ELECTRIC CARS ARE ALREADY UPENDING AMERICA; After years of promise, a massive shift is under way. (Saahil Desai, DECEMBER 29, 2023, The Atlantic)

In 2023, our battery-powered future became so much more real—a boom in sales and new models is finally starting to push us into the post-gas age. Americans are on track to buy a record 1.44 million of them in 2023, according to a forecast by BloombergNEF, about the same number sold from 2016 to 2021 total. “This was the year that EVs went from experiments, or technological demonstrations, and became mature vehicles,” Gil Tal, the director of the Electric Vehicle Research Center at UC Davis, told me. They are beginning to transform not just the automotive industry, but also the very meaning of a car itself.

If the story of American EVs has long hinged on one company—Tesla—then this was the year that these cars became untethered from Elon Musk’s brand. “We’re at a point where EVs aren’t necessarily exclusively for the upper, upper, upper class,” Robby DeGraff, an analyst at the market-research firm AutoPacific, told me. If you wanted an electric car five years ago, you could choose from among various Tesla models, the Chevy Bolt, the Nissan Leaf—and that was really it. Now EVs come in more makes and models than Baskin-Robbins ice-cream flavors. We have more luxury sedans to vie with Tesla, but also cheaper five-seaters, SUVs, Hummers, pickup trucks, and … however you might categorize the Cybertruck. Nearly 40 new EVs have debuted since the start of 2022, and they are far more advanced than their ancestors. For $40,000, the Hyundai Ioniq 6, released this year, can get you 360 miles on a single charge; in 2018, for only a slightly lower cost, a Nissan Leaf couldn’t go half that distance.

All of these EVs are genuinely great for the planet, spewing zero carbon from their tailpipes, but that’s only a small part of what makes them different. In the EV age, cars are no longer just cars. They are computers. Stripping out a gas engine, transmission, and 100-plus moving parts turns a vehicle into something more digital than analog—sort of like how typing on an iPhone keyboard is different than on my clackety old Samsung flip phone. “It’s the software that is really the heart of an EV,” DeGraff said—it runs the motors, calculates how many miles are left on a charge, optimizes the brakes, and much more.


Ray Epps, face of Jan. 6 conspiracies, to be sentenced (Ashley Oliver, January 06, 2024, Washington Examiner)

Ray Epps, who has been widely accused by former President Donald Trump’s supporters of secretly working on behalf of the federal government during the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, is set to be sentenced next week for his actions that day.

Epps, 62, was charged last fall with a misdemeanor for disorderly conduct in a restricted area and pleaded guilty.


The Godfather of Permanent Things: a review of The Politics of Prudence  (Paul Krause, 1/07/24, Voegelin View)

This basic framework for understanding conservatism is then revealed through the chapters of this book, beginning with the “Errors of Ideology.” Ideology, as Kirk defines it, is a dogmatic approach to “transforming society and even transforming human nature.” The ideologue generally takes as their starting point a hatred of the current political order, a hatred of human nature, and a belief in progressive utopia from some thinker or book who revealed to humanity what could be. Ideology, as practiced by the ideologue, becomes “merciless” in that “march toward Utopia.” Drawing upon other thinkers like Eric Voegelin and Gerhart Niemeyer, Kirk sharply explains the essence of ideology as “promis[ing] mankind an earthly paradise.”

Conservatism, standing in opposition to ideology, isn’t about rejecting change or reform. Kirk, quoting Burke (one of his heroes), knows and affirms that change and reform are necessary (change is a natural part of existence). Change and reform can be good things too. However, the change and reform that conservatism promotes is within the limits of worldly and human nature—to make it better, not perfect. In the merciless march to Utopia promoted by ideology and conservatism’s opposition to ideological madness, Kirk implies that conservatism acts within the boundaries of nature (both earthly and humanly) while ideology seeks to eradicate nature to escape the limits of nature.


REVIEW: of Becoming Ella Fitzgerald: The Jazz Singer Who Transformed American Song
By Judith Tick
: An exhaustive, unsatisfying look at one of the 20th century’s premier performers. (Rose Rankin, January 4, 2024, Washington Independent Review of Books)

The telling of a history — whether of an event, a time period, or a life story — involves recounting the basics of who, what, where, and so on. It also calls for explaining the why — why something was different than what came before, or why it came to be so important. On the first account, Judith Tick’s new biography, Becoming Ella Fitzgerald, succeeds admirably. On the second, however, it unfortunately falls short.

Tick digs deep into archival research to painstakingly reconstruct Fitzgerald’s life, starting with her upbringing in segregated Yonkers, New York. Musically inclined from a young age and encouraged by her mother, Fitzgerald initially wanted to be a dancer, but her singing brought her more gigs during her Depression-era teenage years.

After a harrowing stay at a girls’ juvenile-detention facility — for a minor truancy infraction compounded by overzealous sentencing, an all-too-familiar situation for Black youth — Fitzgerald got her first break at the Apollo Theater’s Amateur Hour in 1934. Her nerves almost got her booed off the stage, but thanks to a kind emcee giving her a second chance that night, she ended up electrifying the audience.


Fanone says GOP lawmakers attempt to ‘whitewash’ Jan. 6 due to ‘politically inconvenient’ reality (NICK ROBERTSON, 01/06/24, The Hill)

Former D.C. police officer Michael Fanone lashed out against GOP lawmakers on Friday, blasting attempts to “whitewash” the Jan. 6 Capitol riots as something less than what they were as we reach the three-year anniversary of the violence.

“It pisses me off to see Republican lawmakers continue to spread the lies and conspiracy theories regarding January 6, in an attempt to whitewash that day, because it’s politically inconvenient for them to acknowledge the reality of what happened,” Fanone said during an MSNBC interview Friday.


How John Coltrane’s ‘My Favorite Things’ Changed American Music (Jeff MacGregor, January/February 2024, Smithsonian)

It’s a timeless song and quite possibly the most American recording in history: composed by the grandsons of German and Russian Jews, about an Austrian family fleeing the Nazis on their way to America, played by an African American genius in a vernacular American style, produced by one Turkish American for a record label owned by another Turkish American. The recording is not in or of the melting pot. It is the melting pot.

It was also a pivotal moment in Coltrane’s career and in his artistry, a tipping point of technique and inspiration, of practice and poetry, of his widening understanding of himself and his place in things. In that single landmark recording, you can feel Coltrane fully embrace the entirety of his promise, not only as a saxophonist, but also as a bandleader, composer and arranger. And maybe as a man.


Report: Israel Police unable to find victims, witnesses of alleged Hamas sex crimes (MEMO, January 5, 2024)

Israel Police are struggling to locate the victims or witnesses of alleged sexual assaults that are said to have occurred during Hamas’ infiltration of Israel on 7 October, Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported.

The paper said: “In the few cases where police have already amassed testimony about the sexual assaults Hamas committed during its massacre in southern Israel, they haven’t yet been able to identify the specific victims of the acts to which witnesses have testified.”

According to Haaretz, most of the testimonies covered by the Israeli and foreign media, including a New York Times report about the alleged sexual assaults, are based on the testimony of a young Israeli woman identified only as S.. An edited video clip of her testimony was shown at the United Nations.

Amid war and urgent need to ID bodies, evidence of Hamas’s October 7 rapes slips away (Carrie Keller-Lynn, 9 November 2023, Times of Israel)

[I]n the wake of the unprecedentedly large mass-casualty event, physical evidence of sexual assault was not collected from corpses by Israel’s overtaxed morgue facilities amid their ongoing scramble to identify the people killed, many of whose bodies were mutilated and burned. More than a month after Hamas rampaged through border communities near the Gaza Strip and a massive outdoor music festival, Israel is still identifying the dead through disaster victim identification protocols.

The decision — made under war footing and a pressing need to identify the dead — to not use time-consuming crime scene investigation protocols to document rape cases has, however, fueled international skepticism over Hamas’s sexual abuse of victims while it held control over parts of southern Israel on October 7.


What Are the Economic Benefits of Trade, American Style (James Pethokoukis, 12/04/24, AEIdeas)

But can we put a number on all that good stuff? The Peterson Institute for International Economics gives it a try in a recent report and comes up with some encouraging data, along with a caveat:

US GDP in 2022 was $25.5 trillion. Without post-World War II engagement in the world economy, our estimates indicate that US GDP in 2022 would have been $22.9 trillion, some $2.6 trillion lower… The $2.6 trillion in gains in 2022 work out, on average, to about $7,800 per person and $19,500 per household. Average gains in 2022 would have been considerably larger but for political headwinds that have slowed trade expansion since the global financial crisis of 2008-09. Indeed, nearly all the gains — expressed as a percent of GDP — accrued before the global financial crisis, although gains expressed in dollar terms have continued to grow at a slow rate.


Trump lawyers’ doozy of a filing on voter fraud (Aaron Blake, January 3, 2024, Washington Post)

The report, to put it lightly, is a mess. And that Trump’s legal team would see fit to include it in a filing would not seem to augur well for his defense.

The report begins with a series of astonishing and false claims. “In actuality, there is no evidence Joe Biden won,” its first paragraph concludes. It then recounts how Trump led in key battleground states on election night and maintains that, as of that point, before millions of votes were counted, “the election was over.” But even Trump allies had acknowledged before the election that the expected late arrival of ballots from populous and heavily Democratic areas, as well as mail-in ballots, would create an illusion of an early Trump lead — a “red mirage.” There is nothing suspicious about how those states flipped as time went on.

The introductory paragraph also includes a footnote that says Arizona “was fraudulently called for Joe Biden by Fox News” on election night. A network’s calls on any given race do not determine the election, and Biden won Arizona.

The mental gymnastics required to be MAGA may as well be an Olympic event.


Wound healing affected by perception of time that’s passed (Bronwyn Thompson, January 03, 2024, New Atlas)

For the first time, scientists have been able to establish that our perception of the passing of time can independently influence how a wound will heal. While preliminary, this novel study opens the door to a better understanding of the mind-body connection and its role in healing, pain management and more.

Through at-home self-reporting and controlled laboratory sessions, Harvard University researchers found that the skin inflammation left by a suction cup (used in ‘cupping’ therapy) was noticeably diminished for people who perceived more time had passed since the wound was inflicted – even though the time period remained constant across all groups.