Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Iran nuclear talks in turmoil: US officials step back after pushing for tougher stance

Two US officials involved in negotiations over renewing the 2015 Iran nuclear deal have stepped back from the talks and a third has left the team altogether amid internal discord over how firm the White House should be with Tehran, according to a report.

Richard Nephew, the State Department’s deputy special envoy for Iran who pushed for a tougher approach, has not been part of the talks in Vienna since early December, Wall Street Journal reported Monday. A State Department spokesman told Reuters late Monday that Nephew was no longer in the envoy role, though he was still at the department.

Two other unidentified team members have stepped back from the dialogue because they also sought a tougher stance toward Iran, according to the Journal. 

At issue were the enforcement of existing sanctions and whether to break off negotiations as Iran continues to advance its nuclear program, the report said, citing people familiar with the talks. 

via nypost.com

January 25, 2022 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Capitol Police CAUGHT Compiling DOSSIERS On Citizens | Breaking Points with Krystal and Saagar

via www.youtube.com

You could see the Capitol Police growing large and completely unregulated, spying on honest citizens who are political enemies, not getting warrants. But that will never happen, so don't worry!

January 25, 2022 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Inflation Debate between Paul R. Krugman and Lawrence H. Summers - Part II

via www.youtube.com

A contrite Krugman.

January 25, 2022 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Why shoplifting is soaring in the US — and will get worse

Retail crime has been rising throughout the US for the past five years, with organized criminal rings targeting stores everywhere from Woonsocket (Rhode Island) to Greensboro (North Carolina) to Grafton (Wisconsin). The National Retail Federation reported that store losses mounted from $453,940 per $1 billion in sales in 2015 to $719,458 in 2020.

The biggest increase over that period happened not during the pandemic but in 2019, when total losses from shoplifting surged to $61 billion, up from $50 billion the previous year. The COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020 and early 2021 moderated losses, largely because stores were closed or had curtailed operating hours. Now that retailing has resumed, crime has spiked again.

Shoplifting no longer fits its traditional mold as a nonviolent crime perpetrated mostly by teens or substance-abusing adults. Nearly two-thirds of the retailers surveyed by the National Retail Federation said that violence associated with store thefts has risen, led by organized gangs that resell the goods they steal. Like retailers, top law-enforcement officials place some of the blame for the crime surge on a widespread lessening of penalties for shoplifting.

via nypost.com

January 25, 2022 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Ukraine urges calm amid tinderbox tensions, says Russian invasion not imminent | The Times of Israel

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s leaders sought to reassure the nation that a feared invasion from neighboring Russia was not imminent, even as they acknowledged the threat was real and prepared to accept a shipment of American military equipment Tuesday to shore up their defenses.

Russia has denied it is planning an assault, but it has massed an estimated 100,000 troops near Ukraine in recent weeks, leading the United States and its NATO allies to rush to prepare for a possible war.

Several rounds of high-stakes diplomacy have failed to yield any breakthroughs, and this week tensions escalated further. NATO said it was bolstering its deterrence in the Baltic Sea region, and the US ordered 8,500 troops on higher alert to potentially deploy to Europe as part of an alliance “response force” if necessary.

via www.timesofisrael.com

January 25, 2022 | Permalink | Comments (0)

NY schools told to keep masks after judge overturns mandate | AP News

New York state education officials told school administrators to continue enforcing the state’s mask mandate for students and teachers Tuesday despite a judge’s ruling overturning it, causing confusion as some districts rushed to make masks optional.

The Education Department said the state had filed notice that it would appeal Monday’s ruling by a judge on Long Island, a step that could keep the rule in place at least until its planned expiration Feb. 1.

“While these legal steps occur, it is NYSED’s position that schools should continue to follow the mask rule,” said department spokesperson Emily DeSantis.

But in some districts, administrators immediately made masking optional for students and staff.

“While it is certain this decision will face legal challenges, until otherwise litigated, mask wearing will be optional for students and staff in the Massapequa Schools beginning Tuesday,” the Massapequa School District, in the New York City suburbs of Long Island, said on its website.

via apnews.com

January 25, 2022 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Ilya Somin: Supreme Court affirmative action cases challenging Harvard, UNC policies are overdue

This litigation highlights a number of long-standing flaws in the “diversity” rationale for racial preferences embraced by previous court decisions and adopted by colleges around the country. The Harvard case also features extensive evidence indicating the school’s admissions system specifically discriminates against Asian American applicants — not just by comparison with other racial minorities but even relative to whites. In the Harvard case, the Supreme Court will for the first time consider this increasingly troubling aspect of affirmative action policy.

If courts stuck closely to the text of the laws they interpret, the case against Harvard would be an easy one for the school to lose. As a private institution, Harvard is not bound by constitutional constraints against racial discrimination (UNC, by contrast, is a public university). But it is subject to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, since it receives federal funds for student financial aid and other purposes. Title VI bars discrimination “on the ground of race, color, or national origin” in any education program receiving federal funds, and it doesn’t exempt well-intentioned racial discrimination in the form of affirmative action.

But the Supreme Court (wrongly, in my view) has long interpreted Title VI to allow racial preferences in situations where the court’s interpretation of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment would permit them. And a series of Supreme Court rulings — most notably 2003's Grutter v. Bollinger and 2016's Fisher v. University of Texas (often referred to as Fisher II) — have held that racial preferences in higher education admissions are permissible under the 14th Amendment in some situations in which they are used to promote educationally beneficial “diversity,” i.e., ensuring there is a sufficient number of minority students (sometimes called a “critical mass”) so other students are exposed to their distinctive viewpoints.

via www.nbcnews.com

January 25, 2022 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Youngkin sets up tip line to report schools teaching CRT

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin has set up a special tip line for parents to report schools that are teaching their kids “divisive” critical race theory.

The Republican touted a special new “Help Education” email address late Monday that he said will help enforce his first executive directive in office banning the controversial teaching method.

The tip line is “for parents to send us any instances where they feel their fundamental rights are being violated, where their children are not being respected [and] where there are inherently divisive practices in their schools,” Youngkin told radio host John Fredericks.

“We’re asking for input from parents to make sure we can go right to the source,” he said.

He noted reports that a Fairfax County high school’s lesson plan included playing “Privilege Bingo,” where children who are white, Christian, male or from military families are all deemed “privileged.”

“All you can do is shake your head and say, ‘This is exactly why I signed that executive order,'” Youngkin said.

via nypost.com


January 25, 2022 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Hippo talk: study sheds light on purpose of call and response | Wildlife | The Guardian

A call from a stranger may elicit myriad responses – panic, confusion, maybe even excitement – but it turns out that hippos have a rather more corporeal reaction: they spray dung.

via www.theguardian.com

Spraying dung. I'm sorry, but hippos are just gross. Even when they're dressed up in little ballerina outfits, or pink or blue, or singing little ditties on TV, I just find them completely unappealing. I like most animals, as my posts reveal. I put up with their smelly habits and have spent more time than I like to admit cleaning up after them. But hippos, no thank you. You know their eating habits are particularly disgusting. They like to take water buffalo carcasses or any other large critter they find floating down the river and tuck them under a bank until they get good and ripe. When the flesh is just about falling off the bone, then they're just yummy, Mr. Hippo reckons. So they're sort of big, fat water vultures. And they're dangerous too. I believe they rank just behind the elephant and the lion as most prolific killers of humans on the African continent. I think indigenous Africans fear them, but I bet they don't like them, and I don't blame them.

January 25, 2022 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Supreme Court takes EPA case that could narrow Clean Water Act - The Washington Post

The Supreme Court will take up a challenge to the Clean Water Act that could narrow the law’s reach in ways long sought by businesses and home builders.

The justices said Monday that they will consider, probably in the term beginning in October, a long-running dispute involving an Idaho couple who already won once at the Supreme Court in an effort to build a home near Priest Lake. The Environmental Protection Agency says there are wetlands on the couple’s roughly half-acre lot, which brings it under the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act, and thus requires a permit.

via www.washingtonpost.com

Priest Lake is really an exquisite place, northwest of Lake Coeur D'Alene in North Idaho. I would love to have a house there, and even live there, except, and this is the deal breaker for me, they don't get enough sun. I need the sun, or else, like one of my poor little plant-babies, I fear I will wither and die. I don't know the details of this case, but I betcha there are no navigable waters on this couple's lot, no "waters of the U.S." -- I mean, come on, man. Probably there's a sometimes damp spot. And so the EPA rushes in. Those durn regulaters. Let my people build.

January 25, 2022 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Poll: Trump leads 2024 Republican field with DeSantis in distant second | TheHill

The poll underscores the continued hold that Trump has over Republican voters as he weighs a 2024 comeback bid. While he hasn’t offered a definitive answer to the question of whether he will run for the White House again, he has repeatedly teased another campaign and has begun to ramp up his political operation ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.

The poll also comes amid heightened tensions between Trump and DeSantis, who is up for reelection this year but has been seen as a strong potential contender for the 2024 Republican nomination. 

While the two men have been close political allies, Trump has bristled privately at DeSantis’s refusal to say whether he would run for president if Trump decides to launch a campaign for the White House. 

via thehill.com

Somebody needs to buy Trump out. Anybody got a spare billion lying around?

January 25, 2022 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Detroit man who allegedly set pregnant girlfriend on fire re-charged, in custody on raised bond of $750K | Fox News

While being held in the Macomb County Jail, Marsh appeared virtually on Monday in Wayne County court.

Prosecutors argued for a $1 million bond, citing Marsh’s a long criminal record with past charges including drugs, guns, and assault. 

Marsh’s defense argued for the initial bond of $50,000 or 10%, according to the station, and said the prosecution’s decision to re-charge Marsh was prejudicial and only happened after the case made headlines.

The judge ultimately ordered Marsh held on $750,000 bond.

via www.foxnews.com

There's a joke here somewhere.

January 25, 2022 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Australian Tennis Officials Flip-Flop On Anti-China Protests – Summit News

As we reported yesterday, the shirts and banner read “Where is Peng Shuai?”, referring to the previous disappearance of the Chinese tennis star who had accused a high ranking CCP official of sexually assaulting her.

After not being seen for weeks, Shuai reappeared looking worse for wear and immediately retracted the assault claims.

Tennis Australia officials attempted to seize the signs and have the spectators take off the shirts, saying that “it’s a condition of entry” at the tournament to not brandish “political slogans”.

However, after a huge backlash garnered media attention, and the likes of tennis legend Martina Navratilova calling Tennis Australia’s actions “cowardly,” officials have flip flopped.

TA head Craig Tiley told the Australian Financial Review that those wearing the “Where is Peng Shuai?” t-shirts would be allowed to enter on the condition that they were “not coming as a mob to be disruptive but are peaceful.”

via summit.news

This story was on NPR this morning. It's good to know that the rape and subsequent cover-up by the coercion of the victim by a high Communist party official is still a bi-partisan issue. Maybe there's hope!

January 25, 2022 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Missing Trump? Democrats seem lost without him, while the local GOP surges back from the dead | The Seattle Times

Seattle pollster Stuart Elway, who has been taking our state’s political temperature for decades, noticed something a bit unusual when he was tabulating his latest opinion survey.

It was not long after a Republican had surprisingly won the race for city attorney in Seattle — where we hadn’t elected someone who swings red for 30 years.

Elway’s statewide poll, which he now conducts for news site Crosscut, showed a sudden, sharp increase in voters who were willing, when he called them, to say “Yes, I am a Republican.”

“It’s as big of a jump in party ID for one party as we’ve seen in the 30 years I’ve been doing these surveys,” Elway told me.

Republicans could scarcely go lower. As documented in this space repeatedly, the Donald Trump years completely ravaged the party around here.

via www.seattletimes.com

January 25, 2022 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Prof. Gregory Manco Sues St. Joseph’s U, Administrators, And Former Student After Online Mob Attacks

We first wrote about St. Joseph’s University professor Gregory Manco in February 2021. In many ways, Prof. Manco was just one more example of the purge in academia where students falsly smear and try to take down a right-of-center professor, and administrators play along.

But each of the dozens of cases we have followed is horrible in its own way, and Prof. Manco’s case was horrible in the combination of doxxing, brazen student maliciousness, and administrative spinelessness (at best).

via legalinsurrection.com

Horrible, indeed.

January 25, 2022 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Campus Reform | EXCLUSIVE: Admissions counselor admits to anti-Republican bias when 'reviewing college apps'

A Clemson University admissions counselor recently took to Snapchat to express her frustration with Republican students applying to the college. 

Monica Rozman, a Clemson University undergraduate admissions counselor, posted an announcement to her personal Snapchat stating, “no one cares if you’re Republican.” 

Campus Reform obtained a screenshot of the post.

“Reviewing college apps and, just wanna say: no one cares if you’re Republican. Like, small government, low taxes, etc., republican,” Rozman wrote. 

via www.campusreform.org

This isn't really news. It's been going on for years. The easiest way to get a leg up is to be a lefty from a red state. And probably some exotic x-gender these days as well. But still, it's good to get it documented.

January 25, 2022 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Bad News: You're in Debt. Worse News: You're in Phony Debt. | RealClearInvestigations

The email from “Norton Protection” said I owed $999.99, which was “charged successfully and it will appear on your bank statement in 24 to 48 hours.” Although I have an account with a leading cybersecurity company, I’ve never paid that much for its products. To “cancel” the charge, I was instructed to call a number, conveniently highlighted in yellow.

All it took to bird-dog my fake debt email was a simple search-engine query of the invoice’s telephone number. It was based in Hawaii. Unfortunately, perhaps, for the real employees of Norton’s help desk, they are likely not stationed in the Aloha State.

In a nation swimming in real debt – with the average American owing an estimated $90,000 – it’s not surprising that “phantom debts” are one of the hottest scams.

Millions get ensnared in these ruses and unwittingly give up credit and banking information – especially as the hardships of the pandemic continue – which opens the door to mass fleecing. Phony debt cons top the list of most prevalent consumer scams, according to consumerfraudreporting.org. Some four out 10 of all consumer complaints are linked to these swindles, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

via www.realclearinvestigations.com

I got one of these fake debt notices. Highly annoying. It took several moments to figure out it might be fake.

January 25, 2022 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Antifa win again as Dartmouth cancels my event on far-left violence

I was scheduled to speak last week at Dartmouth College by invitation of the chapter College Republicans and Turning Point USA. The Thursday “Extremism in America” event was meant to highlight America’s long history with far-left violent extremism, a subject politicians and media oft ignore and deny.

Gabriel Nadales, a former member of California militant leftist groups, was the co-speaker. But we never got to step on stage to a live audience.

Soon after the event was announced, Antifa and its army of online trolls threatened violence to shut it down. In turn, Dartmouth administrators gave the extremists exactly what they wanted: The Hanover, NH, college canceled the in-person event at the last minute, citing vague “safety issues.”

via nypost.com

January 25, 2022 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Dissidents - Tablet Magazine

In the face of censorship, undermining, and mockery driven by authoritarian bureaucrats and tech platforms that increasingly function as private arms of the state, a smaller group of scientists, many of whom are also medical doctors, have continually spoken up to question the scientific consensus on whatever platforms they could find. We’re calling them “The Dissidents,” merely because they have spoken up against official policy. The term’s connotation of rebellion or revolution has nothing to do with what these thinkers represent: In their Talmudic approach to the pandemic, posing questions of questions and questions of other questioners, they are instead voices that have sought to uphold the past 400 years of scientific tradition and practice, rather than overturn it.

Some of their questions have been prescient and vindicated; others might appear conspiratorial or extreme. But the main point is that they have asked and continue to ask questions, while a majority of their peers have done away with the scientific method or have been cowed into silence.

via www.tabletmag.com

January 25, 2022 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Dissidents - Tablet Magazine

In the face of censorship, undermining, and mockery driven by authoritarian bureaucrats and tech platforms that increasingly function as private arms of the state, a smaller group of scientists, many of whom are also medical doctors, have continually spoken up to question the scientific consensus on whatever platforms they could find. We’re calling them “The Dissidents,” merely because they have spoken up against official policy. The term’s connotation of rebellion or revolution has nothing to do with what these thinkers represent: In their Talmudic approach to the pandemic, posing questions of questions and questions of other questioners, they are instead voices that have sought to uphold the past 400 years of scientific tradition and practice, rather than overturn it.

Some of their questions have been prescient and vindicated; others might appear conspiratorial or extreme. But the main point is that they have asked and continue to ask questions, while a majority of their peers have done away with the scientific method or have been cowed into silence.

via www.tabletmag.com

January 25, 2022 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 24, 2022

On the Brink of War With Russia, Ukrainians Are Resigned and Prepared - WSJ

KYIV, Ukraine—Computer whiz Danylo Kovzhun has taught his children to handle a pistol. Confectioner Roman Nabozhniak is training colleagues to run his business so he can focus on fighting Russians. Bar owner Vitaliy Kyrychenko keeps his gas tank full in case he needs to get out fast.

Ukraine has struggled to maintain a sense of stability since it fully established itself as a sovereign country in 1991, and has been at war since 2014. But with 100,000 Russian troops gathered nearby, threatening Europe’s biggest land war since the 1940s, people there say something feels different this time.

“It became kind of normal to say, ‘What, again?’ ” said Mr. Kovzhun, 46 years old. “On the other hand, I tend to be panicky. I think it’s going to be a nightmare, like Syria. That’s the only thing Russians can do.”

Mr. Kovzhun is among those who in 2014 supported the army with clothes, food and equipment when forces were threadbare. Ordinary folk are ready to pitch in again, he said, adding, “We know the drill.”

via www.wsj.com

This strikes me as accurate. You have to remember that the Ukrainians have historic grievances against the Russians of historic scope. They were the victims of a vast genocide by the Russians, the Holodomor, in which Stalin essentially starved them, killing many millions. They have lived with the expectation of the Russians coming down on them for years. The CIA probably did facilitate the 2014 Orange Revolution, but the makings of a revolution were there, to be sure. They had been there for decades.

January 24, 2022 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Youngkin Nixes ‘Equity’ for ‘Opportunity’ - WSJ

New Gov. Glenn Youngkin is off to a fast start in Virginia, pushing back as his campaign promised against the coercion of progressive mandates and control of schools. One of his early moves seems especially notable and promising: Recasting the state’s “diversity, equity and inclusion” office to substitute “opportunity” for “equity.”

At a general level this change is largely symbolic because what matters is how the office will operate in practice. But the symbolism still matters because it represents a major fault line in American culture and politics.

The left, including the Biden Administration, has abandoned its long-held support for equal opportunity in favor of “equity,” by which it means equal outcomes. The latter is impossible to achieve given human differences, but it is used to justify destructive and polarizing policies that favor some groups over others.

via www.wsj.com

Youngkin's actions were remarkably quick given the standards of politics.

January 24, 2022 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Deterrence Message to Moscow - WSJ

The U.S. put 8,500 troops on alert Monday with the possibility of deploying them to shore up NATO defenses in Eastern Europe, and allies are sending ships and fighter jets. The West is finally getting more serious about deterring Russian aggression, and let’s hope it’s not too late for Ukraine.

President Biden is considering the troop deployment, along with ships and aircraft, to NATO allies like Poland and the Baltic states that are closest to the Russian threat. Go ahead and send them, sir. Mr. Biden’s strategy of restraint, in the hope of not provoking Vladimir Putin, hasn’t worked. Mr. Putin has been adding to his own deployment of troops on three different fronts on Ukraine’s borders.

via www.wsj.com

One difference between Ukraine and Afghanistan is that Ukrainians, at least those in Kyiv and to the west, will fight like demons against the Russians. At least that was my impression when I visited my son there in 2018. They are already fighting the Russians now in the East. I can't help but think Putin is underestimating the costs of actually invading and occupying the west of Ukraine, if he is thinking about that, instead of a more limited incursion in the east. It also saddens me to see what Tucker Carlson and various others on the Right, if I can use that term, are making of Putin's approach to Ukraine. I don't think Tucker Carlson is a Russian tool, but I can see why people say he is. We should be enforcing our own southern border *and* supporting Ukrainian sovereignty, as much as possible without starting WW3. There's no moral equivalence between American republicanism, as corrupt as it is, and Russian klepto-oligarchy, which is much more corrupt. Ukraine has chosen to go with Europe, and derivatively, with the US. We should be glad of that, and at least try to embrace them.

January 24, 2022 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Is Germany a Reliable American Ally? Nein - WSJ

Berlin refuses to supply Ukraine with weapons, and it is actively preventing Estonia from doing so. In recent days, Britain has airlifted antitank weapons to Ukraine and conducted Ukraine-related intelligence-gathering flights. But while the intelligence flights have transited German airspace—the most direct route between Britain and Ukraine—the weapons flights have been making detours around Germany. Britain’s Defense Ministry played down the detours, confirming that it didn’t seek overflight permission. But that’s the point: Britain didn’t ask because that would have forced Germany to grant or reject the request. Britain believed the decision would be difficult for Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s new government.

Another illustration is Berlin’s approach to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which will send gas to Europe from Russia. German regulators say the pipeline can’t start working until it meets corporate compliance standards. That has rankled Mr. Putin, who wants it pumping now. In turn, the Russian president’s Gazprom puppet company has reversed gas flows through the existing Yamal-Europe pipeline for more than four weeks. Russia also has cut off thermal coal supplies to Ukraine for more than three months. Mr. Putin’s message is clear: Ukraine better roll over, and Germany better approve Nord Stream 2.

via www.wsj.com

The US should realize there will come a time when we turn to Germany for help, and Germany won't be there.

January 24, 2022 | Permalink | Comments (1)

NATO to Send Ships, Jet Fighters to Eastern Europe Amid Standoff With Russia - WSJ

BRUSSELS—NATO allies are bolstering the alliance’s eastern flank in response to Russia’s military buildup around Ukraine, as the European Union set out plans for loans and grants for Kyiv worth more than $1.3 billion and the Pentagon ordered thousands of troops to prepare for possible deployment.

The moves are part of efforts by the U.S. and its allies to gird for what they believe could be an imminent military invasion of Ukraine, which Russia denies it is planning. President Biden held a videoconference with European leaders Monday afternoon to coordinate the trans-Atlantic response to the Russian troop buildup.

In Washington, the Pentagon said it had ordered up to 8,500 U.S. troops on standby for deployment to Eastern Europe, U.S. officials said.

Most of the troops would join a North Atlantic Treaty Organization response force to be activated by the alliance, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said, while others could be deployed for other contingency operations including, potentially, evacuation efforts. The U.S. troops won’t be authorized to enter Ukraine. The troops and their families were being notified Monday and many must be prepared to move within days, U.S. officials said.

Meanwhile, three U.S.-allied nations—Australia, Germany and the U.K.—have now said they were pulling diplomatic personnel or their families from embassies in Kyiv, following the U.S. on Sunday.

via www.wsj.com

My son Luke and his wife Anna called us today from Kyiv. They reassured us that they had plans A, B and C to exit Ukraine this weekend. I was reassured (somewhat). Your prayers are still appreciated.

January 24, 2022 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Ninth Circuit judge rebukes court: I'll write your en-banc bad take on the Second Amendment for you – HotAir

But as our RedState colleague Streiff points out today, that’s where the fun begins. Judge Lawrence Van Dyke authored the controlling opinion, but in an unusual step, wrote a separate concurrence to his own ruling. In it, Van Dyke predicted that the Ninth Circuit would vote for yet another en banc hearing to justify the unconstitutional and decided to pre-empt it with a scathing bit of satire:

via hotair.com

Heh, your honor.

January 24, 2022 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Report: State Contracts Boost Dem-Linked Lawyers, Not Consumers | RealClearPolitics

But the first recipient of the windfall was a group of lawyers. The settlement deal allocated $15 million to the nonprofit National Association of Attorneys General with the remaining cash mainly slated for state government departments and state general fund accounts.

So much for the consumer protection the lawsuits promised. And it’s hardly an isolated case. Attorneys general – politicians who have to campaign for that role – and other state government entities often hire large private trial-lawyer firms to help prosecute their cases, entering into weak contracts that provide big fees for the firms but few guarantees that consumers will see any restitution from the legal action, according to a new report by the conservative Alliance for Consumers.

The report also notes that, though Democrats tend to boast about standing up to big business and protecting consumers, it’s Democratic politicians who appear to benefit most from weak public contracts, as well as their natural political ties to trial lawyers.

via www.realclearpolitics.com

January 24, 2022 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saving Democracy From the Pandemic - Tablet Magazine

COVID-19 has killed millions and threatened the prospects of democracy for billions more. Since early 2020, the world has witnessed a marked expansion of governmental decision-making regarding health. Lockdowns and curfews were instated in many countries, and many freedoms were taken away under the justification of a major health threat. Health authorities and politicians alluding to or exploiting health authorities acquired extraordinary power to regulate society at large, including the application of mandates. A Freedom House report found that democracy grew weaker in 80 countries during COVID-19, and that in 2020 the number of free countries reached the lowest level in 15 years. Countries that regressed included ones you’d expect like China and Belarus, but also democratic bulwarks like the United States, France, Denmark, and the Netherlands. The United States was listed as one of the 25 countries that witnessed the steepest declines in freedom. Even if the pandemic enters a less threatening endemic phase (as may already be the case in several countries), the legacy of authoritarian measures and mandates may leave behind a more enduring threat to democracy.

via www.tabletmag.com

January 24, 2022 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Jordan Peterson RESIGNS As Professor Due to D.I.E.

via www.youtube.com

It all true for law schools as well.

January 24, 2022 | Permalink | Comments (3)

End the legislative neglect - by Jeff Eager

Oregon has been governed in significant measure by press conference for nearly two years. Early in the pandemic, Kate Brown, the state’s term-limited democratic governor, would appear weekly, flanked by public health officials, to let Oregonians know whether they’d be allowed to gather with friends and family, attend school and worship services, travel, dine in restaurants, get surgery or open their small businesses. It was during one such press conference that Oregonians learned whether the governor deemed their work of sufficient import that they would be allowed to continue to do it outside their homes.

These days, with Brown the least popular governor in the country and increasingly ceding the political foreground to a battle royal among the large number of people who want to replace her come January 2023, she rarely partakes in the press conferences. Instead, she spends time traveling to climate change conferences, brainstorming the role of food waste in said change, and collecting awards, unmasked, at DC galas. Oregon, home of the Ducks, has as its governor the lamest of ducks.

Yet the government by press conference continues apace in Brown’s absence because she continues reliably to provide that regime’s predicate, of which she is singularly legally capable: serial declarations of a Covid public health emergency. She issued the most recent such order on December 21, 2021; it does not expire until June 30, 2022. If the order is not earlier rescinded or extended again, Oregonians will at its termination have lived under 844 days of emergency governance, of government by press conference.

via oregonroundup.substack.com

Oregon seems to be violating the Guarantee Clause, that reputedly obsolete provision of the US Constitution which guarantees to each state "a republican form of government." Query whether California, with its one-party bureaucracy state, is as well.

January 24, 2022 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, January 23, 2022

“The Far Side” Returns to a Weird World | The New Yorker

Then came “The Far Side.” It was confidently modern and confidently weird. Within its single panel, its contents were entirely unpredictable: it had no recurring characters, no ongoing narrative other than life on earth. It could depict anyone or anything, and Larson seemed to take it all in, from office worker to water buffalo, chimpanzee to psychiatrist, Martian to snail. Its specificity alone, on the comics page, felt radical. So did its attention to the natural world. “Well, this may not be wise on a first date, but I just gotta try your garlic wharf rats,” a snake says in one cartoon, looking psyched. In another, called “Fly whimsy,” a fly, hovering over a picnic, says to a friend, “Wait a second, Leonard . . . I just wanna go down there, land on that potato salad, and take off again.” Squid children bickered over keeping tentacles to themselves; dinosaurs smoked cigarettes and went extinct. In a time when nerd culture was in its infancy, “The Far Side” rewarded the reader for knowing something about opposable thumbs, “Moby-Dick,” Lewis and Clark, or the workings of a proboscis. But it also rewarded a love of the lowbrow—more than one cartoon featured birds seeing human targets below.

via www.newyorker.com

I own several cherished books of Far Side cartoons. One my very favorites: A nerdy cowboy with thick glasses crouches behind a covered wagon next to a grizzled old timer, with an arrow through his hat. Several burning arrows protrude from the wagon. "Hey!" the nerdy cowboy shouts. "They're lighting their arrows! Can they *do* that?" In this single panel, we get a profound insight into law and life.

January 23, 2022 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Putin, Ukraine, and the Preservation of Power | The New Yorker

Putin is particularly expert at exploiting the vulnerabilities, hypocrisies, and mistakes of his opponents. He plays a weak hand to maximal tactical advantage, and, at the moment, his high cards are Europe’s dependence on Russian natural gas and the destabilization of democracy abroad, particularly in the United States. Donald Trump’s Presidency, the January 6th insurrection, and the retreat from Afghanistan were especially gratifying to him. So is the fact that the supposed beacon of what used to be called “the free world” has millions of citizens who say they believe that their current President was elevated through a rigged ballot and ought to be turned out by force. It is a great deal easier to engage in a propaganda war with an opponent that is divided, dispirited, and worried about civil strife.

Ukraine is a sovereign nation of more than forty million people. It has been independent of Moscow rule for three decades. The country suffers from its own domestic crises––corruption, political division––but younger Ukrainians have been born into a far less autocratic political culture than have their Russian counterparts. It is not a sure thing that Putin will invade Ukraine. What is certain is that any attempt to occupy that nation will provoke resistance and lead to bloody disaster. ♦

via www.newyorker.com

My son Luke and his Ukrainian wife are still in country. I'm urging them to get out.

January 23, 2022 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The mystery of Canada’s indigenous mass graves | The Spectator

When a young anthropologist claimed in late May 2021 that she had discovered 215 unmarked graves near the Kamloops Residential School in British Columbia, a wave of horror swept across Canada.

Local First Nations chief Roseanne Casimir said that her community had ‘knowledge’ that indigenous children who had died at the school were secretly buried in the nearby orchard. In the late 1990s a child’s rib was apparently found by a tourist in the area, and a tooth in a subsequent dig in the early 2000s.

The anthropologist, Sarah Beaulieu, scanned the orchard using ground-penetrating radar. She found 215 areas which showed soil disturbance that could be indicative of graves (or other excavations). Later on she revised the number down to 200 because stones, metal content and roots indicated other possible causes. However, she admitted nothing could be concluded until excavations and forensic investigation were carried out.

Yet no excavations were carried out. And none are planned, according to a devastatingly thorough review of the event written by professor of history Jacques Rouillard for the Dorchester Review. He has pointed out that there is no compelling evidence yet that the deaths of indigenous children were covered up by the authorities, or that their remains were not returned home.

A single bone and tooth do indeed point to the possibility of a terrible crime. But they do not substantiate an alleged 200 crimes.

Nonetheless, on the strength of Beaulieu’s theory, the media and government chose to unleash a wave of violence, anti-Catholic sentiment and national shaming that lasted from the beginning of June last year through to the fall of 2021, damaging the reputations of both Canada and the Catholic Church.

via www.spectator.co.uk

Those darn Canadians. Although it must be admitted, they have great fish.

January 23, 2022 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Two men take corpse into Irish post office to claim dead man’s pension | Ireland | The Guardian

The man returned soon after with two other men, one of whom was in his 60s and appeared to be being supported by the two others. The younger men asked to be given his pension payment.

No cash was handed over and the two men fled the scene, abandoning the man’s body after a woman who had become suspicious raised the alarm with a staff member. The deceased man is reported to have been well known to the men who had been carrying his body.

Gardaí said they were investigating “all the circumstances surrounding the unexplained death of an elderly male in the Carlow area”. A postmortem will be conducted.

A woman living beside the post office said her daughter saw the two men carrying the deceased man into the building. “She was leaving my house at the time and said the man looked unwell as his feet were dragging [along] the ground,” the woman, who did not want to be named, told the Irish Independent.

via www.theguardian.com

H/t d.

I suspect drink was involved.

January 23, 2022 | Permalink | Comments (0)

|EYE ON THE NEWS A Covid Origin Conspiracy?

From almost the moment the Covid-19 pandemic broke out in the city of Wuhan, the medical-research establishment in Washington and London insisted that the virus had emerged naturally. Only conspiracy theorists, they said, would give credence to the idea that the virus had escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Now a string of unearthed emails—the most recent being a batch viewed by the House Oversight and Reform Committee and referred to in its January 11, 2022 letter—is making it seem increasingly likely that there was, in fact, a conspiracy, its aim being to suppress the notion that the virus had emerged from research funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), headed by Anthony Fauci. The latest emails don’t prove such a conspiracy, but they make it more plausible, for two reasons: because the expert virologists therein present such a strong case for thinking that the virus had lab-made features and because of the wholly political reaction to this bombshell on the part of Francis Collins, then-director of the National Institutes of Health.

via www.city-journal.org

Nicholas Wade.

January 23, 2022 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Russia rejects UK claim of trying to replace Ukraine leader | AP News

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Sunday rejected a British claim that the Kremlin is seeking to replace Ukraine’s government with a pro-Moscow administration, and that former Ukrainian lawmaker Yevheniy Murayev is a potential candidate.

Britain’s Foreign Office on Saturday also named several other Ukrainian politicians it said had links with Russian intelligence services, along with Murayev who is the leader of a small party that has no seats in parliament.

Those politicians include Mykola Azarov, a former prime minister under Viktor Yanukovych, the Ukrainian president ousted in a 2014 uprising, and Yanukovych’s former chief of staff, Andriy Kluyev.

“Some of these have contact with Russian intelligence officers currently involved in the planning for an attack on Ukraine,” the Foreign Office said.

via apnews.com

January 23, 2022 | Permalink | Comments (0)

The deep state is no conspiracy theory - The Spectator World

In 1958, Aldous Huxley foresaw a congestion of power able to shape and defy popular will. “Under the relentless thrust of accelerating over-population and increasing over-organization, and by means of ever more effective methods of mind-manipulation, the democracies will change their nature,” he predicted. “The quaint old forms—elections, parliaments, Supreme Courts and all the rest—will remain. The underlying substance will be a new kind of non-violent totalitarianism.”

The changes, according to the author of Brave New World, would be almost imperceptible. “All the traditional names, all the hallowed slogans will remain exactly what they were in the good old days. Democracy and freedom will be the theme of every broadcast and editorial,” he continued. “Meanwhile the ruling oligarchy and its highly trained elite of soldiers, policemen, thought-manufacturers and mind-manipulators will quietly run the show as they see fit.”

The Deep State today is Huxley’s prophesy arrived. Like it or not, Americans live inside a power complex and thought machine that radiates from Washington, DC. Concentrated in blue metro counties and states, its moving parts and wheels, as with a clock, enable us to live in the exacting polity, economy, and culture that we do.

via spectatorworld.com

Sounds about right.

January 23, 2022 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Eric Adams must be NYC's wartime mayor

The murder of rookie Police Officer Jason Rivera, 22, and the serious wounding of his partner, Officer Wilbert Mora, mark another low moment in New York’s decline. Three other city cops were wounded in previous shooting incidents just this month. 

Mayor Adams made clear his determination to stop the violence in a powerful speech Friday night at Harlem Hospital. “We are going to find these guns, and we are going to find those who carry them and use them,” he vowed. 

He talked of “saving our city” and the need to “stop the debate” and work together. To my ears, it sounded like a declaration of war, and I hope it was. 

There is no other choice. Adams must become a wartime mayor. Otherwise, his tenure will be a failure before its gets started, a casualty of mayhem, murder and fear. 

The enemy is the malignant idea that having a grievance, real or imagined, gives you a license to steal, to rob, to kill. The unraveling of the fragile social contract that began during COVID and grew during the anti-police riots in the summer of 2020 has metastasized into a full-blown attack on everything America represents, including the rights of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” 

via nypost.com

January 23, 2022 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Diversity and Inclusiveness – The Left’s Infiltration into America’s Corporations

I worked at one of the Big Four accounting firms until two years ago when I retired early.  I could see what was coming when they began to push a new program called D&I – Diversity and Inclusiveness.  

For those of you who have not endured this, it is an intriguing blend of CRT laced heavily with an attempt to implement quotas in the workplace.  Many companies have hired high priced talent to head up their D&I programs. Mandatory training is the initial thrust of these efforts.  You are forced to sit down and talk about your racial and sexual biases, whether you have them or not.  In fact, if you don’t have them, that often means you have them but are in utter denial.

Sound familiar?

via townhall.com

January 23, 2022 | Permalink | Comments (2)

We marched for life. And for the true equality of women.

The former head of NARAL Pro-Choice America summed it up when she remarked at the size and age of the 2010 March for Life, “I just thought, my gosh, they are so young. There are so many of them, and they are so young.”

via www.yahoo.com

Whatever SCOTUS does, there are going to be a lot of angry people. Probably they should just follow the law, if they can figure that out.

January 23, 2022 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Youngkin Rips Off the School Mask Mandate | RealClearPolitics

Newly minted Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed nine executive orders and two directives that, among other things, ended a mandate that state employees be vaccinated and a school mask mandate. He embraced the radical idea of allowing parents to decide if their children mask up in the classroom, effective Jan. 24.

Addressing a joint assembly of Virginia lawmakers Monday, Youngkin noted there are 1.6 million unvaccinated Virginians and declared that speaking as governor, "I'll never tell you what you must do. But speaking to you as a friend and a neighbor, I strongly encourage you to get the vaccine."

via www.realclearpolitics.com

Well, good. Now we'll do the same thing here in California. Heh. Just kidding.

January 23, 2022 | Permalink | Comments (1)

The left-wing dark money behind the push to kill the filibuster

Sixty left-wing groups led by Fix Our Senate recently issued a letter demanding the Senate abolish the filibuster so “democracy legislation” will pass and the party now narrowly controlling Congress can rewrite all 50 states’ election laws.

Two big secrets lie behind this push to kill the filibuster and, supposedly, protect “voting rights.” First, this lobbying campaign is driven not by grassroots groups of ordinary people but by left-wing megadonors and the AstroTurf groups they fund. The second secret: This scheme isn’t about “protecting Democracy” because overwhelming majorities of our democracy’s citizens support the state election laws that these deep-pocketed special interests want snuffed out.

This fight is about the 2022 and 2024 elections, which liberal activists fear will go badly for them unless all the dubious changes in election laws and practices they finagled in 2020 are repeated. Nse Ufot, who leads a get-out-the-vote group founded by Stacey Abrams, confessed to Politico, “If there isn’t a way for us to repeat what happened in November 2020, we’re f***ed.”

Ufot’s “we” doesn’t refer to all in this democracy but only to the partisans she’s serving.

The same partisanship afflicts the Fix Our Senate nonprofit group that made a splash with its 60-group letter. The legacy media kept the secret, calling Fix Our Senate just a “pro-reform group.” Actually, though Fix Our Senate claims it “represents millions of Americans,” it’s a pop-up group, one of hundreds of fiscally sponsored projects in the “dark money” empire operated by Arabella Advisors, the in-house nonprofit groups of which took in $1.7 billion last year.

Here’s more of the secret: Another letter-signer, Evergreen Action, is yet another front group Arabella operates via its Sixteen Thirty Fund, which Politico called a “liberal dark-money behemoth.”

At least 17 additional nonprofit groups that signed the letter have received $10 million from Arabella’s coffers, Capital Research Center reports . In other words, the dozens of groups demanding the Senate overturn 50 states’ elections laws don’t represent millions of people in those states. They represent a handful of billionaires who liberally fund AstroTurf activism. As Arabella brags , it serves “clients representing more than $100 billion in assets.”

via www.washingtonexaminer.com

Oh dear. I don't like the sound of this. Those darn mega-donors. Always trying to suborn the Republic.

January 23, 2022 | Permalink | Comments (1)

The political power of inflation | Washington Examiner

Joe Biden is a man beset with problems on all sides. His domestic agenda has stalled in Congress and is unlikely to be restarted any time soon. His foreign policy has been a disaster. Afghanistan has collapsed, Russia looks set to acquire portions of Ukraine, and China is making noises about possessing Taiwan. And, of course, the coronavirus still rages. It was irresponsible and foolish of President Biden to promise as a candidate that he would “shut down” the virus — how does one shut down a highly communicable disease? — but promise he did, and he has caught the blame.

But of all the problems plaguing his White House, the most dangerous is inflation. If unchecked, it could destroy his party’s prospects in the November midterm elections and perhaps beyond.

via www.washingtonexaminer.com

Personally, I tend to think inflation at its current high levels is indeed likely to be transitory, but we'll probably have to go through some pain first. Such as a bear market in assets like stock and though I hope not real estate. Let us pray: Dear Jesus, please let the stress tests applied to the portfolios of your faithful prove conservative and accurate. Let not inflation brought on by the profligacy of our rulers so dissipate our savings that we are brought to ruin, but let them, properly hedged, stand up to the tempests created by the forces of darkness, fear and greed, and so let them accompany us, if you will it, into the peaceful waters of a well deserved rest, as after a long labor. Amen. That should help.

January 23, 2022 | Permalink | Comments (1)

It's not by accident SCOTUS is letting an unconstitutional law stand. It's by design.

A majority of the Supreme Court is acting more like a political body than a judicial one. Its treatment of Texas’ abortion law and its looming decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, which will for the first time overturn a case that provides a constitutional right, is merely part of the court’s lurch toward political activism.

via www.msn.com

It is a lurch, but a lurch away from a semi-consistent political activism, which probably seems like a lurch towards it. If you depart from a rule for a long time, then when you go back to the old rule, it will seem like an innovation. I guess the only thing to do is practice Originalism then for next century or so. That will prove that in principle, it's first law, then politics.

January 23, 2022 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Glenn Youngkin cuts to the core of critical race theory | Washington Examiner

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin has realized that the only way to win the battle against critical race theory is by exposing and debunking the ideological foundation upon which it has been built: the idea that equality is determined by outcome rather than opportunity.

Less than a week after signing an executive order banning the teaching of the theory in Virginia’s public schools, Youngkin gutted the state’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. He asked all of its employees to resign and appointed Angela Sailor, a former Heritage Foundation executive who has been critical of CRT, to take charge of it. As one of her first acts in the new role, Sailor changed her title from “chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer” to “chief diversity, opportunity, and inclusion officer.”

via www.washingtonexaminer.com

Hmm. Youngkin seems to be keeping his promises so far.

January 22, 2022 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Public Health’s Truth Problem

Throughout the pandemic, public-health officials have omitted uncomfortable truths, made misleading statements, and advanced demonstrably false assertions. In the information era, where what one says is easily accessible and anyone may read primary literature, these falsehoods will be increasingly recognized and severely damage the field’s credibility. No doubt, officials and organizations promulgating them had a range of motivations—including honorable ones, such as wanting to encourage salutary choices. Yet the subsequent loss of institutional trust may result in harm that far outweighs any short-term policy objectives.

via www.city-journal.org

It's better not to evade the law in order to manufacture a deadly virus, even if it would be cool to do so.

January 22, 2022 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Yann LeCun: Dark Matter of Intelligence and Self-Supervised Learning | Lex Fridman Podcast #258

via www.youtube.com

Yann LeCun is head of AI at Meta (formerly facebook). Smart guy. Good interview about where the cutting edge of AI is.

January 22, 2022 | Permalink | Comments (0)

What Does It Mean for AI to Understand? | Quanta Magazine

Natural language understanding has long been a major goal of AI research. At first, researchers tried to manually program everything a machine would need to make sense of news stories, fiction or anything else humans might write. This approach, as Watson showed, was futile — it’s impossible to write down all the unwritten facts, rules and assumptions required for understanding text. More recently, a new paradigm has been established: Instead of building in explicit knowledge, we let machines learn to understand language on their own, simply by ingesting vast amounts of written text and learning to predict words. The result is what researchers call a language model. When based on large neural networks, like OpenAI’s GPT-3, such models can generate uncannily humanlike prose (and poetry!) and seemingly perform sophisticated linguistic reasoning.

But has GPT-3 — trained on text from thousands of websites, books and encyclopedias — transcended Watson’s veneer? Does it really understand the language it generates and ostensibly reasons about? This is a topic of stark disagreement in the AI research community. Such discussions used to be the purview of philosophers, but in the past decade AI has burst out of its academic bubble into the real world, and its lack of understanding of that world can have real and sometimes devastating consequences. In one study, IBM’s Watson was found to propose “multiple examples of unsafe and incorrect treatment recommendations.” Another study showed that Google’s machine translation system made significant errors when used to translate medical instructions for non-English-speaking patients.

via www.quantamagazine.org

January 22, 2022 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Machine Learning’s ‘Amazing’ Ability to Predict Chaos | Quanta Magazine

Half a century ago, the pioneers of chaos theory discovered that the “butterfly effect” makes long-term prediction impossible. Even the smallest perturbation to a complex system (like the weather, the economy or just about anything else) can touch off a concatenation of events that leads to a dramatically divergent future. Unable to pin down the state of these systems precisely enough to predict how they’ll play out, we live under a veil of uncertainty.

But now the robots are here to help.

In a series of results reported in the journals Physical Review Letters and Chaos, scientists have used machine learning — the same computational technique behind recent successes in artificial intelligence — to predict the future evolution of chaotic systems out to stunningly distant horizons. The approach is being lauded by outside experts as groundbreaking and likely to find wide application.

via www.quantamagazine.org

January 22, 2022 | Permalink | Comments (2)

With One Galaxy, AI Defines a Whole Simulated Universe | Quanta Magazine

A group of scientists may have stumbled upon a radical new way to do cosmology.

Cosmologists usually determine the composition of the universe by observing as much of it as possible. But these researchers have found that a machine learning algorithm can scrutinize a single simulated galaxy and predict the overall makeup of the digital universe in which it exists — a feat analogous to analyzing a random grain of sand under a microscope and working out the mass of Eurasia. The machines appear to have found a pattern that might someday allow astronomers to draw sweeping conclusions about the real cosmos merely by studying its elemental building blocks.

via www.quantamagazine.org

I can't figure out if this is amazing or trivial. I'll probably have to read the whole article.

January 22, 2022 | Permalink | Comments (0)