports will make his argument more concrete.

In a 1979 essay for Commentary, Sowell presents data on the percentage of various ethnic and racial groups that were practicing lawyers, doctors, or teachers in our country. Most progressives would assume that white people would dominate these high-status jobs. Sowell reports that 15 percent of black West Indians fit into this employment category. The figures for Japanese- and Chinese-Americans were 18 and 25 percent, respectively. The percent of white Americans with the same impressive credentials? A mere 14 percent. Counterintuitive statistics like these do not prove that there was no racism in America in the early 1980s, but they should give progressives pause. Skin color certainly does not map as neatly onto socioeconomic status as many progressives assume.

A second example. The majority of Chinese immigrants who arrived in the United States before World War II came from a specific province in southern China. As a group they prospered, despite legal discrimination and widespread anti-Chinese sentiment. The majority of Chinese immigrants who arrived after World War II came largely from other parts of the country. They generally lacked the education and work experience of first-wave Chinese immigrants, and a dearth of marketable skills forced them to take low-paying jobs and live in poor urban neighborhoods. The difference between these two groups of Chinese immigrants was clearly something other than race.

At a minimum, data like these complicate the anti-racist narrative. How are we to explain the success of some black and other non-white groups in our society, if various forms of white supremacy have always reigned supreme? The answer, Sowell insists, is as obvious as it is unpopular. We no longer live in a society in which racism is a significant hurdle for black people. The primary reason some groups succeed in our country while other groups, unfortunately, struggle, sometimes for generations, is cultural. A group's norms and values--not its race or ethnicity--determines its relative success. The progressive assumption that black people are the victims of subtle or not-so-subtle forms of racism is simply mistaken. The success of black and other non-white immigrant groups proves that racism cannot explain the persistence of racial inequality.

The purpose of Sowell's comparative economics is not only to demonstrate that inequality is the norm throughout the world, rather than the exception that only government policy can fix, but to get his readers to focus on what successful minority groups have in common. Fixating on white and black differences in educational attainment or rates of homeownership, he argues, are distractions. Instead of asking why white people perform better than black people on some measure of success, and assuming it must be a consequence of some combination of past and present racism, we should ask why Japanese-Americans have higher incomes than Pakistani-Americans, why Nigerian-Americans have higher rates of entrepreneurship than Sudanese-Americans, and why immigrants from northern Italy have fared better socioeconomically than immigrants from the south of the same country. The answer, yet again: cultural differences. The disparities between groups in education, crime, income, and many other metrics are real and worthy of study. But attributing them uncritically to racism is as misguided as attributing them to differences in IQ, which was also once fashionable among progressive intellectuals.

Sowell has assembled a great deal of evidence over the course of his career in support of the claim that inequality among different racial and ethnic groups is natural and widespread. And yet, this evidence doesn't tell us anything about the cause of inequality in any particular case. Sowell and many other conservatives are convinced that a comparative analysis largely settles the debate over the cause of racial inequality here in the United States. But if ever there is a case in which the particulars matter, I would think it would be the case of African Americans. Is it really that methodologically sound to compare immigrants to our country--people who generally make great efforts to come here, and who arrive with the expectation of making substantial personal sacrifices to ensure their children have better lives than they did--with a native population that endured centuries of slavery, and then a hundred years of a state-supported racial discrimination? The majority of African Americans, after all, were deprived of the very education and work experience that Sowell rightly argues enabled past immigrant groups to flourish. Can conservatives who lean heavily on cultural differences to explain racial inequality really afford to ignore the culture-shaping legacy of slavery and segregation?

If the legacy of slavery and segregation at least partly explains the persistence of racial inequality, some kind of reparations or affirmative action program would be justified in the short- and medium-term. 

Which is where Mr. Sowell turns away from himself. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


THE FIRES CALIFORNIA GRIEVES--AND NEEDSIn Her Scorched Klamath Mountains Community, a Fire Advisor Contemplates Mortality and Renewal (LENYA QUINN-DAVIDSON | JULY 19, 2021, Zocalo Public Square)

Before European settlement in California, scientists estimate that at least 4.5 million acres burned every year across the state. That's right--California used to see more fire every year than what we saw in last year's "historic" fire season.

Though it's difficult to parse out historical ignition patterns, we know that Native Californians contributed in significant ways to California's fire regimes, actively shaping landscapes with fire to sustain their cultures and livelihoods. Some fire scientists estimate that Native Americans may have intentionally burned up to 2 million acres a year. Research from the Sierra Nevada tells us that during periods where people were most actively managing their landscapes, and using fire as a tool, climate fluctuations like drought and extreme temperatures were less likely to influence how fires burned.

However, in the early 1900s, this practice of cultural burning was criminalized when federal and state officials initiated an era of fire suppression. The stated goal was to save trees--to protect forests from the very process that had shaped and maintained them through time. Yet we know now those losses weren't avoided; rather, by removing fire, the losses were stalled, accentuated. It's clear that the fires that burn now are making up for generations of missed fire. The more we've rejected fire as the natural--and human--process that it is, the more volatile it has become.

During last year's devastating Slater Fire, Bill Tripp, the deputy director of eco-cultural revitalization for the Karuk Tribe, wrote a powerful op-ed reflecting on his people's connection with fire, and the federal and state policies and practices that continue to this day to threaten their ecology and culture. Just as the land was taken from the Karuk people, so too was their relationship with fire. Bill explained that Karuk people were shot for burning, even as recently as the 1930s, and he lamented the way that fire continues to be misunderstood and mismanaged:

Fire itself is sacred. It renews life. It shades rivers and cools the water's temperature. It clears brush and makes for sufficient food for large animals. It changes the molecular structure of traditional food and fiber resources making them nutrient dense and more pliable. Fire does so much more than western science currently understands.

Dominant society has missed the mark this last century or so, trying to make static what is so naturally dynamic. We suppressed fire in the name of the trees, but we forgot about the people and the plants and the landscapes that needed fire, as vital as rain or sunshine or snow. Fire can be deadly, but at its core it's a force of life--refreshing and renewing.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Can Silicon Valley Find God? (Linda Kinstler, Jul. 16th, 2021, NY Times)

The rise of pseudo-sacred industry practices stems in large part from a greater sense of awareness, among tech workers, of the harms and dangers of artificial intelligence, and the growing public appetite to hold Silicon Valley to account for its creations. Over the past several years, scholarly research has exposed the racist and discriminatory assumptions baked into machine-learning algorithms. The 2016 presidential election -- and the political cycles that have followed -- showed how social media algorithms can be easily exploited. Advances in artificial intelligence are transforming labor, politics, land, language and space. Rising demand for computing power means more lithium mining, more data centers and more carbon emissions; sharper image classification algorithms mean stronger surveillance capabilities -- which can lead to intrusions of privacy and false arrests based on faulty face recognition -- and a wider variety of military applications.

A.I. is already embedded in our everyday lives: It influences which streets we walk down, which clothes we buy, which articles we read, who we date and where and how we choose to live. It is ubiquitous, yet it remains obscured, invoked all too often as an otherworldly, almost godlike invention, rather than the product of an iterative series of mathematical equations.

"At the end of the day, A.I. is just a lot of math. It's just a lot, a lot of math," one tech worker told me. It is intelligence by brute force, and yet it is spoken of as if it were semidivine. "A.I. systems are seen as enchanted, beyond the known world, yet deterministic in that they discover patterns that can be applied with predictive certainty to everyday life," Kate Crawford, a senior principal researcher at Microsoft Research, wrote in her recent book "Atlas of AI."

These systems sort the world and all its wonders into an endless series of codable categories. In this sense, machine learning and religion might be said to operate according to similarly dogmatic logics: "One of the fundamental functions of A.I. is to create groups and to create categories, and then to do things with those categories," Mr. Boettcher told me. Traditionally, religions have worked the same way. "You're either in the group or you're out of the group," he said. You are either saved or damned, #BlessedByTheAlgorithm or #Cursed by it.

Paul Taylor, a former Oracle product manager who is now a pastor at the Peninsula Bible Church in Palo Alto, Calif. (he took the Silicon Valley-to-seminary route), told me about an epiphany he had one night, after watching a movie with his family, when he commanded his Amazon Echo device to turn the lights back on.

"I realized at one point that what I was doing was calling forth light and darkness with the power of my voice, which is God's first spoken command -- 'let there be light' and there was light -- and now I'm able to do that," he said. "Is that a good thing? Is that a bad thing? Is it completely neutral? I don't know. It's certainly convenient and I certainly appreciate it, but is it affecting my soul at all, the fact that I'm able to do this thing that previously only God could do?"

While turning on the light may be among the more benign powers that artificial intelligence algorithms possess, the questions become far weightier when similar machines are used to determine whom to give a loan, or who to surveil.

Mr. Taylor's congregation includes venture capitalists, tech workers and scientists. A few years ago, after he organized a lecture about the theological implications of technology -- on how everything from the iPhone to the supercomputer is altering the practice of faith -- he began noticing that church members would seek him out with questions on the subject. This inspired him to start a podcast, "AllThingsNew.Tech."

"I've been able to talk to a lot of Christian C.E.O.s and Christian founders and just get their perspective on how faith integrates with their technology," Mr. Taylor said. Their conversations didn't dwell on concerns over evangelism or piety, but on questions like, "Does my actual faith affect the technical decisions I'm making?" "Are you afraid that technology might be degrading our humanity?" "Through the conversations I've had," Mr. Taylor said, "in some senses all roads lead to the question of: What does it mean to be human?"

I began to encounter whole networks of tech workers who spend their days thinking about these questions. Joanna Ng, an IBM master inventor with about 44 patents to her name, told me that she left the company in 2018 to start her own firm because she felt "darkness" closing in on her from all sides of the tech industry. "Christ will rise before we see artificial super-intelligence," she said, describing industry efforts to develop the technology, and the vast sums spent pursuing it.

I also met Sherol Chen, a software engineer for A.I. research at Google who organizes meetings where her colleagues can discuss and practice their faith. "Not talking about politics and religion has created some circumstances that we find ourselves in today," she told me. "Because it's kind of a new thing, there's a new openness toward it." She helped inspire others in the industry to hold prayer meetings, including, for the past two years, 24-hour virtual "Pray for Tech" sessions, which are livestreamed from around the world.

During last year's event, I watched as the attendees joined together in prayer, asking for repentance and praying for their executives, co-workers and products. Ms. Chen invoked Google's mission statement, without saying the company's name. "We're seeing these answers and these solutions from heaven come through us into our code, into our strategies, into our planning, into our design," she said. "May we pray for every meeting we have, may we take captive every keystroke we make, everything that we type."

The technological and religious worlds have long been intertwined. For over a half-century, people have been searching for a glint of spirit beneath the screen. Some of the earliest A.I. engineers were devout Christians, while other A.I. researchers grew up believing they were descendants of Rabbi Loew, the 16th-century Jewish leader who is said to have created a golem, a creature fashioned from clay and brought to life by the breath of God. Some Indian A.I. engineers have likened the technology to Kalki, the final incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu, whose appearance will signal the end of a dark age and the dawn of a golden era.

One of the most influential science fiction stories, "The Last Question" by Isaac Asimov, dramatizes the uncanny relationship between the digital and the divine. These days, the story is usually told in distilled and updated form, as a kind of joke: A group of scientists create an A.I. system and ask it, "Is there a god?" The A.I. spits out an answer: "Insufficient computing power to determine an answer." They add more computing power and ask again, "Is there a god?" They get the same answer. Then they redouble their efforts and spend years and years improving the A.I.'s capacity. Then they ask again, "Is there a god?" The A.I. responds, "There is now."

In 1977, when Apple unveiled its logo, some took it as a reference to the Garden of Eden. "Within this logo, sin and knowledge, the forbidden fruits of the garden of Eden, are interfaced with memory and information in a network of power," the queer theorist Jack Halberstam wrote. "The bite now represents the byte of information within a processing memory." (The rumored true story is less interesting: The apple is supposed to be a reference to the one that helped Isaac Newton establish the law of gravity; the bite was added to distinguish it from a cherry.)

Today, a sprawling orchard adorns the center of the Apple headquarters in Cupertino, Calif.; I've been told employees are encouraged not to pick its fruit.

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Canada Funneled $23 Billion in Subsidies to Three Pipelines Since 2018 (Nick Cunninghamon, Jul 7, 2021, DeSmog)

The Canadian federal and provincial governments have handed over C$23 billion (US$18.5 billion) in subsidies to three major oil and gas pipeline projects in just the past three years, according to a new report by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), defying global calls to phase out government support for fossil fuels.

But even that total is likely an undercount given the lack of transparency from the Canadian government over its support of the industry. "Canadian support to pipelines is higher than $23 billion dollars, but we don't know by how much. The access to information request that we filed resulted in thousands of pages either redacted or withheld," Vanessa Corkal, policy advisor at the IISD, and lead author of the report, said in a statement.

"Canadians deserve to know that their money is going towards a prosperous future and not putting that future at risk," she said.  

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Chinese electric carmaker Xpeng prices its new sedan at $24,700 undercutting Tesla (Arjun Kharpal, 7/19/21, CNBC)

Chinese electric carmaker Xpeng Inc. has priced its new P5 sedan as low as 160,000 yuan ($24,694) days after Tesla launched a cheaper version of its Model Y sports utility vehicle

The aggressive pricing from Xpeng comes as China's electric vehicle market continues to heat up with an increasing number of players.

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The U.S. Shale Revolution Has Surrendered to Reality (Justin Mikulkaon, Jul 16, 2021, DeSmog)

"Drill, baby, drill is gone forever." 

That was the recent assessment of Saudi Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman of the American oil industry's future potential. As Saudi Arabia's energy minister, Prince Abdulaziz is one of the most influential voices in the global oil markets. Fortune termed it a "bold taunt," and a warning to U.S. frackers to not increase oil production. 

The response by the U.S. producers -- to shut up and take it -- quietly confirms this reality. Shale oil's era of growth appears to be over. The reason is that even as global oil demand and prices rise, the economics of the shale oil business model continue to not work. The U.S. shale industry has lost hundreds of billions of dollars in the past decade producing oil and selling it for less than it cost to produce.

This was possible because despite the losses, investors kept giving the industry money. But now investors appear to have grown tired of losing money on U.S. shale companies and new lending to the industry has dropped dramatically.

Those Nationalists would just keep throwing OPM at it. 
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Snapshot USA: What Maine Tells Us About the Labor Shortage (Roger Lowenstein, Jul 15, 2021, Intrinsic Value)

Many of its former mill workers were never retrained, and simply dropped out of the work force. As manufacturing declined, various indicators of social dysfunction, including depression, suicide, opioids- and alcohol-related deaths, skyrocketed. Rural counties became highly dependent on social services.

Tourists visiting galleries and antique shops may not notice these dropped-out workers in the rocky seaside villages like the one where we have a second home. But they are here.

The problem of the white male worker, the problem of his disaffection, has been the political story of the decade. In Maine, it is the story, because Maine is the whitest state in the nation (less than 2% is African-American).

Maine is also the oldest state, with a median age of 44.7 compared to 38 nationwide. A high school principal in far northern Aroostook County, famed for its potatoes, once joked that their biggest export crop was the top third of the senior class. Yes, Maine leads the nation in lobster production. But what its lobstermen earn in a year, Nevada casinos gross every ten days. It isn't enough. So the young aren't staying.

The mystery is, jobs are going unfilled. Signs offering higher wages and signing bonuses line the eateries along Route 1. As one former food service worker explained, sort of, to the Bangor Daily News, "Restaurants are a grind."

This summer, the state offered a $1,500 bonus to people on unemployment who returned to work. It got few takers. Other programs seek to lure vacationers and others into moving here. The problem remains -- really two problems.

First, Maine has a people shortage. At 43 people per square mile, it's only half as dense as the U.S. overall. Neighboring New Hampshire is three-and-a-half times denser. Even Colorado is denser than Maine. (Judged from the Census tables, Maine can seem hardly a part of New England at all. Its median household income ranks 36th, ahead of a cluster of southern states. It ranks below average in poverty, health insurance coverage, and disability recipients, but ahead in high school graduations and Covid-19 vaccinations.)

Not surprisingly for an older state, deaths outnumber births. Its population is growing (just barely) thanks to a trickle of immigrants. But it's truly a trickle: only 4% of Mainers were born outside the U.S. In the country as a whole, 14% were.

The other significant issue is labor force participation, that is, the percentage of those who are here working or looking for work. In 2000, 69% of Mainers 16 and older were in the labor force. Now, only 62% are, a stunning drop. Maine was hit hard by the pandemic, due to its high proportion of tourism workers. But that's almost besides the point. As John Dorrer, a retired labor economist in Maine, says, the problem is long-term, and structural.

In many ways, the rest of the U.S. is better off. It has higher population growth, more immigrant men (who work at higher rates), more skilled workers. But if you look at the direction of the U.S. labor market, not so much. Even with the number of jobs down by 7 million from the pre-pandemic peak, the number of unfilled jobs is at an all-time high.

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Removing the lead hazard from perovskite solar cells (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, 7/15/21, Science Daily)
"The solar energy-to-electricity conversion of perovskite solar cells is unbelievably high, around 25%, which is now approaching the performance of the best silicon solar cells," says Professor László Forró at EPFL's School of Basic Sciences. "But their central element is lead, which is a poison; if the solar panel fails, it can wash out into the soil, get into the food chain, and cause serious diseases."

The problem is that in most of the halide perovskites lead can dissolve in water. This water solubility and solubility in other solvents is actually a great advantage, as it makes building perovskite solar panels simpler and inexpensive -- another perk along with their performance. But the water solubility of lead can become a real environmental and health hazard when the panel breaks or gets wet, e.g. when it rains.

So the lead must be captured before it gets to the soil, and it must be possible to recycle it. This issue has drawn much and intensive research because it is the main obstacle for regulatory authorities approving the production of perovskite solar cells on a large, commercial scale. However, attempts to synthesize non-water-soluble and lead-free perovskites have yielded poor performance.

Now, Forró's group has come up with an elegant and efficient solution, which involves using a transparent phosphate salt, which does not block solar light, so it doesn't affect performance. And if the solar panel fails, the phosphate salt immediately reacts with lead to produce a water-insoluble compound that cannot leach out to the soil, and which can be recycled. The work is published in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.

It's always a bad day to be a Luddite. 

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2 more Texas Democrats test positive for COVID-19 in Washington, D.C., 5 total cases (Madlin Mekelburg and Nicole Cobler, 7/18/21, Austin American-Statesman)

During their first week on location, few members wore face coverings as they moved through the lobby and traveled through the city -- in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines that say fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks or practice social distancing unless required by law or private regulation.

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WHY CALIFORNIA HOUSING IS SO EXPENSIVE (Randal OToole, 07/18/2021, New Geography)

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Warren targets racist place names (Russell Contreras, 7/19/21, Axios)

A new congressional bill seeks to create a board to help rename more than 1,000 towns, lakes, streams, creeks and mountain peaks across the U.S. still named with racist slurs.

Working at the digital mapping company that did much of the data you use to drive nowadays, the most depressing task was going through and changing these names, like Dead N*** Creeek. 

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Appeals court allows CDC to enforce rules for cruise ships in blow to DeSantis (Ivana Saric, 7/18/21, Axios)

A federal appeals court ruled Saturday night that the CDC can enforce its framework for cruise ships returning to operation, overturning an earlier district court ruling that would have made the CDC's guidelines mere suggestions.

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The crackdown on Didi and companies like it could cost China as much as $45 trillion in new capital flows by 2030 (Frederick Kempe, 7/10/21, CNBC)

This was a clarifying week for global investors -- or for anyone concerned about authoritarian capitalism -- of just how much the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) would be willing to pay to ensure its dominance.

The answer, according to a rough calculation from a new partnership formed by the Rhodium Group and the Atlantic Council, is as much as $45 trillion in new capital flows into and out of China by 2030, if the party were willing to pursue serious reform. It's an immeasurable loss of economic dynamism.

You can't have a Clash of Civilizations when there is only one. 

July 18, 2021

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GOP negotiator: Senators ditch tougher IRS enforcement as way to pay for bipartisan infrastructure plan (Devan Cole and Daniella Diaz, 7/18/21, CNN)

The comments from the Ohio Republican mean that the group of lawmakers will have to continue looking for ways to pay for the costly infrastructure package, the latest version of which suggested that an additional $100 billion could be collected by the IRS over the next 10 years simply by beefing up enforcement and making sure the government is collecting what taxpayers actually owe -- also known as closing the "tax gap."

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Hajj explained: The past and present of the most important Muslim pilgrimage (Rayhan Uddin, 17 July 2021, Middle East Eye)

Although the rituals of Hajj began during the time of the prophet, the origins of the pilgrimage date back over 4,000 years. 

Around 2000 BCE, Muslims believe that Ibrahim was ordered by God to leave his wife Hajera (Hager) and infant son Ishmael in the desert. With Ishmael dehydrated and very hungry, Hajera ran back and forth between the hills of Safa and Marwa, before praying for deliverance. According to Islamic tradition, it was then that an angel appeared and created a fresh spring of water, known as the well of Zamzam. 

Muslims believe that Ibrahim returned to his family, and was ordered by God to build a monument (the Kaaba) at the site of the well, as a gathering place for those who wanted to strengthen their faith in God. 

The monument and availability of water turned Mecca into a busy and profitable city. However, over time the Kaaba lost its monotheistic purity, and became a place of idol worship and polytheistic religious practice. 

In the year 630, the prophet led his followers from Medina to Mecca, destroying the idols and re-dedicating the site to the worship of the one God. Two years later, he performed the first ever Islamic pilgrimage, laying out to his followers the rituals of the Hajj.  

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New Freedom Phone Isn't What It Appears to Be (Stephen Silver, 7/18/21, National Interest)

"The Freedom Phone is a free speech and privacy-first focused phone. With features like tracking blockers and an uncensorable app store," the product's website says. Carrying a price tag of $499.99, the Freedom Phone ships in August. It works with all major carriers and, ironically for a product that's supposed to combat big tech, its website includes share buttons for both Facebook and Twitter.

The phone boasts an "Uncensorable App Store" called PatriApp, and comes preloaded with apps favored by conservatives, such as Parler, DuckDuckGo, Rumble and Newsmax.

"We want to create a future where free communication is not banned by Big Tech," the website says. "We want to bring back free speech. Forever."

The man behind the Freedom Phone is Erik Finman, who calls himself the "youngest Bitcoin millionaire." In a tweet this week, Finman calls the Freedom Phone "the first major pushback on the Big Tech companies that attacked us--for just thinking different."

The phone has been endorsed by a list of Trump-adjacent celebrities, like Candace Owens, Dinesh D'Souza, Roger Stone, and Ali Alexander.

However, the Freedom Phone isn't quite what it claims to be, according to the Daily Beast.

The Freedom Phone "appears to be merely a more expensive rebranding of a budget Chinese phone available elsewhere for a fraction of the Freedom Phone's price," according to the Daily Beast. Off-brand phones like this typically do not go for a $500 price tag.

The Freedom Phone is merely a rebranding of a Chinese smartphone called the Umidigi A9 Pro, made by the tech company Umidigi- and it typically costs around $120, according to the Daily Beast.

All comedy is conservative.
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12 accounts behind most online vaccine misinformation, COVID conspiracy theories (Times of Israel, 7/18/21)

The vast majority of online misinformation and conspiracy theories about the pandemic and coronavirus vaccines originates with just 12 accounts, according to a new report.

Those people, dubbed the "disinformation dozen" by the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), include Robert F. Kennedy Jr. -- nephew of former United States president John F. Kennedy -- and Joseph Mercola, a well-known anti-vaxxer who peddles health supplements he claims can cure disease.

The other named perpetrators were the joint account of Ty and Charlene Bollinger, as well as the social media accounts of Sherri Tenpenny, Rizza Islam, Rashid Buttar, Erin Elizabeth, Sayer Ji, Kelly Brogan, Christiane Northrup, Ben Tapper and Kevin Jenkins.

Many of them are linked to the religious and/or wellness communities.

Elizabeth, who is partner to Mercola, also posted antisemitic conspiracy theories involving the Rothschild family, the report said.

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Fear of a Black Cuban Planet: Many Afro-Cubans are leading calls for change. Who's listening? (JASON JOHNSON, JULY 17, 2021, Slate)

Cuba's Communist regime has endured for over six decades and outlasted more than 10 American presidents, several of whom predicted and pushed for its downfall. But in recent days, a government that survived pressure from one of the most powerful nations in the world is facing its toughest fight--from its own people. From social media to the streets, Cuban Americans have added their voices to the call for a new government in Cuba, and many of them are challenging the historic American narrative about the country. One of these people is Amalia Dache. She's Afro-Cuban and a professor of higher education at the University of Pennsylvania. She researches the role of race in higher education and student activism. She's also the author of the book Rise Up! Activism as Education. On Friday's episode of A Word, we spoke about the uprising and the myths and realities of racial equity in Cuba. Our conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Jason Johnson: When you talk to Cubans on the island and then look at the conversation happening in U.S. politics and media, what's the most critical disconnect or misunderstanding about the uprising?

Amalia Dache: So the Cubans--Cuban natives, Cubans who are dissidents of the revolution, which many of my family are, and Cuban Americans here--agree that Cuba has to change. Cuba has to be more democratic. Between both the island and the United States, that's the agreement with Cuban Americans and Cubans on the island. I mean, just engaging on Twitter, you will see people on the left and people on the far right both saying similar things, like "OK, is it possible that the CIA has been involved in the resistance in Cuba?" Have y'all not been following "Patria y Vida"? Have y'all been following Afro-Cuban artists? Have y'all not been following what they've been doing? No, they haven't. [..]

A lot of the protests there, protests in general, are generally led by young people. You've also studied uprisings in the United States and the protests that we've had over the years. What are some similar threads between the youth uprising in Cuba and what we've seen in the United States, not just last year, but over the last several years?

What's similar is that these youth, Afro-Cuban youth, have been leading. They live in the most marginal, oppressed, and repressed neighborhoods in Cuba. So where this resistance began was in one of the southern barrios of Havana, which is highly marginal, as far as race and as far as the economic situation. Because in Cuba, even though you have this totalitarian state and supposedly everyone's the same across the economic system, you still have neighborhoods, you still have barrios, that are worse as far as their housing, as far as who lives there across the demographics, and you do have predominantly Black and underserved and impoverished--within the scale of Cuban poverty--communities. So even in this kind of government, you still have a hierarchy of poverty and those who are highly affected are Black Cubans, and the youth are the ones that are coming out.

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The courageous faith of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (J John,  13 July 2021, Christianity Today)

In July 1944, Bonhoeffer's imprisonment became more severe and he was sent to Buchenwald concentration camp. The accounts we have of him at this time describe him as a man of peace, full of grace and kindness, and occupied in pastoring and counselling those about him.

In the spring of 1945, Bonhoeffer's name was linked with an old plot against Hitler and his execution ordered. He was hanged on 9 April 1945, just two weeks before the camp was liberated. His last recorded words were, 'This is the end - for me the beginning of life.'

I find at least four striking things in the faith of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

First, his faith was displayed in doing. Bonhoeffer could have stayed an academic theologian quietly writing. Instead, he insisted that Christianity had to be lived out and to be a disciple of Christ was to do something. Beliefs must have consequences: whether it was to work for good or against evil. Bonhoeffer was no armchair Christian and we shouldn't be either.

Second, his faith was displayed in daring. One of the first German Christians to denounce Hitler, Bonhoeffer worked against Nazism for 12 years, knowing that at any moment he could be - as ultimately he was - arrested, imprisoned and killed. It's particularly hard not to be impressed by how, having made the safety of New York in 1939, Bonhoeffer then took the boat back to Germany. We could do with a lot more daring today.

Third, his faith was displayed in defying. Faced with a threatening government and a church that remained silent, Bonhoeffer spoke out boldly against both. There are times when we, too, need to stand up and speak boldly.

Finally, and it's uncomfortable, Bonhoeffer's faith was displayed in dying. As he wrote in The Cost of Discipleship, 'When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.' And with typical consistency that is exactly what Bonhoeffer did.

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The Best Anti-Fragility Speech Ever Came From a Surprising Source"It's the best statement of anti-fragility I've ever seen," says psychologist Jonathan Haidt, author of 'The Coddling of the American Mind.' (Jon Miltimore, 7/11/21, FEE)

The comments come from a surprising source: CNN Host Van Jones, a best-selling author and speaker who served in the Obama administration. As Haidt points out, Jones isn't a hard-nosed conservative. He's a progressive activist, but he sees serious problems with the approach many universities are taking to stifle open discourse and debate.

Jones' comments, made during a panel discussion on safe spaces at the University of Chicago in 2017, have been posted in their entirety below so they can be read in their full context:

I don't like bigots and bullies. I just want to point that out... But I got tough talk for my liberal colleagues on these campuses. They don't tend to like it but I think they like me so I get away with it. I want to push this.

There are two ideas about safe spaces: One is a very good idea and one is a terrible idea. The idea of being physically safe on a campus--not being subjected to sexual harassment and physical abuse, or being targeted specifically, personally, for some kind of hate speech--"you are an n-word," or whatever--I am perfectly fine with that.

But there's another view that is now I think ascendant, which I think is just a horrible view, which is that "I need to be safe ideologically. I need to be safe emotionally I just need to feel good all the time, and if someone says something that I don't like, that's a problem for everybody else including the administration."

I think that is a terrible idea for the following reason: I don't want you to be safe, ideologically. I don't want you to be safe, emotionally. I want you to be strong. That's different.

I'm not going to pave the jungle for you. Put on some boots, and learn how to deal with adversity. I'm not going to take all the weights out of the gym; that's the whole point of the gym. This is the gym. You can't live on a campus where people say stuff you don't like?! And these people can't fire you, they can't arrest you, they can't beat you up, they can just say stuff you don't like- and you get to say stuff back- and this you cannot bear?! [audience applause]

This is ridiculous BS liberals! My parents, and Monica Elizabeth Peak's parents [points to someone in the audience and greets her] were marched, they dealt with fire hoses! They dealt with dogs! They dealt with beatings! You can't deal with a mean tweet?! You are creating a kind of liberalism that the minute it crosses the street into the real world is not just useless, but obnoxious and dangerous. I want you to be offended every single day on this campus. I want you to be deeply aggrieved and offended and upset, and then to learn how to speak back. Because that is what we need from you in these communities. [applause]

Van Jones is right that we harm young people by trying to protect them from ideas.

We're all old enoughto remember when Van Jones was the Right's CRT du jour. 

July 17, 2021

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What the UK knows about violent crime that the US can't figure out (GWEN ADSHEAD, JULY 17, 2021, Salon)

 Although an outsider looking in, I was surprised the legislation passed without a single Republican vote in support, especially in light of their 'tough' stance on crime.

Poverty is a form of "Adverse Childhood Experience" (ACE) which affects future life outcomes. This is not a new idea: American researchers first highlighted the importance of ACEs in a major study in the 1990s. Their construct has since been universally adopted and supported by the global community; the WHO has even developed an 'ACE international questionnaire' to guide social investments and interventions. It is easy to grasp that poverty may cause problems such as malnourishment and chronic illness. But physical deprivation is only half the story. Having socially and materially deprived parents can also be a form of ACE, as can conditions in your community. Your ACE "score" is based on one point for every kind of negative influence: including the obvious, such as direct abuse and material neglect. Along with parental mental illness and parental substance misuse, parental incarceration is another ACE of particular concern in the US, given the high incarceration rate. 45% of the American population have had a family member incarcerated, which rises among minorities to reach 63% in the Black community.

Over the last 30 years, I have worked within the UK's National Health Service, which includes the provision of mental health care to offenders in our prisons and secure psychiatric hospitals. I provide expert testimony about the roots of violence in criminal and family courts and have studied the research evidence about the link between poverty, social inequities, mental health issues and different types of crime. I have seen firsthand in our prison population that the majority of convicted offenders are from poor backgrounds, including a disproportionate number of economically disadvantaged minorities.

The same is true in the US, albeit on a larger scale. Recent data from the CDC and others demonstrate how a child exposed to 4 or more kinds of ACE is at increased risk of criminal violence. A study of 20,000 offenders in a Florida prison found that the higher the ACE score, the more likely the offenders carried out repeated violence from an early age. The authors termed this "downstream wreckage," demonstrating how someone's chance of becoming a serious, chronic, and violent offender increased with each additional ACE point. Half of all prisoners they studied had been exposed to four or more ACEs.  Their report concludes with this warning: "the prevention of ACEs in future generations is critical and a key factor in the prevention of crime."

Meanwhile, the Right thinks they just need a heavier dose of Derek Chauvin.

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How the Intelligence Community Can Get Better at Open Source Intel (BOB ASHLEY and NEIL WILEY, JULY 16, 2021, Defense One)

Senior leaders consistently assert that the key to decision advantage in an ISR construct is timely acquisition and analysis of the best information. Historically, the analysis produced to meet intelligence requirements was based predominantly on data acquired by government collectors and government technologies. Unlike open data sources, intelligence officers can task sensitive intelligence sources and methods to target the specific people, places and events that drive the intelligence needs of our policymakers and commanders. 

But the world has changed. In today's digital age, people and organizations carry out activities using technology that projects data about their background, actions, and preferences onto public platforms. Simultaneously, private companies have built business models around co-opting the two pursuits that animate most intelligence work--identifying and predicting personal behaviors. The combined result of these phenomena is a data ecosystem that couples extraordinary quantities of information with sophisticated processing tools to produce stunningly diverse insights--including insights relevant to the hardest intelligence problems. 

The ubiquity and accessibility of this public data disrupts the assumed superiority of the government's proprietary intelligence sources of methods--a reality the national security community has been slow to recognize and accept. The open-source intelligence, or OSINT, derived from the vast pools of publicly/commercially available information, or PAI/CAI, in the public domain will not replace traditional intelligence--but at the very least it can enrich and enhance this data, and for many intelligence requirements it may be a better, safer and cheaper option of first resort. OSINT can also provide overwatch for areas and topics that fall outside the zone of active IC coverage. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:48 AM


This tiny, $6,800 car runs on solar power (ADELE PETERS, 7/17/21, Co.Exist)

The Squad, a new urban car from an Amsterdam-based startup, is barely bigger than a bicycle: Parked sideways, up to four of the vehicles can fit in a standard parking spot. The electric two-seater's tiny size is one reason that it doesn't use much energy--and in a typical day of city driving, it can run entirely on power from a solar panel on its own roof. A swappable battery provides extra power when needed.

The car is slated to begin production in late 2022, and will be priced at around $6,800. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:26 AM


1 in 5 new COVID-19 cases last week came from Florida, health official says (Matt Papaycik, Jul 16, 2021, AP)

 The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. is becoming "a pandemic of the unvaccinated." [...]

Four states accounted for 40% of new cases last week, with one in five coming from Florida.

The other states with the highest number of new cases were Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, and Nevada.

Posted by orrinj at 8:01 AM


Right-wing student group Turning Point USA struggles to bar white nationalists from gathering  (ZACHARY PETRIZZO,  JULY 17, 2021, Salon)

Turning Point USA, the conservative student organization led by Charlie Kirk, kicks off its summer "Student Action Summit" on Saturday morning in Tampa. But the group now faces faces a battle to ward off white nationalists who hope to infiltrate the gathering, whose headliners include Donald Trump Jr. and former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:25 AM


Rejecting the Culture of Authenticity (DAVID C. BURRIS, 6/30/21, Public Discourse)

For Taylor, there is a "horizon" of meaningful choices, lifestyles, and virtues against which the self can be measured and deemed to be significant. We are born into a cosmos, which requires individuals to search out and understand their position in a broader order. All attempts at finding or creating the authentic self that reject this basic supposition are doomed to collapse into a naïve subjectivism that levels the moral status of all choices. Without an external, objective basis, even the assumption that the authentic is preferable is left utterly unsupported.

Furthermore, engagement with and reference to significant others are necessary conditions in the pursuit of self-definition. Taylor shows how the very tools of self-definition and discovery are "dialogical" in character. The articulation and innovation of self-identities require languages that allow the self to express or define its significance. Yet, he observes, "no one acquires the languages needed for self-definition on their own." Communication is learned through a process of exchanges with others. We may use these means of communication in solitary ways, but when it comes to working out the contours of our own identity, we often find ourselves engaged in "dialogue with, sometimes in struggle against, the identities our significant others want to recognize in us." These conversations are formative and constructive of who we regard ourselves to be. Promoters of authenticity underestimate the roles that others play in our personal enjoyment, pleasure, and aspirations. The identity of being an elite track star, for example, is only intelligible when it includes relationships with competitors, coaches, referees, fans, friends, and family members.

Sheehy suggests that unleashing the authentic self requires tentative and provisional ties and responsibilities. This, she predicts, will result in "an enlarged capacity to love ourselves and embrace others." Such an idea could only find purchase in a cultural context in which the discharging of duty and cultivation of virtue increasingly becomes regarded as instrumental, one that acknowledges no greater horizon of significance outside the self and actively ignores the dialogical role that others play in understanding our identities. A constructive conception of authenticity, by contrast, exhorts us to understand that meaning and fulfillment derive from internalizing one's own situatedness and answering the call to live for a world outside of the self.

To God's enduring chagrin, authentic Man turned out selfish and nothing like He had intended.  So, first, He tried curing our authenticity by banishing us, then by rewarding Abel and rejecting Cain, and by drowning everyone and starting over and issuing Commandments and on and on.  Finally, He became one of us to try to show us it wasn't that hard to reject the authenticity of our Created beings and to figure out why we hewed to it so hard.  But then He too succumbed to authenticity and had to forgive us, for we know not what we do.

What is left to us in our Fallen condition is to strive to love one another as He loved us, but to fail at this outward focus on others. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:08 AM


Poll finds a quarter of US Jews think Israel is 'apartheid state' (RON KAMPEAS,13 July 2021,, JTA)

A survey of US Jewish voters taken after the Israel-Gaza conflict finds that a sizable minority believes some of the harshest criticisms of Israel, including that it is committing genocide and apartheid.

Among respondents to the survey commissioned by the Jewish Electorate Institute, a group led by prominent Jewish Democrats, 34 percent agreed that "Israel's treatment of Palestinians is similar to racism in the United States," 25% agreed that "Israel is an apartheid state" and 22% agreed that "Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinians."

In the long run, the fact that American Jews are American and Jewish is fatal to our relations with an ethnically Zionist state.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Sohrab Ahmari's Straw Man Assault on Liberalism: Ahmari's book may be facile and unconvincing, but it should still prompt defenders of liberalism to continually strengthen and sharpen their arguments (Robert Tracinski, July 6, 2021, Discourse)

The book is structured as a series of potted biographies of intellectuals Ahmari holds up as defenders or exemplars of traditional values. But he mostly uses them as foils for what he imagines to be the basic ideas and worldview of liberalism.

A biographical portrait of C. S. Lewis, for example, attacks the straw man of a narrow scientism, not in the ideas of an actual person, but in the ideas of a fictional villain in one of Lewis' lesser-known novels ("Out of the Silent Planet").

Likewise, Ahmari uses Hans Jonas, a 20th century scholar of Gnosticism, as his foil against German philosopher Martin Heidegger. But how is it that Heidegger is supposed to represent the philosophical outlook of liberalism? He infamously joined the Nazi Party in 1933, then after World War II became one of the progenitors of the postmodernist school that serves as a philosophical inspiration for the contemporary illiberal left.

In a chapter on whether it is possible to have "spiritual" values and find meaning in life without traditional religious rituals, Ahmari takes as his foils a girl who works at a yoga studio and an actress who tells a reporter, "I cleanse with Dead Sea salt baths and other herbal healing baths. I love nature and herbs; they are the magic healers of the earth and connect us to the spiritual."

I like making fun of fuzzy-headed New Age types as much as the next guy, but I also recognize that it is a very, very easy thing to do and not much of an answer to those of us who find our nonreligious spirituality, say, at the opera house instead of the yoga studio. (For that matter, it also is glibly dismissive of yoga, which is actually rooted in ancient Hindu spiritual traditions--which apparently are not among the rituals or traditions Ahmari wishes to defend.) It is easy to describe the liberal advocacy of personal autonomy as a defense of thoughtless, fleeting whims and "appetites" if these are the only examples you choose to recognize. 

To be fair, if he could successfully contest liberalism he would choose serious targets.  Anyone who saw his performance against David French knows why he prefers imaginary enemies.  

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Wealth Concentration in the United States Using an Expanded Measure of Net Worth (Lindsay Jacobs, Elizabeth Llanes, Kevin Moore, Jeffrey P. Thompson, and Alice Henriques Volz, 6/21/21, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston)

Defined benefit (DB) pensions and Social Security are two important resources for financing retirement that are often excluded from data, resulting in incomplete measures of wealth and representations of household wealth concentration. In this paper, the authors estimate an expanded measure of wealth that includes DB pensions and future Social Security benefits and show how that inclusion affects estimates of wealth inequality in the United States as well as trends over time. They further illustrate the impact Social Security has on these measures by simulating distributions under a scenario in which expected future Social Security Trust Fund shortfalls are addressed through a reduction in benefit payouts.

Key Findings

Even for the median household in the wealth distribution, the present value of defined benefit (DB) pensions and Social Security benefits accounts for more than half of all wealth.

Including DB pensions and Social Security benefits in measures of wealth results in markedly lower wealth concentration and moderates trends toward higher wealth inequality over time.

More specifically, the "90/50 ratio"--the ratio of wealth held by those at the 90th percentile of wealth to those at the 50th percentile--is reduced by nearly half for the 50-59 age group (from 13.4 to 6.8 in 2019) and for the 40-49 age group (10.7 to 6.4) when the estimated value of Social Security benefits are included in measures of wealth.

The "50/10 ratio" falls from 13.1 to 4.3 among those aged 40 to 49 and from 21.3 to 4.2 for the 50-59 age group when Social Security benefits are included.

The share of wealth held by the top 5 percent of the distribution drops from about 72 percent to 51 percent when the value of defined contribution (DC) plans and DB pensions are included in measures of wealth; it falls even further, to 45 percent, when Social Security benefits for those aged 40 to 59 are included.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


July 16, 2021

Posted by orrinj at 8:06 AM


Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis asks Cuba protesters to stop blocking roads, an illegal act under his 'anti-riot' law (PETER WEBER, 7/16/21, The Week)

When Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed a controversial "anti-riot" law in April, citing racial justice protests following the police killing of George Floyd, he said "there needs to be swift penalties" when "you have people out there shutting down a highway." On Tuesday, when South Floridians blocked the Palmetto Expressway for hours in support of Cuban anti-government protesters, DeSantis said, "I think people understand the difference between going out and peacefully assembling, which is obviously people's constitutional right." 

To be fair, the law isn't only anti-black; he'd enforce it if the Cubans were protesting immigration limits too.

Posted by orrinj at 7:58 AM


The pandemic-fueled decline of cash (Kate Marino, 7/16/21, Axios)

What's happening: More consumers are going digital for obvious reasons -- the convenience, the safety of not carrying around wads of cash, and after COVID, because of sanitary concerns, says Jody Jonsson, portfolio manager at Capital Group.

And while the entirety of cash payments is impossible to track, we can see that digital payments have grown faster than overall consumption over the past decade, Kenneth Rogoff, professor of economics at Harvard, tells Axios.

By the numbers: For long-term trends, surveys by the Atlanta Fed determined that in 2019, paper currency was used in 26% of consumer payments by number, and 6% by value. That's down from 40%, and 14%, respectively, in 2012.

Posted by orrinj at 7:41 AM


The mystifying bond market behavior could last all summer (Patti Domm, 7/16/21, CNBC)

The most closely watched U.S. interest rate metric -- the 10-year Treasury note yield -- again skidded below 1.3% Thursday, a level where it last traded in February, prior to last week. It was at 1.32% Friday. The surprise and swift decline is being blamed on a number of things, including short-covering, technicalities, peaking growth -- and the Fed.

The 10-year yield is important since it has been a foil for tech stocks. When it has fallen, tech and growth shares have mostly risen lately. It also influences mortgage rates and other consumer and business loans. Many strategists had expected the 10-year to hold at higher levels and march toward 2% or above by the end of the year.

Lockdown having just demonstrated the superfluity of labor, a bet on deflation is only sensible.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Searching for Moby-Dick (and the Elusive Truths of America's Pastime): Rick White on Bill James, Herman Melville, and the Whaleness of Whiteyball (Rick White, July 13, 2021, Lit Hub)

I got my first job when I was ten years old. Without so much as a routine interview, the fine folks at the Babe Ruth baseball park in my hometown of Jonesboro, Arkansas, hired me to be a scorekeeper. For two or three games each night during the summer, I tracked, with pencil and paper, every groundout to second base (4-3), hit by pitch (HBP), error on the shortstop (E6), wild pitch (WP), walk (BB), strikeout swinging (K), strikeout looking (ꓘ), double play (6-4-3, 4-6-3, 2-3-4, etc.), and more. I turned in my scorecards at the office at the end of each game and, in exchange for my labor, received a complimentary hot dog and a slushie of my choice. It was the best job I have ever had. It was also where I became fluent in my second language.

I had been playing baseball and collecting baseball cards for over half my life, so I already spoke baseball and read baseball, both quite well. I could look at the statistics on the back of Willie McGee's 1986 Topps® card and explain why he won the National League MVP in 1985: the .353 batting average, the .503 slugging percentage, the league-leading 216 hits. I could see his 56 stolen bases and 18 triples and know from the numbers alone that McGee ran the bases both aggressively and fast. Learning to keep score was like learning to diagram a sentence, though. Suddenly, I saw the mechanics of the working thing at rest--not just what certain numbers on the back of a baseball card meant, but how they had come to mean. And in the cyclical way that knowledge begets affection, and vice versa, I also began to see why those numbers meant so much to me.

"When the numbers acquire the significance of language," says Bill James, "they acquire the power to do all of the things which language can do: to become fiction and drama and poetry."[i] James is a fellow baseball lover and numbers nerd. Back when Willie McGee was stealing bases for the St. Louis Cardinals, James was in Kansas City trying to change how baseball people watched, played, and thought about America's favorite pastime--with numbers, yes, but more so with words. For James, the story was in the statistics, but his ambition was to make good literature. "It is not just baseball that these numbers, through a fractured mirror, describe," he says, conscious of alliteration and fearful of no lofty metaphor:

It is character. It is psychology, it is history, it is power, it is grace, glory, consistency, sacrifice, courage, it is success and failure, it is frustration and bad luck, it is ambition, it is overreaching, it is discipline. And it is victory and defeat, which is all that the idiot sub-conscious really understands.[ii]

In a 2003 profile of James in The New Yorker magazine, journalist Ben McGrath says of "the professor of baseball" that his "approach seemed distinctly American, descended from the nineteenth-century pragmatist tradition exemplified by his namesake, the philosopher William James." While this may be true of James's statistical analysis, his prose descends not from William James, but from the lineage of a different, and distinctly not pragmatic, titan of American letters. Bill James on baseball is Herman Melville on whaling.

The Anatomy of America's Game

Flip through any of James's annual Baseball Abstracts from the Reagan years and the comparison I just made will not sound so grandiose. Tables of obscure batting and fielding statistics accompanied by illustrations of the complex mathematical formulas used to create them are interspersed with lengthy essays on, and rankings of, players, managers, and teams, all of it connected and dissected and opined on by a first-person narrator, Bill, an unabashed Kansas City Royals fan.

For example, in the 1983 Abstract, in the section on third basemen, he ranks George Brett, a future Hall of Famer, as the fourth-best third sacker in baseball due to a slump in his batting statistics over the two seasons prior. James chalks this up, in part, to Brett's seeing more curve balls from pitchers and not being able to hit them, but also, curiously, to Brett's bachelorhood, and to the particular strain of masculine entitlement the hot-tempered Brett inherited from his father and brothers, which his former manager, Whitey Herzog, nurtured, but which his current manager, Dick Howser, does not. "[Brett] wants the Royals to tell him that they love him," James says, "and instead they tell him it's a business. Sure, he's a spoiled kid, but we're not all too adult to sympathize with those feelings, are we?"[iii]

This is not an essay about Bill James, though. At least, it is not an essay about Bill James any more than Moby-Dick is a book about whales. But in the introduction to that 1983 Abstract, wherein James describes the "eccentricity" of his own style, both personal and literary, you will forgive me for seeing, through a fractured mirror, not baseball statistics but cetology, and not James in Kansas City, but Ishmael in New Bedford, or, better yet, at sea:

The subject of the book is sabermetrics; SABR for the Society for American Baseball Research, Metrics for measurement, with an extra "e" thrown in so you can pronounce it. Most of the time, anyway; sometimes I take off on a tangent and start writing about Princess Margaret, call-in shows or shark jokes. But what the hell, sportswriters will stop writing about baseball at the drop of a hat and start writing about economics, drugs or lawsuits, and they don't feel bad about it. Indeed, what is eccentric about my writing about baseball is that I write so much about baseball and sometimes will examine the tiniest parts of the game in exhaustive detail without seeming to feel any compulsion to leave the subject and start writing about leadership or character or personality conflicts or go do an interview somewhere.

Except, like Melville, leadership and character and personality conflicts are exactly what Bill James is writing about when he debates the value of advanced fielding metrics for managerial decisions. Also like Melville, James knows it, and is cunning enough to play coy.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Boomer Wealth BoomA crucial shift in retirement savings helped a generation salt away trillions. (Steven Malanga, July 11, 2021, City Journal)

Baby Boomers have been retiring in increasing numbers, and now some are dying. They leave behind a giant pile of money that the media have labeled "the greatest wealth transfer" in modern history: a collective net worth that currently sits at $35 trillion, much of which will be passed down to their heirs. It's so much money that, naturally, the Biden administration is examining ways to tax it, charities and nonprofits are angling for their share of it, and estate lawyers are licking their chops at the prospect of helping to plan how it all gets dispensed.

Yet news stories about this wealth transfer are overlooking something basic: a simple explanation of how boomers accumulated this wealth amid a supposedly massive financial crisis spurred by the alleged inadequacies of our private-sector pension systems, which, four decades ago, began a shift from defined-benefit retirement plans to individual savings accounts. Rather than leaving a generation bereft, as critics have predicted for years, that shift helped place an unprecedented amount of money in the hands of boomers, while laying bare the inadequacy of the defined-benefit systems that persist today in some places--especially in the misguided public sector.

The seeds of the shift were planted in the 1960s, amid several well-publicized failures of private pension systems (including a plan covering some 10,500 workers and retirees at a Studebaker auto plant in Indiana that went bust, leaving enrollees with just cents on the dollar). Spurred by such disasters, Congress created legislation to govern plans and protect employees, including rules on how workers should be vested in these plans and what constituted minimum funding requirements for pensions. The new rules seemed to make sense until it became clear that they had sharply boosted the cost of funding defined-benefit plans, which guarantee workers an income for life based on a formula that considers a worker's years of service and final salary.

Unable to meet those costs at an affordable price and wary of the risks now involved, companies began rapidly shifting toward defined-contribution plans, in which employers set aside a specific amount for each worker in an individual account--a type of plan formalized in a 1978 amendment to U.S. retirement law. The share of workers with defined-benefit-only plans in private industry consequently dropped precipitously, from about 25 percent in the 1970s to about 3 percent today, while the share participating in company-owned, defined-contribution pensions rose from 8 percent in 1980 to 31 percent today. Around the same time, Congress enacted laws to let those who worked for businesses that didn't offer retirement plans save on their own through individual retirement accounts.

Boosted by market returns, assets in these contribution plans have soared. In the last 25 years alone, the combined assets of defined-contribution plans offered by employers and individual retirement accounts (many of which are rollovers from company defined-contribution plans by workers who have changed jobs) have increased nearly eightfold, to $23 trillion--far outpacing the holdings in any other category of retirement plans. Those accounts now amount to nearly two-thirds of all U.S. retirement assets, up from less than 25 percent in 1995. 

Now follow through on the rest of W's Ownership Society and put every American in such accounts. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The great sleep divide: Sleep deficits are robbing poor people and racial minorities of health and earning power. What can be done? (Katherine Ellison 06.22.2021, Knowable)

It's still commonly assumed that poor sleep is a symptom rather than a cause of other medical or mental problems, according to Troxel. Yet today we know poor sleep can also cause illness. People with sleep apnea suffer more cardiovascular disease and stroke, as well as increased inflammation, which may contribute to illnesses including heart disease, cancer and arthritis. For teenagers, one study has shown, each hour of lost sleep comes with a 23 percent increase in the risk of tobacco, alcohol or marijuana use and a 58 percent increase in suicide attempts. Insufficient sleep may even make people more vulnerable to viruses and less likely to benefit from a vaccine.

Black Americans have markedly higher rates of sleep apnea, at least partly because they are more likely to be overweight or obese. Without special devices, like this CPAP machine, to help them breathe, sleep apnea sufferers can wake dozens of times per night, leading to daytime sleepiness and other health issues.

But here's where the great sleep divide comes in. Over the years, researchers repeatedly have found evidence that people in poverty get less sleep than those with more money. In 2013, for instance, a large CDC survey found that 35.2 percent of people earning below the poverty level reported sleeping less than six hours in an average 24-hour period, compared with 27.7 percent of those earning more than four times the poverty level.

The disparities are even sharper among racial groups. A rigorous 2015 study involving both lab tests and self-reports from more than 2,000 US participants found that, compared with whites matched for age and sex, Blacks were five times as likely to sleep for shorter periods. Hispanics and Chinese Americans were roughly two times as likely to get fewer hours of sleep than whites.

Several economic, social and physical factors contribute to these differences and their related harm to health, school performance and productivity.

Merely living in low-income neighborhoods is a risk factor for poor sleep, for a slew of reasons that include more light and noise pollution and less access to green spaces. "It's said that your zip code matters as much as your genetic code," says Troxel, who has gathered evidence demonstrating that where people live affects their health.

Shut down inner cities and move residents to the suburbs. 

July 15, 2021

Posted by orrinj at 5:50 PM


Hydrogen, ammonia and a clean-fuel standard could help get the world to net-zero emissions (Rachel Koning Beals, 7/15/21, Market Watch)

Electrifying global transportation won't be enough to reach net-zero emissions in coming decades without pushing alternative fuels like hydrogen and ammonia, a large group of industry representatives and climate-change experts told the Clean Air Task Force.

The group, although not perfectly aligned in how best to reach the emissions target backed by President Biden, global leaders and many industry heads, also found some consensus that a clean-fuel standard can play a critical role in driving the carbon intensity of transportation energy down to zero, CATF said in their report out Thursday. [...]

Participants stressed in part their belief a transition to net-zero emissions must not hammer consumers with high costs, nor erode their bottom lines.

Make emissions so expensive that they hammer bottom lines and they'll transition quicker.

Posted by orrinj at 5:44 PM


Grand ayatollah warns against Iran's Taliban approach (July 15, 2021, Al Monitor)

Grand Ayatollah Lotfollah Safi Golpaygani, one of Iran's most senior clerics, lashed out at the Islamic Republic's softened policy at a moment of rapid Taliban advances and widespread atrocities in Afghanistan.  

Such an approach, the ayatollah warned, "is a grave and irreparable mistake." He cautioned the Iranian government not to trust a "terrorist" group "whose evil and murderous nature is no secret to the world." Golpaygani called on both Iran and the international community to "act with seriousness" to avert further "Taliban aggression against oppressed Afghans."  

the enemy of my enemy....is my enemy too.

Posted by orrinj at 4:31 PM


Babe Ruth's still-staggering, radical mental approach to hitting, a century later (COLIN FLEMING, 07/15/2021, The Smart Set)

Ned Williamson, stalwart third baseman of the Chicago White Stockings, his chest like a hogshead barrel, was viewed as a man who possessed insane pop during his 1880s heyday. He was massive for the post-Civil War era, standing just under six-foot-tall and tipping the scales at 210 pounds. In 1883, Harry Stovey, a Philadelphia Athletics first baseman, had clouted 14 home runs, breaking the single-season record set three years prior by Charley Jones of the Boston Red Caps with his 9 round-trippers. But Nasty Ned Williamson exploded through the dinger stratosphere, launching 27 home runs the following season.  

There was some juice to the ball that year, which had been like a sock puppet previously, with three other batsmen clearing the 20-homer threshold. Come 1885, in nearly the exact same amount of at-bats, Williamson's home run total plummeted to 3, but his record would not be going anywhere, standing for 35 years, one season longer than it took someone, in the form of Roger Maris, to best Babe Ruth's 1927 mark of 60 home runs, and two years less than it took Mark McGuire -- allowing that you acknowledge steroid-tainted numbers -- to surpass Maris.  

Williamson didn't get a lot of usage out of his glory -- he succumbed to a combo of dropsy and tuberculosis, aged 36, in 1894. But during the early era of baseball, his was a mark that batsmen chased, a line of statistical dominance that Babe Ruth finally nudged beyond in 1919, cracking 29 home runs in his first year with the New York Yankees. Ruth had been trending towards becoming the eventual record-holder, his days as a pitcher largely behind him, as he focused on the particular brand of magic he whipped up in the batter's box.  

And yet, there was nothing that could have prepared anyone for what Ruth did about a century ago over the course of the 1920 and 1921 seasons, which remain so far ahead of their time that we have to wrestle with the idea that they even happened, while simultaneously trying to comprehend that this athlete informs the core strategies of the game we now watch in 2021. 

Posted by orrinj at 3:49 PM

ALWAYS BET ON THE dEEP sTATE (profanity alert):

"If I was going to do a coup ...": Trump offers bizarre denial of report his generals feared a coup (JON SKOLNIK, JULY 15, 2021, Salon)

Milley, the book describes, was reportedly "on guard" for whatever uprising might take place ahead of Biden's inauguration, fearing that Trump's grandiose and baseless theory of election fraud might fuel "a Reichstag moment."

"They may try, but they're not going to f------ succeed," Milley told his deputies. "You can't do this without the military. You can't do this without the CIA and the FBI. We're the guys with the guns."  

At one point, the general called Trump's Big Lie "the gospel of the Fuhrer." 

Ahead of November's "Million MAGA March" - where thousands of Trump supporters gathered in D.C. to protest the results of the 2020 election - Milley apparently told his aides that the demonstration "could be the modern American equivalent of 'brownshirts in the streets.'"

Milley was specifically worried that the former was intentionally inciting violence as a pretense for invoking the Insurrection Act, which could have unilaterally allowed Trump to deploy the military to forcibly stop the election certification process on January 6. 

Trump, the general said in private, "the classic authoritarian leader with nothing to lose."

And still lost.

Posted by orrinj at 1:26 PM


20% of all deaths could be prevented if cities were better designed (TOLULLAH ONI AND RIZKA MAULIDA, 7/15/21, Fast Company)

The Mainz study synthesizes the existing evidence on the impact of several urban environmental risks. These include air pollution (more than half of the global deaths from air pollution are due to cardiovascular disease); transportation noise (which contributes to the risk of metabolic disease by raising stress hormone levels, heart rate, and blood pressure); and light pollution at night (associated with changes to the circadian rhythm, which is linked to conditions including obesity and heart disease).

The study then highlights how human health and climate change are linked, and what can be done to help. Urban infrastructure is destroyed and populations harmed by the effects of extreme weather, floods, and heat stress.

Scholars speak about this enmeshing of human health and the well-being of the natural systems on which we depend as planetary health. Increasingly, this is seen as a guiding principle that should drive all urban policies.

Building cities for cars and urban sprawl encourages car use, traffic congestion, air pollution, and noise. The result is more stress, road trauma, and physical inactivity as well as worse health overall and more deaths.

It follows that we need better designs for our cities. Research has shown, for instance, that 20% of all deaths could be prevented if cities were designed to meet the recommendations for physical activity, air pollution, noise, heat, and green space.

Move people to the suburbs.

Posted by orrinj at 1:09 PM


Glenn Greenwald: America First conservatives shouldn't support unrest in Cuba (Phillip Nieto, 7/15/21, The Spectator)

In an interview with The Spectator, journalist Glenn Greenwald broke down why he believes 'America First' conservatives should reevaluate their support for Cuba's protests. The Intercept co-founder argues that conservatives with nationalistic tendencies should prioritize American domestic policy without embroiling themselves in foreign conflicts.

PN: Why shouldn't conservatives who describe themselves as 'America First' support protests in Cuba and abroad?

GG: Well, if you go back and look at the leader of the kind of contemporary America First movement, which is obviously Donald Trump when he was outlining his foreign policy in 2016, it was very much against the idea that the United States should be involved in regime change operations to help other countries. At the time, the big debate was over Syria. That was one of the big differences between himself and Hillary Clinton on foreign policy. She argued that Bashar al-Assad is a hideous dictator, and we should go in to at least set up no-flyzones in Syria or strengthen the CIA further to overthrow Assad and bring freedom and democracy to the Syrian people. Trump's argument was, 'why do we have any interest at all in using our money and the lives of our soldiers to go and fight tyranny in Syria? How is that going to help steelworkers in Ohio, in Pennsylvania to go use our resources to go fix the government in Syria?'

So that's been the core of the argument, which is we have no right to be interfering in other countries and intervening in other countries to try and quote-unquote, fix them or help them or change their government. Every time we've tried, it's been a disaster. Our resources are better spent on helping Americans and not foreign nationals. It seems very inconsistent to me for people who have been advocating that to now turn around and use the neocon liberal interventionist argument to say we need to bring freedom and democracy to Cuba and liberate the Cuban people.

The Trumpists generally exist to amuse the rest of us, but stuff like their lip-lock with Putin operative Greenwald is especially delicious.

Posted by orrinj at 8:29 AM


Trump expresses regret he didn't lower White House flag for slain MAGA rioter (Travis Gettys, July 15, 2021, Raw Story)

Former president Donald Trump has been expressing regret in recent weeks that he didn't order the White House flag lowered to half-staff for slain U.S. Capitol rioter Ashli Babbitt.

The Qanon adherent was fatally shot by a Capitol police officer Jan. 6 as she attempted to break into an area where lawmakers had fled the mob of Trump supporters, and the twice-impeached one-term president has recently told associates that she deserved the public honor due to her years of service in the U.S. Air Force, reported The Daily Beast.

She got what she deserved from the government she once served.

Posted by orrinj at 8:26 AM


'The pee tape is real': Critics claim Kremlin leak confirms 'every awful thing said about Trump ends up being absolutely true'
(Travis Gettys, July 15, 2021, Raw Story)
Leaked documents confirm that Russian president Vladimir Putin holds compromising blackmail leverage over Donald Trump, and that's why he personally directed Kremlin spy agencies to secretly work to get him elected president.

The Guardian obtained documents that experts believe came from a Jan. 22, 2016, meeting of Russia's national security council that refers to "certain events" that took place during Trump's "non-official visits to Russian Federation territory" in the years before entering politics.

Posted by orrinj at 8:22 AM


Icelandair exploring electric or hydrogen-powered planes (Iceland Monitor, 7/15/21)

Icelandair Group has made preliminary deals with both Universal Hydrogen and Heart Aerospace with the goal of using planes fuelled by hydrogen and/or electricity on domestic routes.

Universal Hydrogen has developed a technology that could be used to retrofit Icelandair's Dash-8 passenger planes to have them run on hydrogen while Heart Aerospace plans to build passenger aircraft that will run on electricity, Mbl.is reports.

A news release from Icelandair Group states that in order to reach global goals for CO2 emissions more environmentally friendly solutions for air travel have to be introduced as quickly as possible.

The airline says that short domestic flight routes and good access to electricity generated using renewable sources make Iceland an ideal location for transitioning to cleaner energy. Doing so would also be in line with the goals of the Icelandic government with regards to creating a more sustainable tourism industry.

Posted by orrinj at 5:53 AM


Astronomers train AI to reveal the true shape of galaxies (PAUL RATNER, 14 July, 2021, Big Think)

The new study, published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, shows how the research team was able to counteract shape noise by utilizing ATERUI II, the most powerful astronomy supercomputer in the world. By feeding it pretend and real data from the Subaru Telescope, the scientists had the computer simulate 25,000 mock galaxy catalogs. They added realistic noise to these data sets while teaching their artificial intelligence network through deep learning to pick out the correct data from the noise.

"This research shows the benefits of combining different types of research: observations, simulations, and AI data analysis," shared team's leader Masato Shirasaki.

they look like whatever we decide they look like. 
Posted by orrinj at 12:05 AM


What If The U.S. Military Never Invaded Iraq? (Robert Farley, 7/11/21, 1945)

The biggest effects of the Iraq War, and the most enduring limitations, may have come in how the conflict affected the U.S. military, and changed the attitudes of Americans toward the use of force.

Let's go out on a limb and say the biggest effects were on the peoples of Iraq who no longer live under a genocidal dictatorship--and the accompanying mass murderous sanctions regime we imposed--and get to determine their governance themselves. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Giving a fiddle: The unlikely story of how bluegrass music swept JapanIt's a sound deeply rooted in American culture, but bluegrass found a new fanbase during the Seventies, more than 7,000 miles away in Japan. Alli Patton speaks to the bands about how the banjo-fuelled genre transcended enemy lines and is still a thriving scene today (Ali Patton, 7/13/21, Independent

Bluegrass is a sound as embedded in North America's landscape as the mountains themselves. It's a musical by-product of its birthplace, and its origins can be traced along the spine of the Appalachian Mountain range. But it travels, too, echoing off peaks, reverberating down in the valleys and transmitting across oceans. The fiddle sings a bright duet with the banjo's delicate twang - even the lightest touch creates a "snap". Steady guitar strums are paired against the mandolin's steel chirps, while a harmonica's metallic wail mingles with the heavy, hollow thumps of the upright bass.

The genre has its origins in classic tunes from the British Isles, old-time mountain music and traditional African-American blues, jazz and gospel. Kentucky-born Bill Monroe developed the earliest form of the genre during the Forties - it takes its name from his band, the Blue Grass Boys. It's a melting pot of styles and different instruments, but one of its most defining traits is the banjo, barrelling along the track like a runaway train. The arrangements rejoice in their own freedom to go anywhere. Yet it is also stylistically complex; improvisations, typical in rapid-tempo tunes known as "breakdowns", are a characteristic inherited from jazz.

The music has captivated fans from all over, but it may come as a surprise to learn that the world's second-largest bluegrass scene is almost 7,000 miles away from the American South, in Japan. It arrived there in the years following the Second World War, introduced via the Far East Network (or FEN), a military radio and TV service created to provide a source of news, information and entertainment for Japan-based US soldiers and their families. It was on this network that country and bluegrass were aired for an hour each day to troops and anyone else who could pick up the radio signal. By 1957, Japan had its first bluegrass duo, The East Mountain Boys, formed by brothers Yasushi and Hisashi Ozaki.

The Ozaki brothers fell in love with American music from a young age but the outbreak of war had forced them to learn about it in secret. "There would be great dissension if people knew they were listening to the enemy's music, so they hid their hand crank record player in a closet and played whatever records they could get," a 2013 article in Bluegrass Today explained. "There was little food or supplies available in Japan at the time, and metal was very hard to come by, so they had to make a needle for the record player from bamboo." The establishment of the FEN meant the duo had more freedom to listen to the music they loved, eventually becoming pioneers for the genre in Japan.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Here's why Richard Branson's flight matters--and, yes, it really matters"I absolutely believe this is that moment." (ERIC BERGER - 7/12/2021, Ars Technica)

The promise of suborbital tourism is that it could expand space access to many, many more people. Whereas orbital flights required tens of millions of dollars and months of training, suborbital spaceflight costs a few hundred thousand dollars and needs only a few days of training.

Making good on this promise has been challenging. For much of the last decade, it seemed like spaceflights such as Branson's were only a year or two away. But there were always setbacks, more technical issues to solve, more safety concerns to address. Time slipped away, and it seemed like the day may never come.

Nonetheless, behind the scenes, a furious race between Virgin Galactic and Jeff Bezos' rocket company, Blue Origin, raged. Both were competing to build, test, and fly suborbital launch systems that would take paying customers to space. The race, of course, came down to the wire. After Jeff Bezos said he would fly into space on his New Shepard rocket on July 20, Branson moved up his flight, which had been planned for late summer. On Sunday, Branson won the first leg of this space tourism race by a mere nine days.

As Garriott sees it, we were all winners. "It's very exciting to see either of them go to space, much less both of them," Garriott said.

Coincidentally, it's not just suborbital space tourism now reaching maturity. In as little as two months, SpaceX will launch a Crew Dragon spacecraft carrying four private astronauts. This "Inspiration4" mission was purchased by entrepreneur Jared Isaacman, who is using the flight to promote children's cancer research.

NASA supported development of Crew Dragon to have a transportation system to the International Space Station. It did so through a public-private partnership, which required SpaceX to invest in Crew Dragon as well. In return, SpaceX got more freedom to design Crew Dragon to its specifications, and the company was encouraged by NASA to seek out private customers.

Now, that is happening. As part of the buildup to the Inspiration4 flight, SpaceX founder Elon Musk has said he expects to fly more private flights on Crew Dragon than NASA-sponsored missions to the International Space Station.

From this moment onward, therefore, it's likely that the majority, and very probably the vast majority, of future flights to suborbital and orbital space will be privately funded. Private human spaceflight is finally ready for takeoff.

"I absolutely believe this is that moment," Rachel Lyons, executive director of Space for Humanity, told Ars.

Businessman and space investor Dylan Taylor founded the philanthropic organization in 2017 to expand access to space. Space for Humanity plans to sponsor people from all over the world to go to space, experience the overview effect, and return to Earth to share it with their communities. "We're working to seed people around the world who have had this experience," Lyons said.

Space for Humanity first took applications for the program in 2019, intending to purchase seats on Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin, and other similar spaceflight opportunities should they come along. Back then, neither company flew. The technology wasn't ready. Space for Humanity soon closed its applications.

In 2021, the time has come. As of last week, Space for Humanity reopened its application process.

Yes, but...

For various, understandable reasons, a lot of people look at what Branson and Bezos have done with disdain. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Palestinian Authority Study Endorses Sheikh Jarrah 'Popular Struggle' Model (Yaniv Kubovich, Jul. 11, 2021, Ha'aretz)

The younger generation of Palestinians is frustrated by the ruling Fatah leadership and views it as hesitant and weak, according to an internal study the Palestinian Authority commissioned from academics in Fatah.

The study also indicates that the clashes that broke out in May in East Jerusalem - particularly in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood and on the Temple Mount - and that led to the all-out military confrontation between Israel and Hamas in Gaza - are the correct model for the Palestinian struggle with Israel. The analysis by the PA has been obtained by Israeli security officials, who are concerned by the potential direct effect of the mood on the Palestinian street on the security situation in Israel.

The study was carried out at the request of senior Fatah officials following an unprecedented drop in confidence in the Palestinian Authority's leadership among Palestinian residents of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Among the reasons that the study was commissioned was an earlier opinion survey by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research that Hamas had gained support following its military confrontation with Israel.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Cave thought to hold unicorn bones actually home to Neanderthal artwork (Laura Geggel, 7/07/21, Live Science)

A German cave once famous for its "unicorn bones" during medieval times is home to a far-rarer non-mythical treasure: a piece of symbolic artwork created by Neanderthals, a new study finds. 

The artwork, a chevron design, was carved into the toe bone of the now-extinct giant deer (Megaloceros giganteus), said the researchers. The team dated the bone to 51,000 years ago, a time when Homo sapiens hadn't yet ventured into the region, suggesting that the Neanderthals had carved the bone on their own, without influence or help from anatomically modern humans, the researchers wrote in the study, published online Monday (July 5) in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution.

The symbolic artwork suggests Neanderthals had a greater cognitive capacity than previously thought. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Activating Animus: The Uniquely Social Roots of Trump Support (LILLIANA MASON, JULIE WRONSKI, and  JOHN V. KANE, 6/30/21, American Political Science Review)

To examine the nature of Trump support, we identified a unique and powerful predictor of his popularity--animus toward Democratic-linked and traditionally marginalized groups. As the Republican Party grows increasingly white, Christian, and male, it may be tempting to explain Trump's appeal with partisanship alone. However, that is not the case in these panel data. Trump appears to have been uniquely able to attract support based on preexisting animosity toward these groups. The same cannot be said for other Republican Party officials or the Republican Party itself. Similarly, we find no such pattern among Democratic officials or the Democratic Party.

It is important to highlight that these Democratic-aligned group feelings were measured before Trump became a serious nominee for president of the United States, making them exogenous to Trump's vitriolic rhetoric. Trump, therefore, seems to have attracted those who were already feeling hostile toward marginalized groups, regardless of their extant partisan affiliations. Thus, rather than generating such feelings in the electorate, Trump acted more as a lightning rod, attracting those who were already harboring animus toward Democratic-aligned groups.

An important implication is that, given Trump's success, future candidates may attempt to create a winning coalition based on activating group-based animosities through the explicit use of anti-out-group rhetoric. Without these kinds of explicit connections, citizens are left to merely infer whether their own out-group sentiments actually map onto elites' own sentiments. In that case, out-group sentiments may only be weakly related to support for elites who avoid explicit out-group rhetoric. Thus, future research could measure the degree to which politicians couch their stances in explicitly negative sentiments toward out-groups.

Future research should also examine the relationship between caustic political elite statements and media attention. On one hand, Trump's preexisting celebrity afforded him free media attention. However, as both mainstream and social media amplify outrage, relatively unknown politicians might make a national brand for themselves by publicly issuing combative group-based statements. In doing so, they can provoke outrage within the mainstream media and the political left, further satisfying the psychological needs of constituents harboring group-based prejudice (Cikara and Fiske 2013). Therefore, as with Trump, future Republican leaders may similarly be able to translate incendiary rhetoric levied at marginalized groups into a stronger base of political support.

Finally, this research reveals a wellspring of animus against marginalized groups in the United States that can be harnessed and activated for political gain. Trump's unique ability to do so is not the only cause for normative concern. Instead, we should take note that these attitudes exist across both parties and among nonpartisans. Though they may remain relatively latent when leaders and parties draw attention elsewhere, the right leader can activate these attitudes and fold them into voters' political judgments. Should America wish to become a fully multiracial democracy, it will need to reconcile with these hostile attitudes themselves.

July 14, 2021

Posted by orrinj at 5:41 AM


Homicide is on the rise again, but now we know how to stop it (Benjamin van Rooij and Adam Fine, July 13, 2021, Yahoo! news)

Research shows that police do have an important role to play in reducing homicides. Studies consistently find that there is less violent crime when the chances of being caught and punished are high. Unfortunately, as Jill Leovy's book "Ghettoside" has shown, all too often the quality of homicide investigation is highly uneven and correlates with the victims' race and neighborhood. It is unsurprising, then, that some people of color argue that their communities need more and better policing. In fact, a recent Gallup poll found that 81% of Black Americans want police to spend the same amount or even more time in their area.

However, more police should not mean a return to steep sentences and mass incarceration. There is no evidence that stronger punishment, whether the death penalty or long prison sentences, prevents murder. What works is smart enforcement that combines direct punishment threats to high-risk offenders with community support offering potential aggressors a real alternative to violence. That means providing immediate services to those willing to consider stepping away from violence, including offering cognitive behavioral treatment, bolstering social services, conducting direct outreach through mentoring, and opening employment opportunities and job skills trainings. The idea is to work with the community to tailor the approach directly to what drives each person to engage in crime. When Cincinnati adopted this approach, it saw a 38% decline in gang-related homicides, in just two years. Smart enforcement has reduced violent crime in most cities brave enough to adopt it.

Police reform is equally important. To prevent murder, we need to combat racism and police violence. When communities do not trust law enforcement, they will not cooperate with police and report crime. Moreover, there is clear evidence that unfair policing stimulates more crime. The reality is that whatever the future of policing looks like, police cannot be effective if they do not build trust with the community they are supposed to protect and serve. So when we invest in law enforcement, one priority must be to eradicate the racism and violence that have plagued so many departments. No one should be against this idea, as it not only saves more of us from becoming victims of police misconduct but also is vital for controlling the spiraling murder rate.

Preventing homicide is a long game. It can't be won with law enforcement reform alone. Murder thrives in poverty and the lack of education opportunities. Research analyzing data from 63 countries found a clear link between conditions of poverty and homicide, even when controlling for overall development, inequality, and population size and density. Just consider this fact: One year extra in school reduces murder and assault by 30%. The lesson is simple: True prevention starts with investing in poverty reduction and better education for all.

Preventing murder also requires a serious discussion about guns. As one study summarizes it: "More Guns, More Crime." Pro-gun politicians seem to have known this all along, why else would they have blocked federal funding for research about the relationship between firearms and homicide for 25 years?

Posted by orrinj at 5:38 AM


DeSantis' anti-riot law didn't apply as Cuba protesters shut down a Miami-Dade road. Hmmm . . . (THE MIAMI HERALD EDITORIAL BOARD, JULY 13, 2021)

Cuban Americans shut down part of Palmetto Expressway

Gov. DeSantis should have just laid it on the line when a reporter asked about the scores of Cuban-American demonstrators and their supporters who shut down a portion of the Palmetto Expressway in Miami-Dade County.

Instead, he deflected, talking about protesters in Cuba.

Implicit in the question, however, was whether the governor's vaunted anti-riot law -- created in the wake of George Floyd demonstrations -- would apply in the case of the demonstrators blocking streets and an expressway in Miami-Dade.

Their cause is righteous, of course -- bringing down Cuba's oppressive and regressive regime.

Florida's misbegotten anti-riot law leaves even peaceful demonstrators subject to being arrested if a protest is arbitrarily deemed a "riot." The law explicitly makes blocking a highway a felony offense. Worse, it gives civil legal immunity to people who drive through protesters who are blocking a road -- basically, encouraging haters to do just that.

Here's what the governor said when he signed the blatantly un-American bill into law: "Just think about it, you're driving home from work and, all of a sudden, you have people out there shutting down a highway, and we worked hard to make sure that didn't happen in Florida."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Is Eric Weinstein a crackpot?: The grand unified theories of the man who brought us the Intellectual Dark Web (Robert Wright, 7/14/21, NonZero)

Is Eric Weinstein--unofficial founder of the "Intellectual Dark Web," money manager for eccentric billionaire Peter Thiel, and frequent guest on the Joe Rogan show and other power podcasts, where he's gained a reputation for brilliance--a crackpot?

This question came up near the end of a long conversation I just had on The Wright Show with a mathematician named Timothy Nguyen, and it actually has two dimensions. The first dimension--the main subject of my dialogue with Nguyen--has to do with physics.

Weinstein, who has a PhD in math from Harvard, says he's developed a unified field theory--a "theory of everything"--that, if correct, could not only put him next to Einstein in the physics pantheon, but put him above Elon Musk in the visionary hierarchy. Whereas Musk wants to take people to Mars, so they can safeguard human civilization in the event that Earth implodes, Weinstein says Mars doesn't buy us enough insurance. He says his theory of physics--the theory of "Geometric Unity"--could open up whole new vistas: Maybe once we have the universe's "source code," which a fully developed version of his theory would provide, we'll see that Einstein was wrong to think nothing can move faster than the speed of light, and then we can send humans beyond the solar system in search of hospitable planets.

Suppose, Weinstein said on the Lex Fridman podcast, that Musk "got us to Mars, the moon, let's throw in Titan. Nowhere near good enough. The diversification level is too low." But you can't really blame Musk. "He doesn't know how to do anything else. He knows rockets." Weinstein, in contrast, knows Geometric Unity, which, he says, can "give us hope of breaking the Einsteinian speed limit."

So, all told, Weinstein's theory--which he finally released in written form this April after much drum roll--would, if valid, be quite an accomplishment for someone who, at age 55, has never published a paper in a physics journal.

I'm not fit to pass judgment on Weinstein's theory or its relevance to the crackpot question. If you want to see that done by someone with appropriate credentials, you can find my conversation with Nguyen (who did work on theoretical physics before leaving academia to do AI research at Google) here.

The dimension of the crackpot question I feel more qualified to explore is the second one:

Weinstein has a tendency to sound like a conspiracy theorist--and, not infrequently, like a victim of the conspiracies he theorizes. He says he would have become famous in math and physics circles decades ago had his ideas not been squelched by what he calls the "Distributed Idea Suppression Complex" (DISC). He says the DISC also kept his brother Bret (a biologist), and his wife Pia Malaney (an economist) from getting due credit for academic work they did as PhD students. Had it not been for the DISC, he says, both might have won Nobel Prizes--which could have meant three Nobels for his family, since, he says, he might have won one too, in a DISCless world.

Among the DISC's other alleged doings: suppressing non-mainstream ideas about covid's origins and its possible treatments, misleading Americans about good nutrition, and, several decades ago, producing fake news about a supposed shortage of American scientists and engineers. This last one, says Weinstein, was big, because it helped build support for liberal immigration laws--which allowed "the Chinese to populate our labs and put a proctoscope in the entire university system, which is where we do our research, so they would get the benefits of... all the stuff we were doing with our freedom and then they'd go implement and execute with totalitarianism." Weinstein didn't vote for Trump (which his boss Thiel famously did), but he has nationalist leanings and a feel for populist rhetoric. "The enemy is the DISC," he says.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


"A race to electrify everything:" ANU lab to fast-track distributed energy technologies (Michael Mazengarb, 13 July 2021, Renew Economy)

The development of new monitoring and control systems, as well as intelligent device aggregation and virtual power plants, are likely to benefit from use of the DER Lab, producing new tools that are likely to be necessary to ensure the proper integration of the growing market for distributed energy technologies.

Chief Operating Officer of the Battery Storage and Grid Integration Program, Heather Logie, says the new lab is being opened at a crucial moment when more of the world's energy system is being electrified.

"We are now in a race to 'electrify everything'. This means we need to build an energy ecosystem that is powered by millions of connected and different devices, including batteries, vehicles and even air conditioners," Logie said.

"The DER Lab is helping lead the charge. The 'plug and play' set up means researchers, government and industry have the opportunity to test this new tech and how it can be harnessed by our energy grid before the switch is flicked 'on'."

ANU Vice-Chancellor professor Brian Schmidt said the research lab would help the shift from the centralised energy system dominated by fossil fuelled power stations, to a system build in a diversity of renewable energy and energy storage technologies.

"As Australia moves away from large centralised fossil-fuel powered generators to a decentralised grid consisting of a vast array of distributed renewable energy assets, we need to find innovative ways to enable this vast amount of renewable energy to safely and effectively enter the electricity grid," Schmidt said.

"It is through the research carried out in the DER Lab that we, as a society, will be equipped with the technology and capabilities that will help smooth out and accelerate this vital energy transition."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Long-awaited plant-based chicken promises to be 'almost identical' to the real thing (Lila MacLellan, 7/11/21, Quartz)

Beyond Meat might have another plant-based winner on its hands, one that could plausibly top its popular Beyond Burger.

Customers who crave chicken but have given up meat to benefit their health, animals, or the environment now have a substitute poultry option from the company: breaded "chicken" tenders made from fava beans and pea protein.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Rwanda Has Become Africa's Counter-Terrorism Powerhouse (Michael Rubin, 7/11/21, 1945)

The international community betrayed Rwanda in the run-up to the 1994 anti-Tutsi genocide. Simply put, the Hutu genocide against the Tutsi need not have occurred, but cynical French politicians instigated it. UN betrayal continued after the genocide. After the Rwandan Patriotic Front commanded by Paul Kagame drove the Hutu génocidaires out of the country, UN forces neither disarmed them nor separated them from legitimate refuges, but instead welcomed them into camps in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) just a few miles from the Rwandan border. That UN inaction in effect gave the armed génocidaires control over a new generation of refugees to indoctrinate and from which to recruit, contributed to the erosion of DRC stability and control, and ultimately sparked Rwandan intervention in eastern Congo. Ironically, while some Western aid workers and human rights groups grouse about Rwandan involvement in eastern Congo, DRC leaders embrace the Rwanda partnership.

For Rwanda, however, security and the need to fight against terror and those who would perpetrate genocide is no longer only an issue for their borders. As rebels marched on the Central African Republic's capital Bangui late last year, Rwanda came to the rescue. The small African state deployed its forces 1,500 miles without any foreign assistance to prevent an imminent massacre and political chaos.

While the Central African Republic may have stabilized, Mozambique has increasingly teetered against the backdrop of an Islamic State insurgency it has had difficulty stamping out. China is more interested in extracting resources than ensuring stability and neither President Joe Biden nor Secretary of State Antony Blinken have shown any interest in Africa. Neglect, however, is not a counterterrorism strategy. Enter Rwanda. Earlier today, the Government of Rwanda announced that, at the request of Mozambique, it would "today start the deployment of a 1,000-person contingent of the Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) and the Rwanda National Police (RNP) to Cabo Delgado Province, Mozambique" to secure and stabilize the region in cooperation with the Southern African Development Community. It is the right move.

July 13, 2021

Posted by orrinj at 7:19 PM


Russian Fighter Jets Scrambled To Intercept U.S. Spy Planes In Black Sea (Peter Suciu, 7/13/21, 1945)

NATO and Russian aircraft as well as warships have continued to play a very serious game of "cat and mouse" in the Black Sea region.

Posted by orrinj at 5:21 PM


Fox News guest: American slavery 'was not a racist thing' even though only Blacks were enslaved (Sky Palma, July 13, 2021, Raw Story)

"Don't get me wrong -- there was slavery going on, but slavery itself initially was not a racist thing," he said. "It never was about race initially, so to sit there and take it like America was founded on racism is a complete lie. Yeah, there was slavery going on, but slavery was going on in all the world. It never was a race thing, so why are we making it a race thing now?"

Posted by orrinj at 1:18 PM


Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn deletes swastika tweet after criticism, media questions (Joel Burgess, 7/13/21, Asheville Citizen Times)

He linked to a July 8 New York Post story "BLM chapter calls American flag 'symbol of hatred' only used by racists."

The main image for the article -- and the main one for his tweet -- showed members of the National Socialist Movement in 2008 marching from the Washington Monument to the grounds of the United States Capitol Building. One man wears a shirt that says "skinhead" while he holds the hand of a boy with a shirt with a large swastika, the symbol of Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany during the World War II.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


New Study Highlights Air Pollution Disparities Among Racial-Ethnic Groups (Grace Gagnon, 6/11/21, Tomorrow.io)

Examining government air pollution and census data led researchers to conclude that disproportionate numbers of non-white people were exposed to potentially hazardous fine particle pollution from nearly all major U.S. emission sources. 

We caught up with one of the researchers involved in this study, Christopher Tessum, Assistant Professor in Civil Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois. 

On starting the study, Christopher said, "We're going to figure out which sources of air pollution are the most important for driving this disparity that's been, I'm certain for a long time, among racial-ethnic groups and air pollution exposure." 

Christopher said the findings surprised him. 

"It turns out that it's almost all the sources [fine particulate air pollution] that are contributing to this disparity," he said. 

Fine particulate air pollution is responsible for 85,000 to 200,000 excess deaths in the U.S., making it the most significant environmental cause of human mortality. 

"In our study, we look at the location of the pollution and the location of the people. What our results say... is that the people of color and the pollution are in the same place," Christopher explained. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Amid racism row, Instagram says monkey emojis to Black soccer players are okay (Times of Israel, 7/13/21)

The Instagram social media site has refused to take down much of the racist social media abuse directed at Black English soccer players in recent days, including the frequent use of monkey emojis, saying it did not violate terms of service, the Daily Mail reported Monday

Facebook and Twitter said Monday they were scrambling to take down racially abusive comments directed at members of the England football team following a heartbreaking loss in Sunday's Euro 2020 final.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


U.S. mulls digital trade deal to counter China in Pacific Rim: report (Mike Murphy, 7/12/21, Marketwatch)

The White House is drafting proposals for a digital trade agreement with Pacific Rim nations that would aim to counter China's regional influence, Bloomberg News reported late Monday.

Details are slight, but Bloomberg reported the deal could set digital standards for trade, including the use of data and electronic customs arrangements. Nations including Canada, Chile, Australia, Japan and Singapore could be included in the deal.

It would also give the Biden administration an opportunity to lay out its own trade plan, rather than enforce existing deals put in place by the Trump administration, and reassert the U.S. role in Pacific Rim trade, after the Trump administration spurned the Trans-Pacific Partnership in 2017.

Neoliberalism has a funny way of dying....
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Anti-Vaxx Party Is Taking Shape (Sarah Jones, 7/12/21, New York)

There's nothing inherently conservative about anti-vaccine sentiment. The false claim that childhood vaccines cause autism attracted adherents of various political stripes, from typical right-wingers to crunchy liberals. COVID, however, has become an intensely partisan affair, with the pandemic doubling as a referendum on the Trump presidency. On the right, listening to Joe Biden and Anthony Fauci on vaccines means rejecting Donald Trump, which is heresy.

July 12, 2021

Posted by orrinj at 4:06 PM


GOP Senate candidate cozied up to QAnon believers -- now they're accusing him of Satanism and child trafficking (Bob Brigham, July 12, 2021, Raw Story)

"Lahmeyer has made attacking the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election a centerpiece of his campaign, repeatedly vowing that if he is elected to Congress, he will make it his mission to hold those who supposedly stole the election from former President Donald Trump accountable for treason," Right Wing Watch reports.

The conspiracy theory that Trump won the election is not the only delusion Lahmeyer has embraced.

"Lahmeyer has focused heavily on winning support from right-wing QAnon conspiracy theorists like Lin Wood and Michael Flynn, both of whom have endorsed his campaign. Lahmeyer has also been a regular participant at the 'Restore America' rallies organized by right-wing conspiracy theorist Clay Clark, where he has been proudly posting photos of himself hanging out with the various election, COVID-19, and QAnon conspiracy theorist speakers at such events.

"Interestingly, Lahmeyer's flirtations with QAnon have not prevented him from becoming the target of smears from QAnon conspiracy theorists who have reportedly accused him of pedophilia and child sex trafficking after he posted a photo of his young daughter wearing red shoes," Right Wing Watch explained. "As QAnon conspiracy theorist Liz Crokin once explained, many QAnon believers are convinced that 'there is symbolism for red shoes in the occult and it's also tied to satanic ritualistic abuse and the trafficking of children.'"

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 PM


Adviser to Turning Point USA sends newsletter "so racist" it could "make a Ku Klux Klansman blush" (ALEX HENDERSON, JULY 12, 2021, AlterNet.

Pro-Trump Republicans often engage in subliminal racism or "dog whistle" attacks -- that is, code words that they will insist aren't racist. But when Florida resident Rip McIntosh, an adviser to far-right Trumpista Charlie Kirk's Turning Point USA, sent out a fundraising newsletter on April 29, there was nothing subtle or subliminal about the racism in the newsletter. 

In the newsletter, Talking Points Memo's Nick R. Martin reports, someone going by the pen name E.P. Unum wrote that Blacks have "become socially incompatible with other races" and that "American Black culture has evolved into an unfixable and crime-ridden mess." Martin described Unum's rant as being "so racist it might make a ku klux klansman blush."

According to Martin, the newsletter that McIntosh e-mailed, "also said White people aren't racist but 'just exhausted' with Black people. It portrayed post-Civil War America as a 150-year-long 'experiment' to see whether Black people could be 'taken from the jungles of Africa,' enslaved, and then integrated into a majority-White society. It said that experiment had failed."

Posted by orrinj at 3:59 PM


Biden Fave 'Unaware' She Was Talking to Notorious Iran Group (Justin Rohrlich, Jul. 12, 2021, daily Beast)

An Obama-era Pentagon official who was at one point under consideration to be President Joe Biden's secretary of defense called for "internal regime change" in Iran at an event held by a shadowy group designated a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. government until 2012. But she claims she didn't know anything about the group's notorious past when she agreed to appear.

Former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michèle Flournoy, who heads up a consulting firm upon which the Biden administration has drawn heavily to fill top White House positions, appeared virtually on Sunday at the "Free Iran World Summit 2021." The confab was put on by the National Council of Resistance of Iran, the diplomatic wing of the People's Mojahedin of Iran, or Mojahedin-e Khalq. Known commonly by its Farsi acronym, MEK, the dissident group was put on the U.S. terror list in 1997--only to be removed from the list 15 years later with support from disgraced former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.


Posted by orrinj at 2:18 PM


Who's Afraid Of Critical Race Theory? (Tim Sommers, 7/12/21, 3 Quarks)

Critical Race Theory came out of a law school movement called Critical Legal Studies in the late 70s and early 80s. The key ideas that connected CRT to CLS were that (i) the law is much less coherent and much more indeterminate than scholars, judges, and lawyers like to admit. (ii) This indeterminacy both obscures and abets the laws' real purpose, which is to protect the interests of those who created and enforce it. (iii) The law is racist, therefore, but how it is racist is not always obvious, and that's the most important question. And so (iv) we should be more concerned with systematic, institutional racism than the fact that individual people hold racist beliefs or attitudes. [...]

The problem is that the debate about CRT has little or nothing to do with CRT. A think-tank political operative name Christopher Rufo encountered the phrase "Critical Race Theory" and decided it was the perfect label for everything anti-anti-racists wanted to go after. Why? The label is obscure, a little pretentious, it also sounds intimidatingly technical - like something a superior-acting liberal might say. Most importantly, since almost no one had ever heard of it outside of law or graduate school, you could get away with claiming it meant whatever you wanted it to mean. It was a convenient label to slap on everything related to race that worried more conservative Americans - and it narrowed everything down to just one thing to be against. If you think I am being unfair to Rufo, I can assure you Rufo himself admits that's what he meant to do - though it's clear that, even at this late date, he still does not know what CRT actually is.

But, if that's so, and here we get to the question we started with, why are people going after CRT so ferociously?

Here's why. The majority of Americans say that they are not personally racist, and agree that institutional racism was, and is still, a problem in America. Yet, there's a big gap between what kinds of actions and policies white Americans, as opposed to people-of-color, endorse to address racism. How does that play out politically?

Well, here are some strategies you could employ if you favor policies likely to be, or to be perceived as, racist. You could just be racist and endorse racism. For the most part, I don't think that's a winner politically at this point (see, Lee Atwater on "the Southern Strategy").

Instead, you could, as Atwater suggested and arguably the  Republican party has done for the last 40 years, justify policies that had disparate racial effects on other grounds and dismiss any signs of overt racism in your ranks as an aberration. Especially, since our last president supercharged the issue, that approach is becoming less tenable. So, you could do this.

Be an anti-anti-racist. Offense not defense. Of course, we're not racists, we just oppose the excesses of anti-racism. But not one at a time, like "whac a mole". Let's count it all as one thing. Name it after something that sounds scary and banal at the same time. Then we can argue against that.

Instead of focusing on racial disparity in wealth or police shooting people of color - let's focus on the claim that grade school children are being taught that white people are evil and/or that they should chant to cannibalistic Aztec gods. (I wish I was making that last one up.)

we conservatives recall the anti-anti-coomunists with the same amusement we watch these anti-anti-racists.  
Posted by orrinj at 2:11 PM


Tucker Carlson is 'furious' at Fox News executives for not supporting his NSA spying claims, sources say (Brian Stelter and Oliver Darcy, 7/11/21, CNN Business)

Tucker Carlson is furious with Fox News executives for not vigorously defending him amid his evidence-free claims that the National Security Agency spied on him in a conspiracy to destroy his TV show, according to people familiar with the matter. [...]

Fox pointedly has not covered his claims on its newscasts, even though such an intrusion would normally be a significant news story. Fox has not shown any outward signs of investigating Carlson's claims, either.

Posted by orrinj at 2:08 PM


Trumpworld wants distance from QAnon even as the ex-president winks at it (TINA NGUYEN and MERIDITH MCGRAW, 07/12/2021, Politico)

This past weekend, two promoters of QAnon conspiracy theories were given press credentials to Donald Trump's MAGA rally in Sarasota, Fla.

The men took selfies with their badges, taunted journalists covering the event as "fake news," showed off their wristbands printed with the movement's slogan -- "#WWG1WGA" -- and generally reveled in the access they'd scored.

Not everyone was happy to see them there.

Trump's press team said the two men, Jeffrey Pedersen and his podcast co-host Shannon Shadygroove:, were not welcome, and had registered for the rally with "Red State Talk Radio," a network that has sent people who, a Trump aide said, "appear to be legitimate" to events before.

Pederson and Grooove were later identified as QAnon followers by Alex Kaplan of progressive watchdog group Media Matters, after which Trump's team said they are considering a new policy to verify reporters ahead of events to prevent people like the two men from gaining access. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


We Already Know Who Killed Ashli Babbitt (Jul. 12th, 2021, New Republic)

Ashli Babbitt should be alive right now. A Capitol Police officer shot and killed the 35-year-old woman on January 6 outside the House chamber as she and other pro-Trump rioters besieged it. Babbitt was one of five people who died during or shortly after the insurrection, along with three other Trump supporters and Officer Brian Sicknick. Two other officers died by suicide in the weeks that followed.

Among those seven deaths, former President Donald Trump and other MAGA adherents have taken a particular interest in Babbitt. He sent out a tweet-like statement last week that simply read, "Who shot Ashli Babbitt?" Then he suggested at a rally on Wednesday that the unidentified officer's actions weren't justified. "The person that shot Ashli Babbitt--boom, right through the head," he told the crowd. "Just, boom. There was no reason for that. And why isn't that person being opened up, and why isn't that being studied? They've already written it off. They said that case is closed. If that were the opposite, that case would be going on for years and years, and it would not be pretty." His allies have followed suit: Earlier this week, Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar published a press release titled, "Who killed Ashli Babbitt?"

The rush to turn Babbitt into a martyr is part of a broader effort among conservatives and Trump loyalists to rewrite the history of January 6--to recast it as a peaceful protest with a few bad apples, rather than a mob of thousands who overwhelmed law enforcement and rampaged through the halls of Congress. But "Who killed Ashli Babbitt?" is actually a pretty easy question to answer: She was killed by the people who keep asking the question.

You pays your money and you take your chances. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Never leading by example: why do England struggle after scoring first?England have a far worse record than other big sides at holding on to a lead. Can Gareth Southgate fix an endemic problem? (Jonathan Liew,  3 Jun 2021, The Guardian)

Trent Alexander-Arnold clears his lines. And as Austria gingerly gather possession and work the ball backwards, you can see Harry Kane rushing up to start the press, waving the rest of the England team forward to join the charge, which they do. After a series of tentative passes in their own half, Austria's goalkeeper, Daniel Bachmann, is hastily forced to clear to touch, pursued by a swarm of white shirts. An hour has been played at the Riverside Stadium, and England have just gone 1-0 up.

In the alternative history of Wednesday night's game, this is the point at which England, energised by Bukayo Saka's fine goal and the exhortations of their captain, seize the moment and with it control of the game. With Austria forced to commit numbers forward in search of an equaliser, England feast on the open spaces, tear into the middling Austrians and run out comfortable winners in front of a rocking Teesside crowd.

In the actual history, this is the point at which Gareth Southgate decides to make a quadruple substitution that has clearly been planned in advance. Off to a warm round of applause come Declan Rice and Tyrone Mings, as well as Kane and Jesse Lingard, two of the front four who managed to press Austria so effectively in their own half.

And so for the last half-hour a disorganised new-look England get increasingly sketchy. Ben Godfrey almost passes the ball into his own net. Dominic Calvert-Lewin almost gets himself sent off. Jordan Pickford tips the ball over the bar. Ben White clears off the line. Michael Gregoritsch puts two extremely scoreable headers wide. In the end, it's hard to disagree with the Austria defender Aleksandar Dragović when he claims that they "deserved a draw".

Southgate seemed largely unconcerned afterwards, putting England's "disjointed" last half-hour down to conditioning and the volume of substitutions. But Austria also made six changes in the last half-hour and ended up looking by far the fresher and more fluent team. And perhaps you can read too much into a slightly artificial scenario in a pre-tournament friendly. Then again, this is actually part of a much longer-term trend: something strange seems to happen to England when they take the lead.

Austria weren't quite good enough to capitalise. But you don't have to search very hard to find examples of games where England have gone ahead, taken off the handbrake, and been severely punished. It's happened nine times in the Southgate era alone: twice at the hands of Spain (at Wembley in 2016 and 2018), against Scotland at Hampden Park, against France and Italy in friendlies, against Colombia and Croatia at the last World Cup, against the Netherlands at the 2019 Nations League and the Czech Republic in a qualifying game.

In fact, England have taken the lead in each of their past five tournament knockout games and won only once (against Sweden in 2018). And in case you suspected this was purely a recent phenomenon, then think back to Russia at Euro 2016, USA at the 2010 World Cup, France and Portugal at Euro 2004, Brazil in 2002. Since the start of the century, England have won only 13 out of 26 games when scoring first at a tournament. It's by far the worst record of any major nation. This isn't a statistical fluke. It's a serial pattern of behaviour.

It's not just NFL fans who despair over shifting to the Prevent. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Fox News runs disclaimer across the screen while Trump lies about 2020 election in CPAC speech (Sarah K. Burris, July 11, 2021, Raw Story)

Former President Donald Trump continued to spread his 2020 election lies in this CPAC speech Sunday. But one thing was notably different: Fox News ran a disclaimer that he was lying.

All comedy is conservative. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


What Arizona's 2010 Ban on Ethnic Studies Could Mean for the Fight Over Critical Race Theory (HANK STEPHENSON, 07/11/2021, Politico)

In 2006, Tucson Unified School District's Mexican American studies curriculum was relatively unknown. The program -- a series of middle and high school classes highlighting Mexican American contributions to U.S. history and culture -- had shown promise in lifting Latino students out of lower test score brackets and boosting graduation rates. Only a handful of detractors had shown up at school board meetings to grouse about the curriculum's race-focused teachings.

Then, Jonathan Paton, a Republican lawmaker representing Tucson at the time, got ahold of a recording of labor organizer and Chicano rights icon Dolores Huerta telling an auditorium of Tucson High School students, "Republicans hate Latinos." Suddenly, GOP lawmakers in Phoenix were decrying "Raza Studies," as the program was known, as a plot to indoctrinate children with ideas about white people as racists and people of color as their victims. [...]

Proponents of the program saw it as a way not only to engage students but to ensure that past wrongs against marginalized communities wouldn't be repeated. "At one time in the history of our nation, part of our 'American values' were the enslavement of other human beings," Linda Lopez, a Democratic representative, shot back. "It was through dissent and through the revolution of the minds of the people of this country that we were able to do away with those kinds of American values."

The contours of Arizona's Mexican American studies debate a decade ago will sound familiar to anyone following the current sparring over the teaching of concepts lumped together as "critical race theory" -- which some two dozen states have introduced legislation to ban. Republicans back then saw teachers indoctrinating children to do the left's political bidding, building a Marxist youth program to fight the power and the white man. Educators and their Democratic backers saw an opportunity to inspire underperforming Latino students by overhauling the way American history is taught. The focus today is on the teaching of slavery and the history of discrimination toward Black, rather than Latino, Americans, but the language and the politics have clear echoes.

Yet, when Arizona lawmakers turned their eyes toward their own "critical race theory" ban this past spring, few seemed to remember how the previous attempt to prohibit race-related studies in schools had turned out here. In 2010, Gov. Jan Brewer signed a law banning Tucson's Mexican American studies program. But today, 15 years after the curriculum first caught the attention of Republican lawmakers and a decade after they outlawed it, the courses -- or at least a version of them -- live on, thanks to a court-appointed monitor overseeing TUSD'S longstanding federal desegregation order, a dark reminder of the district's own discriminatory past. A federal court later ruled that the 2010 ban violated students' constitutional rights. Today, the program is larger than it's ever been.

This is what Rufo and Co. characterize as making students sacrifice whites to Aztec gods.

July 11, 2021

Posted by orrinj at 7:47 PM


The sabotaging of Kamala Harris: Joe Biden's reputation has been shored up at the expense of his party's future (SARAH BAXTER, 7/11/21, UnHerd)

Biden knew all about her political shortcomings after watching her implode during the campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination -- but went on to select her as his running mate, regardless. The optics of having the first woman, first black and first Asian vice-president at his side were too good to resist. And then, as President, he handed her two unwinnable assignments -- solving the "root causes" of the migrant crisis (created by his own open door to families with children), and fending off Republican attempts to reform statewide voting systems (over which she has no power).

"Maybe I don't say no enough," Harris joked last weekend, when asked if she had been given too many tasks, but she didn't seem that amused. "It's just a lot of hard work, but that's why we're here and that's what people wanted. Right?'"

Tough luck, insiders say. Vice presidents always get the worst jobs. There was no love lost between Joe Biden and Barack Obama, either, who haven't seen each other for months despite their supposed closeness. There is, though, more to it than that. The reputation of the "big guy" -- as Hunter Biden likes to call his father -- has been shored up at the expense of Harris in the hope of neutralising any threat to the now 78-year-old Biden running again in 2024.

As a bonus, the stitching up of Harris has put paid to all those wounding accusations, from Donald Trump and his supporters, that Biden was merely a doddery placeman, whom she was eying up for lunch and bound to dispatch on the grounds of senility at the earliest opportunity. The ploy has worked. With her approval ratings on 44%, according to the latest YouGov/Economist poll, Harris is no longer seen as the heir apparent to the President. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:47 PM


'Freedom!' Thousands of Cubans take to the streets to demand the end of dictatorship (ADRIANA BRASILEIRO AND NORA GÁMEZ TORRES, JULY 11, 2021 , Miami Herald)

In an unprecedented display of anger and frustration, thousands of people took to the streets Sunday in several cities and towns in Cuba, including Havana, to call for the end of the decades-old dictatorship and demand food and vaccines as shortages of basic necessities have reached crisis proportions and COVID-19 cases have soared.

From the Malecón, Havana's famous seawall near the old city, to small towns in Artemisa province and Palma Soriano, the second-largest city in Santiago de Cuba province, videos live-streamed on Facebook showed thousands of people walking and riding bikes and motorcycles along streets while chanting "Freedom!" "Down with Communism!" and "Patria y Vida" -- Homeland and Life -- which has become a battle cry among activists after a viral music video turned the revolutionary slogan "Homeland or Death" on its head.

"We are not afraid!" chanted Samantha Regalado while she recorded hundreds of people walking along a narrow street in Palma Soriano.

Send them food and vaccines--we have plenty of both. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:43 PM


How to Manufacture a Moral Panic Christopher Rufo helped incite an uproar over racism education with dramatic, dodgy reporting. (Sarah Jones, 7/11/21, New York)

Los Angeles public school teacher R. Tolteka Cuauhtin had Googled his discipline, ethnic studies, in March when he discovered he wanted children to honor the Aztec gods of human sacrifice and cannibalism. Should the state of California implement the curriculum that Cuauhtin had helped design, an article in the conservative magazine City Journal reported, students would "chant to the gods Quetzalcoatl, Huitzilopochtli, and Xipe Totek, seeking 'healing epistemologies' and 'a revolutionary spirit. Huitzilopochtli, in particular, is the Aztec deity of war and inspired hundreds of thousands of human sacrifices during Aztec rule."

Cuauhtin found himself in crowded company, the latest educator singled out by right-wing activist Christopher Rufo for crimes against public education. Rufo's article was picked up by American Conservative columnist Rod Dreher, who wrote it up in a blog post headlined "The Re-Barbarization of California." The Daily Caller grabbed it. So did Fox News's Laura Ingraham, who interviewed Rufo about his story. He has also captured the attention of liberals. He recently sparred with MSNBC's Joy Ann Reid on her show, visibly sighing as Reid explained the concept of whiteness to him.

Last summer, Rufo seemed to come from nowhere, arriving on the scene after a national uprising against racism to lead the charge against the supposed excesses of anti-racism education, branding it all with a once-obscure academic term: critical race theory. Armed with a prolific Twitter account and the backing of the conservative Establishment, he brandished "scoops" about the widespread infiltration of the theory and eventually caught the attention of the Trump White House. In short order, he had transformed himself from a limited kind of Twitter star to bona fide conservative influencer. The proof lies offline in the new moral panic he helped instigate. Republican operatives, legislators, and commentators, all professing concern for young hearts and minds, claim that children are being taught to hate white people.

A senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor to City Journal, Rufo didn't just bolt onto Twitter from the void. He is the product of a right-wing movement that has formed countless others from the same mold. A documentary filmmaker who graduated from Georgetown University's school of foreign service, Rufo possesses an impeccable conservative pedigree: Fellowships with unclear purviews litter his resume. A former visiting fellow for domestic-policy studies at the Heritage Foundation, Rufo was also once a Lincoln Fellow at the Claremont Institute alongside James O'Keefe of Project Veritas. Later, he worked for a little-known Christian think tank based in Seattle called the Discovery Institute, where he wrote frequently on the subject of homelessness. Before long, Rufo's interests combined in a new cause. After last summer's protests, he wrote a piece for City Journal comparing the diversity training conducted by the city of Seattle to "cult programming" that was picked up by the New York Post. A week later, he promoted a story about the Treasury Department that has since been debunked by the Washington Post. In Rufo's account, Treasury allegedly subjected workers to a radical diversity training that urged them to "accept their white racial superiority." In reality, the document Rufo cites as proof said no such thing.

Despite the flaws in his reporting, Rufo's profile grew, and by last September, he had appeared on Tucker Carlson's show to urge Trump to issue an executive order "abolishing critical race theory trainings from the federal government." Three days later, Trump's budget director sent out a memo relaying Trump's desire that federal agencies "cease and desist" funding diversity programs that allegedly trained "government workers to believe divisive, anti-American propaganda," as Yahoo News reported at the time. Trump would later issue an executive order banning programs that, in the words of the budget director's memo, taught government employees that the "United States is an inherently racist or evil country or that any race or ethnicity is inherently racist or evil."

Though he refers to himself as an investigative journalist, writing dramatically of whistleblowers and documents, Rufo is often responsible for propagating false or misleading accounts like the Treasury Department story and has arguably helped to incite a nationwide panic over the alleged presence of critical race theory in public schools, the federal government, and the workplace.

All facts are their enemy. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Capitol rioter who demanded Pelosi be turned over to be lynched cites Bible in court defense (Tom Boggioni July 11, 2021, Raw Story)

According to a report from the Daily Beast's Kelly Weill, one of the Capitol rioters taken into custody by the FBI has chosen to represent herself on charges of multiple counts of violent entry, disruptive conduct, and obstruction of Congress -- and is citing the Bible as part of her defense.

Prosecutors maintain that Pauline Bauer, owner of a Pennsylvania pizza parlor, took part in the Jan 6th insurrection and reportedly told Capitol police "bring Nancy Pelosi out here now... we want to hang that f*cking b*tch."

Weill reports that Bauer is using a sovereign citizen defense -- saying she doesn't recognize the laws of the U.S. government -- and that she is operating under "divine guidance."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Ashli Babbitt as the 21st-century Horst Wessel: Symbolic martyr to the fascist cause
 (MATTHEW ROZSA,  JULY 11, 2021, Salon)

There's a disturbing historical echo behind Trump and his supporters' effort to manipulate Babbitt's death this way, an echo also clearly referenced in Rod Serling's script for the "Twilight Zone" episode. That would be the case of Horst Wessel, who became for Hitler and the Nazi Party what Babbitt may now be for the Trump.

Born in the German city of Bielefeld in 1907, Wessel was a law school dropout who joined the SA or "brownshirts," the Nazi Party's paramilitary organization, during the waning days of the Weimar Republic in the late 1920s. He was perhaps more like a member of the contemporary Proud Boys or Oath Keepers; we still don't know how deeply Ashli Babbitt was involved with right-wing extremism. At any rate, Wessel impressed future Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, helped organize the Nazi youth movement in Vienna and staged or led numerous violent street clashes in Berlin with Communists -- the antifa of their day, more or less. Wessel fancied himself as a tough guy and sought out situations where he could act out his macho impulses. Given that, his death almost had elements of farce. After a dispute with his Communist landlady -- which was likely over unpaid rent, not politics -- Wessel was shot on the street by two other Communists on Jan. 14, 1930. He died in a hospital a few weeks later, three years before the Nazis took power in Germany.

Wessel looks like a distinctly mediocre individual in the historical rear-view mirror, but the Nazis transformed his life and death into legend. In a campaign approved by Hitler and led by Goebbels, Nazi propaganda outlets depicted him as a hero. His funeral procession was viewed by 30,000 people who lined the streets of Berlin. He become the subject of a major motion picture and was honored by numerous monuments and books. A song Wessel had written for the SA the year before he died, later universally known as the "Horst Wessel Song," became an unofficial anthem of the Third Reich: According to a 1934 law, every German citizen had to give the "Hitler greeting" upon hearing it. 

As far as we know, Ashli Babbitt didn't write a song and had no previous history of right-wing violence. But like Wessel, she cannot be described as a peaceful protester or even an overzealous advocate for a dubious cause. She died in a violent attack against democracy, as part of the first serious effort in American history to overturn an election by force. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


We've got the Neanderthals all wrong--and are now closer to them than ever (David Farrier, July 11, 2021, Prospect)

Such an empathetic representation may speak well of our times. According to archaeologist Clive Gamble, each age gets the Neanderthal that it either wants or deserves. Since they were first recognised as a distinct species in 1859, Neanderthals have tracked the prejudices, fears and hopes of succeeding generations. Charlie Chaplin's 1914 film His Prehistoric Past, featuring the little tramp as "Weak-chin" in a fur leotard and iconic bowler hat, mocked the caveman stereotype. In the Warner Brothers' 1963 cartoon Mad as a Mars Hare, space-travelling Bugs Bunny was changed into a brutish "Neanderthal Rabbit" by Marvin the Martian's ACME "time-space gun." In the peacenik days of the early 1970s, the discovery of pollen mixed among Neanderthal remains in northern Iraq led US archaeologist Ralph Solecki to propose they were the "first flower people." From the first discoveries at the height of European empire, right through to today's reappraisal as we stand on the cusp of a new age of extinction, when we have looked at our lost cousins, we have unwittingly revealed our own reflection.

The earliest discoveries tapped into bleak contemporary prejudices. Nana and Flint are based on skulls found in Gibraltar--Nana's in 1848 and Flint's in 1926. (Nana's was found before the breakthrough discovery in 1856 of a partial skull with pronounced brow-ridges, in Germany's Neander Thal--or "New man"--valley, although she wasn't recognised as belonging to a newly assigned distinct species until 1864.) Proponents of racial hierarchy seized on the striking difference in their skull shape as evidence of inferiority. Hermann Schaaffhausen, one of the discoverers of the Neander Thal fragment, said that it proved Neanderthals were a lower species of human, akin to "negroes" and "idiots." Thomas Huxley, who also examined the skull, declared that Neanderthals were a "primitive race" closer to Australian Aborigines than modern Europeans.  [...]

In Kindred, her fascinating 2020 study of Neanderthal biology and culture, Rebecca Wragg Sykes makes clear they were skilled stone workers and makers of composite tools. They wore clothes, possibly even shoes, and may have woven plants into three-ply thread. Neanderthal homes were furnished with plant-matter beds and animal-hide floor-coverings. They cooked meat; there's even evidence of wood fragments embedded in fossilised calculus that suggests they used toothpicks. They mixed pigments, favouring black, red, dark brown, and grey when decorating seashell ornaments and the walls of their dwellings. They adorned themselves with bird feathers, and cared for the sick and disabled. The oldest extant artworks we know of, cave paintings in Spain, were made by Neanderthals--as was the world's most ancient known structure, a ring of broken stalagmites assembled in Bruniquel, a cave in southern France, 174,000 years ago. Neanderthals may even have had a form of notation that recorded quantity.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


US alarmed as Saudi lawsuits threaten to expose secrets (The New Arab, 11 July, 2021)

The legal drama sheds light on Shakespearean rivalries in the top echelons of the Saudi royal family, but Washington fears that a bitter courtroom showdown risks exposing sensitive information related to its covert operations.

A rare US Justice Department filing in a Massachusetts court in April noted Aljabri's intention to "describe information concerning alleged national security activities".

"The (US) government is considering whether and how to participate in this action, including if necessary and applicable, through an assertion of appropriate governmental privileges," the filing said, without elaborating.

In a second filing a month later, the Justice Department asked the court for more time as national security matters require "'delicate' and 'complex' judgements by senior officials".

The filing said the government was prepared to "provide further information" to the court in secret.

Legal experts have said Washington could invoke the "state secrets privilege", which would allow it to resist a court-ordered disclosure of information deemed harmful to US national security.

When we violate our own ideals and conspire against democracy we ought to do so publicly, precisely because we are ashamed of ourselves.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Can Europe escape Gazprom's energy stranglehold? (Deutsche-Welle, 7/11/21)

"Thus far, Gazprom has never really exerted pressure on its Western European buyer countries -- at least, it has never become known," he said. "If a precedent happened now, for the first time, this would have devastating consequences for Gazprom in the political debate."

For if Gazprom actually began "to exert overt pressure" in autumn, this would enormously fuel an already heated debate in Europe about the short-, medium- and long-term role of gas within the framework of decarbonization and strengthen the position of all those who champion a much quicker withdrawal from using natural gas, Lohmann told DW.

Russia's existential terror is entirely justified. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


An edition of the Bible aimed at right-wing evangelicals has quietly scrubbed references to slavery and 'the Jews' (Paul Rosenberg, 7/11/21, Salon)

Long before Donald Trump made attacks against "political correctness" a key theme of his 2016 election campaign, evangelical leaders like Wayne Grudem, author of "Systematic Theology", have railed against it, particularly when they see it invading their turf -- with gender-neutral language in Bible translations, for instance. But a new study by Samuel Perry, co-author of "Taking America Back for God" (I've previously interviewed his co-author, sociologist Andrew Whitehead), finds Grudem himself involved in much the same thing.

"Whitewashing Evangelical Scripture: The Case of Slavery and Antisemitism in the English Standard Version," looks at how successive translations have changed in the English Standard Version of the Bible, for which Grudem serves on the oversight committee.

In revisions from 2001 through 2016, Perry shows, the word "slave" first gains a footnote, then moves to the footnote and then disappears entirely -- in some contexts, like Colossians 3:22, though not others -- to be replaced by the word "bondservant," which could be described as a politically correct euphemism. A similar strategy is used to handle antisemitic language as well, Perry shows.

Sola whatever... 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Argentina Beats Brazil 1-0 to Win Copa America, 1st Major Title in 28 Years (Reuters, July 11, 2021)

Brazil piled on the pressure in an exciting second half but even with five strikers on the field they could not get an equalizer against an Argentine defense protected by the outstanding Rodrigo De Paul.   

"First, we have to congratulate our opponents especially for the first half when they neutralized us," Brazilian defender Thiago Silva said. 

"In the second half, there was no contest -- only one team tried to play football, the other just wasted time as we knew they would. It's not an excuse, we didn't do what we had to, principally in the first half." 

Argentina's win was a particular triumph for Barcelona striker Messi, who picked up his first-ever title in a blue-and-white shirt after more than a decade of club and individual honors. 

The Argentine players surrounded their captain at the final whistle. Goalkeeper Emilian Martinez celebrated what he called a Maracanazo, a remarkable win at the famous Rio stadium.   

"I'm speechless," he said. "I knew my dream would come true, and where better than the Maracanazo and giving the title to the best in the world and fulfilling his dream." 

A comedy classic of flopping any time an opponent came within a yard half the time and actually getting spiked brutally the other half. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


There Is No Debate Over Critical Race Theory (Ibram X. Kendi, JULY 9, 2021, The Atlantic)

Republican operatives have buried the actual definition of critical race theory: "a way of looking at law's role platforming, facilitating, producing, and even insulating racial inequality in our country," as the law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw, who helped coin the term, recently defined it. Instead, the attacks on critical race theory are based on made-up definitions and descriptors. "Critical race theory says every white person is a racist," Senator Ted Cruz has said. "It basically teaches that certain children are inherently bad people because of the color of their skin," said the Alabama state legislator Chris Pringle. [...]

And now the Black Lives Matter demonstrators, cancel culture, the 1619 Project, American history, and anti-racist education are presented to the public as the many legs of the "monstrous evil" of critical race theory that's purportedly coming to harm white children. The language echoes the rhetoric used to demonize desegregation after the Brown v. Board of Education decision, in 1954.

In the 1950s and '60s, the conservators of racism organized to keep Black kids out of all-white schools. Today, they are trying to get critical race theory out of American schools. "Instead of helping young people discover that America is the greatest, most tolerant, and most generous nation in history, [critical race theory] teaches them that America is systemically evil and that the hearts of our people are full of hatred and malice," Trump wrote in an op-ed on June 18.

After it was cited 132 times on Fox News shows in 2020, critical race theory became a conservative obsession this year. Its mentions on Fox News practically doubled month after month: It was referred to 51 times in February, 139 times in March, 314 times in April, 589 times in May, and 737 times in just the first three weeks of June. As of June 29, 26 states had introduced legislation or other state-level actions to "restrict teaching critical race theory or limit how teachers can discuss racism and sexism," according to Education Week, and nine had implemented such bans.

I have been called the father of critical race theory, although I was born in 1982, and critical race theory was born in 1981. Over the past few months, I have seldom stopped to answer the critiques of critical race theory or of my own work, because the more I've studied these critiques, the more I've concluded that these critics aren't arguing against me. They aren't arguing against anti-racist thinkers. They aren't arguing against critical race theorists. These critics are arguing against themselves.

What happens when a politician falsely proclaims what you think, and then criticizes that proclamation? Is she really critiquing your ideas--or her own? If a writer decides what both sides of an argument are stating, is he really engaging in an argument with another writer, or is he engaging in an argument with himself?

All you really need to know about teaching the history of race in America is that the Right thinks our history is perfect so race need not be mentioned. 

Of course, you couldn't teach Mr. Kendi's anti-racism book because he is as incoherent as his critics. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


 Peek Behind Boebert's Hilarious Sock Puppet Screwup (Mark Sumner, July 11 | 2021, AlterNet)

So, Lauren Boebert set up what's clearly a throwaway sockpuppet account to boost her own posts, retweet some decidedly odd comments about men, and to follow Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (oh yes, Freedom Fighter follows AOC). But mostly what Boebert's sockpuppet points out is that there's a mystery out there that needs to be solved -- and it's all about a date.

Boebert's sockpuppetry was discovered by comedy writer Toby Morton in a way that's almost as hilarious as Morton's work on South Park. In a solid Karen moment, Boebert came to chase Morton away when he was filming a bit at a location that Boebert felt was too close to her Colorado bar. During this encounter, Boebert used her phone to video Morton. But where did that video actually pop out at a time when Boebert wanted to shore up her position in an argument with Morton? From @freedom53597835.

At the moment, Boebert is still feeding posts into the burner account in a hilario-pathetic effort to prove that it's so, so not her burner account. But, as the activists at Meidas Touch point out, the discovery of this account from Boebert only fires the starting gun for the real search--her other accounts. In particular, the Freedom Fighter account was created in February, meaning that it was created after the events of January 6 and after Boebert was aware that she had been accused of leading insurgents on tours of the Capitol that were designed to show them how to subvert the building's security.

July 10, 2021

Posted by orrinj at 8:14 AM


A Britpop and Football Summer (KYLE SMITH, July 10, 2021, National Review)

London theater is, if anything, even more delightful than New York's, and I was being lifted off the surface of the earth by what was billed as a "semi-professional" production of Stephen Sondheim's murderous masterpiece Sweeney Todd in Holland Park, still one of the most transcendent cultural experiences of my life, when I became aware that the audience had something else on its mind. Pre-Internet, pre-smart phones, word traveled . . . organically. Someone was posting the score of a concurrent soccer match on a blackboard near the bar. At intermission, we learned that England was running up a big lead over the Netherlands in the European "football" Championships. I'd played soccer as a boy, but I'd never heard of the Euros. From then on, not getting caught up in the frenzy was not an option. The English nation was hosting the championships of the English game. The biggest games were being played right here in London! Hence The Song.

"It's coming home, it's coming home . . ." I recalled that I am English, ethnically speaking, and everyone knows the U.S. men's soccer team is crap anyway. The England team would henceforth be my team.

"It's coming home, it's coming home, it's coming . . ." I've never been anywhere that was so saturated by a single tune for a moment in time. You didn't just hear it on the radio, or in pubs, or on television, it seemed the country itself was singing it. Suddenly, everywhere, flags, English ones: The English aren't flag-wavers because they find patriotism slightly embarrassing. But this was a form of national pride that absolutely everyone could get behind. The English nation was hosting the European teams in the English game.

"It's coming home, it's coming home, it's coming, football's coming home" were the opening lines of what was intended to be merely a novelty song by two comedians, David Baddiel and Frank Skinner, to hype the first-ever Euros to be held in soccer's birthplace, England. Yet "Three Lions," with music by the Britpop band the Lightning Seeds, turned out to be one of the catchiest pop songs ever written and became the new unofficial national anthem. It would be the soundtrack of England for all subsequent soccer tournaments. "30 years of hurt, never stopped me dreaming," ran the lyric. Could England deliver victory on its home soil?

First, they'd have to make it past the legendary German squad, three-time winners of the Euros. A left-wing tabloid, The Daily Mirror, printed a frightful joke on its front page, a parody of Neville Chamberlain's war announcement declaring "football war on Germany." Then the Germans won the game, a semifinal, when a defender named Gareth Southgate missed a penalty kick, with eleven-year-old Charlie Cooke watching in anguish from behind the goal at Wembley. I found it satisfying that the magical year in English football was the year of my birth -- 1966. Winners of the World Cup that year, they never made it to the finals of either the World Cup or the Euros at any point after that.

Until now. Last week England, now managed by the same Gareth Southgate, finally dispatched Germany, the team that beat them in 1996. Earlier this week they beat Denmark in the semifinal. Sunday brings the championship match against the fearsome Italians. I wish I could be there. If you've never fallen in love with another country, I recommend it unreservedly. "Three lions on the shirt . . ."

Posted by orrinj at 8:05 AM


Black Sea Drills Showcase Strong NATO-Ukraine Defense Ties (Associated Press, July 10, 2021)

ABOARD USS ROSS - Ukraine and NATO have conducted Black Sea drills involving dozens of warships in a two-week show of their strong defense ties and capability following a confrontation between Russia's military forces and a British destroyer off Crimea last month.

The Sea Breeze 2021 maneuvers set to wrap up Saturday involved about 30 warships and 40 aircraft from NATO members and Ukraine. The captain of the USS Ross, a U.S. Navy destroyer that took part in the drills, said the exercise was designed to improve how the equipment and personnel of the participating nations operate together. 

"We'd like to demonstrate to everybody, the international community, that no one nation can claim the Black Sea or any international body of water," Commander John D. John said aboard the guided missile destroyer previously deployed to the area for drills. "Those bodies of water belong to the international community, and we're committed to ensure that all nations have access to international waterways."

July 9, 2021

Posted by orrinj at 8:44 AM


Feds agree to pay $6.1M to create database for Capitol riot prosecutions (JOSH GERSTEIN and KYLE CHENEY, 07/09/2021, Politico)

The Justice Department has agreed to pay $6.1 million to a technology contractor to create a massive database of videos, photographs, documents and social media posts related to the Capitol riot as part of the process of turning relevant evidence over to defense attorneys for the more than 500 people facing criminal charges in the Jan. 6 events, according to a court filing and government records.

To take on the daunting task, the federal government has turned to Deloitte Financial Advisory Services, a firm prosecutors called "a litigation support vendor with extensive experience providing complex litigation technology services."

Prosecutors are trying to organize thousands of hours of body-worn camera footage, closed-circuit surveillance camera footage, more than a million social media videos, data from phones and email accounts, and the responses to more than 6,000 grand jury subpoenas, according to a court filing Thursday.

"Following the Capitol Breach, the United States recognized that due to the nature and volume of materials being collected, the government would require the use of an outside contractor who could provide litigation technology support services to include highly technical and specialized data and document processing and review capabilities," Assistant U.S. Attorneys Nadia Moore and William Dreher wrote in their submission.

"The government is working to provide an unprecedented amount of materials in the most comprehensive and usable format to defense counsel," Moore and Dreher said.

Then Open Source it. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:56 AM


Posted by orrinj at 7:42 AM


This American Strategy Didn't Work On the Soviet Union and It Won't Work On China Either: The lesson is don't overestimate your opponent. (Michael Peck, 7/09/21, National Interest)

 If it turns out that China's naval power has been overblown, and American defense dollars were better spent elsewhere--perhaps on aircraft, or drones, or cyberwarfare--then the Chinese navy will have won a victory even before the first shot is fired.

Back in the 1980s, a war with the Soviet Union seemed like a naval nightmare.

Fiction writers like Tom Clancy and John Hackett painted a future where Western navies faced hordes of Red bombers, cruise missiles, submarines and surface warships. Naturally, in these novels the Good Guys won, but only at tremendous cost.

In hindsight, some of this looks silly. We know now--and some suspected back then--that the Soviet Navy was undercut by major deficiencies in technology and training. It was no paper tiger, but neither was it some aquatic beast that would have devoured Western fleets.

A bear and a dragon walk into a bar....

Posted by orrinj at 7:38 AM


U.S. set to add more Chinese companies to blacklist over Xinjiang (Humeyra Pamuk & David Shepardson, 7/09/21,  Reuters) 

The Biden administration is set as early as Friday to add more than 10 Chinese companies to its economic blacklist over alleged human rights abuses and high-tech surveillance in Xinjiang, two sources told Reuters.

The U.S. Commerce Department action will follow its announcement last month adding five other companies and other Chinese entities to the blacklist over allegations of forced labor in the far western region of China.

The additions to Commerce Department's Entity List are part of the Biden administration's efforts to hold China accountable for human rights violations, the sources said.

He had such a good deal when a U.S. president was endorsing Uighur concentration camps and putting down Hong Kong "riots".  But he didn't understand the Deep State.

Posted by orrinj at 7:36 AM


Virginia Republicans demand investigation into mean tweets by Prof. Larry Sabato (Bob Brigham, July 08, 2021, Raw Story)

Republicans in Virginia are demanding that University of Virginia President James E. Ryan open an investigation into tweets by Center for Politics founder Dr. Larry Sabato.

"A reasonable taxpaying citizen can readily conclude that Dr. Sabato is demonstrating the rankest form of bitter partisanship," Virginia GOP Chair Rich Anderson wrote in a letter printed on Republican Party of Virginia letterhead.

All comedy is conservative, which is why the Right can't endure it. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:35 AM


Wind turbine blades to get second life as long duration energy storage (Sophie Vorrath, 9 July 2021, Renew Economy)

A joint venture between Italian renewables giant Enel Green Power and Swiss tech group Energy Vault is seeking to use recycled wind turbine blades as a key ingredient for an innovative, long-duration energy storage system.

In a statement this week, Enel Green Power says the two companies aim to integrate gravity energy storage technology with the recycling of end-of life wind farm materials, "applying a circular economy across the entire wind power value chain."

Posted by orrinj at 7:05 AM


We Have Become "Comfortably Numb" (Henry T. Edmondson iii, 7/08/21, Law & Liberty)

Several other Floyd songs are helpful in dissecting this troubling condition. One element of the diagnosis is the loss of yearning. David Gilmour's composition, "Learning to Fly," (1987) employs the metaphor of flying to describe a longing for something more than the everyday:

A soul in tension that's learning to fly
Condition grounded but determined to try
Can't keep my eyes from the circling skies
Tongue-tied and twisted, just an earth-bound misfit, I

Though the dream seems out of reach, hope, fueled by an "attraction" with an "irresistible grasp," is not extinguished:

Across the clouds I see my shadow fly
Out of the corner of my watering eye
A dream unthreatened by the morning light
Could blow this soul right through the roof of the night

Yet again, in the closing song to Pink Floyd's fourteenth album, the wistful "High Hopes" (1994), admits to being "encumbered forever by desire and ambition / There's a hunger still unsatisfied."

Another element of the numbed state is a kind of thoughtlessness that means the shallow soul ignores his mortality. Too many, in public and private life, seem to live as if they had no soul. "Time" (1973), addresses the tragedy of a life unlived, precisely because its end was never contemplated. Think of it as a "memento mori" with a beat.

At a late juncture in life, the individual realizes the decades have passed, but he has lacked the ambition necessary for a meaningful life."

And then one day you find ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun

But at that point, it seems too late as "every year is getting shorter" until "the time is gone, the song is over" even though the individual "thought I'd something more to say." The imagery is striking:

And you run, and you run to catch up with the sun but it's sinking
Racing around to come up behind you again
The sun is the same in a relative way but you're older
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death

The collective politics of the band were decidedly left-of-center, especially those of Roger Waters, who could be arrogant and obnoxious, especially to his bandmates. Pink Floyd's acclaimed album "Animals" (1977) repurposes George Orwell's Animal Farm so that the oppressors include the commercial class as well as the political. But the band's insight into the human condition has appeal across the political spectrum. Their diagnosis of our present state is remarkable, and when that acumen is expressed through their art, it is arresting.

Aristotle, in his Ethics, develops the idea of the cardinal virtues. In Aristotle's scheme, for every virtue, there are two vices: one vice is too much of the virtue; the other two little. One of those virtues is temperance or moderation. It is flanked by two vices, indulgence on the excessive side and insensibility on the defective side (Nicomachean Ethics, III, 11).While self-indulgence may be easy to recognize, insensibility may not, and that vice may offer a clue to the state of comfortable numbness. Whereas lust and desire may run amok in the vice of excess; in the defective vice of insensibility, the passions that support virtue, including honor, ambition, love, pride and fear, are scarce. Consequently, the insensible life is bland and driftless: comfortably numb. Aristotle warns such a state is barely "human." Curbing the vice of excess seems relatively straightforward, at least compared with awakening someone from the insensible state, precisely because the motivating passions are enervated. Perhaps ruminative artists like Pink Floyd can be of assistance in the quest for a cure.

It's a Puritan nation.

Posted by orrinj at 6:59 AM


Guaranteed Income for the 21st Century: A Proposal with Promise (ED DOLAN, JULY 8, 2021, Niskanen)

In a promising contribution to the debate over poverty policy, the Institute on Race and Political Economy at the New School has released a major welfare reform proposal that it calls a Guaranteed Income for the 21st Century. Details of the proposal (abbreviated GI21 in what follows) are set out in a report written by Naomi Zewde, Kyle Strickland, Kelly Capatosto, Ari Glogower, and Darrick Hamilton. The proposal makes a full-scale assault on America's social protection gap. It includes several features that the Niskanen Center has long championed, such as an emphasis on cash assistance, broad eligibility, and payment in monthly installments with appropriate provisions for the unbanked. Although the proposal is not budget-neutral, its estimated cost of $876 billion per year is considerably less than that of several other proposals for a universal basic income.

All proposed reforms of the social safety net face a set of tradeoffs among the goals of income security, affordability, and work incentives. This commentary will examine how GI21 deals with those tradeoffs, beginning with the areas where it is strongest and then turning to aspects of the plan that could benefit from some further thought.

The first priority of Guaranteed Income for the 21st Century, clearly, is income security. "Our goal here," Zewde et al. write, "cannot be to simply reduce poverty, but instead must be to abolish absolute poverty as we know it." To that end, GI21 calls for a cash grant of $12,500 per year for each adult in a household and $4,500 for each child, payable in monthly installments. For single-parent families, that schedule of payments approximates the 2021 poverty guidelines from the Department of Health and Human Services ($12,880 for a single adult with an allowance of $4,540 for each additional family member, whether child or adult). For two-parent households with children, the GI21 schedule comes in well above the official poverty level.

Not surprisingly, the goal of completely eliminating poverty is costly. The CBO projects that the federal government will spend a total of $812 billion on means-tested poverty programs in 2021, of which about two-thirds will go to healthcare programs and one-third to income support. The $876 billion estimated cost of GI21 would more than double that. However, as Zewde et al. point out, the cost of GI21 is modest compared to that of other basic income proposals, such as that of Andrew Yang ($2.8 to $3 billion) or one discussed by The Architecture of a Basic Income Miranda Perry Fleischer and Daniel Hemel ($1.8 billion).

The solution to poverty is wealth.

July 8, 2021

Posted by orrinj at 10:24 PM


Tucker Carlson's Extremely Mad That Journalists FOIA'd His FOIA Request to NSA (Justin Baragona, Jul. 08, 2021, daily Beast)

Fox News host Tucker Carlson angrily lashed out on Thursday night over the fact that journalists filed a Freedom of Information Act request on his FOIA request to the National Security Agency, calling one reporter--who has a lengthy history of exposing the intelligence community's abuses--a "stooge." [...]

The idea that reporters would use basic journalistic tools to verify his claims, however, set Carlson off on Thursday night--and he took specific aim at Klippenstein.

Posted by orrinj at 11:55 AM


Coronavirus almost certainly came from an animal, not a lab leak, top scientists argue (Maggie Fox, 7/07/21, CNN)

It is signed by some of the leading experts in coronaviruses and the genetics of viruses, including Kristian Andersen of The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California; evolutionary biologist Michael Worobey of the University of Arizona; Andrew Rambaut of the Institute of Evolutionary Biology at the University of Edinburgh; Stephen Goldstein of the Department of Human Genetics at the University of Utah; Angela Rasmussen of the University of Saskatchewan; Joel Wertheim of the University of California, San Diego; and Jeremy Farrar of Britain's Wellcome Trust.

Many have done their own investigations into the possible origin of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

"We contend that there is substantial body of scientific evidence supporting a zoonotic (animal) origin for SARS-CoV-2," they wrote.

"There is currently no evidence that SARS-CoV-2 has a laboratory origin. There is no evidence that any early cases had any connection to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), in contrast to the clear epidemiological links to animal markets in Wuhan, nor evidence that the Wuhan Institute of Virology possessed or worked on a progenitor of SARS-CoV-2 prior to the pandemic," they added.

"The suspicion that SARS-CoV-2 might have a laboratory origin stems from the coincidence that it was first detected in a city that houses a major virological laboratory that studies coronaviruses."

But it's not a surprise that a new virus might emerge in Wuhan, they noted.

"Wuhan is the largest city in central China with multiple animal markets and is a major hub for travel and commerce, well connected to other areas both within China and internationally," they wrote.

"The link to Wuhan therefore more likely reflects the fact that pathogens often require heavily populated areas to become established."

Garry and colleagues also say it is "extremely unlikely" that the lab was working on a virus of natural origin that accidentally leaked out. "You have to have an unlikely set of circumstances in place for something like that to happen. If it was a person at the lab, then how did it get to all the animal markets?" Garry asked. "There are other, much more likely ways that this virus got into the human population. Just like SARS 1, it happened the same way with SARS 2."

What did get lost was some of the valuable evidence that disappeared when the animal markets in the area were cleared and sanitized, Garry said. "They shut down farms. They cleaned those animals out of that market," he said. Samples from the Huanan Seafood Market and others did turn up evidence of the virus, the experts said, but the animals that might have been infected and that could have provided the needed smoking gun were removed.

"We'd like to know more. We wish the Chinese government was a little bit more open about the wildlife trade," Garry said.

Posted by orrinj at 8:58 AM


Marxism, soccer and Trump's demise: Tom Holland and Francis Fukuyama in conversation: 'I do think that with the rise of this really crazy right, you have to turn to social psychology for an explanation' (The Spectator, July 8, 2021)

TH: You say that Trump turned out to be even worse than you had anticipated?

FF: Well, I think his worst sin was contesting the legitimacy of last year's election. We thought eventually he'd give in to reality, but here we are seven or eight months later, and he's still going strong. The whole virtue of a liberal democracy is it gives you a means of transferring power peacefully, and the United States has criticized many defective democracies around the world for not transferring power. Our moral authority to do that now has, I think, been considerably damaged.

TH: There is also a hint though in the book that perhaps this has been a stress test for American democracy, that actually it has passed. Trump is the worst nightmare of the Founding Fathers, and the institutions have stood firm.

FF: On the whole I do think there are some grounds for optimism. Trump wasn't reelected and the government is continuing to function. Certainly in foreign policy the United States has returned to a sort of status quo ante.

Posted by orrinj at 8:37 AM


Here's what to know about the debate over 'Wit & Wisdom' curriculum in Williamson schools (Anika Exum, 7/08/21, Nashville Tennessean)

The head of the Williamson County chapter of Moms for Liberty, Robin Steenman, brought several books included in the curriculum and presented excerpts to the Williamson County Commission's education committee in May. 

The commission oversees and approves the school district's budget but does not make decisions on contents of specific budget items.

"I realize that this isn't usually in your lane, but I just wanted you to be aware," Steenman told commissioners.

One of the books she specifically referred to was "Ruby Bridges Goes to School," written by Ruby Bridges herself. Bridges, when she was age 6, was one of the first African American students to integrate New Orleans' all-white public school system. 

Steenman said that the mention of a "large crowd of angry white people who didn't want Black children in a white school" too harshly delineated between Black and white people, and that the book didn't offer "redemption" at its end.

Redemption?  It's 2021 and you're afraid to teach history. You aren't redeemed yet. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:30 AM


Tucker Carlson sought Putin interview at time of spying claim (Jonathan Swan, 7/07/21, Axios)

Tucker Carlson was talking to U.S.-based Kremlin intermediaries about setting up an interview with Vladimir Putin shortly before the Fox News host accused the National Security Agency of spying on him, sources familiar with the conversations tell Axios.

It would be extremely disappointing if the feds only caught him because he was speaking with our enemies, not because he is one.

Posted by orrinj at 8:19 AM


Why Trump Is Anointing Ashli Babbitt as MAGA's First Martyr (Wajahat Ali, Jul. 8th, 2021, Daily Beast)

With Ashli Babbitt, Donald Trump and the GOP have found a perfect martyr to rationalize their perpetual victimhood and inspire future "freedom fighters" to assist in their full-scale assault on democracy.

Babbitt was one of thousands of Trump supporters who decided to join the violent insurrection on Jan. 6 and overrun the U.S. Capitol in hopes of canceling a free and fair election. She was shot by a Capitol police officer while climbing through a broken window on a door that led to the Speaker's Lobby. She died while wearing a Trump flag as a cape.

The pointless death of the 35-year-old Air Force veteran came in the service of Trump's Big Lie, but his party has shown no contrition. Rather, Republicans are cynically exploiting her death to fuel their dangerous quest for power at all costs.

This week, Trump declared that the police officer had "no reason" to shoot Babbitt, because she was not a threat as she tried to breach the door amid a mob storming the Capitol, including people who brought weapons and openly announced their intent to lynch Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Mike Pence. He went on, asking, "And why isn't that [officer's case] being opened up, and why isn't that being studied? They've already written it off. They said that case is closed. If that were the opposite, that case would be going on for years and years, and it would not be pretty."

In April, the police officer who fatally shot Babbitt was cleared of criminal wrongdoing. His identity has not been released due to death threats that inevitably increased after Trump released a one-line statement last week asking "Who Shot Ashli Babbit?" 

Posted by orrinj at 8:12 AM


A Biblical Case for Compassionate Border Policy (Doug Stuart, July 08, 2021, Real Clear Religion)

The Bible has a great deal to say about how to treat foreigners. Scripture tells immigrant story after immigrant story: the people of Israel spent generations as foreigners in Egypt. Ruth was a Moabite who immigrated to Israel. Joseph and Mary fled to Egypt with baby Jesus for safety from Herod the Great. As an adult, Jesus identified with the immigrant and included the "stranger" as one of the groups whom he called the "least of these." And this is just the beginning.

In Exodus and Leviticus, God instructs his people to afford foreigners equal legal rights to people who are native-born and to love them as we love ourselves. In Deuteronomy, God reminds Israel of its heritage as a people who were once strangers in a strange land and instructed that it would be hypocritical for them to mistreat the alien. Immigrants are worthy objects of our charity. In Job, an outward mark of a righteous man is that his door is "always open to the traveler."

God warns of judgment for those who don't heed these commands and "deprive aliens of justice." In fact, widespread mistreatment of immigrants can lead to national judgment. Treatment of immigrants was so important to God that their just treatment was one of the conditions for Israel's continuing to enjoy the blessings of the Promised Land. It's quite clear that God cares how his people treat aliens.

When we consider all that the Bible says about immigration directly, as well as the very obvious way in which Christ-followers are to treat those on the margins, the Christian default on the issue of immigration should be to welcome more, not fewer, immigrants. This translates into policies that are far less restrictive and onerous than current immigration policy and administration practices. A restrictive border policy does not reflect biblical values nor the Christlike love for those on the margins (to speak nothing of the many immigrants who are also fellow Christians).

Posted by orrinj at 7:56 AM


Federal Court says minister owes duty of care to young people over carbon emissions (Michael Mazengarb, 8 July 2021 , rENEW eCONOMY)

The Federal Court has ordered that the federal environment minister owes Australia's young people a duty of care to protect them from the potential harms caused by carbon dioxide emissions.

In a landmark decision that will impact any future project proposing to expand Australia's production of fossil fuels, Federal Court Justice Mordecai Bromberg said that when exercising powers under the EPBC Act, the environment minister had a "duty to take reasonable care" to "avoid causing personal injury or death" to Australians under 18 years of age that arose "from emissions of carbon dioxide into the Earth's atmosphere."

Posted by orrinj at 7:48 AM


China Is Weaker Than Xi Will Admit (IVAN ELAND, 7/08/21, American Conservative)

China's first weakness is strongman Xi himself. Instead of selling off inefficient state-owned industries and banks, which still make up a significant portion of the Chinese economy, he is trying to recentralize power. He has done away with the improvement of Hu Jintao, his predecessor as Party leader, which set the expectation that CPP leaders would step down after two five-year terms. This was Hu's attempt to begin to modernize Communist Party governance by trying to regularize changes of leadership. Instead, Xi is trying to return China to the bad old days of succession struggles after a political strongman (now Xi) dies or is incapacitated. In addition, the private economy continuing to carry the burden of sclerotic state-owned "key" industries and banks will slow Chinese economic growth.

Also likely to slow economic growth is China's demographic crisis. As countries develop and industrialize, they have fewer children because less labor is needed in the agricultural sector and greater numbers of children raise costs to individual families. Thus, many developed countries around the world have declining birthrates. However, China's problem is much worse because of the Communist Party's disastrous "one-child policy," which was revoked only after it had exacerbated the demographic crisis.

Furthermore, China has restive ethnic inhabitants of Xinjiang and Tibet and a politically unruly pro-democracy population in Hong Kong, which China is suppressing in violation of its promise to allow a "One China, Two Systems" approach. Such fractious populations weaken China internally.

China's neighbors have complained about its more assertive behavior in the South China Sea, where it claims a ridiculous amount of the waters as its own and builds artificial islands to stretch its tenuous claims. However, as a rising power--which the United States would be wise to tolerate as long the Chinese do not threaten the United States--China should be allowed to have a sphere of influence, as most great powers throughout history have demanded for their security. Any threat China poses is primarily to surrounding regions and perhaps Taiwan. The United States should stay out of intra-Asian territorial disputes, including Taiwan, but could continue to sell weapons to all nations in the region to defend themselves against any Chinese assertiveness, using a porcupine strategy that could deter China from outright aggression.

China's military threat is mostly to such areas in its "near abroad." The U.S. security establishment has done much hand wringing about the Chinese economic "Belt and Road" initiative to win friends around the world by building infrastructure projects. However, paraphrasing Betty White, the program is really a colossal waste of Chinese time (and money), with "beneficiary" nations ensnared in debt traps for state-driven boondoggle projects that may even impair economic development. Perhaps the United States should be hoping the Chinese will continue to waste and dissipate their resources on such white elephants.

America should be encouraging those nations to take the money and then simply repudiate the odious debt. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:42 AM


Utopian or inevitable? A four-day week is both: A remarkable experiment in Iceland, and 200 years of industrial history, show that longer weekends can make us happier and more productive (James Plunkett, July 7, 2021, Prospect)

Iceland. Home to glaciers, dance-tastic pop music, and now a new rhythm to our working lives. From 2015 to 2019, the country ran the world's largest ever trial of a four-day working week, and on Monday the results came in. The trial, which grew to cover 1 per cent of the country's workforce, was an "overwhelming success," reducing stress while productivity held up or improved. The findings have encouraged Iceland's unions to renegotiate hours, and 86 per cent of the country's workforce could now gain the right to request a four-day week.

Back in Britain, when floated in the doomed 2019 Labour manifesto, a four-day week was dismissed as a token of naïve left-wing idealism. In truth, however, the idea has always been a more conservative proposal than its critics seem to think. If you zoom out to look at long-term trends in working hours, you see a steady but cumulatively dramatic decline over 150 years. In 1870, the typical worker in a western economy clocked in around 3,000 hours a year. In the latest available data (2017), that figure had almost halved, to a touch under 1,600 hours. And it has been entirely affordable to "buy" all this extra leisure: thanks to rising productivity, real incomes rose roughly sixfold over the same period. If you simply project those trends forward by drawing a straight line, we'd hit an average four-day week sometime in the early 2030s.

Okay, not even three
Posted by orrinj at 7:40 AM


Hacking is all Putin has left because he has no real global power: Former FBI official (Sarah K. Burris, July 07, 2021, Raw Story)

"Well, first, let's remember, Putin simply wants to sow discord and chaos and undermine our democracy," Figliuzzi said. "We've seen that in election cycles, now we're seeing it in attacks on our food supply with JBS, attacks on our fuel supply with colonial. And you'll continue to see these kinds of things. It's almost all he's got left, Ali. His economy is suffering. Sanctions have taken a bite out of him. He's kind of a second-tier country without his army. He's got almost nothing. He's got this to play with and wreak havoc with."

Posted by orrinj at 7:38 AM


New study finds a 13% increase in average retirement savings year over year, up to $98,800 (Elizabeth Gravier, 7/07/21, CNBC)

Over a year since the pandemic put millions out of work and and onto government aid, Americans' finances are reportedly bouncing back.

More than half of Americans say they're in financial recovery mode, according to Northwestern Mutual's latest 2021 Planning & Progress Study that surveyed 2,000-plus American adults in March 2021.

The annual study found that both personal savings and retirement nest eggs have grown year over year: Average personal savings have increased over 10% ($65,900 to $73,100), while average retirement savings have seen a bigger jump of 13% ($87,500 to $98,800).

Posted by orrinj at 7:35 AM



Callender must have felt that he had a strong claim to some of the spoils of office. After all, he had knee-capped Hamilton, the brightest star in the opposition camp, and he had even served time in jail for the Republican cause. Jefferson, however, was unmoved. Callender was hardly the well-born, talented sort that Jefferson thought should be serving in his administration, and the president sent him away empty-handed. Bad move.

Callender set out to get even. He promptly switched parties, revealing himself to be not a committed partisan but a hack, a mercenary who would attack either side--or both. In February 1802, Callender went into partnership with a Federalist editor in running the Richmond Recorder

Callender assigned himself the job of bringing down Jefferson. Acting on the basis of rumors that he had picked up from anonymous sources, he let fly in print with the accusation that Jefferson had engaged in sexual relations with one of his slaves, later identified as Sally Hemings.

It is well known that the man, whom it delighteth the people to honor, [Jefferson] keeps and for many years has kept, as his concubine, one of his slaves. Her name is SALLY. The name of her eldest son is Tom. His features are said to bear a striking though sable resemblance to those of the president himself. ... By this wench Sally, our president has had several children. There is not an individual in the neighbourhood of Charlottesville who does not believe the story, and not a few who know it.

Callender's story was repeated in many Federalist papers, sometimes accompanied by lurid speculation about the "black Venus" at Monticello. In the two centuries since then, Callender's assertion has become the focus of intense debate, both among Jefferson and Hemings family descendants and among historians. Recent DNA studies have tended to vindicate Callender's reporting and indicate that the story is almost certainly true--that Jefferson was one founding father who found a way to father more than one branch of his family.

As for Callender, he was nearly finished. Having set the bar in the practice of scandal-mongering about the sex lives of presidents, his own life quickly went downhill. In December, he was the victim of a public beating and again succumbed to his great thirst. The following summer, in July 1803, during another of his periods of heavy drinking, Jimmy Callender was found in Virginia's James River, floating facedown, dead at age 45.
Meanwhile, Jefferson, burned by the partisan press he had helped develop, began having serious doubts about the virtues of a free press. In his private correspondence, Jefferson complained bitterly. By the time of his second inaugural address in March 1805, Jefferson was coming to view the press as a menace to decency itself.

"During the course of this administration," he complained, "and in order to disturb it, the artillery of the press has been levelled against us, charged with whatsoever its licentiousness could devise or dare. These abuses of an institution so important to freedom and science, are deeply to be regretted."

Plainly exasperated, he allowed himself the political luxury of speculating publicly about whether new state or federal laws might be needed to rein in the press. Like Donald Trump, he mused in public about the need to strengthen the libel laws.

No inference is here intended, that the laws, provided by the state against false and defamatory publications, should not be enforced; he who has the time, renders a service to public morals and public tranquility, in reforming these abuses by the salutary coercions of the law ...

That's a tough mantle to have to bear. 
Posted by orrinj at 7:26 AM

60-40 NATION:

Sununu Touts 'Too Good to Be True' State Budget, Backs Late-Term Abortion Ban (Michael Graham, 7/07/21, NH Journal)

Sununu was clearly fired up to talk about the budget's fiscal policies. Asked to name the elements of the budget he believes will be most significant 10 years from now, he immediately answered the elimination of the interest and dividend tax cuts and the family medical leave program.

"It's the hidden income tax," Sununu said of the plan to phase out the interest and dividends tax over five years. He said eliminating it in New Hampshire "has been discussed for 40 years, but no one had the courage to do it.

"Finally we said, 'Look, people have to come first, not government.' And we found a way."

Sununu was even more enthusiastic about his paid family medical leave program, which is essentially a new state employee benefit paid for by taxpayers that is made available to private sector businesses and workers who want to opt-in.

"It's an innovative private-sector solution that is going to work at very little cost and everyone has choice, with no income tax. It's too good to be true," Sununu said.

Sununu is less excited to talk about the cultural issues inspiring most of the post-budget debate, but he didn't back down.

On the new abortion law, which ends New Hamsphire's outside-the-mainstream standing as a state with no restrictions on the procedure up to the day of birth, Sununu said he believes he's with the people.

"There is 20 percent [of the people] on both sides where abortion is the only issue," Sununu said. "Well, I'm kind of in that 60 percent of everybody else. I always find there's always a middle ground. So I'm pro-choice, but like most people, I've never supported the idea of late-term abortion."

Polls show more than 80 percent of Americans, including many self-identified pro-choice people, agree with Sununu. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:06 AM


Biden Pledges to End $90 Billion Worth of Tax Breaks for Gas Companies (CAROLINE DOWNEY, July 7, 2021, National Review)

During a Wednesday press conference to promote his "Build Back Better" agenda, President Biden pledged to end tax breaks for energy companies in the fossil-fuel business, raising $90 billion dollars in revenue for the federal government.

July 7, 2021

Posted by orrinj at 8:08 PM


The People v Mahmoud Abbas: are the Palestinian Authority's days numbered?  (Dr Ramzy BaroudJuly 6, 2021, MEMO)

Claims that the Palestinian Authority's days are numbered are now heard frequently. This is especially so following the torture to death on 24 June of a popular Palestinian activist, Nizar Banat, 42, at the hands of PA security goons in Hebron (Al-Khalil).

The killing of Banat -- or "assassination" as some Palestinian rights groups describe it -- however, was nothing unusual. Torture in PA prisons is the modus operandi, through which Palestinian interrogators extract "confessions". Palestinian political prisoners in PA custody are usually divided into two main groups: those who are suspected by Israel of being involved in anti-Israeli occupation activities; and others who have been detained for voicing criticism of PA corruption or 

In a 2018 report by Human Rights Watch, the group spoke of "dozens of arrests" carried out by the PA "for critical posts on social media platforms". Banat slotted into this category perfectly, as he was one of the most persistent and outspoken of critics, whose many videos and social media posts exposed and embarrassed the PA leadership of Mahmoud Abbas and his ruling Fatah party. Unlike others, Banat named names and called for severe measures against those who squander Palestinian public funds and betray the causes of the Palestinian people.

Banat had been arrested by PA police several times in the past. In May, gunmen attacked his home, using live bullets, stun grenades and tear gas. He blamed the attack on Fatah.

His last social media campaign covered the scandal of the almost-expired Covid-19 vaccine doses which the PA received from Israel on 18 June. Because of public pressure by activists like Banat, the PA was forced to return the Israeli vaccines which, before then, were touted as a positive gesture by Israel's new Prime Minister, the far-right, ultra-nationalist Naftali Bennett.

READ: PA's Abbas dismisses senior official for criticising extrajudicial killing of Banat

When the PA men descended on Banat's house on 24 June, the ferocity of their violence was unprecedented. His cousin, Ammar, spoke of how nearly 25 PA security personnel raided the house, pepper-sprayed him while he was still in bed, and "began beating him with iron bars and wooden batons". After stripping him naked, they dragged him into a vehicle. An hour and a half later, the family learned of his fate through a WhatsApp group.

Despite initial denials, under pressure from thousands of protesters across the West Bank, the PA was forced to admit that Banat's death was "unnatural". The Justice Minister, Mohammed Al-Shalaldeh, told local television that an initial medical report indicated that Banat was subjected to physical violence.

Posted by orrinj at 9:18 AM


Germans see better ties with US since Biden took office: poll (Deutsche-Welle, 7/07/21)

The YouGov survey of 2,000 respondents found that 66% believed relations had improved between Germany and the US, and 19% said nothing changed.

Last year, a similar poll found that only 19% of Germans viewed the US as a friendly ally. The figure jumped to 42% this year.

The number of Germans who consider the US ill-disposed to their country fell from 27% last year to 11%.

Posted by orrinj at 9:16 AM


Patriot Front's Disastrous Philly Event Was Just Their Latest Recruiting Drive (Tess Owen, July 7, 2021, Vice News)

Patriot Front, a youth-oriented white supremacist group, were hoping that they'd come away from their midnight flash rally in Philadelphia on July 3 with a slick propaganda video they could use to recruit prospective members. 

The group, which embraces a fascism-meets-Americana aesthetic, has been recently trying to raise its public profile by showing up en masse in cities, catching local cops, media and counterprotesters off guard, and getting footage of themselves marching "unopposed." 

No such luck in Philadelphia, home of the unofficial anti-fascist mascot Gritty, whose residents have exhibited little patience for brazen displays of white supremacy in the past. Late on Saturday night, about 200 members of Patriot Front arrived in the city packed into three large Penske moving trucks, and were confronted by local residents who had gathered to chase them out of town. 

While fleeing, members of the group deployed smoke bombs to obscure their retreat. Police Officer Michael Crum told a local news station that the group "literally ran away from the people of Philadelphia."

Posted by orrinj at 9:13 AM


Trump 'stunned' chief of staff John Kelly by praising Hitler: new book (Travis Gettys, July 07, 2021, Raw Story)

Former president Donald Trump "stunned" his then-chief of staff John Kelly by praising Adolf Hitler, according to a new book.

The Guardian obtained a copy of the forthcoming book, "Frankly, We Did Win This Election," by Wall Street Journal reporter Michael Bender, which reported the twice-impeached one-term president's remark while on a visit to Europe to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.

"Well, Hitler did a lot of good things," Trump told Kelly, according to the book.

Trump made the remark after Kelly "reminded the president which countries were on which side during the conflict" and "connected the dots from the first world war to the second world war and all of Hitler's atrocities," Bender reported.

Posted by orrinj at 8:56 AM


Tucker Attacks Black Congresswoman: 'Not Smart Enough for a Real Job' (Justin Baragona, Jul. 06, 2021, Daily Beast)

Despite Carlson's claims to the contrary, Bush--who is in her first few months as a congresswoman--is a registered nurse who went on to work as a nursing supervisor and was also a pastor of a St. Louis-area church.

Carlson, on the other hand, has jokingly bragged in the past that he's "extraordinarily loaded" from his trust fund and doesn't need to work. Furthermore, despite both CNN and MSNBC canceling his shows and firing him, Fox News hired Carlson in 2009. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:28 AM


Southgate and his team are ambassadors of an England that belongs to us all (Sunder Katwala, 7/07/21, CapX)

What the Three Lions song really captures for me is what it means to be a nation. Win or lose, these are the moments that millions of us share together. They create memories and legends that become part of the story. Those mentioned in the lyrics - "Bobby belting the ball, when Lineker scored, and Nobby dancing" - can be joined by new memories, of great goals, saves and near misses; of the fear of the penalty shoot-out, or the catharsis of overcoming it. As Gareth Southgate has said, every game has the potential to create new memories and legends for supporters - the biggest games most of all.

The Three Lions anthem mattered to me a generation ago because of how Euro '96 helped to change the English footballing culture. It fostered a softer, more inclusive kind of pride and patriotism, that was particularly noticed by black and Asian fans, and by those of all backgrounds going to watch games with their children. "Football is coming home - and it's a home we all share" says Imam Qari Asim, chair of the Imams and Mosques advisory board. He is supporting the #EnglandTogether campaign in which a range of civic and faith voices are inviting everybody to celebrate how an inclusive England is coming together behind our team, tweeting #ItsComingHome and #EnglandTogether with images of support for the team.

Euro 2020 has strengthened that sense of inclusive pride, despite initial controversy over the team's determination to continue taking the knee after some fans booed in the pre-tournament friendlies. Those arguments largely subsided once the football itself began. Most fans supported the decision to take the knee. For younger people and the majority of black and Asian supporters, the team's stance has strengthened the sense that Gareth Southgate and his young, talented and diverse team are ambassadors of an England that belongs to us all. Almost all of the sizeable minority who would have preferred the players to choose a different anti-racist gesture, particularly older supporters, have moved on to get behind the national team.

So only the tiniest fringe of the Twitterati are involved in the performative unpopulism of pretending to support Croatia, Germany and Denmark against England. We should be wary of turning our national team into a culture war battleground. So it is a good day to hold out an olive branch to those engaged in their own gesture politics of boycotting the Three Lions. This should be a moment for everybody and it is not too late for them to join in and cheer on their home team tonight.

Because if Gareth Southgate's proved anything, it's the appeal of being an empathetic bridger. His pre-tournament essay spoke of his own strong sense of patriotism being about pride in tradition - playing for Queen and country, pageantry and national service. And he reflected too on how younger generations - like the players he mentors - may have a different balance of emphasis in how they voice their own national identity. A caricature can't capture a team that sees no contradiction in proudly singing the national anthem, then choosing to take a knee before kick-off.

It matters that we have something that brings us together in England. In a democratic society, we have plenty of things we can disagree about - and we are a more anxious and fractured society than we would want. Finding things we have in common creates a shared sense of identity, promotes contact between people with different backgrounds and experiences and pushes back against prejudices. Inclusive patriotism is one of the strongest forces binding society together.

Posted by orrinj at 8:19 AM


Antarctic base could be powered by wind and batteries alone (Sophie Vorrath, 7 July 2021, Renew Economy)

A New Zealand research base on Ross Island, Antarctica, could feasibly be powered by 100 per cent renewables using a combination of wind turbines, battery storage and smart controls, according to a plan proposed by Hydro Tasmania subsidiary, Entura.

Posted by orrinj at 8:14 AM


Man Who Joined 'Fight for Trump' Crowd at Capitol Siege Posed as Antifa, Discussed Molotov Cocktails With His Self-Styled Militia: Feds (JERRY LAMBE, Jul 6th, 2021, Law & Crime)

According to the complaint, Duong on Jan. 13 told the undercover agent that he was filming rioters inside the Capitol while "wearing all black in an effort to look like a member of Antifa." Short for anti-fascist, "antifa" is a catch-all term for an amorphous collection of left-wing activists. Those who oppose the movement tend to depict it as a group, rather than an inchoate collective.

While Duong purportedly jockeyed into infiltrate antifa, the FBI quickly became part of Duong's group, which was referred to as "a Bible study," but included "firearms and other training events" such as physical fitness training, "hand-to-hand combat," and training in driving skills. The group also had their own private chat server "to ensure the group could have more secure communications."

During a group meeting at Duong's home in late-March, he allegedly told attending members that he was inside the Capitol Building on Jan. 6 but was careful to make sure that he kept a mask on at all times to avoid being identified by law enforcement.

An associate described in court documents as a member of the far-right militia group Three Percenters "addressed Duong's group at a meeting at his house in Alexandria, Virginia on March 20, explaining that some of the people that went into the Capitol were smart and wore a mask, and as a result, law enforcement could not identify them," according to the complaint.

Three Percenters get their name from the myth that it represents the portion of colonists who participated in the American Revolution, a notion debunked by historians.

"In response, Duong raised his hand and laughed, stating 'I was wearing all black and wearing two different kinds of masks,'" the complaint stated.

Duong then provided a description of the "Japanese style mask" he wore, which authorities were then able to match against publicly available footage from inside the Capitol.

Posted by orrinj at 8:05 AM


Xinjiang Denialists Are Only Aiding Imperialism (Gerald Roche, 7/06/21, The Nation)

Americans have a history of rejecting the facts of unjust violence abroad. The tactic is most associated with right-wing Holocaust denialism. The historian Deborah Lipstadt traces American Holocaust denialism back to interwar historians and their criticisms of America's decision to enter World War I. Unlike denialists, these revisionists had truth on their side. Britain had falsified reports of Germans' using babies as target practice, mutilating civilians, and committing other acts of brutality in order to lure America into the war.

Post-World War II critics adopted similar strategies, often portraying the Germans as victims and the Allies as aggressors. But Germany had actually committed mass murder this time. And so revisionists became denialists. They claimed that the Holocaust had been fabricated to coax America into another European war. For these right-wing denialists, the point was never about what had happened to the victims. It was about making domestic political gains. And if that involved supporting abhorrent regimes and refusing to acknowledge their crimes against humanity, so be it.

Although these denialists mostly aimed to promote US isolationism, others have followed, pursuing different agendas using the same techniques. These have included anti-imperialists on the left who, in order to critique American empire, dismiss obvious truths and question whether well-documented massacres ever happened.

Most notorious among anti-imperialist deniers are Edward S. Herman and David Peterson. In their book The Politics of Genocide, they argue that most accusations of genocide are justifications of US imperialism in the name of "humanitarian intervention." Looking for US interests behind every report of genocide, they even invert the role of victim and perpetrator in the Rwandan Tutsi genocide, portraying the post-genocide government as a tool of US empire. Noam Chomsky, despite his otherwise nuanced views on genocide, legitimized these arguments by providing a foreword to the book.

For many anti-imperialists, the need to denounce US empire is reason enough to support any of its opponents. And if those opponents commit atrocities, their abuses can be denied. Xinjiang is just the latest iteration in this pattern. The specific identities of the Xinjiang denialists don't really matter, and I have no intention of inflating their cause by naming them or linking to their work. What brings them together is a tireless effort to debunk every aspect of the "mainstream" narrative about Xinjiang, and to scream "got his ass" at anyone who refuses to debate their ludicrous ideas.

To understand the perversity of this denialism, you don't have to believe every think tank report and news item about Xinjiang; indeed, there are good reasons to approach all of these critically. Nor do you have to agree that what's happening to the Uyghurs constitutes genocide (though I do). This is because what these anti-imperialists deny is much broader than the application of a term in international law. They deny basic facts of history.

Although, to be fair, Donald and his supporters don't really deny the Uighur genocide so much as approve of it because they are Muslims. 

July 6, 2021

Posted by orrinj at 6:20 PM


Fifty years ago (Terry Teachout, 7/06/21, About Last Night)

Armstrong's own unpublished and uncollected writings found their way into print with the publication in 1999 of Joshua Berrett's Louis Armstrong Companion and Thomas Brothers' Louis Armstrong, in His Own Words: Selected Writings. These books showed him as he was, not as others wished or imagined him to be, and the bluntness with which he spoke his mind from beyond the grave gave the lie to a half-century of abuse that Ossie Davis, who acted opposite him in A Man Called Adam, summed up in a reminiscence of their brief acquaintance: "Most of the fellows I grew up with, myself included, we used to laugh at Louis Armstrong. We knew he was good, but that didn't save him from our malice and our ridicule. Everywhere we'd look, there'd be Louis--sweat popping, eyes bugging, mouth wide open, grinning, oh my Lord, from ear to ear....mopping his brow, ducking his head, doing his thing for the white man." Davis changed his mind after meeting Armstrong, concluding that his horn was "where Louis kept his manhood hid all those years...enough for him...enough for all of us." But if he had ever felt the need to hide it, he did so in plain sight, and the admiring musicians who knew him best never doubted that he was not just a man but a miracle. Some, like Teddy Wilson, emphasized his artistry: "I don't think there has been a musician since Armstrong who had all the factors in balance, all the factors equally developed. Such a balance was the essential thing about Beethoven, I think, and Armstrong, like Beethoven, had this high development of balance. Lyricism. Delicacy. Emotional outburst. Rhythm. Complete mastery of his horn." Others spoke of his humanity. "As I watched him and talked with him, I felt he was the most natural man," the pianist Jaki Byard said. "Playing, talking, singing, he was so perfectly natural the tears came to my eyes." But all agreed on his greatness, and marveled that such a being had walked the earth.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


When Bill Clinton's Veep Vetting Process Revealed That Al Gore Had No Friends (Gary Ginsberg, Jul. 6th, 2021, Daily Beast)

A week or so later, I was told Gore was one of four finalists, and I should prepare for a final interview. The campaign brass shrewdly decided that someone older and wiser than a twenty-nine-year-old former Gore underling was needed for this sensitive task. They chose Harry McPherson, an old Washington hand, to join me for the last round of questioning. A Texan by birth, McPherson was best known as former president Lyndon Johnson's White House lawyer and chief speechwriter--a tall and stately man who conveyed the easy confidence of someone who had already made his name and neither needed nor wanted anything from anyone.

McPherson and I met at his Connecticut Avenue law office. He wanted a briefing to understand the essence of Al Gore. He asked me a number of questions I was ready for, then one that I wasn't: "Does Al Gore have any friends?" I hesitated before I said anything, slightly stumped. "It's a simple question," McPherson repeated. "Does Al Gore have any friends, because it's not clear to me he does, and if that's the case, I'd be concerned."

In all the spade work I'd done over three months, this wasn't anything I'd given any thought to nor addressed in any of my vetting memos. And yet I sensed he was on to something far more important than Gore's views on the MX missile or noxious greenhouse gases. Looking back on my firsthand campaign experience with Gore, it occurred to me that I couldn't recall a Billy Shore or a Warren Beatty around. And there certainly wasn't the gaggle of friends like I'd seen already on the Clinton campaign--the famous "Friends of Bill"--who had rescued the rocky candidate during the New Hampshire primary by traveling to the state to personally reassure skittish voters of his character and integrity. Their continued efforts afterward were a key reason Clinton cited for his success in securing the nomination.

Gore was different, but I wouldn't say he was friendless. He certainly was friendly, as smart and earnest a politician as any I had dealt with in my nascent political career. Harry, however, couldn't get past it, drawing on the years he had worked closely with LBJ. He had come to understand and value the importance of having a First Friend--and of not having one. On a daily basis, Johnson manifested the power of personality as central to the effective functioning of the presidency. No one could cajole, flatter, berate, or bludgeon another into capitulation as well as Lyndon Johnson. Using his hulking frame almost as a weapon, he would hover over his prey, lean in, and, alternating between whispers and shouts, eventually get his way.

Yet despite LBJ's outsized personality, Harry long believed that the president was, at heart, a solitary figure. He had legions of people around him, but no true, close confidants. Harry recognized that there was a gaping hole in Johnson's life, one that could have been filled with a friend who might have enabled him to be a more successful president. Over his long agonizing debates over Vietnam, for example, Harry had theorized an intimate could have helped clarify his thinking and eased the pressure as the country divided over the war and ultimately forced his early retirement. With Gore, he worried about the same deficiency.

A week later, Gore met with us for the final interview at his parents' apartment in a building across from the Capitol. After some brief pleasantries, Harry began.

"Senator, who are your friends?" he asked.

Gore shot McPherson a look of surprise, with a hint of anger that I knew all too well from the 1988 campaign.

"Harry, what are you asking?" Gore said.

"Senator, who are your friends . . . the people you most like, relax with, travel with, drink with. Your friends."

A few seconds of silence ensued. Gore leaned forward in his armchair.

He looked straight at McPherson and spoke in an assured, senatorial voice.

"Norm Dicks and Tom Downey," he said.

Both men were then members of the House of Representatives, and they had served with Gore during his eight years as a congressman. Harry expected to hear these names, but he wanted more.

"Who besides men you've served with would you describe as close friends? Any friends from Carthage? From Harvard? From Nashville?

From DC outside of Capitol Hill?"

"Well . . . my brother-in-law, Frank Hunger."

McPherson was also expecting that name. "Anyone outside your family?"

Another uncomfortable silence followed. Finally, Gore repeated the same three names.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Remembering Elie Wiesel on his 5th Yahrzeit (Caroline Stoessinger, 7/02/21, The Forward)

Elie Wiesel made a commandment of memory. Whenever my students ask why they should study history, I always respond with a quote from Elie, who lived the answer: "Without memory, there is no culture. Without memory, there would be no civilization, no society, no future."

Elie constantly reminded us of the power of memory. "If there is a single theme," he wrote, "that dominates all my writings, all my obsessions, it is that of memory because I fear forgetfulness as much as hatred and death. For if we forget, we are accomplices."

For fifty years, I saw firsthand his authenticity and his sterling character as an author, humanist and teacher. I remember when, a few years into our friendship, the young husband of a friend died suddenly. The distraught widow asked me to invite Elie to speak at his funeral, but I was hesitant. Although she had met the Wiesels briefly at my home, I was unsure if Elie had had a chance to speak with her husband. With a prelude of apologies, I posed the question. Elie immediately answered "Of course, I will speak. A life has been lost."

Many have wondered how Elie could have had such a compassionate and generous personality after Auschwitz. Despite all he suffered, Elie never deviated from the traditions of his ancestors. He ended his last public speech expressing gratitude to the audience and said "we have so many prayers of gratitude; before I open my eyes in the morning, I must say a prayer of gratitude." He believed in memory as the road we must travel if our species is to survive. So long as he had breath Elie kept hope alive, saying "I still believe in man in spite of man."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


While Red Texas Blusters, Blue California Prospers (Froma Harrop, July 06 | 2021, National Memo)

As Bloomberg News reports, California's economy is hardly headed for disaster. On the contrary, it is No. 1 among the states by most economic measures. Furthermore, it is emerging from the pandemic in very good shape.

And so when Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said last February that California uses "heavy-handed government tactics that drive away businesses," California Gov. Gavin Newsom had to respond. "We remain the fifth largest economy in the world," Newsom's office said. "No. 1 in Bloomberg's Innovation Index and home to 20 of Fortune's top 100 fastest growing companies in the world."

California's small population loss last year largely reflected former President Donald Trump's curb on new visas. While some people do leave California, others arrive. Many of the newcomers are immigrants with grand ambitions and a desire to live in a welcoming place.

As the pandemic draws to a close, California is sitting pretty with an operating budget surplus of $75 billion. This is the product of a surging economy and the collection of capital gains taxes. It would seem that a few rich Californians did not move to Texas after all.

Thanks to this surplus, California has embarked on what Newsom calls the "largest state tax rebate in American history." Two-thirds of Californians are receiving Golden State stimulus checks totaling almost $12 billion.

What about economic growth? California's gross domestic product has jumped 21 percent over the past five years, leaving Texas' 12 percent gain in its shadow. Even New York state, another of Abbott's targets, outdid Texas with a 14 percent rise in state GDP.

If California were a country, its growth rate would have exceeded that of Japan, Germany and the entire U.S. Only China grew faster.

"For all its bluster as being 'best for business,' Texas can't match California's innovation," Bloomberg said. Some 18 percent of California's corporate locations are dedicated to research and development. The percentage of Texas facilities for research and development are just under half that of California's.

July 5, 2021

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The case for ending judicial reviewIs it time to sap some of the Supreme Court's power? (JOEL MATHIS, JULY 5, 2021, The Week)

A presidential commission considering reforms to the court last Wednesday heard from Nikolas Bowie, an associate professor at Harvard Law School. He argued that it is time to end the high court's power of "judicial review," which gives it the authority to declare a law unconstitutional and thus usually gives SCOTUS the last word in battles with the legislative and executive branches.

The Supreme Court's "relationship to Congress is not that of an umpire overseeing a batter, but of a rider overseeing a horse," Bowie told the commission in his written testimony. "Most of the time, the court gives Congress free rein to act as it pleases. But the court remains in the saddle, ready to pull on the reins when Congress moves to disrupt hierarchies of wealth or status." [....]

Judicial review, of course, is mentioned nowhere explicitly in the Constitution -- the court claimed that authority for itself in Marbury v. Madison in 1803. "It is emphatically the duty of the Judicial Department to say what the law is," Chief Justice John Marshall wrote in the ruling. The precedent has stood for more than 200 years.

Whether that should be the case is now an open question. Noah Feldman, a Harvard Law professor and Bloomberg Opinion columnist, acknowledged in his own testimony that judicial review had made the Supreme Court more powerful than the Founders intended. "It is therefore fair to say that the founding generation did not fully anticipate the modern practice of robust judicial review," he said, "that both empowers the judiciary to protect rights and democratic norms and simultaneously renders the judiciary more capable of harming democracy than it would be without it."

There are only two legitimate bases for holding a law unconstitutional: that it was not adopted via democratic processes, such that the citizenry to be bound by the law (or their elected representatives) participated in its adoption; or that it does not apply universally to all citizens of the Republic.  Meanwhile, there is no basis for the courts to create a positive law. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Poll Finds Startling Difference in Vaccinations Among US Republicans and Democrats (VOA News, July 05, 2021)

A Washington Post-ABC News poll has found a startling difference between Democrats and Republicans as it relates to COVID-19 vaccination. The poll found that while 86% of Democrats have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot, only 45% of Republicans have.

In addition, the survey found that while only 6% of Democrats said they would probably decline the vaccine, 47% of Republicans said they would probably not be inoculated. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Louis Armstrong: the warmth and wit of the legendary jazz artistIn this personal long read, Martin Chilton looks back at the book his father co-wrote about the legendarily sassy trumpet player and salutes a one-of-a-kind who was as generous as he was witty (Martin Chilton, 7/04/.21, Independent)

Max Jones had been close with Armstrong since 1949. The musician was astonished and impressed when the young writer turned up at Heathrow (then called London Airport) with a portable wind-up gramophone and played him "Blue Yodel No 9" by Jimmie Rodgers. The 1930 tune puzzled jazz fans for decades, because the trumpet player was unlisted. Jones believed it was Armstrong playing (along with his second wife Lil Hardin on piano) on the Victor record. Armstrong laughed and confirmed it was his contribution, explaining that he was under contract to Okeh Records at the time and had played anonymously.

It was with Okeh, of course, that Armstrong, then just 24, made the celebrated recordings with his Hot Five and Hot Seven bands in the 1920s. "The bottom line of any country in the world is what did we contribute to the world? America contributed Louis Armstrong," celebrated singer Tony Bennett told the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation. Those masterpieces - including "West End Blues", with its ingenious opening cadenza, and "Potato Head Blues", on which he played a remarkable stop-time chorus that became a test-piece for all aspiring young trumpeters - would have been enough to secure his legacy. He established the whole structure and technique of jazz improvisation. Miles Davis, hero of the bebop era, conceded that "you can't play anything on a horn that Louis hasn't played".

Although his 1920s work remains perhaps his most revered, some of Armstrong's early 1930s work (on magnificent tunes such as "Lazy River" and "Sweethearts on Parade"), his Decca recordings, his work with his integrated All Stars band (including the brilliant 1956 album Live At The Hollywood Bowl), his duets with Ella Fitzgerald and the moving late hits "We Have All the Time in the World" and "What a Wonderful World", are evidence of a career of sustained brilliance over more than half a century.

Armstrong's wife and pianist Lil Hardin played a big part in Armstrong's rise, engineering his career as a star soloist and vocalist. Although they fell out in later life, not speaking for a decade, in the letters to Jones and Chilton he gave her full credit for changing his fortunes. Armstrong's former bandleaders disliked his singing voice, but on his 1920s recordings, he showed the world how to swing, improvise... and scat. Wordless singing was an absolute novelty when Armstrong introduced it on "Gut Bucket Blues" and, by breaking all the rules, he changed vocal recording forever. Armstrong later said that he dropped the sheet with the lyrics in the middle of the recording and suddenly remembered using his voice as a kid to imitate instruments.

Humour and stage banter were a key part of Armstrong's performances, and his outgoing personality was evident in his correspondence, which always included a witty adverbial sign-off. Among those he used regularly (signing as Louis, or using his nicknames Satchmo, Ol' Satchmo, Satch or Pops) were "Dietingly yours", "Red beans and ricely yours", "Brussell sproutingly yours", "Swiss Krissly Yours", "Am Ricely & Chickenly Yours", "I am Trumpetly Yours", "Am Trumpetblowingly Yours", "Am Musically Yours", "Yours Soul Foodly" and, occasionally, "Here's swinging 'atcha".

One of his most oft-repeated jokes was about a wake in New Orleans, when a mourner lays his hand on the brow of the corpse, only to find it feeling a trifle warm. When he informed the widow, she replied, "hot or cold, he's going tomorrow afternoon". And Armstrong may have been the only man in the world who could get away with cracking risqué jokes with Pope Pius XII in 1949. Armstrong later told Jones that the Pope was a "little bitty feller" who'd asked him if he had any children. "Not yet, but we're having a lot of fun trying," Armstrong replied. When the Pope laughed, the trumpeter told him a few more jokes. "I floored him with a couple of belly laughs, Max," he recalled.

July 4, 2021

Posted by orrinj at 1:46 PM


Onlookers chase white supremacists marching in front of Philadelphia City Hall (Tom Boggioni, July 04, 2021, Raw Story)

In a video posted to Twitter, a group of white supremacists who marched in front of the Philadelphia City Hall can be seen running from onlookers yelling at them to leave.

According NBCPhiladelphia, the marchers --- clad in tan pants, black shirts and khaki hats -- were waving flags tied to the rightwing Patriot Front organization at about 11 PM Saturday where they met resistance from onlookers on the streets.

Posted by orrinj at 7:01 AM


AI Designs Quantum Physics Experiments Beyond What Any Human Has Conceived: Originally built to speed up calculations, a machine-learning system is now making shocking progress at the frontiers of experimental quantum physics (Anil Ananthaswamy, July 2, 2021, Scientific American)

During their early attempts to simplify and generalize what MELVIN had found, Krenn and his colleagues realized that the solution resembled abstract mathematical forms called graphs, which contain vertices and edges and are used to depict pairwise relations between objects. For these quantum experiments, every path a photon takes is represented by a vertex. And a crystal, for example, is represented by an edge connecting two vertices. MELVIN first produced such a graph and then performed a mathematical operation on it. The operation, called "perfect matching," involves generating an equivalent graph in which each vertex is connected to only one edge. This process makes calculating the final quantum state much easier, although it is still hard for humans to understand.

That changed with MELVIN's successor THESEUS, which generates much simpler graphs by winnowing the first complex graph representing a solution that it finds down to the bare minimum number of edges and vertices (such that any further deletion destroys the setup's ability to generate the desired quantum states). Such graphs are simpler than MELVIN's perfect matching graphs, so it is even easier to make sense of any AI-generated solution.

Renner is particularly impressed by THESEUS's human-interpretable outputs. "The solution is designed in such a way that the number of connections in the graph is minimized," he says. "And that's naturally a solution we can better understand than if you had a very complex graph."

Eric Cavalcanti of Griffith University in Australia is both impressed by the work and circumspect about it. "These machine-learning techniques represent an interesting development. For a human scientist looking at the data and interpreting it, some of the solutions may look like 'creative' new solutions. But at this stage, these algorithms are still far from a level where it could be said that they are having truly new ideas or coming up with new concepts," he says. "On the other hand, I do think that one day they will get there. So these are baby steps--but we have to start somewhere."

Steinberg agrees. "For now, they are just amazing tools," he says. "And like all the best tools, they're already enabling us to do some things we probably wouldn't have done without them."

Posted by orrinj at 6:56 AM


Foundations of the American Republic: a review of The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution by Bernard Bailyn & The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787 by Gordon S. Wood  (Donald Lutz, July 2nd, 2021, Imaginative Conservative)

Dr. Bailyn found that American political theory was a combination of several theoretical strains. "Most conspicuous in the writings of the Revolutionary period was the heritage of classical antiquity." The pamphlet authors, however, had a very restricted knowledge of the ancients insofar as they drew from a restricted set of works by the ancients. "What gripped their minds, what they knew in detail, and what formed their view of the whole of the ancient world was the political history of Rome...."[4] Plutarch, Livy, Cicero, Sallust, and Tacitus dominated their footnotes on the ancients. "More directly influential in shaping the thought of the Revolutionary generation were the ideas and attitudes associated with the writings of Enlightenment rationalism...."[5] Dr. Bailyn found an astonishing number of citations to leading secular thinkers of the Enlightenment such as Voltaire, Rousseau, Montesquieu, Locke, Pufendorf, Vattel, Beccaria, Grotius, Hume, Bolingbroke, Delolme, etc. While the range of authors cited was impressive, Dr. Bailyn found that pamphleteers often had only a superficial knowledge of most, and failed to distinguish between important figures like Locke and secondary figures like Burlamaqui. Also prominent were major figures in English common law such as Sir Edward Coke and Blackstone. There were also frequent references to trial reports, but Dr. Bailyn notes that the "offhand familiarity" that pamphleteers used in drawing from this third intellectual tradition did not reflect great knowledge. Citations were often imprecise and inappropriate, and although the common law was influential in shaping the minds of Revolutionary leaders, it did not determine the conclusions that they drew. A fourth tradition affecting the ideas of the Revolutionary pamphleteers derived from the political and social ideas of New England Puritanism, especially from the ideas associated with covenant theology. While this was in a sense the most limited and parochial tradition drawn upon, contemporary texts in American political theory have a tendency to emphasize Puritan thought as the most important antecedent to American Revolutionary thought. Or, as Gordon Lloyd points out, there is at best the tendency to list all of these intellectual traditions in historical sequence without explaining how these various, disparate sources fit into the history of American political theory in any coherent fashion. Dr. Bailyn is not guilty of this error.

Dr. Bailyn's essential contribution is to show that there was a coherent pattern brought to all of these intellectual strands by a fifth aspect of American colonial heritage, and that this last, usually ignored tradition is far more important than has been recognized before.

But important as all of these clusters of ideas were, they did not in themselves form a coherent intellectual pattern, and they did not exhaust the elements that went into the making of the Revolutionary mind. There were among them, in fact, striking incongruities and contradictions.... What brought these disparate strands of thought together, what dominated the colonists' miscellaneous learning and shaped it into a coherent whole, was the influence of still another group of writers, a group whose thought overlapped with that of those already mentioned but which was yet distinct in its essential characteristics and unique in its determinative power. The ultimate origins of this distinctive ideological strain lay in the radical social and political thought of the English Civil War and of the Commonwealth period; but its permanent form had been acquired at the turn of the seventeenth century and in the early eighteenth century, in the writings of a group of prolific opposition theorists, 'country' politicians and publicists.[6]

Prominent names were John Trenchard, Thomas Gordon, Algernon Sidney, Henry Neville, Bishop Benjamin Hoadly, John Milton, Robert Viscount Molesworth, Viscount Bolingbroke, and a host of lesser names. These men, whose writings are today long forgotten, were often regarded as equal to or better than John Locke in their respective abilities at political analysis. As Dr. Bailyn says, "more than any other single group of writers they shaped the mind of the American Revolutionary generation."[7] These men called themselves "Whigs," and many American pamphleteers also termed themselves Whigs after their English and Scottish exemplars. For a variety of reasons, American political thinkers appropriated Whig ideas and used them to draw selectively upon the other traditions mentioned by Dr. Bailyn. It is the prominence of Whig theory that brought coherence to these five strands, and if any name should be attached to the first American political theory discussed earlier, "Whig" is probably as good a name as any.

The matter of names is not unimportant. Because there was diversity among them, and because they lost the struggle to define the form of national government we adopted, defenders of this earlier tradition have come to be known as "Antifederalists." This name connotes mere opposition and little sense of their having a positive, coherent theory of their own. Perhaps because they are portrayed only negatively as Antifederalists, American Whig political theorists have been ignored and their intellectual roots forgotten. At the same time, we have forgotten the meaning and consequences of the first two hundred years of our American experience, and while Dr. Bailyn has done us a great service by refocusing our attention upon Whig political thought, he has done so in a manner that also fails to recapture our complete political heritage. This failure will occupy the discussion in the last half of this essay.

Gordon Wood takes up where Dr. Bailyn leaves off. Dr. Bailyn demonstrates that American political theory was dominated in 1776 by Whig thought, but Dr. Wood shows how Whig theory and Federalist theory (which drew most heavily upon Enlightenment thinkers) interacted in the context of events between 1776 and 1787. It is the great strength of Dr. Wood's book that he can structure our understanding of politics between 1776 and 1787 in terms of a struggle between two competing sets of ideas without ever having seriously to bend, twist, or stretch history. His view of this period in American history is comprehensive and fact-oriented at the same time that it is clear and precise. Indeed, it is hard to think of a historian who is more gifted at uncovering order in a plethora of human activity and then translating this order into shifts in nuance in political thinking.

Both of these books must be read by students of American political theory, but Gordon Wood's book must be read carefully and more than once. Dr. Bailyn has reoriented the historian's view of the Revolution by forcing another look at English Whig thought, but his perspective remains that of a historian looking heavily at English intellectual history. Dr. Wood, on the other hand, keeps his eyes firmly set on our own shores, and his careful reconstruction of American political thinking during the era provides more than a history. Dr. Wood has succeeded better than anyone else in bringing coherence to what earlier had been treated as a hopeless intellectual bog--Whig political theory.


Dr. Wood concisely states the thesis of his book in the introduction:

As I explored this pattern of beliefs...it soon became clear that the terms and categories of political thought were undergoing rapid change, beset by the strongest kinds of polemical and experiential pressures. When I began to compare the debates surrounding the Revolutionary constitution-making of 1776 with those surrounding the formation of the federal Constitution of 1787, I realized that a fundamental transformation of political culture had taken place.[8]

Upon finishing the book it is difficult not to accept Dr. Wood's thesis since his evidence is comprehensive and detailed, his case is well-argued, and his stance is consistently even-handed and neutral. Even so, readers will be divided over his use of the word "fundamental" in the statement above. Was the transformation in political culture "fundamental" in the sense that there is more discontinuity than continuity between 1776 and 1787, or is it "fundamental" in the sense that a reasonably continuous theoretical development is deflected only a few degrees but enough to create an entirely different political system two centuries later than we would have expected if Whig political thought had remained dominant? That is, was the change fundamental because of immediate and apparent shifts in thinking, or more in terms of the long-range implications? Some might find it most useful and accurate to view Federalist theory as a "variant" of Whig theory. That is, there is enough continuity between Whig and Federalist theory to view them as stages in the development of an evolved American political theory. At the same time, the differences are not so slight as to be passed over lightly. Federalist theory changed the way we viewed politics, created many new institutions, and often changed the manner in which Whig-derived institutions operated. Gordon S. Wood has properly focused our attention on the fact that there was enough change in political thinking between 1776 and 1787 to overshadow anything in American experience before or since. Both the extent of discontinuity and the speed with which it developed permit a credible case to be made that the change was a fundamental one in any sense of the word. The beauty of Dr. Wood's work is that it proceeds with a clarity and comprehensiveness at the theoretical level which permits us to pinpoint precisely what did change. What follows in this essay is an abstraction of Dr. Wood's reconstruction of Whig political thought.

Whig political theory as recreated by Gordon S. Wood can be summarized in four sets of assumptions. The first set of assumptions flowed from the belief that the people were a homogeneous entity. Despite gradations and ranks within the population, all people had the same rights and thus were politically indistinguishable.[9] In the American Whig view, politics was an inevitable and perpetual battle between the people, who were trying to protect these rights, and the rulers, who were constantly trying to extend their power. This traditional dichotomy between the people and their government was joined with a belief that when conflicts arose between the desires of an individual and those of the community at large the community should get its way. Thus, the interests of the community were considered superior to those of any individual, especially if the individual held political power. From this general perspective we derive three related assumptions:

A1: The population is homogeneous with respect to rights.
A2: The population has a community of interests in protecting and preserving these rights.
A3: Community interests are superior to individual interests.[10]

The second set of assumptions flowed from the American belief that they were a virtuous people. Virtue was defined in the double sense of possessing superior moral qualities (in the Christian sense) and in the sense of possessing to a greater extent those qualities necessary for self-government (the Greek notion of virtue).[11] European commentators merely reinforced American beliefs when they spoke of the "natural man" living on American shores in possession of the "manly virtues" found in the "state of nature." The flight from European decadence had been prominent among the motivations for religious emigration to America during the 1600s. This tendency for Americans to view themselves as a "chosen people" brought to the "promised land" to escape the evils and temptations of the luxury in Egypt and Babylon (England) would surface again in the 1770s as one of the major justifications for breaking with England, as Dr. Wood points out. Although seeing "through a glass darkly," these Americans with their pristine, republican virtues had a peculiar ability to govern themselves in a manner congruent with the good. Significantly, it was assumed that the good in a moral sense would always be congruent with the interest of the entire community, it was simply a matter of moving slowly enough to ensure that the community interest had been properly ascertained. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:40 AM


Poll: Even White Republican Men Are Going Sour On Trump (Kerry Eleveld, July 04 | 2021,  Daily Kos)

Don't tell the Republican Party, but Donald Trump isn't exactly killing it with one of his most loyal demographics: white men.

Trump's biggest blow, according to Civiqs tracking, has come from white male independents, where his favorables have dropped a solid 10 points since a post-Election Day high of 53 percent in mid-November. Now Trump is six points underwater with the demographic, 43 percent - 49 percent.

But Trump's favorable rating over the past several months also shows him losing steam even faster with white GOP men than with white GOP women. 

Donald who?

July 3, 2021

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Tucker Carlson's history of fearmongering about white replacement, genocide, and race war (NIKKI MCCANN RAMIREZ,  07/01/21, Media Matters)

Flashing an "ANTI-WHITE MANIA" graphic on screen, Fox host Tucker Carlson declared on June 24 that something must be done "to save this country" from the scourge of critical race theory "before we become Rwanda."

Carlson's barely veiled reference to a genocide that killed more than half a million people invoked images of violent racial conflict in the United States. The segment also came on the heels of Carlson's full-throated embrace of the "great replacement" conspiracy theory on April 8 -- echoing a belief long held by white nationalists -- that a wave of "Third World" invaders is coming to replace you and reshape your country, and you, the audience, should do something about it. The segment drew widespread condemnation, including a statement from the Anti-Defamation League CEO calling for Carlson's removal from Fox.

Carlson has often used his show to launder white nationalist ideology, and his recent attachment to the "great replacement" conspiracy theory, "white genocide" narratives, and race war fearmongering is the culmination of years of violent and racist rhetoric.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Sexual harassment scandal threatens to derail Arizona election audit ( JOHN WRIGHT, JULY 3, 2021, Raw Story)

According to the alleged victims, the primary offender engaged in unwanted touching, demanded dates from women he thought were attractive, and made comments about their appearances, asking them things like, "You showing off your butt?"

When they rebuffed his advances, he would insult them. He also reportedly was prone to angry outbursts. "This issue seemed to stem from some type of anger over women having authority over him," one witness said.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Home to Freud, Austria Debates Carbon-Tax Therapy to Ease Climate Anxiety (Jonathen Tirone, July 1, 2021, Bloomberg)

Austria wants to become climate neutral by 2040, a decade earlier than most of the European Union, but doing so will require deep structural changes to the economy which go beyond installing more solar panels and windmills. Despite already generating some fourth-fifths of its electricity with renewable hydropower, the country's emissions have continued to rise over the last three decades because of industrial pollution and a love affair with cars.

That's led the coalition government, made up of the conservative People's Party and the environmentalist Green Party, to champion what officials call "eco-social-tax reform" that would be the centerpiece of Austria's climate policy. Leaders want to put a price on emissions and bake that cost into everything from road transportation to home heating. Essentially, citizens would be on the hook for every ton of planet-warming carbon dioxide they emit. 

"We need new ways of thinking about our tax codes to make them fit for the future," Leonore Gewessler, minister for climate, energy and transportation, said in an interview. "We need a fair price for greenhouse gas pollution in the atmosphere, which makes climate-friendly behavior cheaper."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


To Be an AmericanThis July Fourth, let's remember the immigrants who were drawn to this country's promise of liberty and who have contributed to its greatness. (LINDA CHAVEZ,  JULY 2, 2021, The Bulwark)

Immigrants have always seemed to me the quintessential Americans, representing hope, aspiration, and a desire to start anew. And yet, for much of our history, immigrants have faced opposition from those who didn't quite trust they could ever become true Americans. Even some of our Founding Fathers voiced concern about those not born in the colonies of English descent. Benjamin Franklin came to be embarrassed by a notorious 1751 remark in which he had complained about the "Palatine Boors" who would "shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them, and will never adopt our Language or Customs any more than they can acquire our Complexion." Thomas Jefferson famously warned in his Notes on the State of Virginia that foreigners would bring with them the language and principles of government of the nations they left and transmit them to their children. Alexander Hamilton, though himself an immigrant, went further, writing in 1802 that, "The influx of foreigners must . . . change and corrupt the national spirit; to complicate and confound public opinion; to introduce foreign propensities."

Strikingly, the Founders voiced these sentiments at a time when few immigrants were coming to the new nation, something that changed with the influx of Irish, Germans, Scandinavians, and others after about 1820. By the mid-nineteenth century, the immigration trickle became a stream of newcomers from Northern and Central European countries. This sparked even more backlash, including the creation of a political party nicknamed the Know-Nothings. The Know-Nothings won 100 seats in Congress, 8 governorships, and several large-city mayoralties in the 1850s, reflecting the popularity of nativism across America. But the backlash to immigration sparked its own counterreaction, with Abraham Lincoln emerging as perhaps the biggest champion of immigration and immigrants.

Lincoln opposed nativism throughout his political career. He was an early and vocal critic of Know-Nothingism. In a letter to a friend in 1855, Lincoln declared, "When the Know-Nothings get control, [the Declaration of Independence] will read 'all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and Catholics.'" Lincoln made support of immigration, along with opposition to slavery, one of the themes of his losing campaign to replace incumbent Illinois Sen. Stephen Douglas. In one of his famous debates with Douglas in 1858, Lincoln noted that the Declaration of Independence's guarantee of freedom belonged to immigrants as much as to the native born: "They have a right to claim it as though they were blood of the blood and flesh of the flesh of the men who wrote that Declaration, and so they are." When he sought the nomination of the newly formed Republican party, Lincoln supported inclusion of a plank in the party's platform that pledged that naturalized citizens' rights would not be abridged in any way and that their rights be protected both at home and abroad. In his first address to Congress after being elected president, Lincoln called for legislation to increase immigration, which resulted in subsequent passage of "An Act to Encourage Immigration." Lincoln signed it into law on July 4, 1864.

In early 1861, as he traveled from Springfield to Washington for his inauguration, Lincoln summed up his views on immigration at a stop in Cincinnati where he spoke to a group of German-born Americans: "If there are any abroad who desire to make this the land of their adoption, it is not in my heart to throw aught in their way, to prevent them from coming to the United States." If we really believe in the promise of America, we should take Lincoln's words to heart. A great nation does not close itself off from the world. It welcomes those who will make it even greater.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Afghans left to pick up the pieces of the West's failed war  (Paul Rogers, 3 July 2021, openDemocracy)

The Taliban have even surprised themselves with the speed at which they have been taking over districts throughout Afghanistan. When Biden announced the withdrawal on 1 May, the Taliban controlled 73 of the country's 407 districts - and they have taken over another 69 since then.

They also have territorial control of many other parts of Afghanistan, including rural areas close to the capital, Kabul. They are already contesting most of the districts that they do not control, and while the government still holds provincial capitals, some are already under pressure.

The general assumption now is that the Taliban will easily take over the country before the end of the year, but this is far from certain for two reasons. One is that as they have advanced, so militias have been formed that are ranged against them, either under the control of powerful interests or to protect vulnerable minorities. Of the former, many are linked to warlords with family histories going back decades and include regional strongmen, who are determined to hang on to their power bases, especially in the north.

Some of these were at least partially integrated into Kabul politics after 9/11 but, with the possibility of a Taliban takeover, they are now looking to their own longer-term interests and preparing to fight.

Among the minorities, the most notable are the Hazaras, a Persian-speaking ethnic group who have long been persecuted, and recently suffered heavy casualties in attacks that were reportedly carried out by elements linked to Isis. They make up a tenth of the population of Afghanistan, mostly living in central mountainous districts, with some in western Kabul. The great majority of Hazaras are Shi'a Muslims and the fear of a Taliban takeover is deeply embedded, so much so that militias are being trained and armed to withstand future Taliban actions.

The second reason for questioning an easy path to power for the Taliban is the determination of the Americans to prevent a future Taliban government hosting Isis or al-Qaida groups, some of whom are already active in the country. If that were to happen, the Pentagon would likely launch military action through special forces and CIA rather than ground troops.

As remote warfare becomes the dominant response to those threatening Western interests, standard US tactics now involve aircraft and drones firing stand-off missiles, private security contractors and support for militias. This is the same for other major states whenever threats arise and will be the case in Afghanistan. It is a pattern of control also being attempted against jihadi groups across the Sahel and East Africa as Isis and al-Qaida increase their influence there.

Left out of this strategy, of course, are the millions of ordinary people trying to just live their lives in peace, whether in Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Mozambique, or a dozen other countries.

While the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq were well-intentioned, they really just deferred the moments when the citizenries would have to decide how they chose to be governed.  We should have done Syria instead and just used air power to remove any future regimes that brutalized the populations.

July 2, 2021

Posted by orrinj at 2:47 PM


Clarence Thomas Really Wants to Get Rid of Qualified Immunity. The Rest of the Justices Don't Seem to Agree. (ELURA NANOS, Jul 2nd, 2021, Law & Crime)

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas took the opportunity Friday to again remind his fellow justices that it's time to seriously rethink the doctrine of qualified immunity. The court denied certiorari in Hoggard v. Rhodes, leaving in place the Eighth Circuit's ruling in favor of campus police who forced a college student to leave an area near a student union building. [...]

As Law&Crime has discussed at length, qualified immunity is a judge-created concept that shields federal and state officials from liability. It requires a plaintiff to show that the right of which they were deprived is either specifically codified by statute or is otherwise "clearly established" by case law at the time of the incident.  The doctrine, originally intended to put a manageable limit on post-Civil War lawsuits against police agencies in the South, has been often criticized in modern times for depriving victims of legal recourse even in grossly unfair contexts.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Remembering the "Fat Men's Clubs" That Begot Competitive EatingLong before Joey Chestnut conquered the Nathan's Famous, Americans worshiped a different breed of gurgitator (ELIOTT GROVER, 7/02/21, Inside Hook)

The Brooklyn Fat Men's baseball team traveled to Long Island to take on the Fat Men's Club of Flushing. Upon arriving, Brooklyn's starting nine crammed onto a hay scale. They weighed in at 2,211 lbs., or 245 per person. The New York Times described the team in a colorful article that ran on October 9, 1885. 

"They were all [formerly professional] baseball men ... since grown obese on beer and politics, but they were a lusty set of athletes and they declared that they could run their own bases and only wanted two small boys to assist the catcher."

After the weigh-in, the Brooklyn players positioned "resuscitating beer kegs ... at convenient intervals" while their captain addressed the media. Identified only as "Supervisor Jones," he did not hide his discriminatory approach to roster building. 

"I say with pride," Jones bellowed, "that no man is allowed in this organization who weighs less than 212 pounds." Leading by example, he tipped the scale at an impressive 325. "His general appearance," the reporter from The Times noted, "was that of the man in the moon in the gibbous state."

Jones was looking forward to the game, but dressing for it had proved challenging. He paid a boy 25 cents to help stuff him into his uniform. As the Brooklyn players finished their warmup, they noticed something was missing. Their opponents were nowhere to be seen. 

"The Flushing men," The Times reported, "had mysteriously disappeared, all save the captain, who was discovered peering over the fence in unspeakable awe. Upon the arrival of the massy Brooklynites, they had become stricken with remorse at their own puny showing, which would not average more than 225 pounds to the player." 

"The Brooklynites were highly indignant and so were the spectators, and their rage was with difficulty modified by frequent potations of the amber flood." In other words, the big boys got their drink on. 

Despite this story's anticlimactic ending, the day was not without drama. The wagon that had carted the "individual masses of rotund corpulency" from the train station to the ballpark nearly collapsed. 

If you start researching the Fat Men's Clubs that enjoyed prominent social status across America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, one of the first motifs you notice is that transportation was often perilous -- but not for the clubs' members.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


California sets rare governor recall election for September (Agence France-Presse, July 02, 2021)

Some 57 percent of likely voters surveyed in May said they would vote to keep Newsom, according to the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC).

Approval of Newsom's handling of the pandemic among likely voters shot up from 50 percent in January to 61 percent in May, the PPIC found.

The gulf between registered Democrats and Republicans in liberal California has more than doubled in percentage terms since Schwarzenegger's victory in 2003.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


US issues moratorium on federal executions (Agence France-Presse, July 02, 2021)

US Attorney General Merrick Garland on Thursday issued a moratorium on federal executions while a review of policy and procedures is pending to address "serious concerns" about the practice.

The move is a sharp break from the policies of former president Donald Trump's administration, which carried out a record number of executions.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Tucker Carlson and Glenn Greenwald's Shameless Marriage of Convenience (New Reoublic, Jul. 2nd, 2021)

"We know that the Democratic party and journalism in general has aligned with the CIA, NSA, and the FBI, and has aligned and merged with the security state," Greenwald told Carlson this week. "And so in response to the report you did, you would think other journalists ... would say we want to know whether the NSA is abusing their powers in order to spy on journalists they dislike. Instead, they mocked it."

In providing journalistic ballast to a story that so far appears to have none, Greenwald has made himself Carlson's willing partner in a potential lie. Their pairing has found its ultimate synergy in a story that combines Greenwald's righteous war against state surveillance and the mainstream media with Carlson's own narcissistic need to place himself at the center of the story. It would be a potentially perilous position for both, if either had anything to fear about their credibility. Instead, together they're pushing a story into the public consciousness that distorts and misrepresents the true threat of mass government surveillance.

They do nail the fact that their ideologies are not  aligned with the rest of the Republic.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


What actually is critical race theory anyway?Critical race theorists are interested not just in studying the law and systems of racism, but in changing them for the better. (David Miguel Gray, 7/02/21, Quartz)

There are a few beliefs commonly held by most critical race theorists.

First, race is not fundamentally or essentially a matter of biology, but rather a social construct. While physical features and geographic origin play a part in making up what we think of as race, societies will often make up the rest of what we think of as race. For instance, 19th- and early-20th-century scientists and politicians frequently described people of color as intellectually or morally inferior, and used those false descriptions to justify oppression and discrimination.

Second, these racial views have been codified into the nation's foundational documents and legal system. For evidence of that, look no further than the "Three-Fifths Compromise" in the Constitution, whereby slaves, denied the right to vote, were nonetheless treated as part of the population for increasing congressional representation of slave-holding states.

Third, given the pervasiveness of racism in our legal system and institutions, racism is not aberrant, but a normal part of life.

Fourth, multiple elements, such as race and gender, can lead to kinds of compounded discrimination that lack the civil rights protections given to individual, protected categories. For example, Crenshaw has forcibly argued that there is a lack of legal protection for Black women as a category. The courts have treated Black women as Black, or women, but not both in discrimination cases--despite the fact that they may have experienced discrimination because they were both.

These beliefs are shared by scholars in a variety of fields who explore the role of racism in areas such as education, healthcare, and history.

Finally, critical race theorists are interested not just in studying the law and systems of racism, but in changing them for the better.

Where they begin to run into trouble is when some advocates insist that racism is inherent in a certain group of people or in institutions generally and either or both are beyond remediation.  You can't oppose identity politics with identity politics and be either coherent or successful. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Robin DiAngelo Is Very Disappointed in the White People Making Her RichNice Racism--and the "anti-racism" consulting business--rakes in the bucks while losing hearts and minds. (MATT WELCH, 7.1.2021, reason)

This movement's journey from obscurity to ubiquity has been neck-snappingly brief--and measurably lucrative for its leading lights. "My average fee for an event in 2018 was $6,200," DiAngelo writes on her website's "Accountability" page. "In 2019, it was $9,200. In 2020 (as of August), it has been $14,000." In the book, she adds that she gives presentations on "whiteness and white fragility" on a "weekly basis."

Taking those numbers at face value, that's $728,000 a year just from speeches and workshops, to say nothing of book royalties and whatever the University of Washington is paying her. By most every yardstick, DiAngelo has achieved runaway success, lodging herself firmly in the top-earning 1 percent of the world's richest country.

But Nice Racism is an unrelentingly sour book, depicting the fight against systemic oppression as a joyless, never-ending slog through minefields of potential missteps, while relying to a comical degree on DiAngelo's exasperated encounters with people who have the temerity to disagree with her approach.

That latter description may sound uncharitable, but it's not. In a chapter titled "We Aren't Actually All That Nice," DiAngelo belatedly berates a (white male) London cab driver for telling her that he was sick of being called a racist and that he feared a group of black men who hung around his neighborhood. "Also worthy of note was his typical white lack of racial curiosity or humility about the limits of his knowledge," she snipped. "He had the author of a New York Times best-selling book who was in town to do interviews for the BBC in his cab, and he did not ask a single question about my thoughts on the matter." The nerve!

If you are a white person who has challenged DiAngelo in one of her seminars the past couple of years, you are probably in this book. There's "Sue and Bob," who reacted to her eight-point talk on "What's Problematic About Individualism?" by telling her that, no, they prefer treating people as individual human beings. "How could Sue and Bob have missed that forty-five minute presentation?" she huffed. "I was left wondering, yet again, what happens cognitively for so many white people in anti-racism education efforts that prevents them from actually hearing what is being presented."

There was "David," a white man who--after being asked to disclose his racial identity--chose an indigenous tribe he had just spent a few months living with. ("David held fast to his opening claim, which had a powerful impact on the seminar and which continued to direct our efforts and distract the group.") There was a white woman who complained that a DiAngelo-led webinar was not "advanced" enough for those who'd been doing such work for years. ("This move demonstrates an inability to think strategically about our own role in anti-racist endeavors.")

Then there were the white progressive participants of one presentation who, even after being told that "silence from a position of power is a power move," nonetheless declined DiAngelo's urgings to speak aloud about their experiences of "white socialization," and then complained afterward. "Given that in the case of racism, the worst fear of most white progressives is that they be perceived as racist, and both myself and the BIPOC people in the room gave them direct feedback that the effect of their silence was racism, how could they continue to hold back? What was going on?"

What indeed?

There's a palpable anxiety gnawing near the heart of DiAngelo's project, one that gives me a bit of hope in our fraught racial times. Sure, people are buying her books, shelling out five figures for her appearances, and being confronted with her ideas at workplace seminars. But are they really getting it?

Clearly, many are not, even among the self-selected group of progressive knowledge-class workers with a professed interest in DiAngelo's brand of anti-racism. 

If you focus on identity in these programs they are not just useless, which would be typical of all corporate training, but counterproductive.  When Action = Racism you've got a problem. 

July 1, 2021

Posted by orrinj at 6:09 PM


Postliberal Dogmatism and Determinism (nathan w. schlueter, 6/29/21, Law & Liberty)

For some time now, many "liberal conservatives" (Russell Kirk's approving term for Alexis de Tocqueville in The Conservative Mind) have repeatedly objected that conservative postliberal critics of America simply ignore the facts of American history. (My own contributions to this discussion date back to my Public Discourse exchange with Patrick Deneen in 2014.) The repeated postliberal claim that America was founded upon an anthropology of expressive individualism finds no support in the public speeches, writing, events, laws, and institutions that constitute American political identity.

To the contrary, those speeches, writings, events, and laws explicitly and repeatedly affirm, and provide for, the belief in a Providential God, the public good of religion, the natural law, the common good, moral limits on the market, the prohibition of obscenity, and the exclusive recognition and support for heterosexual monogamous marriage. It is not until late into the twentieth century that these beliefs and their political expression begin to erode. In nearly every case this is not done from the ground-up by democratic deliberation and decision-making, but is imposed from top-down by the Supreme Court relying upon scandalously bad evidence and arguments and in the face of strong democratic opposition.

Conservative postliberals simply have not responded to this objection. But this has not prevented them from gaining the attention of elite public institutions and publications, as well as the adulation of a growing segment of American conservatives who are encouraged, alongside their woke opponents, to indulge a sense of alienation from their regime.

Posted by orrinj at 5:59 PM


Republican Senators Urge Biden to End Trump-Initiated Trade War (Laura Davison, July 1, 2021, Bloomberg)

A group of Republican lawmakers asked President Joe Biden to end the "self-inflicted harm" his GOP predecessor, Donald Trump, caused in starting a multi-front trade war with China and European allies.

Seven Republican senators sent a letter to the White House asking Biden to repeal tariffs and other trade barriers that Trump implemented during his time in office affecting a wide range of industries, including agriculture, carmakers and manufacturers.

"An important first step would be to reduce barriers to trade with our allies," the letter said. "By doing so, we can stop damaging actions and retaliation and mend relationships while listening to businesses across the country that have suffered from the negative economic consequences."

The letter, dated Wednesday, was signed by Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Mike Lee of Utah and Deb Fischer of Nebraska.

Comic gold. 

Posted by orrinj at 3:25 PM


British geothermal site passes crucial milestone as firm plans four new power plants (Anmar Frangoul, 7/01/21, CNBC)

The U.K.'s fledgling geothermal energy sector has reached a new milestone after it was announced Thursday that a "proof of concept power plant" in Cornwall had started to produce geothermal steam.

The steam, which can be used to generate electricity, is created when water is extracted from a well measuring 5.1 kilometers deep.

According to Geothermal Engineering Ltd, the project at the United Downs Industrial Estate near the Cornish town of Redruth "is on track to deliver its first electricity during 2022." [...]

Described by the U.S. Department of Energy as a "vital, clean energy resource," geothermal energy refers to producing energy from underground heat. The DOE adds that geothermal energy "supplies renewable power around the clock and emits little or no greenhouse gases."

Posted by orrinj at 3:22 PM


Biologists Mask Up to Protect Bats (Yes, Bats) From Covid-19 (Eric Niiler, 7/01/21, Wired)

BAT BIOLOGISTS LIKE Dan Feller get excited every year for the summer field work season, a time to get out of the office and into the forest in search of their quarry--in this case, the 10 species that range throughout Maryland's mountains and woodlands. Bats are most active in the summer, because it's their breeding season, and its when their insect prey are most abundant.

But this summer is a bit different. Instead of capturing bats with ultrathin nets or special traps (don't worry, they don't get hurt), Feller and many of his colleagues across the country are counting them remotely with acoustic devices that record their sonar calls. That's because of the risk of humans transmitting the coronavirus to bats.

Posted by orrinj at 3:16 PM


A Florida Man Is Threatening to Sue an Artist Whose Invisible Sculpture Sold for $18,000, Saying He Came Up With the Idea First (Taylor Dafoe, June 30, 2021, artNet)

Earlier this month, an Italian artist named Salvatore Garau went viral when his "immaterial sculpture"--that is, a work of art made of literally nothing--sold for €15,000 ($18,300) at auction.

Articles about the sale was shared widely, often accompanied by captions of the "I could have done that" variety. Users posted pictures of blank spaces--their own invisible sculptures which could surely be had for a fraction of Garau's price. Many bemoaned the fact that they didn't think of it first. 

Then there was Tom Miller, a performance artist from Gainesville, Florida, who says he actually did do it first--and now he's filing a lawsuit against Garau to prove it. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:19 AM


Trans-Pacific trade is a big Brexit win (Joe Bradshaw, 7/01/21, Cap X)

Anyone who has lingering doubts about the benefits of cutting the EU's protectionist apron strings and embracing Global Britain should consider the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). 

More than just another acronym, the CPTPP - to which the UK has begun the accession process - is a free trade partnership with 11 signatories from Asia and the Americas (including Japan, Australia and Canada). It is home to half a billion people and amasses a total of $13.5 billion in GDP; that's 13.4% of global GDP.

The deal eliminates or reduces 95% of import tariffs. Countries are free to have their own standards and regulations, allowing the nations to trade freely without sacrificing quality or sovereignty. Members are also free to strike separate trade deals with non-member nations without permission from the bloc; the arrangement is thus far superior to the European Union.

There are many tangible benefits from CPTPP for the UK. We would become more secure as a nation through diversifying our supply chains, rendering us more robust in unprecedented situations such as the pandemic. It would also likely boost foreign direct investment into the UK, as it would mean treating investment from member nations' companies the same way as investment from domestic firms. And finally, we would see an increase to GDP of nearly £3bn, according to the Government's conservative estimate.

Posted by orrinj at 8:13 AM


'Another Round Top' : How a Civil War Hero Once Again Answered His Nation's Call (Brian Swartz, July 2021, History Net)

With his term expiring at midnight, January 9, Garcelon knew that his departure would leave a rudderless government. On January 5, he announced in Special Orders No. 45, that Chamberlain was "authorized and directed to protect the public property and institutions of the State until my successor is duly qualified." Garcelon's adjutant general, S.D. Leavitt, promptly organized Maine's "several counties...into the first militia division," with Chamberlain in command.

A Portland newspaper stated the obvious: "Gen. Chamberlain is now the only lawful State authority...until a Governor is chosen and qualified." The war hero was "the sole possessor of executive power....He will see that the peace is kept and that law and order prevail."

In early January, Republican legislators posed 27 questions to the state's supreme court--convening now in Bangor, 75 miles away by train from Augusta--and, along with Chamberlain and countless other Mainers, awaited the justices' official decision.

As Chamberlain reached the capital and settled into an obscure State House office, a newspaper reported that "all his movements are carefully observed." By January 9, he had arranged with Augusta police to place officers in the State House and to arrest "all parties...breaking the peace."

Discovering "unauthorized persons" in the Executive Council chamber, Chamberlain ordered them out, locked the door, and pocketed the key. Thronged by "citizens...asking and urging all manner of things," he set a police guard outside his office door.

Chamberlain summoned to Augusta a few trusted friends--all veteran officers as well--and made them aides. He then sent packing "the bummer guard" allegedly protecting the State House. Wiring militia officers not to organize their units unless directed by him, he worked with Augusta Mayor Charles A. Nash to keep sufficient city police on hand.

Because Chamberlain had served four terms as a Republican governor, Grand Old Party interests in the state were convinced they owned him. The Fusionists, on the other hand, tried to intimidate Chamberlain, figuring he was just one man. Both parties underestimated him.

Wanting the crisis resolved in Republican favor, U.S. Senator James Blaine of Maine even dangled a juicy political bribe. He would resign his seat in Washington, D.C., and back Chamberlain as his replacement if the general supported the Republicans. The bribe failed.

Violent threats circulated. The Bangor Commercial, for one, delivered a "bitter attack...calling me a traitor, & calling on the people to send me speedily to a traitor's doom"--execution, in other words, Chamberlain informed his wife, Fanny.

The rebellion peaked January 14. Chamberlain would call it "another Round Top, although few knew of it."

"There were threats all morning of overpowering the police & throwing me out of the window," he reported to Fanny, "& the ugly looking crowd seemed like men who could be brought to do it (or to try it)."

When, he noted, angry partisans threatened "fire & blood" or cajoled him "to call out the militia at once...I stood it firmly through, feeling sure of my arrangements & of my command of the situation."

That afternoon he learned that subversives planned "to arrest me for treason" and toss him "in prison while they inaugurated a reign of terror & blood." Perhaps Chamberlain saw through the smokescreen and called their bluff, because "they foamed & fumed...all that evening," but "that plan failed." Later that night, he was informed of another threat in which he "was to be kidnapped--overpowered & carried away & detained" in parts unknown, "so that the rebels could carry on their work."

Wartime memories were sparked. "I had the strange sense again--of sleeping inside a picket line," he wrote.

Posted by orrinj at 8:01 AM


Why Stay Silent?: The crisis in the Holy Land is 'our issue,' too. (Jordan Denari Duffner, June 29, 2021, Commonweal)

 Palestinians in the West Bank face a host of constant (yet underreported) injustices: frequent killings at the hands of Israeli forces, warrantless arrests and incarceration (often of children), confiscation of land and demolition of homes, restrictions on travel and access to hospitals and holy sites, internal displacement and foreign exile, vigilante violence and intimidation by Israeli settlers, and systematic humiliation at checkpoints and border crossings. Particularly heartbreaking are the stories of Palestinian women forced to give birth at Israeli-controlled checkpoints because they were not allowed through in time to reach the hospital. Some have even lost children as a result.

Palestinians who live in the impoverished and densely populated Strip compare it to an "open-air prison."
These realities confront not only Muslims, but Christians, too. In Israel proper and the West Bank, many of the historic churches I have visited during pilgrimages have been set on fire and spray-painted with hateful messages by Israeli Jewish vandals. In Bethlehem, the West Bank town where Jesus was born, a towering cement wall snakes through the city. Billed as a "separation wall" to keep Israel safe from Palestinian aggression, the wall ignores the intended border for an eventual two-state solution. Instead in many places it slices through Palestinian land, cutting off family members from each other and making daily life a struggle.

Many Americans assume that the West Bank and Gaza are fully autonomous Palestinian territories. But Israel exerts considerable control over the West Bank and Gaza through military occupation, and Palestinians there lack many political rights. They liken the West Bank to a piece of Swiss cheese: small pockets governed by the Palestinian authority exist within broader Israeli control. Israel's construction of housing for Jewish Israeli settlers in the West Bank--often supported financially by American Christian congregations, but illegal under international law--further impedes any potential two-state solution. For many Palestinians, it's a continuation of the region's tortured history of land confiscation and displacement, and a reminder of the broken promises of statehood for indigenous Palestinians made by the international community after the 1948 creation of the State of Israel as a Jewish homeland.   

The situation in Gaza is even more dire than in the West Bank. Palestinians who live in the impoverished and densely populated Strip compare it to an "open-air prison," in which Israeli forces have set up a blockade of basic goods, exert control over borders and airspace, and implement tight restrictions on entry and exit. These and other Israeli measures amount to "collective punishment," illegal under international humanitarian law. Successive Israeli bombing campaigns (the latest killed over two hundred and fifty people) have reduced much of Gaza to rubble; even so, Israel continues to thwart the rebuilding of Palestinian homes and businesses. Although Israel withdrew settlements and permanent troops from Gaza years ago, the U.N. still considers it an "occupying power" there. None of this absolves groups like Hamas for its targeting of Israeli civilians in rocket attacks--it killed thirteen people in Israel during the recent attacks--but it does provide context for the news stories we consume. 

Today, life in the territory that Israel controls is fundamentally unequal. The Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem and Human Rights Watch both characterize conditions across Gaza, the West Bank, and Israel proper as de facto "apartheid," since the Israeli state is "advancing and cementing the supremacy of one group" over another. The Catholic bishops in the Holy Land have also raised warnings, especially about the impact of Israel's 2018 "Nation State Law." The legislation, according to the bishops, "provide[s] a constitutional and legal basis for discrimination among Israel's citizens," privileging Jewish citizens above all others. They have called for its repeal, noting that Israel's status as a democracy is jeopardized if its non-Jewish citizens--including Christians--have fewer rights.

The reality of Israeli dominance over Palestinians makes violence against Palestinians a fact of life in the region. It shouldn't take attacks on Israelis alone for us to notice. The loss of each life--Israeli, Palestinian, or otherwise--is a travesty, and as Catholics we are called to secure the dignity and promote the flourishing of all. We also need to pay special attention to the "least of these," the ones who are suffering the most harm, and stand up on their behalf.

Posted by orrinj at 7:38 AM


MAGA Maoism (J. BRADFORD DELONG, 6/30/21, Project Syndicate)

There is a disturbingly strong historical analogy to the Republican Party's transformation into a cult of personality: the Communist Party of China under Mao Zedong. At the CPC's Lu Mountain Plenary Meeting in 1958, Marshall Peng Dehuai pointed out that Mao's judgment was flawed, and that he could no longer be trusted as primus inter pares. The only question was whether the other party grandees could move ahead without Mao's charismatic link to the party's gullible base.

But Mao struck first. While party officials like Peng Zhen, Luo Ruiqing, Lu Dingyi, Yang Shangkun, and Deng Xiaoping were purged, Peng and Liu Shaoqi both turned up dead, and the rest of the grandees got with the program.

That program was the total chaos of the Cultural Revolution. Recognizing that those who had benefited from the initial purges would need to be kept insecure and toothless, Mao continued to shake things up. Chen Boda was purged, Lin Biao was eliminated, and Deng - with his reputation for bureaucratic competence - was brought back into the fold, only to be purged again after being threatened with the promotion of Wang Hongwen (backed by the rest of the "Gang of Four" and Kang Sheng) and then Hua Guofeng.

Through all this shuffling, only two personnel qualifications mattered: obsequiousness and powerlessness. If the official in question fulfilled both, he would be praised, honored, and promoted. If he lacked one or the other, he would be taken down a peg, sent to work as a pipefitter, or assassinated (the one exception was Zhou Enlai, whose unfailing sycophancy perhaps made up for the fact that he wasn't entirely powerless).

This process could be sustained because there was always an ample number of party officials who saw the chaos as an opportunity for their own advancement. But while deferentially doing Mao's bidding could yield career advantages, he was old, low on energy, and on his way to meeting Karl Marx in the great beyond. So, the court intrigue continued, with officials falling over each other to "work toward the Chairman," even though nobody but Mao's nephew and closest aide could claim to understand his incoherent grunts and scrawls.

Even after Mao's death, various factions competed to show that they had been truer to his wishes than anyone else. Mao's immediate successor as party chairman, Hua, continued to quote Mao - "If you are in charge, I am at ease" - while extolling the successes of the Cultural Revolution. Wang and the rest of the Gang of Four boasted that they were Mao's true ideological heirs. Even Deng maintained quietly that he had remained in Mao's favor after his second purging, and that it had been Mao, via Wang Dongxing, rather than Deng's military allies, who had protected him from the Gang of Four.

The comparisons to the Republican Party under Trump should now be obvious. The most sycophantic and impotent Republicans are duly selected by Trump for promotion, while those with any modicum of power or self-respect are cut off at the knees.

Posted by orrinj at 7:36 AM


Credit Suisse CEO says sustainable investing no longer means lower returns (Anmar Frangoul, 7/01/21, CNBC)

The CEO of banking giant Credit Suisse told CNBC that the coronavirus pandemic had "substantially accelerated the trend towards ESG and sustainability" and sought to highlight the investment opportunity within the overall space.

"The demand that we see -- both from our private clients, but also institutional clients -- for ESG compatible products is ever increasing," Thomas Gottstein, who was speaking to CNBC's Geoff Cutmore, said. "It's clearly seen as, also, an opportunity to improve returns."

"There is no contradiction of sustainable investments and sustainable returns, quite the opposite actually," Gottstein added. "In many cases, sustainable investments are actually higher returning than non-sustainable investments."

Posted by orrinj at 7:35 AM

60-40 NATION:

Poll: Big Majority Supports Biden Spending Plans, Bipartisan Or Not (Josh Israel, July 01 | 2021,  American Independent

More than three-fifths of likely voters want Congress to pass President Joe Biden's spending plans, even if the Democratic majority has to do so without a single Republican vote, according to a new poll.

The survey, conducted by Data for Progress for Invest in America, which campaigns for public investment in infrastructure, was released Tuesday. It found 62 percent support for passage of Biden's American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan through the budget reconciliation process, which allows the Senate to pass taxation and spending bills by a simple majority vote.

Posted by orrinj at 7:33 AM


San Jose plans to be first U.S. city requiring firearms owners to pay back taxpayers for gun violence (Nora Mishanec, June 30, 2021, SF Chronicle)

A month after a gunman killed nine workers at a rail yard in San Jose, the city is taking steps to become the first in the nation to require firearms owners to buy insurance and pay fees to relieve taxpayers of the costs of responding to gun violence.

The San Jose City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to draft an ordinance that would order gun owners in the city to obtain insurance and pay an annual fee to subsidize police responses, ambulances, medical treatment and other municipal expenses related to shootings, injuries and deaths.

Posted by orrinj at 7:30 AM


The Senator Who Decided to Tell the Truth: A Michigan Republican spent eight months searching for evidence of election fraud, but all he found was lies. (Tim Alberta, JUNE 30, 2021, The Atlantic)

Right around the time Donald Trump was flexing his conspiratorial muscles on Saturday night, recycling old ruses and inventing new boogeymen in his first public speech since inciting a siege of the U.S. Capitol in January, a dairy farmer in Michigan's Upper Peninsula sat down to supper. It had been a trying day.

The farmer, Ed McBroom, battled sidewinding rain while working his 320 acres, loading feed and breeding livestock and at one point delivering a distressed calf backwards from its mother's womb, before hanging the newborn animal by its hind legs for respiratory drainage. Now, having slipped off his manure-caked rubber boots, McBroom groaned as he leaned into his home-grown meal of unpasteurized milk and spaghetti with hamburger sauce. He would dine peacefully at his banquet-length antique table, surrounded by his family of 15, unaware that in nearby Ohio, the former president was accusing him--thankfully, this time not by name--of covering up the greatest crime in American history.

A few days earlier, McBroom, a Republican state senator who chairs the Oversight Committee, had released a report detailing his eight-month-long investigation into the legitimacy of the 2020 election. The stakes could hardly have been higher. Against a backdrop of confusion and suspicion and frightening civic friction--with Trump claiming he'd been cheated out of victory, and anecdotes about fraud coursing through every corner of the state--McBroom had led an exhaustive probe of Michigan's electoral integrity. His committee interviewed scores of witnesses, subpoenaed and reviewed thousands of pages of documents, dissected the procedural mechanics of Michigan's highly decentralized elections system, and scrutinized the most trafficked claims about corruption at the state's ballot box in November. McBroom's conclusion hit Lansing like a meteor: It was all a bunch of nonsense.

"Our clear finding is that citizens should be confident the results represent the true results of the ballots cast by the people of Michigan," McBroom wrote in the report. "There is no evidence presented at this time to prove either significant acts of fraud or that an organized, wide-scale effort to commit fraudulent activity was perpetrated in order to subvert the will of Michigan voters."

For good measure, McBroom added: "The Committee strongly recommends citizens use a critical eye and ear toward those who have pushed demonstrably false theories for their own personal gain."

This reflected a pattern throughout the report--a clear and clinical statement of facts, accompanied by more animated language that expressed disgust with the grifters selling deception to the masses and disappointment with the voters who were buying it. Sitting at his dinner table, I told the senator that his writing occasionally took a tone of anger. He smirked. "I don't know that I ever wrote angry," McBroom replied. "But I tried to leave no room for doubt."

Posted by orrinj at 7:27 AM


Powerlink looks to battery storage to help solve grid stability problems (Giles Parkinson, 1 July 2021, Renew Economy)

Queensland based transmission company Powerlink says it will deploy battery storage to help solve grid stability problems such as system strength as part of a new multi-faceted approach to handling the surge in wind and solar generation.

Battery storage has suddenly emerged as a solution to grid issues that many engineers thought could only be solved by synchronous generation or spinning machines, and the newly affirmed capabilities of battery inverters is good news for the inevitable switch to a grid dominated by wind and solar.

Posted by orrinj at 7:17 AM


Republicans Fighting To Keep Confederate Statuary In Capitol (Josh Israel, July 01 | 2021, American independent)

A bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives voted on Tuesday to remove monuments to prominent racists and Confederate traitors from display in the U.S. Capitol. But a group of 12 House Republicans wants to give a state's congressional delegation the authority to veto the removal of its home state's statues.

Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC) filed a bill on Tuesday to "prohibit the removal of a statue provided by a State for display in National Statuary Hall unless two-thirds of the members of the State's congressional delegation approve the removal."

Republican Reps. Brian Babin (TX), Mo Brooks (AL), Ted Budd (NC), Rick Crawford (AR), Jeff Duncan (SC), Matt Gaetz (FL), Marjorie Taylor Greene (GA), Kevin Hern (OK), Doug LaMalfa (CA), Thomas Massie (KY), and Steve Womack (AR) are original co-sponsors.

And then they wonder why there are no black Republicans.

Posted by orrinj at 7:11 AM


Iran conditions return to nuclear deal on US commitment to never withdraw again (TOI STAFF and AP, 7/01/21, Times of Israel) 

Ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi said such assurances were needed to build confidence in US and European adherence to the deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and enable the economic benefits that the deal is supposed to bring to his country.

Former US president Donald Trump withdrew from the accord in 2018 and reapplied sanctions that have crippled Iran's economy. Iran responded by dropping some of its own commitments to the deal, which was also signed by Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China.

America having broken the deal, Iran ought not just accept the status quo ante. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:09 AM


With robots dispensing medication, startup hopes to halt deadly errors (SHOSHANNA SOLOMON , 7/01/21, Times of Israel)

RescueDose, an Israeli medical device company, has developed a robot that automatically dispenses medication to patients, cutting down on human error that can occur when liquid medications are prepared.

The World Health Organization said in 2017 that medication errors caused at least one death every day and injured some 1.3 million people annually in the US alone. These errors cost $42 billion annually, or almost 1% of total global health expenditure. That year, the WHO launched a global initiative to reduce medication associated errors globally by 50% over the next five years.