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.