March 7, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 5:03 PM


Posted by orrinj at 4:45 PM


Tucker Carlson ripped by Capitol Police, GOP senators for mischaracterizing Jan. 6 (KYLE CHENEY, 03/07/2023, Politico)

Asked about the portrayal of Jan. 6 on Carlson's show, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) described the day as a violent attack and said any effort to "normalize that behavior is dangerous and disgusting."

"I was here. It was not peaceful. It was an abomination," added Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) "You're entitled to believe what you want in America, but you can't resort to violence to try to convince others of your point of view."

And Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell held up Manger's letter during his weekly briefing with reporters, saying that he would "associate myself entirely with the opinion of the chief of the Capitol Police about what happened on January 6th."

Posted by orrinj at 11:31 AM


Republicans gaslight voters on their covid response and failed policies (Jennifer Rubin, March 7, 2023, Washington Post)

You would think that politicians who trafficked in conspiracy theories and misled Americans about the danger of covid-19 and the effectiveness of vaccines wouldn't want to dwell on their record. Well, you would be wrong. Among the most brazen lies MAGA Republicans propagate is that compared with those "elite" blue states, red states responded to covid in a superior way that demonstrated the excellence of the right-wing approach to governance. In fact, when it comes to covid and other polices, red states have little to brag about.

No one has pandered to anti-vaccination, anti-science skeptics more than Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida. [...]

So how did Florida do? As of Monday afternoon, it had the 12th highest death rate from covid and the eighth highest rate of infection. As of last month, it had the second highest number of cumulative child covid cases.

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But it's not just Florida. Red states in general have had far higher death rates than blue states. Of the five states with the highest death rates -- Arizona, Oklahoma, Mississippi, West Virginia and New Mexico -- GOP governors led all but New Mexico during the height of the pandemic. Governors who bucked the trend of covid denial led all five jurisdictions with the lowest death rates (Hawaii, Vermont, Utah, Puerto Rico and D.C.).

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Ron DeSantis Embraces the High Heel (CHRISTINA CAUTERUCCI, MARCH 07, 2023, Slate)

One of the few reliable truths in electoral politics is that voters like tall presidents.

The average U.S. president is about two inches taller than the average U.S. man, who is 5'9". Recent presidents have skewed even larger: Every president since Jimmy Carter (5'9.5") has been 5'11.5" or taller. We haven't elected a president smaller than the average man in nearly 130 years, when short king William McKinley won his election.

"We are a species that equates larger size with maturity, leadership and sex appeal," wrote Jay Mathews in the Washington Post in 1999. "If we were like some insects, where adults are smaller than larvae, we might not think this way. But we do."

So it stands to reason that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is thirstily gunning for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, would want to, let's say, amplify his stature. Rumor has it that the governor is around 5'9".

He basically can't appear on stage with Donald.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Nelson Mandela's African National Congress Has Violated Everything He Stood ForThe anti-apartheid icon's hope for a 'better life for all' has been decimated by the party he once led (Kwangu Liwewe, March 7, 2023, New/Lines)

To address issues of inequality, the ANC-led government introduced the policy of Black Economic Empowerment (BEE), which was designed to redress racial imbalance in the country's economy. Its intention was to enhance the participation of Blacks in the economy by providing employment equity, skills development and preferential procurement. Twenty-eight years later, some South Africans argue that BEE is an irrelevant policy because it only serves the interests of politically connected individuals.

"The ANC failed to transform our economy so that everyone can benefit. The generation after Mandela are narrow-minded and only focus on their own political faction, own color and ethnic group interests. BEE only serves a certain section of the chosen few," laments the South African economist and political scientist, William Gumede. Gumede told New Lines that the ANC was not ready to govern after the fall of apartheid because it was only experienced in opposing its oppressors and not in governing a complex country.

"Blacks were not part of the economy during apartheid, so they did not have the skill set. The ANC kicked out almost all the whites with the skills from government positions. They then appointed their loyalists, who did not have a clue," Gumede concludes.

The leader of the United Democratic Movement, Bantu Holomisa, who headed the Republic of Transkei from 1987 to 1994 (an enclave created by the apartheid government for Blacks), told New Lines that South Africa prospered during the first 10 years after abolishing apartheid because Mandela accommodated all interest groups, as he was interested in unity. "When he left, there were already signs that the comrades didn't want to make use of other people they didn't know, no matter how experienced they were," said Holomisa. "The ANC wanted to use this transformation as a license to loot and they have looted on a massive scale, and they appointed their inner circle who are now their gatekeepers."

One of the leaders in the sprawling township of Orange Farm, however, feels that Mandela and the ANC failed Black people at the onset of negotiations with the apartheid government. "They made a lot of compromises and didn't consult the grassroots. They rushed to discuss democracy and reconciliation before justice and restitution," Richard Makolo told New Lines. "Now most Blacks are poor and have nothing to show for their freedom."

A damning recent report by the World Bank, released in 2022, reveals that inherited circumstances, such as location, gender, age and parental background, explain some of the inequality in South Africa. Ten percent of the population owns more than 80% of the wealth. Introducing race into the analysis further exacerbates the inequities.

"South Africa, the largest country in the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), is the most unequal country in the world, ranking first among 164 countries," the report said. The World Bank's stunning conclusion is a far cry from Mandela's aspirations when he walked out of Victor Verster Prison and spoke of ending inequality.

"There must be an end to white monopoly on political power, and a fundamental restructuring of our political and economic systems to ensure that the inequalities of apartheid are addressed and our society thoroughly democratized," Mandela asserted.

Four years after Mandela's release, the ANC won a landslide victory and emerged as the most successful political party in the 1994 elections. South Africans believed the ANC would deliver on its promises of a "better life for all." The party went on to win five successive general elections. Now, three decades later, the ANC's popularity is waning due to the broader crisis of governance.

In the 2022 local government elections, the ANC won fewer than 50% of their races for the first time since democratic rule began. This disillusionment of its supporters continues to grow as local municipal governance deteriorates. Service-delivery protests are common around the country because the government fails to distribute resources such as water, sanitation, infrastructure, housing and land.

"We've got a party that is losing support and I don't think they will get 50% of the vote in the 2024 national election. I seriously see a coalition government in the offing," Steve Gruzd, head of the African Governance and Diplomacy Program at the South African Institute of International Affairs, predicted in an interview with New Lines.

While the ANC is still the largest party in South Africa, its hegemony has most likely ended. "Never again shall we put all our eggs in one basket. Away with one-party dominance. It has shown that it breeds corruption," said Holomisa.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The radicalization of the Israeli elitesIn the struggle against the far-right government's plans for total control, Israel's elites could bring the regime to a breaking point. (Nimrod Flaschenberg February 14, 2023, +972)

This collective panic is widespread but is especially potent among the upper classes - both upper-middle-class supporters of Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid party, and the millionaires and billionaires who sit atop Israel's finance and tech sectors. In the past few weeks, since Netanyahu and Levin announced their plans for judicial overhaul, substantial portions of Israeli and foreign capital have gone into defensive mode: venture capitalists are contemplating withdrawing funds from Israeli businesses, wealthy Israelis are gradually moving their money abroad, and young, privileged professionals who do not possess an EU passport are scrambling for one.  [...]

There's a possible "run on the banks" dynamic at play: the protesters are convinced that the end of democracy is near, therefore they expect the worst. The pragmatic conclusion is to hedge their losses. These small actions, such as moving some funds abroad, signal that the panic is real. The media picks up on this elite discontent and reports the developments using alarmist messaging, which serves only to fuel the public's panic. This dynamic is still relatively localized, but there are signs that it will continue to grow if the government pushes ahead with its legislative agenda.  [...]

Israeli elites -- start-up millionaires, self-styled liberals from the Tel Aviv suburbs, urban left-leaning intellectuals, and former military officers -- are all rapidly becoming estranged from the state. The people who acted as privileged rulers are now finding themselves far from the centers of power, and this enrages them. The fact that the Israeli center, which rose to prominence in the last two decades by shunting the Palestinian issue and focusing on economic prosperity, now considers the state a threat means that further radicalization is possible.

It is strange to speak about elite radicalization, but this is precisely what is happening. The antagonisms within the Israeli ruling classes are becoming more acute. And among the most striking evidence of this radicalization are the signs of erosion in militarist nationalism within the anti-Netanyahu camp. 

Centrist voters are now openly talking about not sending their children to the army if the reform passes. Reservists are marching against the government, waving the emblems of their army units. This type of resistance, in which military service is being overtly politicized, is unprecedented among mainstream Zionist communities. And all the while, there is prevalent talk of divestment from the Israeli economy for political reasons -- an action which, when proposed by Palestinians and the BDS movement, is taken as clear evidence of antisemitism.

Thanks, Bibi!
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


This geothermal startup showed its wells can be used like a giant underground batteryIF Fervo Energy's field experiments work at commercial scale, it could become cheaper and easier to green the grid. (James Temple, March 7, 2023, MIT Technology Review)

In late January, a geothermal power startup began conducting an experiment deep below the desert floor of northern Nevada. It pumped water thousands of feet underground and then held it there, watching for what would happen.

Geothermal power plants work by circulating water through hot rock deep beneath the surface. In most modern plants, it resurfaces at a well head, where it's hot enough to convert refrigerants or other fluids into vapor that cranks a turbine, generating electricity. 

But Houston-based Fervo Energy is testing out a new spin on the standard approach--and on that day, its engineers and executives were simply interested in generating data. 

The readings from gauges planted throughout the company's twin wells showed that pressure quickly began to build, as water that had nowhere else to go actually flexed the rock itself. When they finally released the valve, the output of water surged and it continued pumping out at higher-than-normal levels for hours.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Nearly everyone is exposed to unhealthy levels of tiny air pollutants, study says (Kasha Patel, March 6, 2023, Washington Post)

Nearly everyone -- 99 percent of the global population -- is exposed to unhealthy levels of tiny and harmful air pollutants, known as PM 2.5, according a new study released Monday in Lancet Planet Health. The findings underline a growing urgency for policymakers, public health officials and researchers to focus on curbing major sources of air pollution, such as emissions from power plants, industrial facilities and vehicles.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Kevin McCarthy aide tasked with defusing the GOP's debt limit bomb (Jeff Stein, Leigh Ann Caldwell and  Theodoric Meyer, March 6, 2023, Washington Post)

When McCarthy spoke, he thanked people who had played an instrumental role in his career. But the crowd of bigwigs -- corporate executives, elite lobbyists and top Republicans such as Reps. Steve Scalise (La.) and Jim Jordan (Ohio) -- gave only one standing ovation that night, according to two people in attendance: It was for Dan Meyer, McCarthy's chief of staff.

Despite more than three decades working in the upper echelons of Republican politics, Meyer, 68, is not a household name. And yet no other person -- save McCarthy -- is expected to play a more pivotal role this year in trying to steer House Republicans through a series of potentially explosive conflicts with the White House and each other over the nation's spending and debt, with the fate of the global economy hanging in the balance.

While Capitol Hill waits to see how McCarthy wields power, his most important adviser has already emerged as a source of comfort for those in establishment Washington nervous about the prospect of a U.S. default later this year. Although McCarthy has vowed to "change Washington as we know it today," he has tapped the consummate insider -- a former lobbyist connected to the old Republican guard who is widely respected among Democrats -- to lead his office. And that alone has assured many former colleagues on K Street that Republicans will find a way to raise the federal debt limit later this year without triggering an economic crisis, despite warnings from conservatives about the budget fight ahead.

All his negotiations are going to be with the Right.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Jim Jordan scrambles amid claims "weaponization" probe is a dud (Sophia Cai, 3/06/23, Axios)

Criticism of Jordan escalated over the weekend, after the New York Times reported that three witnesses Jordan had cast as FBI "whistleblowers" provided little information and had touted various conspiracy theories. Two had received financial help from an ally of former President Trump.

A 316-page report compiled by Democrats dismissed the testimony, saying that "nearly all of the Republicans involved in this investigation -- the witnesses, some of the members, and certainly their outside operators" -- are linked by a desire to whitewash the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Whatever else it may be, no one can deny that MAGA is hilarious. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Democracy Can Be Trusted Because Citizens Can Be Trusted (ROBERT LOWRY CLINTON, 3/06/23, Public Discourse)

[A] significant source of our mistrust of voters is that moral and philosophical subjects are misrepresented as scientific and technical ones, which need training in order to be understood. Mortimer Adler offers a helpful way of thinking about the differences between the scientific and philosophical domains. Philosophy--especially moral philosophy--unlike scientific expertise, is based largely on common sense and common experience. Scientific knowledge, on the other hand, requires extensive training and observational tools.

Moral judgment is available to everyone, and many of the issues that matter to voters are not scientific or technical. Elites on both sides of the aisle often pretend they are, perhaps to befuddle people into thinking that only "experts" can speak authoritatively on them. But these issues really are moral or philosophical, on which an ordinary person with common sense and good judgment has as much authority to speak as a Stephen Hawking. For example, most of the controversial issues driving the "culture wars" are moral or philosophical in nature: issues of sexual morality (the sexualization of children, the morality of homosexual behavior, same-sex marriage, abortion as birth control), of the respective roles of parents versus the state in the raising and education of children, of the place of critical race and gender theory in schools, of the role of religion in public life, of immigration policy, to name just a few. Such issues have little if anything to do with science. They do, however, require sound moral judgment--something our elites have provided precious little of lately. And again, despite the rhetoric of the culture wars, Americans historically tend to have good sense about moral issues, even the most controversial ones. that elites trust the hoi polloi. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The myth of China's military might (Edward Luttwak, March 7, 2023, UnHerd)

In China's case, a manpower shortage undercuts military spending in the PLA's ground forces and naval forces, and soon it will affect manned air units as well. The PLA ground forces now stand at some 975,000, a very small number for a country that has 13,743 miles of borders with 14 countries -- including extreme high-mountain borders where internal combustion engines lose power, jungle-covered borders where remote observation is spoiled by foliage, Russian-river borders with endemic smuggling, and the border with India's Ladakh where an accumulation of unresolved Chinese intrusions have forced each side to deploy substantial ground forces, with at least 80,000 on the Chinese side.

Except for Ladakh, which now resembles a war-front, borders are not supposed to be guarded by army troops but by border police. And China did in fact have a substantial dedicated border force, but it was abolished for the same reason that the PLA ground army is so small: a crippling shortage of physically fit Chinese men willing to serve in these regions. Cities and towns, by contrast, do not seem afflicted by such severe manpower shortages, leading to the weird phenomenon on Nepal's main border crossing to Tibet where, according to an acquaintance, a group of freezing Cantonese city policemen were checking travellers and "guarding the border". (They said they had been "volunteered" for two months.)

Even the Party's strong-arm "People's Armed Police" -- China's equivalent of the uniformed and combat-armed French Gendarmerie, Italian Carabinieri and Guardia di Finanza, and Spain's Guardia Civil -- is affected by the refusal of young Chinese men to serve. Its 1.5 million total may sound like a lot, but Italy has 150,000 Carabinieri and Finanzieri for a 60-million population -- 10% of the numbers for 5% of the population. And Italy does not have to allocate vast numbers of armed men to corral and control Uyghurs and Kazakhs in Xinjiang, Tibetan herdsmen or severely disaffected Mongols.

There are no such conclusive comparisons to determine the impact of manpower shortages on the air and naval forces, but here there is another consideration: much more than the ground army, which continues to accept some recruits of low intelligence, the naval and air forces really do need recruits who can absorb technical skills quickly enough to maintain competence as their personnel turns over. High-glamour roles such as pilots will always attract enough bright people, but these days air and naval forces need high skill levels across the board, and that is the PLA's Achilles' heel: bright young Chinese are possibly the planet's most civilian-minded population, least inclined to serve under the command of a military hierarchy. More money would only help to induce them to volunteer if there were a concurrent economic downturn. There is one right now, as it happens, with very high youth unemployment numbers declared to be around 20%. But that is hardly a stable remedy for a demographic and cultural reality with deep roots in Chinese history; it's a key reason for the long sequence of foreign conquest dynasties that ruled China until 1912. They could do so because their Turkic, Manchurian and Mongol populations preferred to serve as soldiers rather than farmers, while with the Han Chinese it was the other way round.

They are feared due to Identity, not capability.