Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Houston vs. Atlanta Is Rob Manfred's Nightmare World Series

I've been watching a lot of sports, but I've had no time to write about them. 

John Gruden, my favorite guy, resigns. Dodgers win seven elimination games in a row, but can't hold on against the relentless Braves.

College football: U.S.C.'s program has been nuked, their head coach fired. (And besides that, there's more scandals on that campus than the Vatican.)

Work's been busy and thus posting light. I'll pick up the pace after I get my term papers graded. That's the semester hump. After that it's pretty much downhill.

Anyway, don't miss this piece at W.S.J. Very good, "The MLB commissioner yanked the All-Star Game out of Atlanta and punished the Astros for their cheating scandal. Fans are not expected to be forgiving in either city":

HOUSTON—Sometime in the next week or so, Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred will hand off the World Series championship trophy in one of the two cities in America in which he might be most despised.

One is Houston, the site of Tuesday night’s Game 1, where Manfred is seen as a villain over his handling of the sign-stealing scandal that tarnished the Astros’ title in 2017 and stained their players’ legacies. Many fans here believe Manfred scapegoated the Astros for committing a crime that was widespread at the time and unfairly transformed them into the most hated franchise in professional sports.

The other is Atlanta, where Manfred sparked a political firestorm by pulling the All-Star Game in response to Georgia’s new voting law. The move, which the Braves publicly opposed, enraged some state officials and alienated a portion of fans, who are now celebrating even more important games coming to town.

However it shakes out, it is a hellish proposition for Manfred. Sports commissioners frequently hear boos. (Just ask Roger Goodell how much he enjoys showing his face in New England.) But the vitriol Manfred will face at the end of this World Series will be particularly vicious, and coming from all directions—whatever he does now.

Manfred is pinned between liberal and conservative American politics in part because MLB began to respond to calls to act on social issues last year. It left the commissioner simultaneously under pressure to take those stances to their logical conclusion, at the same time he is still facing resentment from people aggrieved at the positions.

If the series ends in Atlanta, Manfred will deliver baseball’s highest honor at the ballpark that he deprived of hosting the All-Star Game. At the time, Manfred said relocating the game was “the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport.” The Braves responded by saying they were “deeply disappointed” and noted that moving the game was “neither our decision, nor our recommendation.”

“Unfortunately, businesses, employees and fans in Georgia are the victims of this decision,” the Braves said.

To Manfred, relocating the All-Star Game had nothing to do with the Braves or the people of Georgia but was rather a move to stave off further controversy, people familiar with the matter said. MLB worried about the possibility of players boycotting the game—or having to answer questions about their status for months leading up to it. Ultimately, MLB knew that no matter what it did with the All-Star Game, people would be angry. Manfred determined moving it to Denver was the better option.

Certainly, some people in Georgia who are against the voting law supported Manfred. Republican politicians in the state, however, are viewing the Braves advancing to the World Series and as some sort of karmic payback. “It’s really ridiculous to inject politics into sports and then to baseball, but that’s what they did,” Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said on “Fox & Friends” on Monday.

Astros fans feel like victims, too, and blame Manfred for undermining what should have been the proudest moment in the history of the franchise. In January 2020, Manfred suspended then-manager A.J. Hinch and then-general manager Jeff Luhnow for their involvement in the Astros’ scheme. (They were both fired that same day, though Hinch has since resurfaced as the manager for the Detroit Tigers.) Manfred also docked Houston’s first- and second-round picks in the 2020 and 2021 drafts and fined the team $5 million.

Whether they should be mad at Manfred is another story. In spite of everything, no players were punished for their roles in the scheme. In the two seasons since the revelation of the scandal, the Astros advanced to the American League Championship Series and now the World Series. They’re doing just fine.

But to some in Houston, the Astros were singled out for something other teams were already doing...

 

Monday, October 18, 2021

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Sunday Women

Anne Hathway on Sunday is, er, risque.

Big Sophie Howard.

And rad chick:




Saturday, October 16, 2021

Allen Guelzo, Robert E. Lee

At Amazon, Allen Guelzo, Robert E. Lee: A Life.




As Afghanistan Sinks Into Destitution, Some Sell Children to Survive

At WSJ, "U.N. warns that 95% of Afghans aren’t getting enough to eat as winter approaches":

HERAT, Afghanistan—Desperate to feed her family, Saleha, a housecleaner here in western Afghanistan, has incurred such an insurmountable debt that the only way she sees out is to hand over her 3-year-old daughter, Najiba, to the man who lent her the money.

The debt is $550.

Saleha, a 40-year-old mother of six who goes by one name, earns 70 cents a day cleaning homes in a wealthier neighborhood of Herat. Her much older husband doesn’t have any work.

Such is the starkness of deepening poverty in Afghanistan, a humanitarian crisis that is worsening fast after the Taliban seized power on Aug. 15, prompting the U.S. to freeze $9 billion in Afghan central-bank assets and causing a halt in most foreign aid.

Already, 95% of Afghans aren’t getting enough to eat, according to the United Nations’ World Food Program, which has warned that “people are being pushed to the brink of survival.” Almost the entire Afghan population of 40 million people could fall below the poverty line in coming months, according to the U.N.

Behind these statistics lie countless personal tragedies of families like Saleha’s. She and her husband used to work on a farm in the western province of Badghis, but two years ago lost that income because of fighting in the area and drought. So they borrowed money just to get food. Hoping to find employment, they ended up moving to a giant encampment of people displaced from other provinces, known as Shahrak Sabz, in Herat.

With the financial system and trade paralyzed after the Taliban takeover, prices for basic food items like flour and oil have doubled since mid-August. The lender offered early this month to write off the debt if she hands over her little girl.

They have three months to provide the money. Otherwise, Najiba will be doing household work in the lender’s home and be married off to one of his three sons when she reaches puberty. They are not sure which one. The oldest is now 6.

“If life continues to be this awful, I will kill my children and myself,” said Saleha, speaking in her tiny two-room home. “I don’t even know what we will eat tonight.”

“I will try to find money to save my daughter’s life,” added her husband, Abdul Wahab.

The lender, Khalid Ahmad, confirmed he had made the offer to the couple.

“I also don’t have money. They haven’t paid me back,” said Mr. Ahmad, reached by phone in Badghis. “So there is no option but taking the daughter.”

They have three months to provide the money. Otherwise, Najiba will be doing household work in the lender’s home and be married off to one of his three sons when she reaches puberty. They are not sure which one. The oldest is now 6.

“If life continues to be this awful, I will kill my children and myself,” said Saleha, speaking in her tiny two-room home. “I don’t even know what we will eat tonight.”

“I will try to find money to save my daughter’s life,” added her husband, Abdul Wahab.

The lender, Khalid Ahmad, confirmed he had made the offer to the couple.

“I also don’t have money. They haven’t paid me back,” said Mr. Ahmad, reached by phone in Badghis. “So there is no option but taking the daughter.”

Following the Taliban takeover, neighboring Pakistan and Iran, where many men from this community used to work as laborers, closed their borders, bracing for a flood of refugees. All that is left as work is collecting plastic bottles and other trash to sell for recycling. Other families in the area have had to surrender children to repay debts, residents say.

Growing destitution could undermine the Taliban’s so-far solid hold on power and serve as a recruiting tool for the local branch of Islamic State, their only significant rival. A Taliban official in the west of the country said that Afghans would have to get used to a meager existence.

“We suffered for 20 years fighting jihad, we lost members of our families, we didn’t have proper food, and in the end, we were rewarded with this government. If people have to struggle for a few months, so what?” said the official. “Popularity is not important for the Taliban.”

Taliban officials have repeatedly said they welcome international aid for Afghanistan but wouldn’t compromise on their Islamic beliefs to secure assistance...

 

Friday, October 15, 2021

Backlash Against Dave Chappelle's 'The Closer' (VIDEO)

If you've watched Chappelle's latest and last comedy special on Netflix, you might be flummoxed by all the hullabaloo. Then again, if you're up on despicable cancel culture, maybe not. 

One of many hilarious moments is when he told his audience that he was "uncancelable." He tells all the media scolds and woke Twitter idiots to fuck off. It's boss, heh.

Leftist won't let go, though Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos has refused to cave. Maybe he still will, but I doubt it. Netflix has the power, not the ghoulish woke mob. Chappelle's show received sky-high viewer ratings on Dirty Rotten Tomatoes. Sarandos says the show's too popular to cancel

Anyway, just watch it for yourself. The cancel mobs make a lot of noise and they are very successful, but they can't bring down everyone, especially the biggest stars in the industry. 

The latest at NYT, "Netflix Loses Its Glow as Critics Target Chappelle Special":


It was looking like a great year for Netflix. It surpassed 200 million subscribers, won 44 Emmys and gave the world “Squid Game,” a South Korean series that became a sensation.

That’s all changed. Internally, the tech company that revolutionized Hollywood is now in an uproar as employees challenge the executives responsible for its success and accuse the streaming service of facilitating the spread of hate speech and perhaps inciting violence.

At the center of the unrest is “The Closer,” the much-anticipated special from the Emmy-winning comedian Dave Chappelle, which debuted on Oct. 5 and was the fourth-most-watched program on Netflix in the United States on Thursday. In the show, Mr. Chappelle comments mockingly on transgender people and aligns himself with the author J.K. Rowling as “Team TERF,” an acronym for trans-exclusionary radical feminist, a term used for a group of people who argue that a transgender woman’s biological sex determines her gender and can’t be changed.

“The Closer” has thrust Netflix into difficult cultural debates, generating the kind of critical news coverage that usually attends Facebook and Google.

Several organizations, including GLAAD, the organization that monitors the news media and entertainment companies for bias against the L.G.B.T.Q. community, have criticized the special as transphobic. Some on Netflix’s staff have argued that it could incite harm against trans people. This week, the company briefly suspended three employees who attended a virtual meeting of executives without permission, and a contingent of workers has planned a walkout for next week.

A discussion this week on an internal Netflix message board between Reed Hastings, a co-chief executive, and company employees suggested that the two sides remained far apart on the issue of Mr. Chappelle’s special. A transcript of the wide-ranging online chat, in which Mr. Hastings expressed his views on free speech and argued firmly against the comedian’s detractors, was obtained by The New York Times.

One employee questioned whether Netflix was “making the wrong historical choice around hate speech.” In reply, Mr. Hastings wrote: “To your macro question on being on the right side of history, we will always continue to reflect on the tensions between freedom and safety. I do believe that our commitment to artistic expression and pleasing our members is the right long term choice for Netflix, and that we are on the right side, but only time will tell.”

He also said Mr. Chappelle was very popular with Netflix subscribers, citing the “stickiness” of “The Closer” and noting how well it had scored on the entertainment ratings website Rotten Tomatoes. “The core strategy,” Mr. Hastings wrote, “is to please our members.”

Replying to an employee who argued that Mr. Chappelle’s words were harmful, Mr. Hastings wrote: “In stand-up comedy, comedians say lots of outrageous things for effect. Some people like the art form, or at least particular comedians, and others do not.”

When another employee expressed an opinion that Mr. Chappelle had a history of homophobia and bigotry, Mr. Hastings said he disagreed, and would welcome the comedian back to Netflix.

“We disagree with your characterization and we’ll continue to work with Dave Chappelle in the future,” he said. “We see him as a unique voice, but can understand if you or others never want to watch his show.”

He added, “We do not see Dave Chappelle as harmful, or in need of any offset, which we obviously and respectfully disagree on.”

In a note to employees this week, Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s other co-chief executive, expressed his unwavering support for Mr. Chappelle and struck back at the argument that the comic’s statements could lead to violence...

More.

 

Jonathan Franzen, Crossroads

At Amazon, Jonathan Franzen, Crossroads: A Novel.




We Got Here Because of Cowardice

 From Bari Weiss, at Commentary, "We Got Here Because of Cowardice. We Get Out With Courage":


A lot of people want to convince you that you need a Ph.D. or a law degree or dozens of hours of free time to read dense texts about critical theory to understand the woke movement and its worldview. You do not. You simply need to believe your own eyes and ears.

Let me offer the briefest overview of the core beliefs of the Woke Revolution, which are abundantly clear to anyone willing to look past the hashtags and the jargon...

In this ideology, speech is violence. But violence, when carried out by the right people in pursuit of a just cause, is not violence at all. In this ideology, bullying is wrong, unless you are bullying the right people, in which case it’s very, very good. In this ideology, education is not about teaching people how to think, it’s about reeducating them in what to think. In this ideology, the need to feel safe trumps the need to speak truthfully.

In this ideology, if you do not tweet the right tweet or share the right slogan, your whole life can be ruined. Just ask Tiffany Riley, a Vermont school principal who was fired—fired—because she said she supports black lives but not the organization Black Lives Matter.

In this ideology, the past cannot be understood on its own terms, but must be judged through the morals and mores of the present. It is why statues of Grant and Washington are being torn down. And it is why William Peris, a UCLA lecturer and an Air Force veteran, was investigated for reading Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” out loud in class.

In this ideology, intentions don’t matter. That is why Emmanuel Cafferty, a Hispanic utility worker at San Diego Gas and Electric, was fired for making what someone said he thought was a white-supremacist hand gesture—when in fact he was cracking his knuckles out of his car window.

In this ideology, the equality of opportunity is replaced with equality of outcome as a measure of fairness. If everyone doesn’t finish the race at the same time, the course must have been defective. Thus, the argument to get rid of the SAT. Or the admissions tests for public schools like Stuyvesant in New York or Lowell in San Francisco.

In this ideology, you are guilty for the sins of your fathers. In other words: You are not you. You are only a mere avatar of your race or your religion or your class. That is why third-graders in Cupertino, California, were asked to rate themselves in terms of their power and privilege. In third grade.

In this system, we are all placed neatly on a spectrum of “privileged” to “oppressed.” We are ranked somewhere on this spectrum in different categories: race, gender, sexual orientation, and class. Then we are given an overall score, based on the sum of these rankings. Having privilege means that your character and your ideas are tainted. This is why, one high-schooler in New York tells me, students in his school are told, “If you are white and male, you are second in line to speak.” This is considered a normal and necessary redistribution of power.

Racism has been redefined. It is no longer about discrimination based on the color of someone’s skin. Racism is any system that allows for disparate outcomes between racial groups. If disparity is present, as the high priest of this ideology, Ibram X. Kendi, has explained, racism is present. According to this totalizing new view, we are all either racist or anti-racist. To be a Good Person and not a Bad Person, you must be an “anti-racist.” There is no neutrality. There is no such thing as “not racist.”

Most important: In this revolution, skeptics of any part of this radical ideology are recast as heretics. Those who do not abide by every single aspect of its creed are tarnished as bigots, subjected to boycotts and their work to political litmus tests. The Enlightenment, as the critic Edward Rothstein has put it, has been replaced by the exorcism.

What we call “cancel culture” is really the justice system of this revolution. And the goal of the cancellations is not merely to punish the person being cancelled. The goal is to send a message to everyone else: Step out of line and you are next.

It has worked. A recent CATO study found that 62 percent of Americans are afraid to voice their true views. Nearly a quarter of American academics endorse ousting a colleague for having a wrong opinion about hot-button issues such as immigration or gender differences. And nearly 70 percent of students favor reporting professors if the professor says something that students find offensive, according to a Challey Institute for Global Innovation survey.

Why are so many, especially so many young people, drawn to this ideology? It’s not because they are dumb. Or because they are snowflakes, or whatever Fox talking points would have you believe. All of this has taken place against the backdrop of major changes in American life—the tearing apart of our social fabric; the loss of religion and the decline of civic organizations; the opioid crisis; the collapse of American industries; the rise of big tech; successive financial crises; a toxic public discourse; crushing student debt. An epidemic of loneliness. A crisis of meaning. A pandemic of distrust. It has taken place against the backdrop of the American dream’s decline into what feels like a punchline, the inequalities of our supposedly fair, liberal meritocracy clearly rigged in favor of some people and against others. And so on.

“I became converted because I was ripe for it and lived in a disintegrating society thrusting for faith.” That was Arthur Koestler writing in 1949 about his love affair with Communism. The same might be said of this new revolutionary faith. And like other religions at their inception, this one has lit on fire the souls of true believers, eager to burn down anything or anyone that stands in its way.

If you have ever tried to build something, even something small, you know how hard it is. It takes time. It takes tremendous effort. But tearing things down? That’s quick work.

The Woke Revolution has been exceptionally effective. It has successfully captured the most important sense-making institutions of American life: our newspapers. Our magazines. Our Hollywood studios. Our publishing houses. Many of our tech companies. And, increasingly, corporate America.

Just as in China under Chairman Mao, the seeds of our own cultural revolution can be traced to the academy, the first of our institutions to be overtaken by it. And our schools—public, private, parochial—are increasingly the recruiting grounds for this ideological army...

More.

 

Afghanistan Mosque Bombing Kills at Least 38 Shiite Worshippers in Kanduhar

The news for Biden is so-bad all-around there's not enough room for above-the-fold headlines in the nation's newspapers. The bad news is packing it, overwhelming everything else. 

I hate to predict elections (because really, you never know until voters actually vote), but if historical precedent is any clue, 2022 is going to be an electoral tsunami like we've never seen. I feel like we're back in the 1970 and Jimmy Carter is whining about the "malaise" he couldn't fix. 

I'll be surprised if Biden doesn't mandate thermostats lowered to 65 degrees this winter and tell regular folks to put on a cardigan sweaters.

At WSJ, "Afghanistan Mosque Bombing Kills at Least 38 Shiite Worshippers":

A complex suicide attack on a Shiite mosque in southern Afghanistan’s main city of Kandahar killed at least 38 worshipers Friday, breaking two months of relative peace in the Taliban’s historic stronghold and highlighting the threat posed by a spreading presence of Islamic State.

While nobody took immediate responsibility, Friday’s attack followed a suicide bombing claimed by Islamic State that killed some 100 people on Oct. 8 at a Shiite mosque in the northern city of Kunduz. The extremist group’s regional affiliate, Islamic State Khorasan Province, or ISKP, has repeatedly targeted Afghanistan’s Shiite minority in recent months.

Kandahar’s main hospital, Mirwais, said it received 38 fatalities and 72 people who were injured in the blast. Mohammad Qasam, the chief doctor at the hospital, warned that the death toll could rise.

“The prayer had ended. We were preparing to leave the mosque when we heard gunfire outside. A few seconds later, there was a blast inside. I was close to the entrance and managed to escape quickly,” said the witness. He said two suicide bombers detonated outside the mosque and a third blew himself up inside.

While both the Taliban and Islamic State adhere to a strict interpretation of Sunni Islam, the two groups have profound ideological differences and consider each other enemies. Though the Taliban persecuted Shiites in the past, they have since softened their position and say that, under their rule, the religious freedom of Afghanistan’s Shiite community will be safeguarded. Islamic State considers all Shiite Muslims infidels who should be killed. The Taliban condemned the attack and directed their security forces “to find the perpetrators as soon as possible and bring them to justice,” according to a statement released by the group’s chief spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid.

The recent series of deadly bombings present a challenge to the Taliban government. Since the Taliban toppled the U.S.-backed Afghan republic on Aug. 15 and proclaimed a restored Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, improved security has been a key source of legitimacy for Afghanistan’s new rulers. Yet ISKP—the only significant militant group currently operating in Afghanistan—has struck many high-profile targets since then, including a bombing outside Kabul airport that killed 200 Afghans waiting to be evacuated and 13 U.S. service members.

Friday’s blast shows that the Taliban are struggling to guarantee security even in Kandahar, their historical stronghold.

“The Taliban have been dismissive of the Islamic State’s threat—and it is showing how wrong they are,” said Asfandyar Mir, an Afghanistan expert at the United States Institute of Peace. “Carrying out this attack in the Taliban’s heartland is a clear signal that the Islamic State wants to take the fight to the Taliban, bleed their legitimacy and sovereignty over Afghanistan.”

The mosque bombing interrupted a period of unusual peace in southern Afghanistan, home to some of the deadliest battlegrounds of the 20-year war waged by the U.S.-led coalition and its Afghan allies.

“When the Taliban took over the country, I thought we would be rid of war but now I think the situation may get even worse in the future,” said Navid, a resident of Kandahar city who didn’t want his surname to be used. “The harsh truth, which we all have to accept, is that there is no peace in Afghanistan. We will never be able to live peacefully, neither under the previous government nor the current Islamic Emirate,” he added.

Afghanistan has largely avoided the kind of sectarian strife that plagues much of the Muslim world. ISKP, which was formed by spinoff factions of Afghan and Pakistani Taliban in 2014, was the first group to systematically target Shiite Muslims, who make up around a fifth of Afghanistan’s population...

 

On Joe Rogin vs. Sanjay Jupta: 'However much contempt you harbor for these media corporations — and I know it’s a lot — it’s still not enough. They deserve more. No institution does more damage to political and cultural life than employees of media corporations...'

 At Instapundit below.

And watch, at Fox News, "Joe Rogan 'absolutely eviscerated' CNN's Sanjay Gupta..." (VIDEO).




Britain's Conservative M.P. David Amess Murdered in Stabbing Attack in Essex (VIDEO)

Awful. Just horrible. 

At NYT, "Longtime U.K. Lawmaker Is Stabbed to Death, Stunning Britain":

David Amess, a Conservative member of Parliament, was holding a meeting in his constituency at the time. He is the second politician killed in an attack in just over five years.

More, "In full: Police hold press conference after MP stabbed to death."


Monday, October 11, 2021

Report: Raiders Coach Jon Gruden Resigns After Release of Anti-LGBTQ, Misogynistic Emails (VIDEO)

The news is everywhere. 

I hate everything right now. Everything sucks. Leftists have ruined this country and they're not done.

Video here, "[BREAKING NEWS] Ian Rapoport report Jon Gruden resigns as Raiders head coach."

At Sports Illustrated:


Raiders coach Jon Gruden resigned after the release of numerous offensive emails he sent from 2010 to 2018, according to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero.

The New York Times published a report Monday evening detailing a number of emails featuring misogynistic, racist and anti-LGBTQ language sent by Gruden. A Wall Street Journal report was released last week in which Gruden used a racist trope to describe executive director of the NFL Players Association DeMaurice Smith.

Gruden reportedly referred to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell as a "clueless anti football p---y" as well as a "f----t" in the emails released by the New York Times. He also claimed the NFL pressured the then-St. Louis Rams to draft Michael Sam, a gay player selected in 2014. Gruden also "criticized Goodell and the league for trying to reduce concussions and said that Eric Reid, a player who had demonstrated during the playing of the national anthem, should be fired," per the Times.

Raiders owner Mark Davis met with Gruden early Monday evening, per ESPN's Adam Schefter. The meeting ended with Gruden's tenure as Las Vegas's head coach coming to an end...

RTWT.

See more news here

 

Black Children Were Jailed for a Crime That Doesn’t Exist. Almost Nothing Happened to the Adults in Charge.

Oh man, what a gnarly piece at ProPublica, "Judge Donna Scott Davenport oversees a juvenile justice system in Rutherford County, Tennessee, with a staggering history of jailing children. She said kids must face consequences, which rarely seem to apply to her or the other adults in charge."

Via Jonathan Last, "Joe Biden Is in a World of Trouble (Even Democrats Don't Like Him)."


Sunday, October 10, 2021

Lawrence Wright, The Plague Year

At Amazon, Lawrence Wright, The Plague Year: America in the Time of Covid.




China’s Xi Emphasizes ‘Peaceful Reunification’ With Taiwan, Days After Record Show of Force

Well, just in case, we have Marines deployed to Taipei, in case something comes up.

At WSJ, "Taiwanese people would not bow to Chinese pressure, President Tsai Ing-wen said in a speech Sunday":

Chinese President Xi Jinping called for a “peaceful reunification” with Taiwan days after China’s People’s Liberation Army sent a record 56 bombers and other aircraft on sorties near the self-ruled island in a single day.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen answered in a speech the following day, saying Taiwanese people would not bow to Chinese pressure. “The historical task of the complete reunification of the motherland must be fulfilled, and can definitely be fulfilled,” Mr. Xi said in Beijing on Saturday, adding that achieving that goal by peaceful means is in the interests of people in Taiwan.

Mr. Xi’s remarks were part of a speech that marked the 110th anniversary of the revolution that overturned Qing imperial rule in China. In the decades that followed, the Communists and Nationalists jostled for control of China, which later led to a split between China and Taiwan amid a civil war. Nationalist forces withdrew to the island, and communist leader Mao Zedong proclaimed the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949.

The Communist Party considers Taiwan part of China, despite never having ruled the island, and has vowed to take control of it, by force if necessary.

Mr. Xi has long spoken of realizing what Beijing has called a peaceful reunification with Taiwan, but his remarks came as concerns within the U.S. mounted over China’s yearslong military buildup and recent threatening moves against the island.

The PLA has flown 150 sorties near Taiwan so far this month, a blitz that has sparked expressions of concern from the U.S., U.K. and Germany.

On Thursday, The Wall Street Journal reported that a small number of American troops have been secretly training local military forces on the island.

Taiwan’s independence is the biggest obstacle to Beijing’s goal of unification and poses a “serious hidden danger to national rejuvenation,” Mr. Xi said. “Those who forget their ancestors, betray the motherland or split the country have always been doomed. They will definitely be spurned by the people and judged by history,” he added...

 

Claire Vaye Watkins, I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness

 At Amazon, Claire Vaye Watkins, I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness.




Saturday, October 9, 2021

Frances Haugen's Testimony (VIDEO)

Following-up, "How Facebook Forced a Reckoning by Shutting Down the Team That Put People Ahead of Profits."

And at WSJ's YouTube page, "Watch Live: Facebook Whistleblower Frances Haugen Testifies."




How Facebook Forced a Reckoning by Shutting Down the Team That Put People Ahead of Profits

I quit.

As readers may recall (I think I mentioned it), I quit Facebook about a month after Trump was elected in 2016. The obscene toxicity was off-the-wall, worse than ever. 

I thought I'd try it again after Biden was elected, and no-go. Now I was attacked for "attacking" Biden, even from one of my best friends from high school. (That's perfect, for what's Facebook except a place for juvenile adults to rehash all the gossip, jealousy, hatred, and privilege from everyone's high school days. It took me a long time to figure it out. It's sickening.)

At Time, this week's cover story:


Facebook’s civic-integrity team was always different from all the other teams that the social media company employed to combat misinformation and hate speech. For starters, every team member subscribed to an informal oath, vowing to “serve the people’s interest first, not Facebook’s.”

The “civic oath,” according to five former employees, charged team members to understand Facebook’s impact on the world, keep people safe and defuse angry polarization. Samidh Chakrabarti, the team’s leader, regularly referred to this oath—which has not been previously reported—as a set of guiding principles behind the team’s work, according to the sources.

Chakrabarti’s team was effective in fixing some of the problems endemic to the platform, former employees and Facebook itself have said.

But, just a month after the 2020 U.S. election, Facebook dissolved the civic-integrity team, and Chakrabarti took a leave of absence. Facebook said employees were assigned to other teams to help share the group’s experience across the company. But for many of the Facebook employees who had worked on the team, including a veteran product manager from Iowa named Frances Haugen, the message was clear: Facebook no longer wanted to concentrate power in a team whose priority was to put people ahead of profits.

Five weeks later, supporters of Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol—after some of them organized on Facebook and used the platform to spread the lie that the election had been stolen. The civic-integrity team’s dissolution made it harder for the platform to respond effectively to Jan. 6, one former team member, who left Facebook this year, told TIME. “A lot of people left the company. The teams that did remain had significantly less power to implement change, and that loss of focus was a pretty big deal,” said the person. “Facebook did take its eye off the ball in dissolving the team, in terms of being able to actually respond to what happened on Jan. 6.” The former employee, along with several others TIME interviewed, spoke on the condition of anonymity, for fear that being named would ruin their career.

Enter Frances Haugen

Haugen revealed her identity on Oct. 3 as the whistle-blower behind the most significant leak of internal research in the company’s 17-year history. In a bombshell testimony to the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security two days later, Haugen said the civic-integrity team’s dissolution was the final event in a long series that convinced her of the need to blow the whistle. “I think the moment which I realized we needed to get help from the outside—that the only way these problems would be solved is by solving them together, not solving them alone—was when civic-integrity was dissolved following the 2020 election,” she said. “It really felt like a betrayal of the promises Facebook had made to people who had sacrificed a great deal to keep the election safe, by basically dissolving our community.”

In a statement provided to TIME, Facebook’s vice president for integrity Guy Rosen denied the civic-integrity team had been disbanded. “We did not disband Civic Integrity,” Rosen said. “We integrated it into a larger Central Integrity team so that the incredible work pioneered for elections could be applied even further, for example, across health-related issues. Their work continues to this day.” (Facebook did not make Rosen available for an interview for this story.)

Haugen left the company in May. Before she departed, she trawled Facebook’s internal employee forum for documents posted by integrity researchers about their work. Much of the research was not related to her job, but was accessible to all Facebook employees. What she found surprised her.

Some of the documents detailed an internal study that found that Instagram, its photo-sharing app, made 32% of teen girls feel worse about their bodies. Others showed how a change to Facebook’s algorithm in 2018, touted as a way to increase “meaningful social interactions” on the platform, actually incentivized divisive posts and misinformation. They also revealed that Facebook spends almost all of its budget for keeping the platform safe only on English-language content. In September, the Wall Street Journal published a damning series of articles based on some of the documents that Haugen had leaked to the paper. Haugen also gave copies of the documents to Congress and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The documents, Haugen testified Oct. 5, “prove that Facebook has repeatedly misled the public about what its own research reveals about the safety of children, the efficacy of its artificial intelligence systems, and its role in spreading divisive and extreme messages.” She told Senators that the failings revealed by the documents were all linked by one deep, underlying truth about how the company operates. “This is not simply a matter of certain social media users being angry or unstable, or about one side being radicalized against the other; it is about Facebook choosing to grow at all costs, becoming an almost trillion-dollar company by buying its profits with our safety,” she said.

Facebook’s focus on increasing user engagement, which ultimately drives ad revenue and staves off competition, she argued, may keep users coming back to the site day after day—but also systematically boosts content that is polarizing, misinformative and angry, and which can send users down dark rabbit holes of political extremism or, in the case of teen girls, body dysmorphia and eating disorders. “The company’s leadership knows how to make Facebook and Instagram safer, but won’t make the necessary changes because they have put their astronomical profits before people,” Haugen said. (In 2020, the company reported $29 billion in net income—up 58% from a year earlier. This year, it briefly surpassed $1 trillion in total market value, though Haugen’s leaks have since knocked the company down to around $940 billion.)

Asked if executives adhered to the same set of values as the civic-integrity team, including putting the public’s interests before Facebook’s, a company spokesperson told TIME it was “safe to say everyone at Facebook is committed to understanding our impact, keeping people safe and reducing polarization.”

In the same week that an unrelated systems outage took Facebook’s services offline for hours and revealed just how much the world relies on the company’s suite of products—including WhatsApp and Instagram—the revelations sparked a new round of national soul-searching. It led some to question how one company can have such a profound impact on both democracy and the mental health of hundreds of millions of people. Haugen’s documents are the basis for at least eight new SEC investigations into the company for potentially misleading its investors. And they have prompted senior lawmakers from both parties to call for stringent new regulations...

Even more.

 

Remarkable Shape-Shifting on Left's Critical Race Theory Takeover

They're scared. Race-bait leftists are scared shitless.

They're up against the wall and resorting to anything --- pure lies, propaganda, and even the power of the federal government --- to shut down kids and school moms showing up at board meetings nationwide. 

Goodness prevails over evil, and "antiracist/C.R.T." is going down.

From Ayaan Ali Hirsi, at UnHerd, "Critical Race Theory’s New Disguise":

Does “critical race theory” (CRT) really exist? Not according to Ralph Northam, the Governor of Virginia. CRT, he recently told The New York Times, “is a dog whistle that the Republicans are using to frighten people. What I’m interested in is equity.”

But rather than convince anyone about the non-existence of CRT, his comments merely confirmed something else: namely, CRT’s remarkable ability to shape-shift into whatever form its advocates choose. For Northam, CRT might not exist — but that’s only because it has undergone a rebranding.

Indeed, while many on the Right have obsessed over the rise of CRT in the past year, a different abbreviation has quickly become entrenched in America’s schools and colleges: “diversity, equity and inclusion” (DEI).

Part of its purpose appears to be to sow confusion among opponents of CRT. It has certainly riled the conservative Heritage Foundation. In its recent guide on “How to identify Critical Race Theory”, it warns of a “new tactic” deployed by the movement’s defenders: they “now deny that the curricula and training programs in question form part of CRT, insisting that the ‘diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)’ programs of trainers such as Ibram X. Kendi and Robin DiAngelo are distinct from the academic work of professors such as Derrick Bell, Kimberle Crenshaw, and other CRT architects”.

Certainly, regardless of which trendy three-letter term you prefer to describe the latest iteration of America’s obsession with race, the goal in each case is the same: to shift away from meritocracy in favour of an equality of outcome system.

But implementing a grievance model into our youth education curriculum will not fix the problems it purports to solve. There is, after all, a dearth of evidence suggesting that DEI programmes advance diversity, equity or inclusion. In fact, if DEI programmes in schools have similar results as DEI corporate training, they might be not only ineffective, but potentially harmful.

This shift is due to the clear failure of affirmative action policies. First introduced more than 50 years ago, they were intended to create equal opportunities for a black community said to be held back by the legacies of slavery and Jim Crow laws. Suffice it to say that they failed. Today, only 26% of black American’s have a Bachelor’s degree, 10% lower than the national average. More than half of black households earn less than $50,000 annually, and the labour force participation rate for black men is 3.3% lower than for white men; it has actually shrunk by 11.6% since the early 1970’s. Only four CEOs from Fortune 500 companies are black.

Instead of providing opportunities for black students, affirmative action threw many students into the deep-end of schools where they lacked the educational foundation to succeed. Frequently, as Richard Sander and Stuart Taylor Jr have observed, they were mismatched: “Large racial preferences backfire[d] against many, and perhaps, most recipients, to the point that they learn less… usually get much lower grades, rank toward the bottom of the class, and far more often drop out.”

But rather than recognise the failure of this approach, its proponents have chosen to double down. Without analysing why affirmative action failed to produce equal opportunity for black students, and without trying to identify solutions that would be more impactful, those interested in CRT and DEI only wish to manipulate the system further.

Instead of focusing on ways to lift black students up as individuals with agency, ability and choice, they believe the system must reorient itself to produce the desired outcome, starting with kindergarten. It is dependent on the magnification of barriers and tension between racial groups — something which I suspect is psychologically damaging to both white and black students.

For white students, the blame of slavery and Jim Crow laws are laid at their feet...

More.

 

69 Percent of Hispanics Disapprove of Biden’s Handling of Immigration

At National Review:

Amid the border crisis, which escalated last week with the apprehension of over ten thousand Haitian migrants, President Biden has fallen out of favor with the majority of Hispanic Americans over his handling of immigration policy.

Sixty-nine percent of Hispanics disapprove of Biden’s handling of immigration, while only 23 percent approve, according to a new Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday...

Keep reading.

 

Out of Control: The Outsized Role Immigration Plays in Fueling our National Divide

At Sabato's Crystal Ball, "Project Home Fire/Center for Politics Research Reveals Outsized Role Immigration Plays in Fueling our National Divide":

These findings reveal the outsized role immigration plays in fueling our national divide. While majorities of Biden voters favor social justice policies for those they view as oppressed and discriminated against, this focus does not necessarily translate into wholesale policy positions — from taxes to employment to the cost of housing, and so on.

On the other hand, Trump voters have identified a common threat — immigrants and those who support them. For them, immigration splits the country and amplifies broader concerns. More to the point, immigration presents as an expansive and expanding conflict accelerator that sits at the fulcrum of our deep, wide, and dangerous national divide...

More.


Brilliantly Hilarious — *Crying Tears Emoji Here LOL*

On Twitter:




What Happens When the Last Jew Leaves Afghanistan

From Dara Horn, at NYT

The Last Jew of Afghanistan is gone, and everyone is glad to be rid of him.

Zebulon Simentov, Afghanistan’s only remaining Jew, escaped three weeks ago after refusing early opportunities to flee Kabul amid this summer’s American withdrawal. He initially declined to leave, he once told reporters, so as to protect the country’s last synagogue — though it seems that he may actually have hoped to avoid his estranged wife in Israel, who had been waiting over 20 years for him to sign off on a religious divorce. According to The Associated Press, Mr. Simentov, a “portly man fond of whiskey, who kept a pet partridge” and charged “exorbitant fees for interviews,” was a headache for the Israeli-American businessman who arranged his rescue. He described his experience with the Last Jew as “two weeks of being a shrink.” Mr. Simentov’s wife finally received her divorce just this week.

The story of Mr. Simentov, whose name incongruously means “good omen,” was primarily presented as a moment of lightness amid the horrors of the Taliban takeover. This was also true when Mr. Simentov appeared in the news in the early years of the American occupation nearly 20 years ago. Back then, he was one of Two Last Jews of Afghanistan (the other died in 2005), and the story was that the Taliban had imprisoned both of them — until their endless bickering got so annoying that the guards kicked them out of jail.

These stories are used as comic relief, like a Mel Brooks skit injected into the relentless thrum of bad news. But when I read about the Last Jew of Afghanistan, a country where Jewish communities thrived for well over a thousand years, it occurred to me that there have been many “Last Jews” stories like this, in many, many places — and that the way we tell these stories is itself part of the problem.

Dozens of countries around the world have had their Last Jews. The Libyan city of Tripoli was, astonishingly, one-quarter Jewish in 1941; today the entire country is Jew-free. After the fall of Muammar el-Qaddafi, who banished the country’s lingering Jews during his reign, a lone Libyan Jew came back to Tripoli and took down a concrete wall sealing the city’s one remaining synagogue. But he was soon forced to flee, having been warned that an antisemitic mob was coming for his head.

Chrystie Sherman, a photographer for Diarna, an online museum of Jewish sites in the Islamic world, once told me how she tracked down the last Jewish business owner in Syria, a millenniums-old Jewish community that once numbered in the tens of thousands. In 2009, he took her to a magnificent 500-year-old synagogue. The structure didn’t survive Syria’s civil war. At another synagogue, she had to lie to government agents about why she was there; admitting that she was documenting Jewish history was too dangerous.

In my travels, I’ve also seen what happens in such places decades after the Last Jews have vanished. Often, thousands of years of history are completely erased, remembered only by the descendants of the dead. Sometimes, something even creepier happens: People tell stories about Jews that make them feel better about themselves, patting themselves on the back for their current love for Jews long gone. The self-righteous memory-keeping is so much easier without insufferable living Jews getting in the way.

Places around the world now largely devoid of Jews have come to think fondly of the dead Jews who once shared their streets, and an entire industry has emerged to encourage tourism to these now historical sites. The locals in such places rarely minded when living Jews were either massacred or driven out.

But now they pine for the dead Jews, lovingly restoring their synagogues and cemeteries — sometimes while also pining for live Jewish tourists and their magic Jewish money. Egypt’s huge Jewish community predated Islam by at least six centuries; now that only a handful of Jews remain, the government has poured funding into restoring synagogues for tourists.

I have visited, and written about, many such “heritage sites” over the years, in countries ranging from Spain to China. Some are maintained by sincere and learned people, with deep research and profound courage. I wish that were the norm. More often, they are like Epcot pavilions, selling bagels and bobbleheads, sometimes hardly even mentioning why this synagogue is now a museum or a concert hall. Many Jewish travelers to such sites feel a discomfort they can barely name.

I’ve felt it too, every time. I’ve walked through places where Jews lived for hundreds or even thousands of years, people who share so many of the foundations of my own life — the language and books I cherish, the ideas that nourish me, the rhythms of my weeks and years — and I have felt the silence close in.

I don’t mean the dead Jews’ silence, but my own. I know how I am supposed to feel: solemn, calmly contemplative, and perhaps also grateful to whoever so kindly restored this synagogue or renamed this street. I stifle my disquiet, telling myself it is merely sorrow, burying it so deep that I no longer recognize what it really is: rage.

That rage is real, and we ignore it at our peril. It’s apparently in poor taste to point out why people like Mr. Simentov wind up as “Last Jews” to begin with: People decided they no longer wanted to live with those who weren’t exactly like themselves. Nostalgic stories about Last Jews mask a much larger and darker reality about societies that were once ethnic and religious mosaics, but are now home to almost no one but Arab Muslims, Lithuanian Catholics or Han Chinese. It costs little to wax nostalgic about departed Jews when one lives in a place where diversity, rather than being a living human challenge, is a fairy tale from the past. There is only one way to be.

What does it mean for a society to rid itself of other points of view? To reject those with different perspectives, different histories, different ways of being in the world? The example of Jewish history, of the many Last Jews in places around the globe, holds up a dark mirror to those of us living in much freer societies. The cynical use of bygone Jews to “inspire” us can verge on the absurd, but that absurdity isn’t so far-off from our own lip service to diversity, where those who differ from us are wonderful, so long as they see things our way.

On paper, American diversity is impressive. But in reality, we often live siloed lives. How do we really treat those who aren’t just like us? The disgust is palpable, as anyone knows who has tried being Jewish on TikTok. Are we up to the challenge of maintaining a society that actually respects others?

I hope so, but I’m not holding my breath. The Last Jew of Afghanistan is gone, and everyone is glad to be rid of him.

When Fourth-Graders Can’t Read: One Phoenix School Has a New Way to Fight Pandemic Learning Loss

At WSJ, "Students return to school two grade levels behind; adding literacy lessons to PE":

PHOENIX—On a recent morning, 10 fourth-graders huddled in a circle on the floor over magnetic boards, moving lettered tiles to spell out the one-syllable words their teacher, Katerah Layne, called out.

“Rub” said Ms. Layne. As the students shuffled their tiles, a couple confused the letters “b” and “d.”

“It’s OK to get confused,” Ms. Layne reassured the students.

Next, she called out the word “fish.” All of the students spelled it correctly. “We all got the ‘i’ sound. I’m so proud of you,” said Ms. Layne.

Each fall, about five students show up to Ms. Layne’s class at Sevilla Elementary School East in Phoenix lagging far behind fourth grade-level reading skills. This year, she was stunned to find nearly half of her 25 students tested at kindergarten to first-grade reading levels.

When the pandemic disrupted schools in spring 2020, educators predicted remote learning would set up many children for failure, especially students of color and those from poor families. Test scores from the first months of remote learning showed students falling months behind in reading and math. This fall, as many students returned to classrooms for the first time after 18 months of disruptions, some teachers have found the learning loss is worse than projected.

The situation is dire in classrooms like Ms. Layne’s, located in the Alhambra Elementary School District where many parents work hourly jobs in construction, cleaning and fast-food restaurants. The district has faced a growing literacy problem over the past 15 years. But the pandemic has turned it into a crisis: A test administered this month to gauge how many students met state grade-level standards revealed that of the 422 second- through fourth-graders at Sevilla East, 58% were determined to be minimally proficient in their grade-level standards for English Language Arts—the lowest rank.

During the 2020-21 school year, the rate at which students learned nationwide was slower across all student groups, regardless of race, ethnicity or income level, compared with historical averages before the pandemic, according to a July report by NWEA, an Oregon-based nonprofit education-services firm. Math achievement was as much as 12 percentile points lower in the spring of 2021 compared with a typical year. Reading achievement declined by as much as 6 percentile points compared with before the pandemic, among all students. The results come from about 5.5 million third- through eighth-grade students in 12,500 public schools who took the assessments in 2018-2019 and in the 2020-2021 school year. But the drop in reading scores among Black and Latino fourth-grade students was, on average, double that of white and Asian-American students. At the same time, among fourth-graders—a critical juncture in education—students from high-poverty schools experienced three times as much learning loss in reading compared with those enrolled in low-poverty schools.

At Sevilla East, a majority of students come from poor households without a strong English-language background, which limited their natural exposure to the kind of oral language development and vocabulary that schools provide and children from wealthier and higher-educated families still had access to at home during the pandemic, said Cecilia Maes, the district superintendent.

Despite years of battling low reading scores, the educators at Sevilla East were surprised at what they saw when classrooms reopened for in-person learning this fall.

Many fourth-graders returned to school reading on the same level as they had in the second grade when the pandemic started—leaving them more than two grade levels behind now. A few have regressed, tests show. The school’s recent diagnostic test results showed there were more fourth-graders behind grade-level reading expectations than students in any other grade.

To address the pandemic-related learning loss, Erika Twohy, Sevilla East’s new principal, used federal stimulus funds to hire an academic recovery teacher for the fourth-graders and another staffer to focus on reading intervention targeting fourth- and second-graders. She is also requiring all classroom teachers and 14 instructional assistants get trained in the Wilson Reading System, a program that has a heavy emphasis on phonics.

All classes now include a literacy component, including physical education and music. The gym teacher has started injecting oral language development into class by breaking down the meaning of words like “defense.” This approach is meant to maximize every moment of in-person learning and immerse students in literacy to make up for the lost time, Ms. Twohy said.

Dr. Maes, the superintendent, said the district is focused on targeted training so that teachers like Ms. Layne will know how to teach first-grade level reading skills to remediate fourth-graders.

But districtwide staffing shortages make it difficult to fully address the problem. There are currently more than 100 vacancies and it is extremely difficult to find substitutes. When scores of Sevilla East teachers had to take a day off to get trained in the new reading program, the district had to send academic coaches, executive directors and data specialists to supervise classrooms...

Global Supply-Chain Problems Escalate, Threatening Economic Recovery

At WSJ, "Component shortages, surging prices of raw materials and transportation backups compound the bottlenecks":

Global supply-chain bottlenecks are feeding on one another, with shortages of components and surging prices of critical raw materials squeezing manufacturers around the world.

The supply shocks are already showing signs of choking off the recovery in some regions.

Part of the problem is a global economy that is out of sync on the pandemic, restrictions and recovery. Factories and retailers in Western economies that have largely emerged from lockdowns are eager for finished products, raw materials and components from longtime suppliers in Asia and elsewhere. But many countries in Asia are still in the throes of lockdowns and other coronavirus-related restrictions, constricting their ability to meet demand.

Meanwhile, global labor shortages, often the result of people leaving the workforce during the pandemic, are throwing further obstacles in the way of producers.

The bottlenecks are forecast to constrain manufacturing output well into next year, hurting a sector that had until recently powered the global recovery. Global industrial output rose above its precrisis level in early 2021 but has since stagnated, according to the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, a German think tank. It recently lowered its forecast for world economic growth this year to 5.9% from 6.7%, in part due to supply-chain issues.

Supply-chain knots have helped push inflation to multidecade highs in the U.S. and parts of Europe, weighing on consumer spending. Elevated inflation rates are already putting pressure on central banks, including the Federal Reserve, to start scaling back their aggressive pandemic stimulus policies, a further headwind to global growth.

It is already too late to save all of the Christmas retail season in many cases, as overwhelmed world-wide transportation networks limit supply—down to the home décor. “If I can give one piece of advice to consumers right now, it is to find and buy your Christmas tree early,” said Jami Warner, executive director of the American Christmas Tree Association.

At the heart of the global gridlock is China, the world’s largest trading nation.

Arriving ships often must quarantine for a week or more before they are allowed to dock. Disruptions to customs and port services add to delays. The more ships wait on the inbound side at Chinese ports, the longer it takes for them to start out again from China to the rest of the world, waiting for Chinese-made electronics, clothing and toys.

Earlier this year it cost more than five times as much to ship goods from China to South America compared with last year’s pandemic low, according to U.N. Conference on Trade and Development data. Freight rates on the more heavily trafficked China-North America route more than doubled.

Beyond China, Covid-related factory closures in Malaysia have hit chip supplies to German car makers in a semiconductor market already hit by outages in Texas, Japan and Taiwan. A lockdown in Vietnam has created problems for Australian importers, say supply-chain specialists.

In Indonesia, mining companies want more trucks to feed the world’s rising demand for coal and minerals. Yet the waiting list for new truck deliveries is nine months, producers say. Their own supply-chain problems make it harder to deliver the fuel and materials that would help resolve supply problems elsewhere, reinforcing the bottlenecks.

Strikes and Covid-19 cases among port workers in Australia have curtailed operations. Passenger flights to the country, which used to be an option for air cargo shippers, are still mostly halted.

“If it wasn’t on the water four weeks ago, it’s not going to be here for Christmas,” said Marcus Carmont, executive director at TMX Global, a supply-chain consulting firm in Melbourne. “The get-out-of-jail card to use a plane is not really a lever you can pull.”

China has added to the stresses with limits on electricity usage triggered by efforts to address climate change. The northwestern province of Shaanxi is one of the world’s largest producers of magnesium, a relatively low-cost mineral to which electric-vehicle battery makers have increasingly turned as demand for EVs rises.

In Indonesia, mining companies want more trucks to feed the world’s rising demand for coal and minerals. Yet the waiting list for new truck deliveries is nine months, producers say. Their own supply-chain problems make it harder to deliver the fuel and materials that would help resolve supply problems elsewhere, reinforcing the bottlenecks.

Strikes and Covid-19 cases among port workers in Australia have curtailed operations. Passenger flights to the country, which used to be an option for air cargo shippers, are still mostly halted.

“If it wasn’t on the water four weeks ago, it’s not going to be here for Christmas,” said Marcus Carmont, executive director at TMX Global, a supply-chain consulting firm in Melbourne. “The get-out-of-jail card to use a plane is not really a lever you can pull.”

China has added to the stresses with limits on electricity usage triggered by efforts to address climate change. The northwestern province of Shaanxi is one of the world’s largest producers of magnesium, a relatively low-cost mineral to which electric-vehicle battery makers have increasingly turned as demand for EVs rises.

Last month, the economic planner in one of Shaanxi’s magnesium hubs ordered many producers to halt or reduce production to meet the region’s 2021 targets for limiting energy usage, according to a trader and Chinese media accounts of a government notice. The domestic price of magnesium in China was more than 60% higher in August compared with January, according to industry data.

The magnesium shortage is one reason among many that may prevent consumers from finding the car they want around the world...

Friday, October 8, 2021

New York City to Phase Out Its Gifted and Talented Program

No, don't raise up the talented. Lower standards for every student so the worst will keep up with the best.

This is institutional "dumbing down."

Mayor Bill de Blasio will overhaul New York City’s highly selective, racially segregated gifted and talented education classes, a sea change for the nation’s largest public school system that may amount to the mayor’s most significant act in the waning months of his tenure.

The elementary school gifted and talented program that New York has known for the last several decades will no longer exist for incoming kindergarten students next fall, and within a few years, it will be eliminated completely, city officials told The New York Times.

Students who are currently enrolled in gifted classes will become the final cohort in the existing system, which will be replaced by a program that offers accelerated learning to all students in the later years of elementary school.

The gradual elimination of the existing program will remove a major component of what many consider to be the city’s two-tiered education system, in which one relatively small, largely white and Asian American group of students gain access to the highest-performing schools, while many Black and Latino children remain in schools that are struggling.

Gifted and talented programs are in high demand, largely because they help propel students into selective middle and high schools, effectively putting children on a parallel track from their general education peers. But some parents and researchers argue that the programs worsen segregation and weaken instruction for children who are not in the gifted track.

New York, which is more reliant on selective admissions than any other large system in America, is home to one of the most racially segregated school systems in the country.

The move represents one of Mr. de Blasio’s most dramatic actions to address that, though it also puts New York more in line with how other cities are approaching their own segregated gifted classes.

About 75 percent of the roughly 16,000 students in gifted elementary school classes in New York are white or Asian American. Those groups make up about 25 percent of the overall school system, which serves roughly 1 million students. For years, those students got into kindergarten gifted programs by taking a standardized test.

“The era of judging 4-year-olds based on a single test is over,” Mr. de Blasio said in a statement about the replacement program, known as Brilliant NYC.

“Brilliant NYC will deliver accelerated instruction for tens of thousands of children, as opposed to a select few,” he said. “Every New York City child deserves to reach their full potential, and this new, equitable model gives them that chance.”

Though the mayor has long promised to tackle inequality in city schools, he has faced criticism for not taking more forceful action on desegregation until the end of his mayoralty. His schools chancellor, Meisha Porter, who was appointed this year, has been instrumental in pushing him to fundamentally alter the gifted and talented program, according to people with knowledge of the last several months of intensive negotiations on the issue.

The change presents an unwelcome challenge for Mr. de Blasio’s almost certain successor, Eric Adams, the Democratic nominee for mayor, who would have to implement an entirely new gifted education system during his first year in office...

 

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Illegal Immigrants Terrorize Sen. Kyrsten Synema

Not just "gross and unnecessary" but diabolical.

At the Arizona Independent, "Paid Organizers Illegally Chase, Film Sinema Into Public Bathroom."


Caridinals Crush Rams, 37-20 (VIDEO)

This is particularly interesting --- or sad, depending on your viewpoint --- given how the Rams easily beat Tom Brady and the Buccaneers last week.

Kyler Murray is freakin' sensational. I had no idea, man.

At the Arizona Republic, "Cardinals-Rams live updates: Cardinals best in NFC West, end 8-game losing skid to Rams."

And at LAT, "Kyler Murray, running backs pour it on in Arizona Cardinals’ 37-20 rout of Rams":

For the first time since Sean McVay took over as Rams coach in 2017, it’s not the Rams dominating the Cardinals.

Matt Prater kicked a sand-in-the-face 23-yard field goal to complete a 12-play, 94-yard scoring drive to increase the lead to 24 points.

The Rams were in position to make it a two-score game when Matthew Stafford scrambled several times to move the Rams to the one-yard line early in the fourth quarter.

But Stafford was stopped on a sneak, and a fourth-down pass to tight end Tyler Higbee fell incomplete.

The Cardinals took over on downs, and essentially sealed the victory when running back Chase Edmonds broke free for a 54-yard gain on a third and seven.

Edmonds has rushed for 120 yards in 12 carries. His teammate James Conner had two rushing touchdowns. Ouch.

Kyler Murray has completed 24 of 32 passes for 268 yards. He has rushed for 39 yards in six carries.

Stafford hit Robert Woods on a 14-yard touchdown pass with 1:14 remaining to account for the final score...

 Video highlights here.


Gal Gadot

"Telavivian."



Mob Justice is Trampling Democracy

At the Atlantic, "THE NEW PURITANS: Social codes are changing, in many ways for the better. But for those whose behavior doesn’t adapt fast enough to the new norms, judgment can be swift—and merciless."


Kyle Seager's Last Game With the Mariners

Very emotional.

Background at the Seattle Times, "With everything on the line, is this the end for Kyle Seager and the Mariners?"

And from just a little while ago, "Mariners’ playoff push comes up short in loss to Angels; Kyle Seager leaves field to ovation from crowd."



Saturday, October 2, 2021

Strange

It's just one car, so you can't extrapolate to the entire EV industry.

This is strange, though. Very fucking strange.



Democratic Clashes Hold Up Biden’s Agenda After Rocky Month

Democrats are fucking up --- and it's glorious!

At WSJ, "President weathered fallout from Afghanistan exit, migrants at the Texas border and the Covid-19 pandemic":

WASHINGTON—President Biden’s political standing tumbled in September amid the fallout from the messy Afghanistan withdrawal, the flood of Haitian migrants at the Texas border and the continuing Covid-19 pandemic. The month ended with his legislative agenda caught between clashing Democratic factions, fueling the party’s anxiety about the path forward and their prospects in elections this year and next.

Mr. Biden traveled to the Capitol on Friday afternoon to try to advance his roughly $1 trillion infrastructure plan and a separate healthcare, education and climate package, as leaders expressed optimism for a legislative breakthrough that would unite Democratic lawmakers. Administration officials acknowledged privately that the past few weeks had been the most trying of Mr. Biden’s presidency, but they are holding out hope that the agenda will clear Congress.

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s in six minutes, six days or six weeks, we’re going to get it done,” Mr. Biden said after meeting with lawmakers Friday in which he called on House Democrats to delay voting on the infrastructure bill until they reach agreement on the separate spending package.

The clash in Congress followed efforts by Mr. Biden to bridge divides between moderate and progressive Democrats over trillions in infrastructure and social spending, with the roughly $3.5 trillion reconciliation price tag expected to drop. He delayed a planned trip to Chicago this week to keep his focus on talks on Capitol Hill and has held meetings and calls with lawmakers, in particular two moderate Democrats—Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona—who have objected to parts of the program.

The negotiations have brought long-simmering intraparty tensions into the open, with progressives publicly criticizing Mr. Manchin and Ms. Sinema, and the White House huddling behind the scenes with Democratic congressional leadership. Some progressive lawmakers grumbled earlier in the week that the White House had been paying too much attention to the two senators, but others said the talks were the only way to clinch an agreement that would move both packages forward, an outcome that is the priority for liberals.

Many Democrats see passage of Mr. Biden’s legislative agenda as vital ahead of next year’s midterm elections, which typically favor the party that doesn’t hold the White House. Anxiety has been rising among some in the party, particularly as Mr. Biden’s approval ratings slipped below 50% last month.

“You’ve got to give the enthusiasm gap a real consideration,” said the Rev. Al Sharpton, a civil-rights leader who has raised concerns that Mr. Biden’s handling of voting rights, immigration and police reform—Democratic proposals that have stalled in Congress—may depress turnout among Black voters in next year’s midterms. “I don’t think anybody expects him to walk on water, but we do expect that he can swim.”

Mr. Biden’s struggles have coincided with the stretch of this year’s most prominent campaign, in Virginia, where former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, is seeking a return to office against Republican Glenn Youngkin, a political newcomer. The state’s gubernatorial campaign, held in the year after the presidential election, is often a leading indicator of the national political climate heading into the midterms.

Republicans view the Democrats’ legislative plans as an overreach of excess spending and have accused Mr. Biden of careening from one crisis to another, saying both will debilitate the party’s midterm message next year. “Vulnerable Democrats are going to be forced to retire, or they’re going to lose reelection,” said Rep. Tom Emmer (R., Minn.), who leads the House Republicans’ campaign arm.

Heading into the 2022 midterm elections, some Republicans also see potential risks ahead for their party. Among them: that centrist GOP voters and independents may be turned off by efforts to investigate and validate former President Donald Trump’s false claims of widespread election fraud, and that laws introduced by Republicans to tighten voting rules may depress voter participation in both parties.

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D., N.Y.), who heads the House Democratic campaign effort, said his party is tackling tough problems that Republicans didn’t when they were in power.

After eight months on the job, Mr. Biden is contending with thorny issues that have frustrated past presidents, and questions from both parties about his leadership decisions. The legislative challenges ended a month that was a roller-coaster ride for Mr. Biden’s presidency. The Pentagon’s top military official called the recent Afghanistan exit, which included a drone strike that killed civilians, a “strategic failure,” hampering White House hopes of moving on from questions about the withdrawal. French officials accused the U.S. of betraying a longtime ally after leaving France in the dark over a secret nuclear submarine deal with Australia and the U.K. Democrats and Republicans slammed the handling of Haitian migrants at the Texas border. And mixed messages on booster shot eligibility fueled public frustration with the long-lasting Covid-19 pandemic.

Speaking at a Senate hearing on the Afghanistan exit, Army Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that “from an operational and tactical standpoint, [the evacuation] was successful. Strategically, the war was lost. The enemy is in Kabul.”

The surge of Haitian migrants in Del Rio, Texas, drew bipartisan criticism and tested Mr. Biden’s promises of a more humane immigration policy. During a meeting last week with members of the Congressional Black Caucus, lawmakers pressed top White House aides about the administration’s immigration policies, including the president’s decision to turn back many migrants at the border and deport Haitians to their home country, according to people in the meeting.

“We were very candid. No one bit their tongue,” said Rep. Barbara Lee (D., Calif.), one of the attendees. A White House official acknowledged that public frustration with the Covid-19 pandemic and the Afghanistan exit have taken a toll, but said that they continue to make progress with increasing vaccinations and view the public as supportive of the withdrawal overall. Passage of the president’s legislative agenda, Mr. Biden’s advisers hope, will boost the president’s political fortunes, noting that the bills have public support in recent polling.

Mr. Biden told lawmakers last week in a private meeting that he wants the public to see benefits from the spending packages quickly if they pass, according to a person there.

About half of the country supports the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the separate package for spending on healthcare, education and more, according to a September poll by the Pew Research Center. Far fewer oppose the legislation: 20% for the infrastructure package and 25% for the broader one. About a quarter of those polled were unsure about where they stood. Other surveys, including a September Fox News poll, have shown slightly higher support for the bills.

John Anzalone, Mr. Biden’s chief campaign pollster, said he believed the popularity of the policies the president has proposed in the infrastructure and reconciliation packages will help fend off any midterm losses...

Still more.

 

Friday, October 1, 2021

What's Going On in Congress?

The latest on the stalemate is here, "Biden Visits Capitol Hill Seeking to Unite Democrats Around His Agenda."

And what's going on with the congressional circus? Ideologues and incompetence mostly, but here's more, "Four Jagged Puzzle Pieces and a Few Weeks for Democrats to Assemble Them":


The party must keep the government funded, stave off a default, push a $1 trillion infrastructure bill to President Biden and secure the votes for a defining climate change and social policy bill.

WASHINGTON — In a pivotal week, in a make-or-break stretch for President Biden’s domestic agenda, congressional Democrats are trying to assemble a puzzle of four jagged pieces that may or may not fit together.

Making them work as a whole is critical for the party’s agenda and political prospects, and how quickly they can assemble the puzzle will determine whether the government suffers another costly and embarrassing shutdown — or, worse yet, a first-ever default on its debt that could precipitate a global economic crisis.

Here are all the moving parts.

Piece 1: Government funding.

At a second past midnight on Friday morning, the parts of the government that operate under the discretion of Congress’s annual spending process will run out of money if a stopgap spending bill does not pass. Oct. 1 is the beginning of the fiscal year, and with larger issues dominating their attention, the Democratic House and Senate have not completed any of the annual appropriations bills to fund the Departments of Defense, Transportation, Health and Human Services, State and Homeland Security, to name a few.

This is not unusual. More often than not, the individual funding bills do not pass until winter. In the interim, Congress passes “continuing resolutions” to keep departments open at current spending levels, with perhaps a few tweaks for urgent priorities and emergencies like hurricane response and, this year, Afghan refugee resettlement.

By Thursday, Congress could easily pass such a resolution to avoid a lapse in funding that could furlough federal workers and force “essential” employees, like those at the Transportation Security Administration, to work for no money. But on Monday, such a stopgap measure was blocked by Republicans in the Senate because it was attached to …

Piece 2: The debt limit.

The federal government has for decades operated under a statutory ceiling on the amount it can borrow — in common parlance, the debt limit. The $28 trillion federal debt climbs inexorably, not only because the government spends so much more than it recoups in taxes, but also because parts of the government owe money to other parts, mainly most of the government owing money from Social Security after decades of borrowing.

In essence, raising the debt limit is akin to paying off your credit card bill at the end of the month, because a higher borrowing ceiling allows the Treasury to pay creditors, contractors and agencies money that was already extracted from them in Treasury bonds and notes or contracts. It is not for future obligations.

The last time the issue surfaced, in August 2019, Congress and President Donald J. Trump suspended the debt limit through July 31 of this year. On Aug. 2, the Treasury reset the debt limit to $28.4 trillion, and the government crashed through it days later. Ever since, the department has been shuffling money from account to account to make sure its bills are paid, but sometime in mid- to late October, such “extraordinary measures” will be exhausted, and the bills will go unpaid. This would be a shock to the international economy, since U.S. government debt is a global safe harbor for all kinds of cash and investments.

During Mr. Trump’s presidency, Republicans and Democrats did not fight over debt limit increases, in part because large spending increases for the coronavirus pandemic and other priorities were bipartisan — although the large tax cut of 2017 was not.

This year, Republican leaders have declared that because Democrats control the House, the Senate and the White House, they and they alone must raise the debt ceiling.

Republicans have made it clear that they intend to filibuster an ordinary bill to raise the debt ceiling, as they did on Monday. For Democrats to do so unilaterally, they would most likely have to use a budget process called reconciliation that shields fiscal measures from a filibuster.

Doing so is a complex and time-consuming affair. It all has to be done in the next two to three weeks, to beat the still unknown but rapidly approaching “X date” when the government defaults. Janet Yellen, the Treasury secretary, told Congress on Tuesday that the deadline is Oct. 18.

Piece 3: Infrastructure.

In August, with rare bipartisan swagger, the Senate passed a $1 trillion bill to build or fortify roads, bridges, tunnels, transit and rural broadband networks. The 69 “yes” votes included Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, and 18 others from his party.

Then it got more complicated.

Pressing for a quick vote on the bill, nine conservative-leaning Democrats in the House threatened to withhold their votes for the party’s $3.5 trillion budget blueprint until the Senate-passed infrastructure bill cleared their chamber.

The budget blueprint was needed to move Mr. Biden’s sprawling social policy and climate change agenda past a Republican filibuster in the Senate, through the reconciliation process. So in a signature maneuver, Speaker Nancy Pelosi cut a deal with the nine moderates: Vote for the budget resolution to get the social policy bill underway, and she would take up the infrastructure bill by Sept. 27, three days before a host of existing transportation and infrastructure programs are to exhaust their legal authorization.

Ms. Pelosi hoped that by then, the reconciliation package would also be ready for action. But that has not happened, and now liberals in the House are threatening to withhold their votes for the infrastructure measure.

Sept. 27 came and went on Monday without a vote or a deal among the factions, with the speaker securing agreement from her moderates to put off action until Thursday. The question is whether enough liberal Democrats in the House will vote for it as they wait for the final details of …

Piece 4: Social policy reconciliation.

Democrats’ exceedingly ambitious social policy bill, which Mr. Biden calls his “Build Back Better” plan, is packed with longstanding party priorities...