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.