September 12, 2022

Posted by orrinj at 6:52 PM


A key weapon in Ukraine's blitz (The Monitor's Editorial Board, September 12, 2022, CS Monitor)

[A]s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said at the start of the war when he bravely stayed put in Kyiv, Ukraine's best weapon is the truth.

Unlike most Russians, Ukrainians can easily follow reports of the war - both defeats and victories. Their military can more easily recruit willing volunteers, whereas Russia has seen large defections of its volunteer fighters and has experienced difficulties in enticing Russian men to sign up for service in Ukraine.

Even referring to the war as a war can land a Russian in jail. A poll in August by independent pollster Levada found 48% of Russians pay little or no attention to the events in Ukraine. Most media are tightly controlled by the Kremlin.

Ukraine's ability to command truth as a weapon includes one clever ploy: Many of the captured Russian soldiers are handed a cellphone to call their mothers to reveal details about the war. This has spread news about corruption and bad leadership in the military.

Those problems may help explain Russia's latest battlefield retreat. As Russian blogger Yuri Podolyaka wrote to his 2.3 million Telegram followers last week, the Russian people could soon cease to trust "the government as a whole."

Live not in the Right bubble.

Posted by orrinj at 6:43 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:08 PM


Prominent Republicans join coalition to support Whitmer for reelection (Steve Neavling, Sep 12, 2022, Detroit Matters)

More than 150 Michigan Republicans banded together to launch a group supporting Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's reelection bid, her campaign announced Monday.

The group includes business leaders, former state lawmakers, an ex-congressman, and top staff from the Republican administrations of Gov. John Engler and Rick Snyder. Jeff Timmer, the former head of the Michigan Republican Party, also signed on.

"We, as Michiganders, know what a great place this state is to live, work, and recreate. We also know we have a bright future," Bill Parfet, chairman and CEO of Northwood Group, said in a statement. "To reach that future, we all need to work together to revamp education, infrastructure, effective government, job creation, safer communities, vital core cities, and preserving the state's incredible national resources. We all want the same outcomes."

The formation of the group comes as the Michigan Republican Party struggles to unify ahead of the November election. With far-right candidates for governor, secretary of state, and attorney general, the party has alienated moderate Republicans as it continues to echo former President Donald Trump's election lies and push an anti-abortion agenda.

Posted by orrinj at 5:57 PM


Man Murdered Wife, Shot Daughter After Being Sucked Down 'Q Rabbit Hole,' Family Confirms (Will Sommer, Philippe Naughton, Sep. 12th, 2022, Daily Beast)

A Michigan man's obsession with the pro-Trump QAnon conspiracy theory culminated in a Sunday incident in which he murdered his wife and badly injured one of his children, his daughter told The Daily Beast.

Posted by orrinj at 5:19 PM


Luke Mogelson on the Far-Right, the Militia Movement, and the Threat of Trumpism: And Other Lessons From His New Book The Storm is Here (Luke Mogelson, September 12, 2022, LitHub)

It's no secret that right wing extremism has been on the rise over the last few decades in the United States, a militia-based movement that came to forefront of national consciousness on January 6, 2021, as an unruly mob stormed the Capitol Building. We talked to Luke Mogelson, author of The Storm is Here: Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, Three Percenters, about what it all means, and where it might be going. [...]

LH: In the book you have a line, after relating your experiences with war and violence in Iraq and Syria: "Were large scale violence to erupt in the US, it would be something different: A war fueled not by injury but by delusion." Can you expand on that?

LM: Right-wing militarism emerges from a sense of victimhood. Yet right-wing militants are overwhelmingly white heterosexual Christian men--no doubt the least victimized demographic in American history. Those who exploit right-wing fear and anger for political or financial gain resolve this paradox by inventing fictional grievances and phantoms of oppression.

These inventions run the gamut from nativist propaganda (an illegitimate Black president, an invasion of Muslim and Hispanic immigrants, an Antifa insurgency) to outlandish conspiracy theories (a pandemic engineered by Bill Gates and George Soros, a cabal of Democratic pedophiles overseeing an international sex-trafficking industry, a Venezuelan plot to flip electronic votes from Biden to Trump), but they are all illusory.

In contrast, every civil war I've covered has been premised on real grievances, real oppression, real violation. When I've asked frontline soldiers on any side of a given civil conflict why they were risking their lives, they have almost always responded with concrete, rational answers, be it the Talib whose village was oc­cupied by foreigners or the Yazidi whose daughter was enslaved by ISIS or the Syrian whom the regime kidnapped and tortured.

The recent invasion of Ukraine, on the other hand, offers an interesting comparison with our situation in the U.S. While Ukrainians are obviously resisting genuine oppression, Russians have fabricated a slew of fictional grievances to rationalize their unprovoked aggression (from accusing Ukraine of developing nuclear and biological weapons to characterizing its leaders as genocidal Nazis). Tellingly, many pro-Trump pundits and activists in the US, such as Tucker Carlson, have embraced and amplified these falsehoods while expressing their admiration and affinity for Vladimir Putin.

Posted by orrinj at 12:28 PM


Arizona's Latino voters and political independents could spell midterm defeats for MAGA candidates (Gina Woodall, 9/12/22, The Conversation)

The victories of extremist GOP candidates and open support of baseless conspiracy theories have added a volatile ingredient to the politics of Arizona, where a historically conservative electorate is undergoing dramatic political shifts due to changing demographics.

Over the past 10 years, residents who identify solely as white saw their numbers shrink from 73% in 2010 to 60% in 2020. At the same time, the number of residents who identified as more than one race grew from 3.4% in 2010 to nearly 14% in 2020.

In all, Arizona has close to 7.5 million residents, and over 30% of them identify as Latino. Over the past decade, the state's Latino population grew from 1.9 million to 2.2 million. By some estimates, Latinos could make up as much as 50% of the state's population by 2050.

If national statistics are any indication, Latino voters tend to support Democrats. In a March 2022 poll, about 48% of Latinos nationwide considered themselves Democrats, and only 23% identified as Republican.

In Arizona, the numbers are similar.

According to a 2022 study, Latinos are more likely to be Democrats than non-Latinos are, with 45% of Latinos affiliating with the Democratic Party, compared with 28% of non-Latinos. Less than 15% of Latinos are registered as Republicans, the report found, and 40% are registered as "other" and are not affiliated with either major party.

The growth of Latino voters in Arizona contributed to Joe Biden's win in 2020 - and also the elections of Democrats Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema to the U.S. Senate. [...]

Given the increase in Latino voters in the state, it is no surprise that tightening immigration laws is an issue among the GOP, especially among Trump supporters.

In fact, Lake wasted little time after her primary win to use incendiary language in proclaiming her first goal if elected governor in November.

"Day 1," she wrote on Twitter. "I take my hand off the Bible, give the Oath of Office and we Declare an Invasion on our Southern Border ..."

Posted by orrinj at 12:24 PM


Gas prices keep plunging (Matt Phillips, 9/12/22,  Axios)

What we're watching: The futures prices for "reformulated blendstock for oxygenate blending," or RBOB. This wholesale gasoline benchmark tends to move in advance of the retail gasoline prices you see while filling up.

It's down more than 10% in the last 10 trading sessions, suggesting lower retail prices are still to come.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Energy crisis: Why we benefit from darker cities (Deutsche-Welle, 9/12/22)

The International Dark Sky Association, an Arizona-based NGO, estimates that about one-third of all outdoor lighting burns at night without benefit. Even before the energy crisis and higher prices, shutting off this fruitless lighting would save $3 billion (€2.9 billion) a year.

Since fossil fuels are still the main source of energy worldwide, simply switching off useless lights helps reduce air pollution and harmful emissions.

In India, for example, extreme lighting emits 12 million tons of CO2 per year, according to Pavan Kumar of the Rhani Lakshmi Bai Central Agricultural University in the state of Uttar Pradesh.

That's about half as much as the country's total air and sea traffic per year. 

Today, more than 80% of people worldwide live under light-polluted skies. In Europe and the US, the figure is as high as 99%, meaning people no longer experience real darkness.

Sufficient darkness at night is also good for health. Studies have demonstrated the link between artificial light and eye injury, sleeplessness, obesity and in some cases depression.

Much is related to melatonin, a hormone that is released when it gets dark.

"When we don't get that hormone, when we don't produce that hormone because we're exposed to so much light in our apartment, or as a shift worker, then the whole working of this biological clock system becomes problematic," said Christopher Kyba, a scientist at the Potsdam-based German Research Center for Geosciences.

A 2020 study from the US shows that children and adolescents who live in areas with a lot of artificial light get less sleep and suffer more often from emotional problems.

The introduction of artificial light is "one of the most dramatic changes we've made to the biosphere," said Kyba. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The truth about Albania's non-existent wind power industry (Deutsche-Welle, 9/12/22)

The Lezha mountain range in northern Albania looks down over the Adriatic Sea. Here, in the not-too-distant future, an extensive wind farm is due to start generating power. This is an extraordinary milestone in wind power generation in a region where copious wind isn't extraordinary at all.

Albania is blessed with hundreds of superlative locations for both on- and offshore wind power generation yet sadly, nowhere in all of Albania - neither on land nor off its 345- km-long (215-mile-long) coastline, is a single turbine churning the wind to produce energy.

In April this year, the Albanian government finally gave Biopower Green Energy and Marseglia Group, an Albanian-Italian venture, the go-ahead for Albania's first ever onshore wind project.

"Albania! Albania! You border on the Adriatic, your land is mostly mountainous and your chief export is [energy]!"

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Floating Solar Farms Are a Game Changer (Eric Krebs, September 12, 2022, Reasons to be Cheerful)

The sun's power is virtually infinite -- opportunities to collect and make use of it are not. As demand for renewable energy increases, so does the need for places to generate it.  

This need has set off a global scramble for real estate on which to build the green energy infrastructure the world desperately needs to avert a climate catastrophe. This is especially true for large solar arrays, which take up vast amounts of acreage. But over the last few years, a technological evolution has resulted in solar farms that take up no land at all.

The most recent major example went into operation in July: an undulating array of 12,000 solar panels 100 miles southwest of Lisbon bobbing atop the reservoir of Portugal's Alqueva dam.

With a span of four soccer fields and a peak capacity of five megawatts, the Alqueva Floating Solar Power Plant, built by Portugal's main public utility EDP, is the largest floating solar farm in Europe, generating enough electricity to meet the needs of more than 30 percent of the region's population. It's part of a rising tide of floating solar -- or "floatovoltaic" -- power plants that are proving the renewable revolution need not stop at land's end. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Grid demand hits record low as rooftop PV takes bigger bite out of coal power's lunch (Giles Parkinson 12 September 2022, Renew Economy)

Grid demand in Queensland, Australia's most coal dependent state, hit a record low on Sunday as the growth of rooftop solar PV took a bigger bite out of the traditional midday lunch of the state's coal generators.

According to the Australian Energy Market Operator, Queensland's minimum demand hit a record low of 3,469MW at 1pm on Sunday. This beat the previous record of 3,488MW set in winter on August 20, 2022, and AEMO says it marks the first minimum demand record in spring 2022.

Some of the generation was being soaked up by exports to NSW, the state's pumped hydro generators, and the state's first big battery at Wandoan South which was charging up at a rate of 50MW at that point.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Russia is facing defeat in Putin's gas war against the European Union (Aura Sabadus, 9/11/22,  Atlantic Council)

A week after Russian energy giant Gazprom suspended gas exports to Germany via Nord Stream 1, Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened on September 7 to cut remaining supplies and leave "the West to freeze" if it attempted to cap oil and gas prices. Such statements would have thrown markets into a spin and created political panic only a few months ago but that is now no longer the case. Instead, there are signs Putin may have overplayed his hand and could be about to lose his gas war against Europe.

For more than a year, Gazprom has kept European energy markets on tenterhooks. The Russian company reduced this year's overall gas supplies to Europe by 40% compared to 2021, limiting exports to major buyers or completely suspending deliveries to companies or countries that refused to yield to political pressure. The tactic has pushed European gas prices to all-time highs, soaring ten times above the five-year average as companies and governments scrambled to find immediate solutions and avert an energy crisis of unprecedented proportions with winter looming.

However, Europe appears to be adjusting to Russia's tactics. Although prices remain very volatile and well above the averages witnessed in recent years, they have already dropped more than 40% since reaching record highs at the start of September. Meanwhile, there are growing indications that markets are finding solutions to the new circumstances, inspiring cautious optimism that the coming winter season may not be as bleak as many in Europe initially feared.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


In Defense of Liberalism (Steven Smith, Sep. 11th, 2022, Public Discourse)

Fukuyama begins with a definition of liberalism borrowed from the English philosopher John Gray that stresses four main features of the doctrine. Liberalism is individualist; it values liberty and autonomy, especially the rights to property and the rights to freedom of speech above all else. It is egalitarian; it ascribes equal human worth to all men and women. It is universalist; it values persons independent of their membership in particular tribes, states, and nations. And it is meliorist; it believes in human progress, but as something to be achieved moderately and not in wholesale revolutionary transformations.

Fukuyama provides a useful walking tour--probably the best part of the book--of the various pathologies of liberal individualism. From the right, during the 1970s a philosophy of freedom and autonomy morphed into a doctrine of "neo-liberalism" or libertarianism that stresses property rights and market liberty above all else. Neo-liberalism was the creation of economists like Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, which then became something like the official ideology of Ronald Reagan's America and Margaret Thatcher's Great Britain. It was applied with often brutal consequences in the recently liberated countries of the former Soviet empire. The result was to turn liberalism into a version of Gordon Gekko's "greed is good."

From the left, liberal individualism morphed into a form of identity politics. The right to equal recognition and respect owed to each individual became the rights of particular identity groups to special consideration. Since there is no such thing as an individual outside a group, like Robinson Crusoe on a desert island, liberalism must give more attention to the surrounding cultures that shape individual identity. Multiculturalism thus became a formula for dividing Americans by replacing the emphasis on individual rights with group rights, creating a kind of arms race to achieve special victim status.

Both of these, Fukuyama correctly argues, are corruptions of liberalism that need to be resisted. The most powerful contemporary alternative to liberalism is the rise of ethno-nationalism in Russia, China, India, Hungary, and the United States. Nationalism could be a called a form of right-wing identity politics because it takes national membership as a trump card of inclusion and exclusion. Nationalists begin from the commonsense supposition that the national state is the basic unit of political order that must be defended in order to ensure national security and the rule of law. But nationalism today means much more than this. It is not simply a matter of securing borders from "invasion," but of determining who is the real American and who is not. It is a way of dividing citizens into rival and competing camps of ins and outs, who belongs and who is "other." According to the nationalist writer Glenn Ellmers, more than half of actual Americans "are not Americans in any meaningful sense of the term."

The Identitarians are right to hate America. Created beings are individuals--which is why each gets a say in government, economics and religion--but have no Identity, which is an attempt to convey extra worth by virtue of ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc.. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


"Sad but not unhappy": J.R.R. Tolkien's vision of sorrow and joy (Ralph C. Wood, 5 September 2022, ABC REligion & Ethics)

Gandalf, the Christ-like wizard who quite literally lays down his life for his friends, knows that he is an unworthy bearer of the Ring -- not because he has evil designs that he wants secretly to accomplish, but rather because his desire to do good is so great. Gandalf's native pity, when combined with the omnipotent strength of the Ring, would transform him into an all-forgiving, justice-denying magus, not a figure befitting the origins of his wizard-name in the Anglo-Saxon word wys ("wise").

Lady Galadriel, the elven queen, also refuses the Ring of coercion. It would make her enormous beauty mesmerising. Those who had freely admired her loveliness would have no choice but to worship her slavishly. Rare among modern writers, Tolkien understood that evil's subtlest semblance is not with the ugly but with the gorgeous. "I shall not be dark", Galadriel warns, "but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night! Fair as the Sea and the Sun and the Snow upon the Mountain! Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning! Stronger than the foundations of the earth. All shall love me and despair!"

The hobbits are worthy opponents of the allurement of the Ring exactly because their life-aims are so very modest. Wanting nothing more than to preserve the freedom of their own peaceable Shire, they have no grandiose ambitions. Their meekness uniquely qualifies them to destroy the Ring in the Cracks of Doom. Theirs is a Quest that can be accomplished by the small even more aptly than by the great -- by ordinary folks far more than conventional heroes. In fact, the figure who gradually emerges as the rightful successor to Frodo is the least likely hobbit of them all, the comically inept, grammar-slaughtering, xenophobic -- but also name-fulfilling creature -- Samwise Gamgee.

Precisely in the unlikely heroism of the small but doughty does Tolkien's pre-Christian world become most Christian and joyful. Whether in the ancient Nordic and Germanic, or else in the Greek and Roman worlds, only the strong and extraordinary are capable of heroism. The great man stands apart from his mediocre kith. He outdistances them in every way, whether in courage or knowledge.

It is not so in Middle-earth. The greatness of the Nine Walkers lies in the modesty of both their abilities and accomplishments. Their strength lies in their weakness, in their solidarity as a company unwilling to wield controlling power over others. It turns them into literal com-panis -- those who break bread together. Though the Fellowship contains representatives from all of the Free Peoples, some of them have been historic enemies -- especially the dwarves and the elves. Yet no shallow notion of diversity binds them together. They are united not only by their common hatred of evil, but also by their ever-increasing, ever more self-surrendering love for each other. Through their long communal struggle, they learn that there is a power greater than mere might. It springs not chiefly from the foreswearing of force, but from minds and hearts united in a high and holy calling.

The animating power of this Company is the much-maligned virtue called pity. It is a word that has come to have malodorous connotations, as if it entailed a certain condescension toward its recipients -- as if the one who grants pity stands above them in moral and spiritual superiority. Knowing well that pity was the quality that Nietzsche most despised in Christianity, but also that the word derives from the antique Roman elevation of pietas as a fundamental reverence toward everything to which we owe our lives, Tolkien transforms the term into the epic's chief virtue.

Frodo had learned the meaning of pity from his Uncle Bilbo. When he first obtained the Ring from the vile creature called Gollum, Bilbo had the chance to kill him but did not. Frodo is perplexed by this refusal. It is a pity, he contends, that Bilbo did not slay such an evil one. This phrase angers the wise Gandalf. It prompts him to make the single most important declaration in the entire Ring epic:

"Pity? It was pity that stayed his hand. Pity, and Mercy: not to strike without need. And he has been well rewarded, Frodo. Be sure that [Bilbo] took so little hurt from the evil, and escaped in the end, because he began his ownership of the Ring so. With Pity."

"I am sorry, "said Frodo. "But ... I do not feel any pity for Gollum ... He deserves death."

"Deserves it! I daresay he does" [replies Gandalf]. "Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement ... [T]he pity of Bilbo will rule the fate of many -- yours not least."

Gandalf the pre-Christian wizard here announces the unstrained quality of Christian mercy that is completely unknown to the pagan world. Not to grant the wicked their just penalty is, for the ancient Greeks, to commit an even greater injustice. As a creature far more sinning than sinned against, Gollum thus deserves his misery. He has committed Cain's crime of fratricide in acquiring the Ring. Even so, Gandalf insists on pity, despite Frodo's protest that Gollum be given justice. If all died who warrant punishment, none would live, answers Gandalf. Many perish who have earned life, Gandalf declares, and yet who can restore them? Neither hobbits nor humans can live by the stones of merit alone.

Hence Gandalf's call for pity and patience: the willingness to forgive trespasses and to wait on slow-working providence rather than rushing to self-righteous judgment. "The pity of Bilbo will rule the fate of many" gradually becomes the motto of Tolkien's epic, as the phrase appears like a leitmotiv in all three volumes.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Hillary Clinton says Donald Trump should be treated as any other citizen in DOJ investigation (Rashard Rose and Morgan Rimmer, 9/11/22, CNN)

"He's not the president, and we do have some special exceptions for someone actually in the office. So, I do think that, just like any American, if there is evidence, that evidence should be pursued," Clinton told CNN's Dana Bash on "State of the Union."