July 17, 2021

Posted by orrinj at 5:08 PM


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.

Posted by orrinj at 8:57 AM


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