Saturday, December 31, 2022

Holiday Deal: Bose QuietComfort 45 Bluetooth Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones

Discounted at 24 percent off.

See, "Bose QuietComfort 45 Bluetooth Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones - Triple Black."

Pope Benedict XVI, Previously Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Dies at 95

It's always a big deal when a pope dies, former pope or not.

IBenedict was decidedly preferable to Pope Francis, by far.

At the New York Times, "Benedict XVI, First Modern Pope to Resign, Dies at 95":

He defined a conservative course for the Roman Catholic Church, but his papacy was noted for his struggle with the clergy sexual abuse scandal and for his unexpected resignation.

Benedict XVI, the pope emeritus, a quiet scholar of diamond-hard intellect who spent much of his life enforcing church doctrine and defending tradition before shocking the Roman Catholic world by becoming the first pope in six centuries to resign, died on Saturday. He was 95.

Benedict’s death was announced by the Vatican. No cause was given. This past week, the Vatican said that Benedict’s health had taken a turn for the worse “due to advancing age.”

On Wednesday, Pope Francis asked those present at his weekly audience at the Vatican to pray for Benedict, who he said was “very ill.” He later visited him at the monastery on the Vatican City grounds where Benedict had lived since announcing his resignation in February 2013.

In that announcement, citing a loss of stamina and his “advanced age” at 85, Benedict said he was stepping down freely and “for the good of the church.” The decision, surprising the faithful and the world at large, capped a papacy of almost eight years in which his efforts to re-energize the Roman Catholic Church were often overshadowed by the unresolved sexual abuse scandal in the clergy. After the selection of his successor that March — Pope Francis, the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires — and a temporary stay at Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer residence, Benedict moved to a convent in Vatican City. It was the first time that two pontiffs had shared the same grounds. The two men were reportedly on good terms personally, but it was at times an awkward arrangement, and Francis moved decisively to reshape the papacy, firing or demoting many of Benedict’s traditionalist appointees and elevating the virtue of mercy over rules that Benedict had spent decades refining and enforcing.

Benedict, the uncharismatic intellectual who had largely preached to the church’s most fervent believers, was soon eclipsed by Francis, an unexpectedly popular successor who immediately sought to widen Catholicism’s appeal and to make the Vatican newly relevant in world affairs. But as Francis’ traditionalist-minded critics raised their voices in the later 2010s, they made Benedict a rallying point of their opposition, fueling fears that his resignation could promote a schism.

In early 2019, Benedict broke his post-papacy silence, issuing a 6,000-word letter that seemed at odds with his successor’s view of the sexual abuse scandals. Benedict attributed the crisis to the sexual revolution of the 1960s, secularization and an erosion of morality that he pinned on liberal theology. Francis, by contrast, saw its origins in the exaltation of authority and abuse of power in the church hierarchy.

Given his frail health at the time, however, many church watchers questioned whether Benedict had indeed written the letter or had been manipulated to issue it as a way to undercut Francis.

Benedict himself was swept up in the scandal after a January 2022 report that had been commissioned by the Roman Catholic Church in Munich to investigate how the church had handled cases of sexual abuse between 1945 and 2019. The report contended that Benedict had mishandled four cases involving the sexual abuse of minors decades ago, while he was an archbishop in Germany, and that he had misled investigators in his written answers.

Two weeks after the report was made public, Benedict acknowledged in a letter that “abuses and errors” had taken place under his watch and asked for forgiveness. But he denied any misconduct.

At the time of his resignation, his decision to step down humbled and humanized a pope whose papacy had become associated with tempests. There were tangles with Jews, Muslims and Anglicans, and with progressive Catholics, who were distressed by his overtures to the most traditionalist fringes of the Catholic world.

It was a painful paradox to his supporters that the long-gathering sexual abuse crisis should finally hit the Vatican with a vengeance under Benedict, in 2010. As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, charged with leading the powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican office responsible for defending church orthodoxy, he had been ahead of many peers in recognizing how deeply the church had been damaged by disclosures that priests around the world had sexually abused youths for decades and even longer. As early as 2005, he referred to the abuse as “filth in the church.”

Elected pope on April 19, 2005, after the death of John Paul II, Benedict went on to apologize for the abuse and met with victims, a first for the papacy. But he could not escape the reality that the church had shielded priests accused of molestation, minimized behavior that it would otherwise have deemed immoral, and kept all of it secret from the civil authorities, forestalling criminal prosecutions.

The reckoning clouded the widely held view that Benedict was the most influential intellectual force in the church in a generation.

“It’s worth stepping back for a moment and remembering that Benedict is probably the greatest scholar to rule the church since Innocent III, the brilliant jurist who served from 1198 to 1216,” the Princeton historian Anthony Grafton wrote in The New York Review of Books in 2010.

John Paul II had won hearts, but it was Cardinal Ratzinger who defined the corrective to what he and John Paul saw as an alarming liberal shift within the church, set in motion by the reforms of the Second Vatican Council in the early 1960s.

The church’s 265th pope, Benedict was the first German to hold the title in a half-millennium, and his election was a milestone toward Germany’s spiritual renewal 60 years after World War II and the Holocaust. At 78, he was also the oldest man to become pope since 1730.

The church he inherited was in crisis, the sexual abuse scandal being its most vivid manifestation. It was an institution run by a mainly European hierarchy overseeing a faithful — numbering one billion — largely residing in the developing world. And it was being torn between its ancient, insular ways and the modern world...


Friday, December 30, 2022

Dreo Space Heaters for Indoor Use, Electric Heater with Remote for Bedroom Large Room, 2022 Upgraded 1500W Fast Heating with Thermostat

This is killer.

See, Dreo Space Heaters for Indoor Use, Electric Heater with Remote for Bedroom Large Room, 2022 Upgraded 1500W Fast Heating with Thermostat.

GearLight Flashlight 2pk Bright Zoomable Tactical Flashlights

At Amazon, GearLight Flashlight 2pk Bright, Zoomable Tactical Flashlights High Lumens Great Gift for Men, Christmas Stocking Stuffer.


Unbelievable beauty.

On Instagram.

How Southwest Airlines Melted Down

At WSJ, "Airline executives and labor leaders point to inadequate technology systems as one reason why a brutal winter storm turned into a debacle":

When Southwest Airlines Co. LUV 0.93%increase; green up pointing triangle reassigns crews after flight disruptions, it typically relies on a system called SkySolver. This Christmas, SkySolver not only didn’t solve much, it also helped create the worst industry meltdown in recent memory.

Airline executives and labor leaders point to inadequate technology systems, in particular SkySolver, as one reason why a brutal winter storm turned into a debacle. SkySolver was overwhelmed by the scale of the task of sorting out which pilots and flight attendants could work which flights, Southwest executives said. Crew schedulers instead had to comb through records by hand.

The airline has said SkySolver works well during a more typical disruption and had helped it manage recent hurricanes and snowstorms. But the scale of this past week’s storm, coupled with a network that still hasn’t been fully restored in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, gummed things up. Even as it tried to solve one set of problems, new ones would emerge.

Crews and planes were out of place. Phone lines jammed up, and Southwest pilots and flight attendants trying to get assignments couldn’t get through to the scheduling department. Some shared screenshots on social media that showed hold times of eight hours or more—which meant they could wait a full workday for instructions while flights were stuck for the lack of a crew. The airline was scrambling just to figure out where its crew members were located, union leaders said.

“There just was not enough time in the day for them to work through the manual solutions,” Chief Operating Officer Andrew Watterson said in an interview.

Southwest prides itself on a laid-back culture and exceptional customer service. Now that reputation has been badly damaged. It canceled more than 13,000 flights since Thursday, stranded passengers and bags across the country, snarled Southwest’s crew members and drew fire from federal officials. Chief Executive Officer Bob Jordan, who has been in the job for less than a year, publicly apologized. Mr. Watterson has been in his job since October. Both are longtime company executives.

The storm hit cities like Denver and Chicago that are at the heart of Southwest’s operation, and where many of its employees are based. To be sure, many of the challenges Southwest faced were similar to those encountered by other airlines: Ground equipment and jet bridges froze, fuel congealed due to the subfreezing temperatures and staff needed to rotate inside more frequently. But rival airlines recovered more rapidly.

In the wake of the mess, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and federal lawmakers have stepped up calls for more stringent consumer protection measures. Southwest’s shares have fallen 11% this week, outstripping declines for other airlines. Citigroup Inc. analysts said that fourth-quarter earnings for the airline could take a 3% to 5% hit.

“We’ve talked a little over the last year about the need to modernize the operation and invest,” Mr. Jordan wrote Monday in a memo to employees. “This is why.”

In a November meeting with reporters, the CEO noted the airline had expanded faster than its technology. “I do think the scale and the growth of the airline got ahead of the tools that we have,” he said.

This isn’t the first time that a disruption has ballooned at Southwest, and the carrier’s struggle to put its operations back together shows how its increasingly complicated network needs a better technology foundation. Union leaders have criticized the airline for being too slow to make changes, and Southwest executives have said their systems are being updated.

Southwest’s pilots union for years complained that SkySolver often spits out fixes that don’t make much sense, sending crews on circuitous journeys around the country as passengers to meet flights, a practice known as “deadheading.”

In one example during the storm, the system assigned a pilot to deadhead on a flight from Baltimore to Manchester, N.H., and then back to Baltimore the next day, without ever flying a plane, according to Casey Murray, president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association labor union.

“The company has had its head buried in the sand when it comes to its operational processes and IT,” Mr. Murray wrote in a message to members Monday...


Southwest Meltdown Was 'Perfect Storm' of Well-Known Vulnerabilities

Total nightmare. I'm so happy I got to stay home for holidays. 

At LAT, "Far from a shock, Southwest meltdown was ‘perfect storm’ of well-known vulnerabilities."

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Nomi M. Stolzenberg and David N. Myers, American Shtetl

At Amazon, Nomi M. Stolzenberg and David N. Myers, American Shtetl: The Making of Kiryas Joel, a Hasidic Village in Upstate New York.

In Memphis Public Schools, Literacy Taught in Every Class

THIS should be the civil rights issue of the 21st century.

At least the New York Times is broaching the subject, because certainly just raising the issue is racist. 

See, "In Memphis, the Phonics Movement Comes to High School":

Literacy lessons are embedded in every academic class. Even in biology.

MEMPHIS — For much of his life, Roderick, a high school junior, did not enjoy reading. As a boy, he trudged through picture books that his mother encouraged him to read. As a teenager, he has sometimes wrestled with complex texts at school.

“I would read, and I’d go back and reread,” he said. “It’s just stressful.”

But recently, he said, he has made strides, in part because of an unusual and sweeping high school literacy curriculum in Memphis.

The program focuses on expanding vocabulary and giving teenagers reading strategies — such as decoding words — that build upon fundamentals taught in elementary school. The curriculum is embedded not just in English, but also in math, science and social studies.

With his new tools, Roderick studied “I Have a Dream,” the speech by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — no longer skipping unfamiliar words, but instead circling them to discern their meaning. And when scanning sports news on ESPN in his free time, he knew to break down bigger words, like the “re/negotia/tion” of a player’s contract.

The instruction “helped me understand,” said Roderick, 17, who is on the honor roll at Oakhaven High School and is preparing to take the ACT. (He and other students, interviewed with parental permission, are being identified by their first names to protect their privacy.)

The program in Memphis is an extension of a growing national movement to change the way younger children are taught to read, based on what has become known as “the science of reading.” And it is a sign of how sharply the pendulum has swung in the decades-long, contentious debate over reading instruction, moving away from a flexible “balanced literacy” approach that has put less emphasis on sounding out words, and toward more explicit, systematic teaching of phonics.

Brain science has shown that reading is not automatic, and longstanding research supports the need for sequenced sound-it-out instruction, along with books that build vocabulary and knowledge.

Since 2021, Tennessee and more than a dozen other states have passed laws or policies reshaping reading instruction, according to Education Week.

But reform has largely centered on the early years, kindergarten through third grade, and millions of students have already progressed beyond those grades without getting the full support that they needed.

Nationwide, two in three eighth graders are not reading with proficiency, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a rigorous exam overseen by the U.S. Education Department. Nearly one in three falls “below basic,” meaning they have not demonstrated even partial mastery of the comprehension and analysis skills expected for their age.

Reading difficulties cut across all demographic groups. About one in five eighth graders from middle- and higher-income families and a similar share of students with at least one college-educated parent are reading below a basic level. Among Asian and white eighth graders, who scored highest overall, about 15 to 20 percent have not achieved partial mastery.

The situation is often most acute, though, in communities with fewer resources. Shelby County, which includes Memphis, has one of the highest concentrations of school-age children living in poverty, at more than 30 percent, and the Memphis-Shelby County school district trails many other large school districts on the national exam. About half of its eighth graders are reading below a basic level, and most are not proficient.

Tennessee has aggressively pushed for statewide change. Last year, the state’s Republican legislature and governor, Bill Lee, passed a law that required all elementary schoolteachers be trained in a phonics-based approach, with optional literacy training for middle and high school teachers. More than 40,000 teachers have participated in the training so far, according to the state’s education department.

“This is the most important thing we can do in public schools right now,” said Penny Schwinn, Tennessee’s education commissioner, of the literacy focus...

Keep reading.


The Nihilism of the Ruling Class

It's Curtis Yarvin, at Compact, with a review of David Rothkopf's, American Resistance: The Inside Story of How the Deep State Saved the Nation.

Kim Denise

On Instagram.

'The new Oppenheimerfilm by Christopher Nolan features a nuclear explosion done without CGI...'

I'd like to see that!

At AoSHQ, movie talk, in particular, what's up with "Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part One"?

See, "Is This Something?"

He's talking about this video, "The Biggest Stunt in Cinema History (Tom Cruise)."

How Twitter Rigged the Covid Debate

It's David Zweig, at the Free Press, "The platform suppressed true information from doctors and public-health experts that was at odds with U.S. government policy."

In Response to the Twitter Files, Establishment Media Rushes to Defend the FBI

It's Leighton Woodhouse, on Substack, "The Hunter Biden laptop story shows the extent to which the corporate media has become the propaganda arm of the state."

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all my friends and readers!

Also, Happy Hanukkah!

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Christmas Eve Shopping

I want to wish my readers a Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah. Thank you for shopping my Amazon links this year. I don't earn a lot, though enough for a book budget to keep me buried in the latest award-winning novels. 

Click for some Very Merry Deals.

And the rare holiday selfie from me. Have a good one!

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Ian Kershaw, The End

At Amazon, Ian Kershaw, The End: The Defiance and Destruction of Hitler's Germany, 1944-1945.

Katie Pavlich: President Biden Has Yet to Answer the Question of Negotiations to End the War in Ukraine (VIDEO)

It's diametrical opposites on Twitter this morning, with Real Conservatives™ adamantly opposed to continued support or Zalensky and Ukraine, while we have the dreaded "neocons" rubbing their hands in glee after the Ukrainian president's address to Congress last night.

I love Katie Pavlich. I really do. She's down to earth and smart as hell.

She lays it all out here, speaking to John Roberts earlier, on Fox News:

Going Backwards

It's Auber:

James M. Scott, Curtis LeMay, the Firebombing of Tokyo, and the Road to the Atomic Bomb

At Amazon, James M. Scott, Black Snow: Curtis LeMay, the Firebombing of Tokyo, and the Road to the Atomic Bomb.

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

12 Deals of Christmas

Shop for Christmas, at Amazon.

More, CRAFTSMAN Home Tool Kit / Mechanics Tools Kit, 57-Piece (CMMT99446).

BONUS: SKIL 15 Amp 7-1/4 Inch Circular Saw with Single Beam Laser Guide - 5280-01.

Real-Time Doxxing and the Littlest Musk

From Abigail Shrier, on Substack, "Policies to Discourage Stalking Do Not Equal Suppression of Political Speech":

Whether Musk is in fact a free-speech warrior or simply a self-interested CEO with incomprehensible power to shape public debate remains to be seen. But those of us who published pieces about the Twitter Files never claimed nor implied he was a “free speech warrior.” Musk himself did.

The systemic suppression of anti-Woke speech on a social media platform that sets the news agenda for our largest media companies and hundreds of millions of users remains a critical revelation. When Nikita Khrushchev took power in the Soviet Union and in 1956, began revealing Stalin’s purges of his political enemies and ethnic cleansing, Krushchev did history a service whether or not his regime turned out to be more liberal and freedom-affording than the one it replaced. (Of course, it did; anybody’s would have.)

Musk is a strange man. A consummate jokester and an undeniable genius. He bought a company for which, by his own estimation, he paid three times what it was worth. “At least,” he said, when I and Michael Shellenberger and Bari Weiss asked him about this.

“I thought this was important to the future of civilization,” he said. “I told investors that too…. And I thought this was important to the future of civilization to have a digital Town Square that people thought was fair and a level playing field and that, I don’t know, pro civilization essentially.” He told us he bought Twitter to protect the “expansion of consciousness.”

I pressed him on this. Were President Donald Trump’s tweets really necessary for the “expansion of consciousness?”

I expected Musk to back off of this claim. He didn’t. “If we are to understand more about, I don't know, the world, then we do have to have like freedom of expression and freedom of speech. If we constrain it, then we are limiting our understanding of the universe or of reality,” he said.

So is suspending the journalists, as Musk did in the last twenty-four hours, the first indication that the new regime is as bad as the old? Doubtful. That Musk is no “free speech warrior” after all? Maybe...



A Special Message From the Set of 'Mission Impossible' (VIDEO)

Tom Cruise. 

The man is fucking wild.

The new film is "Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One," expected next July.

COVID Chaos Unfolds in China

At Der Spiegel, "From One Extreme to the Other: Chinese leadership abandoned its zero-COVID strategy practically overnight. The consequences promise to be enormous. Rural areas in particular will struggle with the suddenly spiking caseload in the country."

And, seen earlier on Twitter, at thread:

NFL Meeting Week 15 with Annie Agar

She's very good.

William S. Burroughs, Naked Lunch

At Amazon, Naked Lunch: The Restored Text.


Well, ahem, she doesn't hold anything back.

On Twitter.

Twitter Files 8: Twitter's Joint Propaganda Efforts With CENTCOM and the Pentagon

At AoSHQ, "The new disclosures detail Twitter's active participation in CENTCOM/Pentagon propaganda efforts against Iran, China, Russia, and other miscreants."

Also, "The FBI Paid Twitter Three and a Half Million Dollars to 'Help' It Censor 'Misinformation'." 

And from yesterday, "Twitter Files Part 7: The Guns Begin to Smoke."

See also, Michael Shellenberger, from yesterday:

Magnitude 6.4 Earthquake Hits Northern California (VIDEO)

It's Ferndale, at small town on the NorCal Coast.

At the Los Angeles Times, "At least 2 dead, 11 injured in 6.4 earthquake in Northern California." 

That's a big quake.

More at KPIX CBS News 5 San Francisco:

Rise of the DeSantis Democrats

From Olivia Reingold, at Bari Weiss's "Free Press" (formerly "Common Sense"), "Like Reagan Democrats once upon a time, these voters have already reshaped the political landscape in Florida. Can they do the same nationally in 2024?":

MIAMI—It’s almost 11 p.m. on a recent Friday night at ONE Gentlemens Club, and it’s dead except for the girls in their thongs, sitting on pleather couches, waiting for someone to give a lap dance to. No one can talk to anyone else. It’s too loud for that, what with the electronic drum, the incessant rapping. The rap is supposed to inspire twerking—and tens. Tonight, no one’s twerking.

Tory Williams is alone at the bar in fishnets and boots. She should be mixing drinks.

“Did you vote in the recent election?” I write in my notebook, then pass it to her.

She nods. When I ask who she voted for, a grin appears. “DUH-SAN-TIS,” she mouths.

“Why DeSantis?” I shout. Williams is a black woman who looks to be pushing forty. She has a fiancΓ© and, after two slow years, a job. It was her brother, she says, who made her rethink her politics.

Finally, she shouts back, over the bar, through the din: “Money.”

Williams is one of the DeSantis Democrats: Florida voters who, until recently, identified as Democrats but in November opted to reelect Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis—he who resisted the Covid lockdowns, tangled with Disney, and governed with a record budget surplus—in a landslide.

It’s unclear how many DeSantis Democrats there are: DeSantis’ vote count jumped from roughly 4 million in 2018 to 4.6 million in 2022. Lots of those voters are presumably independents or Republicans who didn’t vote last time.

But some are disaffected Democrats alienated from the party they once belonged to. That’s evident from the longtime Democratic strongholds that DeSantis flipped, including Hillsborough, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade, where DeSantis skyrocketed from a 21-point loss in 2018 to an 11-point win in 2022—a net gain of more than 30 percentage points.

Democratic Palm Beach County Commissioner Dave Kerner says he identifies as a DeSantis Democrat, “and I can tell you I’m not the only one.”

“As I traveled around the state and throughout my county over the past several years, at first it was quiet, you know, ‘This governor is doing a great job’—and this is amongst my Democratic colleagues,” he told me. “Then I started hearing it more and hearing it more. And then I saw my own county—which has been majority blue throughout probably its entire history—we saw more people vote for the Republican candidate over the Democratic candidate.”

Kerner is 39, a former cop, and a former member of Florida’s House of Representatives. He’s best known for successfully strangling a bill, strongly backed by the National Rifle Association, that would have made it harder to prosecute anyone in a Stand Your Ground-related shooting. In 2022, he says, he backed DeSantis because he’s not anti-cop. And because, Kerner says, he makes things happen. “It wasn’t necessarily about partisan identity but the man himself—even if you didn’t agree with his policies, the way that he was so effective,” he says.

The big question is whether people like Kerner are just one-time Republican voters, or if they’ll become permanent Republicans. Whether people Tory Williams can be convinced to keep voting for a party that, until a few months ago, she never imagined voting for...


'Your Government at Work'

Here's Kim Strassel, on Twitter, slamming the $1.7 billion *bipartisan* "Omnibus" legislation coming out of Congress today

Gal Gadot Not 'Booted' From DC Cinematic Universe

James Gunn is the co-CEO of DC Studios. He's responding to reports that Gal Godot has been fired as "Wonder Woman," from the DC cinematic universe.

Twitter blew up yesterday, though we have reports to the contrary today.

At Deadline, "James Gunn Shoots Down Claim Gal Gadot Was “Booted” From DC Universe After ‘Wonder Woman 3’ Axing."

And on Twitter today, Gal Gadot's all, "Hey, your loss, not mine": 

A Diminished Trump Meets a Damning Narrative

At the New York Times, "Former President Donald Trump’s current woes extend beyond the report by the House Jan. 6 committee, but the case the panel laid out against him further complicates his future":

As the summer and the House Jan. 6 committee’s hearings began, former President Donald J. Trump was still a towering figure in Republican politics, able to pick winners in primary contests and force candidates to submit to a litmus test of denialism about his loss in the 2020 election.

Six months later, Mr. Trump is significantly diminished, a shrunken presence on the political landscape. His fade is partly a function of his own missteps and miscalculations in recent months. But it is also a product of the voluminous evidence assembled by the House committee and its ability to tell the story of his efforts to overturn the election in a compelling and accessible way.

In ways both raw and easily digested, and with an eye for vivid detail, the committee spooled out the episodic narrative of a president who was told repeatedly he had lost and that his claims of fraud were fanciful. But Mr. Trump continued pushing them anyway, plotted to reverse the outcome, stoked the fury of his supporters, summoned them to Washington and then stood by as the violence played out.

It was a turnabout in roles for a president who rose first to prominence and then to the White House on the basis of his feel for how to project himself on television.

Guided by a veteran television executive, the committee sprinkled the story with moments that stayed in the public consciousness, from Mr. Trump throwing his lunch in anger against the wall of the dining room just off the Oval Office to a claim that he lunged at a Secret Service agent driving his car when he was denied his desire to join his supporters at the Capitol.

On Monday — the second anniversary of Mr. Trump’s Twitter post urging his followers to come to Washington to protest his loss, promising it “will be wild!” — the committee wrapped up its case by lending the weight of the House to calls for Mr. Trump to be held criminally liable for his actions and making the case that he should never again be allowed to hold power...

That's what it's all about. That's always been what it's all about


Sunday, December 18, 2022

Orlando Figes, The Story of Russia

This man is an incredible historian.

Check it out, at Amazon, Orlando Figes, The Story of Russia.

L.A.'s P-22 Has Been Put Down

The coolest cougar, the most obstreperous mountain lion to walk the hills of Los Angeles --- if not the only one to walk the hills of Los Angeles!

People are literally bawling over the death of this animal. 

At the Los Angeles Times, "P-22, L.A. celebrity mountain lion, euthanized due to severe injuries."

Another Veronica

Following-up from last night, Veronika.

Here's Veronica Bielik, on Instagram (smokin' on Instagram, dang!). 

'Into You Like a Train'

The Psychedelic Furs, live from 1981:

Antisemitism Is Rising at Colleges, and Jewish Students Are Facing Growing Hostility

Yes, and it ain't "right-wing" antisemitism.

At the Wall Street Journal, "Some students report being spat upon and harassed, while some campus groups have forced out those who support Israel":

Adina Pinsker commutes to Rutgers University in Newark, N.J., to study supply-chain management. She is also active in Hillel International, the nation’s largest collegiate Jewish organization.

When she arrives on campus, she takes an indirect route to class and tucks inside her shirt the silver Star of David she wears around her neck. These are precautions, she said, to avoid harassment from students who dislike Israel, the people who support it, or both.

“We have basically been shunned,” said Ms. Pinsker, who said she has been subject to derogatory remarks about her beliefs.

Ms. Pinsker’s actions are emblematic of rising fear among some Jewish college students around the country, who have begun shrouding their religious identity and political beliefs to avoid growing ostracism and harassment, according to interviews with dozens of students.

College campuses have long hosted heated debates about the Israel-Palestinian conflict. But now, students say anti-Jewish antagonism is on the rise: Antisemitic incidents have increased, and a growing number of campus groups bar students who support Israel from speaking or joining.

Hostility, including vandalism, threats and slurs toward Jewish students on college campuses increased more than threefold to 155 incidents in 2021 from 47 in 2014, according to the Anti-Defamation League, a New York-based Jewish civil rights organization which has tracked reports of such behavior since 2014. The group counted 2,717 antisemitic incidents in the U.S. overall last year, up 34% from 2020 and the highest number in its records dating to 1979.

Students at schools including the University of Vermont, Wellesley College and DePaul University have ejected Jewish students who support Israel from clubs and study groups, according to interviews with affected students.

Students at Tufts University, University of Southern California and University of California, Los Angeles tried to prevent Jewish classmates from serving in student government or attempted to remove them from positions in student government because of their support of Israel, according to students, administrators and campus news reports.

The uptick in incidents and tension on some campuses comes amid a string of recent high-profile controversies that have drawn renewed attention to antisemitism. This month Twitter suspended the account of rapper and entrepreneur Kanye West—who now goes by the name Ye—after he tweeted to his 32 million followers an image of a swastika merged with the Star of David, weeks after he tweeted: “I’m going death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE.”

On campus, students say that stereotypical antisemitic slurs are directed at Jews, but that much of the hostility derives from growing criticism of Israel’s handling of its political and military conflict with Palestinians over land rights. Jewish students say harassment often compounds when criticism of Israel increases.

Most American Jews feel an attachment to Israel, though many are critical of the Israeli government, according to a 2021 survey from the Pew Research Center.

Some of the conflict on campus stems from competing definitions of antisemitism and anti-Zionism and whether they overlap.

Anti-Zionism is a political position distinct from antisemitism, which is a prejudice, said Dylan Saba, an attorney with New York-based Palestine Legal, which works to support the civil and constitutional rights of people in the U.S. who advocate for Palestinians. The two are conflated by supporters of Israel to discredit critics, he said.

Condemning Israel may make some Jewish students feel uncomfortable, but that doesn’t mean it is antisemitic, he said. “All we are asking for is equal rights,” he said...


Anti-Zionism is anti-Israel is antisemitic. Full stop. "From the desert to the sea, Palestine will be free" means wiping Israel --- and all its Jewish citizens --- off the face of the map.

It's easy to prove, too. Just walk up to any pro-Palestine student organization --- literally in any college campus in America --- and ask its leaders if they support Hamas. In my experience they will not answer. Not only that, in my case, they'll call the police on you. 

Race for the Next RNC Chair Gets Ugly

Ronna McDaniel's performance as party chair since 2016 has been pathetic. I don't think about it that much, but with Harmeet Dhillon in the race with a bulldog campaign to replace her, one takes notice.

At the Associated Press, "Inside the ugly fight to become the next Republican chair."

And on Fox News with Laura Ingraham:

The Obligatory Taylor Lorenz Suspended From Twitter Post

Lorenz is headlining on Memeorandum

She long ago blocked me, but it's not hard to find out what evils she's up to on the platform. 

Elon's suspended her. Haven't heard yet if it's a permanent ban, but if anyone deserves it, it's Lorenz. 

Too bad, though, because apparently she's been reinstated

At Fox News, "Taylor Lorenz suspended from Twitter, claims Elon Musk personally removed her from platform: Elon Musk recently suspended several journalists before restoring their accounts."

Her message to followers before the reinstatement, full of self-aggrandizement and unearned self-importance. Gawd:

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Christmas Shopping

Check out all the sales, at Amazon.

BONUS: Husqvarna 570BTS powerful X-Torq engine, 65.6 cm³ Speed Backpack Blower.

Max Hastings, Vietnam

At Amazon, Max Hastings, Vietnam: An Epic Tragedy, 1945-1975.

The Most Empty Downtown in America

The nation's most empty downtown? That would be San Francisco's. 

Michelle Tandler frequently talks about this on Twitter.

And now at the New York Times, "What Comes Next for the Most Empty Downtown in America":

Tech workers are still at home. The $17 salad place is expanding into the suburbs. So what is left in San Francisco?

The coffee rush. The lunch rush. The columns of headphone-equipped tech workers rushing in and out of train stations. The lanyard-wearing visitors who crowded the sidewalks when a big conference was in town.

There was a time three years ago when a walk through downtown San Francisco was a picture of what it meant for a city to be economically successful. Take the five-minute jaunt from the office building at 140 New Montgomery Street to a line-out-the-door salad shop nearby.

The 26-story building, an Art Deco landmark that was once the tallest in the city, began its life as the headquarters for the Pacific Telephone & Telegraph Company. Decades later, it served as the home of the local search company Yelp. The nearby salad store was part of a fast-growing chain called Mixt.

Yelp and Mixt had little more than proximity in common, which at that time was enough. Yelp was an idea that became billions of dollars in value on the internet. Mixt was a booming business serving lunchtime salads to the workers who traveled on electrified trains and skateboards to their jobs in downtown cubicles.

Their virtuous cycle of nearness, of new ideas becoming new companies, feeding other ideas that become other companies, was the template for urban growth. Businesses like Yelp took root in the high-energy, high-density city; chains like Mixt flourished alongside them as their workers ventured out for lunch. As downtowns have emptied out, their once-symbiotic relationship is coming undone.

“This area was always packed with people,” recalled Maria Cerros-Mercado, a Mixt manager who built her career in food service downtown. “People would get off the BART, buy coffee, buy this, buy that. There was always just so much walking.”

Today San Francisco has what is perhaps the most deserted major downtown in America. On any given week, office buildings are at about 40 percent of their prepandemic occupancy, while the vacancy rate has jumped to 24 percent from 5 percent since 2019. Occupancy of the city’s offices is roughly 7 percentage points below that of those in the average major American city, according to Kastle, the building security firm.

More ominous for the city is that its downtown business district — the bedrock of its economy and tax base — revolves around a technology industry that is uniquely equipped and enthusiastic about letting workers stay home indefinitely. In the space of a few months, Jeremy Stoppelman, the chief executive of Yelp, went from running a company that was rooted in the city to vacating Yelp’s longtime headquarters and allowing its roughly 4,400 employees to work from anywhere in their country...



This is the smokin' hottie who wants to marry Tom Brady. See, "Model Veronika Rajek gushes over Tom Brady after wild post-divorce win."

Maybe he should give her a tryout, IYKWIMAITYD. (*Wink.*)

On Instagram.

Friday, December 16, 2022

Totem Electric Bike for Adults 26”

I appreciate those who've made purchases through my Amazon links. 

Keep shopping! Nine days left till Christmas! 

Check it out: Totem Electric Bike for Adults 26”, Electric Mountain Bicycle 350W Motor, 20MPH Victor 2.0 with 36V 10.4Ah Removable Battery, E-MTB with Shimano 21 Speed Gears, Upgraded Adjustable stem.

Americans Expect Worsening U.S. Economy in 2023, WSJ Poll Finds

Well, Goldman-Sachs will layoff "thousands," and will deny bonuses to "underperforming employees," whatever that means (completely arbitrary?). 

So, it's not looking like a great holiday season for many American workers

I'm not getting laid-off, thank goodness. 

Be kind to your neighbors out there, and perhaps say a pray for the less fortunate (or hand 'em some cash while they're out panhandling on the median at the traffic light, *sigh*).

At the Wall Street Journal, "Over a third of voters say inflation is causing them major financial strain":

A majority of voters think the economy will be in worse shape in 2023 than it is now and roughly two-thirds say the nation’s economic trajectory is headed in the wrong direction, the latest Wall Street Journal poll shows.

The survey, conducted Dec. 3-7, suggests a recent burst of positive economic news—moderating gas prices and a slowing pace of inflation—haven’t altered the way many feel about the risk of a recession, something many economists have forecast as likely.

“I just think we are headed toward a recession and it could be a pretty big one,” said Republican poll participant David Rennie, a 61-year-old retired executive with the Boy Scouts of America who lives in Shelton, Conn. “Interest rates are skyrocketing and that’s going to take us down.”

The Federal Reserve on Wednesday approved an interest-rate increase of 0.5 percentage point and signaled plans to keep raising rates at its next few meetings to combat high inflation. The move reflected some moderation after four consecutive increases of 0.75 point.

Economic pessimism is strongest among Republicans, with 83% expecting the economy to worsen. Slightly more than half of independents feel that way, while 22% of Democrats do.

“Our economic diagnostics have become partisan,” said Democratic pollster John Anzalone, who conducted the survey with Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio. “If there was a Republican president, we might see the reverse.”

Mr. Fabrizio said Democrats aren’t paying as much of a political price as one might expect for so many people having negative feelings about the economy. “You would normally see that translate into being bad news for the Democrats,” he said.

Democrats did better than expected in last month’s midterm elections, keeping control of the Senate while losing the House by a narrower margin than nonpartisan analysts forecast...

After this last election, it's pretty clear that the old standard of economic indicators is not what voters are basing the electoral decisions on. If it were otherwise, we'd see big Republican majorities in both chambers of Congress come January 3rd. Nothing that I can see foretells a weakening of the hateful partisanship that's driving the current political scene. If anything, things will get worse. While Elon's takeover of Twitter is great for owning the libs, if you look at the reaction on the left --- the fanatical, practically murderous reaction --- it's a safe bet that 2024's going to be as nasty as ever.

There's more at the link, in any case. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Jonathan Crary, Scorched Earth

At Amazon, Jonathan Crary, Scorched Earth: Beyond the Digital Age to a Post-Capitalist World.

Sofia Bevarly

Dream woman, on Instagram.

Women and Trans Students Fear Harassment and Hate at California State University’s Maritime Academy

If true, it's wrong. Very wrong. Because it feeds into stupid leftist memes that degenerate trans people are the greatest victims of hate crimes in the history of the world. 

Just leave people the fuck alone. If you don't like them, fight their agenda through the political process. Sheesh.

At the Los Angeles Times, "‘Always have a knife with you’: Women and trans students fear harassment, hate at CSU campus":

MORROW COVE, Calif. — The outrage and frustration had been building for years at California State University’s Maritime Academy, an elite training ground for students bound for work on the sea. It reached a peak last year, when student cadets publicly confronted the school’s president, a retired rear admiral.

Dozens of cadets gathered on the Quad that day to protest what they said was widespread sexual misconduct, racism and hostility toward women and transgender and nonbinary students.

One student told President Thomas Cropper that a male classmate sexually harassed her. Another accused administrators of failing to adequately discipline cadets who exchanged messages disparaging trans people as “fags” and comparing them to a castrated dog.

The reckoning in November 2021 exposed what students have long discussed among themselves at the school, one of seven maritime academies in the United States and the only one of its kind on the West Coast.

Long-standing claims of sexual harassment and misconduct, homophobia, transphobia and racism on campus and during training cruises have roiled Cal Maritime and triggered an atmosphere of dread for many students, a Times investigation has found.

One woman told The Times she was raped by a male classmate and dropped out earlier this year to avoid facing her alleged attacker while a campus investigation has dragged on for months.

A cadet discovered their motorcycle tires slashed and the word “dike” carved into the gas tank. Another student said she now carries a knife for protection after a cadet tried to coerce her into having sex.

And a university official who sent out a campus email demanding that the school do more to combat hate and racism found herself the subject of discipline — for unauthorized use of school email.

The accusations at the 800-student campus on San Francisco Bay are yet another crisis for the California State University system, which has been rocked by allegations of sexual misconduct and retaliation, sparking calls for reforms and leading to the resignation of top executives.

Times investigations earlier this year found breakdowns and inconsistencies in the way that campuses in the nation’s largest public four-year university system handle sexual misconduct and retaliation claims.

Until now, Cal Maritime, the smallest and most insular of the CSU campuses, has escaped the public scrutiny that has roiled other schools in the system. One reason is that the school prepares cadets, as they are called, for careers in the maritime industry, and some fear formally reporting misconduct will damage their future job prospects, according to students, faculty and alumni.

Cropper did not respond to requests to be interviewed for this report. Two weeks after Times reporters visited his campus office this fall to seek an interview, he announced that he would step down in August. He said he made the decision in the summer.

Cal Maritime said in statements that top administrators have “strongly and repeatedly denounced” misconduct and contend that they have taken a variety of actions to combat the problems. They said the school improved the complaint reporting process by hiring two consultants, increased campus wide training on sexual harassment and how to report misconduct, hired a full-time advocate for victims, hosted campus forums and opened a community center that serves as a “welcoming place for cadets to gather and study.”

Other university promises have gone unfulfilled...


A Fast-Growing Network of Conservative Groups Is Fueling a Surge in Book Bans


It's not like they're banning A Tree Grows in Brooklyn or To Kill a Mockingbird.

We're talking about perverted, nasty stuff that's powering the left's child-grooming pipeline.

At the New York Times, "Some groups are new, some are longstanding. Some are local, others national. Over the past two years, they have become vastly more organized, well funded, effective — and criticized":

The Keller Independent School District, just outside of Dallas, passed a new rule in November: It banned books from its libraries that include the concept of gender fluidity.

The change was pushed by three new school board members, elected in May with support from Patriot Mobile, a self-described Christian cellphone carrier. Through its political action committee, Patriot Mobile poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into Texas school board races to promote candidates with conservative views on race, gender and sexuality — including on which books children can access at school.

Traditionally, debates over what books are appropriate for school libraries have taken place between a concerned parent and a librarian or administrator, and resulted in a single title or a few books being re-evaluated, and either removed or returned to shelves.

But recently, the issue has been supercharged by a rapidly growing and increasingly influential constellation of conservative groups. The organizations frequently describe themselves as defending parental rights. Some are new and others are longstanding, but with a recent focus on books. Some work at the district and state level, others have national reach. And over the past two years or so, they have grown vastly more organized, interconnected, well funded — and effective.

The groups have pursued their goals by becoming heavily involved in local and state politics, where Republican efforts have largely outmatched liberal organizations in many states for years. They have created political action committees, funded campaigns, endorsed candidates and packed school boards, helping to fuel a surge in challenges to individual books and to drive changes in the rules governing what books are available to children.

“This is not about banning books, it’s about protecting the innocence of our children,” said Keith Flaugh, one of the founders of Florida Citizens Alliance, a conservative group focused on education, “and letting the parents decide what the child gets rather than having government schools indoctrinate our kids.”

The materials the groups object to are often described in policies and legislation as sensitive, inappropriate or pornographic. In practice, the books most frequently targeted for removal have been by or about Black or L.G.B.T.Q. people, according to the American Library Association. In Texas, 11 school board candidates backed by Patriot Mobile Action, the political action committee formed by the cellphone company, won in four districts this year, including Keller. The committee’s aim is to eliminate “critical race theory” and “L.G.B.T.Q. indoctrination” from schools, Leigh Wambsganss, its executive director, said on Steve Bannon’s show, “War Room.”

Even books without sexual content can be problematic if they include L.G.B.T.Q. characters, because they are “sexualizing children,” she said: “It is normalizing a lifestyle that is a sexual choice.”

“Those kinds of lifestyles,” she added, shouldn’t “be forced down the throats of families who don’t agree.”

By August, about three months after the new members were seated, the Keller school board had restricted or prohibited books containing profanity, violence, sex scenes or nudity. These changes resulted in the removal of at least 20 books from the district’s schools, including Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye,” Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” and several young adult novels with L.G.B.T.Q. characters, like Adam Silvera’s “More Happy Than Not.”

In November, the board added the ban on books that refer to gender fluidity. Laney Hawes, who has four children in Keller schools, was there that day. She and some other parents felt outflanked, she said, by deep-pocketed organizations whose actions can change longstanding policies in a matter of months.

“They ran on the campaign of, ‘We’re going to get pornography and sexually explicit books out of our school libraries,’” Ms. Hawes said. “The parents didn’t have a PAC. We couldn’t compete with these people.”

Individuals and groups opposing book restrictions say crafting a national response is difficult, since policies are set locally. But some are pushing back. The restrictions, said Emerson Sykes, a First Amendment litigator for the American Civil Liberties Union, infringe on students’ “right to access a broad range of material without political censorship.”

The A.C.L.U and other advocacy groups filed a federal civil rights complaint against the Keller school district, arguing that banning books about gender fluidity creates “a pervasively hostile atmosphere for L.G.B.T.Q.+ students.”

Librarians in Texas formed Freadom Fighters, an organization that offers guidance to librarians on handling book challenges. In Florida, parents who oppose book banning formed the Freedom to Read Project, which urges its members to attend board meetings and tracks the work of groups like Florida Citizens Alliance.

“We’re trying to document the censorship movement,” said Stephana Ferrell, one of the founders of Freedom to Read. “They don’t want to use the word ‘ban.’ Instead they remove, relocate, restrict — all these other words that aren’t ‘ban.’ But it’s a ban.”

According to a recent report from the free speech organization PEN America, there are at least 50 groups across the country working to remove books they object to from libraries. Some have seen explosive growth recently: Of the 300 chapters that PEN tracked, 73 percent were formed after 2020.

The growth comes, in part, from the rise of “parental rights” organizations during the pandemic. Formed to fight Covid restrictions in schools, some groups adopted a broader conservative agenda focused on opposing instruction on race, gender and sexuality, and on removing books they regard as inappropriate.

Other groups, like Florida Citizens Alliance, have been around for years. Established in 2013, the alliance has longstanding ties to Gov. Ron DeSantis: Its co-founders, Mr. Flaugh and Pastor Rick Stevens, served on the DeSantis transition committee. The group also has partnerships with over 100 other groups, including Moms for Liberty and Americans for Prosperity Florida, a local branch of a national group founded by the billionaires Charles and David Koch.

Five years ago, Mr. Flaugh and Pastor Stevens helped draft a bill that gave all county residents, not just parents, the power to challenge a book in a school district. Opponents say it contributed to waves of book challenges. The bill’s supporters, however, say local tax dollars fund the school system, so all residents have a right to influence how that money is spent.

“They’re the ones that pay for it,” said Representative Byron Donalds, who co-sponsored the bill when he was in the Florida Legislature...

Margaret Atwood and Toni Morrison's book are for mature audiences, no doubt. But these groups should shy away from banning the classics and stick to banning the left's despicable LBGTQIA+ groomer literature. It's disgusting.


Ron DeSantis Holds Early Lead Over Donald Trump Among GOP Primary Voters, WSJ Poll Shows (VIDEO)

He's seen on Laura Ingraham's last night, below, and at the Wall Street Journal, "The former president’s standing among Republican voters has fallen after candidates he promoted lost in midterm elections":

Republican primary voters have high interest in Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as a potential 2024 presidential nominee and view him more favorably than they do former President Donald Trump, a new Wall Street Journal poll shows.

In a hypothetical contest between the two, Mr. DeSantis beats Mr. Trump, 52% to 38%, among likely GOP primary voters contemplating a race in which the first nomination votes will be cast in just over a year.

The poll found that Mr. DeSantis is both well-known and well-liked among Republicans who say they are likely to vote in a party primary or nominating contest, with 86% viewing the Florida governor favorably, compared with 74% who hold a favorable view of Mr. Trump. One in 10 likely GOP primary voters said they didn’t know enough about Mr. DeSantis to venture an opinion of him.

Among all registered voters, Mr. DeSantis is viewed favorably by 43%, compared with 36% for the former president. Favorable views of Mr. Trump were the lowest recorded in Journal polling dating to November 2021 and have been pulled down by a decline in positive feelings among Republicans. Since March, his favorable rating among GOP voters has fallen to 74% from 85%, while the share who view him unfavorably has risen to 23% from 13%.

The decline in Mr. Trump’s standing among GOP voters follows midterm election losses that some in the party have attributed to his significant involvement in candidate endorsements and promotion during the primary process.

Democrats had a net gain of two governorships and one Senate seat, while limiting their House losses to single digits, despite high inflation and with an unpopular president leading their party. The result bucked a historical pattern in which the party that holds the White House almost always suffers a double-digit loss of seats in the House during a president’s first term.

Mr. Trump is the only Republican who has announced a 2024 presidential bid, although others are expected to do so in the coming months. If Mr. DeSantis decides to run, aides have said he isn’t likely to announce a White House campaign until after Florida’s legislative session ends in May.

Mr. DeSantis has become a formidable force in politics, winning a second term last month in a landslide—by 19 percentage points—reflecting big gains in support in Florida since his first election, by less than half a percentage point, to the governor’s office in 2018...


Thursday, December 8, 2022

Bruce Kuklick, Fascism Comes to America

At Amazon, Bruce Kuklick, Fascism Comes to America: A Century of Obsession in Politics and Culture.

Biden Trades a Terrorist Gun-Dealer Who Plotted to Kill Americans to Get Back Drug Smoking WNBA Flake; Gives Up Trying to Get Back the Marine Russia's Kept in Prison for Four Years

Previously: "American Brittney Griner Released in Prisoner Swap."

And quite something of a follow-up, at AoSHQ, "Biden's bragging that he got back a woman who is important to his key constituencies of LGBT Activists and CRT Grievance Stokers and literally no one else ... The Great Diplomat is less forthcoming about the man he's putting on a plane in exchange for this pothead scofflaw."

How Trump and MAGA Allies Are Defending Violent Jan. 6th Rioters

From Amanda Carpenter, at the Bulwark, "He says he’s sticking with them—and he hopes they’ll stick with him."

And from Charles Sykes, yesterday, a humdinger, "So Much #Losing: Down goes Herschel."

They Lived Together, Worked Together and Lost Billions Together: Inside Sam Bankman-Fried's Doomed FTX Empire

At the Wall Street Journal, "The emerging picture of what went wrong suggests the crypto empire was a mess almost from the start, with few boundaries, financial or personal":

NASSAU, Bahamas—Sam Bankman-Fried’s $32 billion crypto-trading empire collapsed in an incandescent bankruptcy last week, prompting irate customers, crypto acolytes and Silicon Valley bigwigs to ask how something that seemed so promising could have imploded so fast.

The emerging picture suggests FTX wasn’t simply felled by a rival, or undone by a bad trade or the relentless fall this year in the value of cryptocurrencies. Instead, it had long been a chaotic mess. From its earliest days, the firm was an unruly agglomeration of corporate entities, customer assets and Mr. Bankman-Fried himself, according to court papers, company balance sheets shown to bankers and interviews with employees and investors. No one could say exactly what belonged to whom. Prosecutors are now investigating its collapse.

Mr. Bankman-Fried’s companies had neither accounting nor functioning human-resources departments, according to a filing in federal court by the executive brought in to shepherd FTX through bankruptcy. Corporate money was used to buy real estate, but records weren’t kept. There wasn’t even a roster of employees, to say nothing of the terms of their employment. Bankruptcy filings say one entity’s outstanding loans include at least $1 billion to Mr. Bankman-Fried personally and $543 million to a top lieutenant.

The lives of the people who ran FTX and its related companies were similarly blurred. Ten of them lived and worked together in a $30 million penthouse at an upscale resort in the Bahamas. The hours were punishing, and the lines between work and play were hard to discern. Romantic relationships among Mr. Bankman-Fried’s upper echelon were common, as was use of stimulants, according to former employees.

Mr. Bankman-Fried, 30 years old, kept a hectic schedule, toggling between six screens and getting by on a few hours of sleep a day. He was at times romantically involved with Caroline Ellison, the 28-year-old CEO of his trading firm, Alameda Research, according to former employees.

“Nothing like regular amphetamine use to make you appreciate how dumb a lot of normal, non-medicated human experience is,” Ms. Ellison once tweeted. A lawyer for Ms. Ellison declined to comment. To the outside world, Mr. Bankman-Fried was the mayor of cryptoland, the man charged with convincing lawmakers, investors and enthusiasts that he’d built a new kind of finance. He urged Congress and regulators to approve his model for crypto trading. On his cryptocurrency trading exchange, FTX, positions and risk were cross-checked by computers, and algorithms would react within milliseconds to protect bad trades from spilling over to hurt other customers, he said. On Twitter, he admonished competitors for practices he called unsafe.

But behind the scenes, Mr. Bankman-Fried was taking huge risks himself. Though he said publicly that Alameda was just a regular user on the exchange, the firm ran up a bill of $8 billion buying stakes in startups, trading on credit that no other user could get. Much of that money, much of which belonged to FTX’s customers, is likely gone.

FTX’s swift collapse—it went from paragon to bankrupt in just over a week—has renewed questions about crypto’s viability, its unregulated status and how so many well-heeled investors could have been misled for so long. Investors have poured hundreds of billions of dollars into digital currencies in recent years. Staid financial institutions were finally getting in on the action, too.

The executive tapped to guide Mr. Bankman-Fried’s companies through bankruptcy said the state of FTX’s affairs was the biggest mess he had seen in a decadeslong career that includes unwinding the accounting scandal that was Enron Corp. In a court filing he said many of the firm’s records of its digital assets seemed to be missing or incomplete; in many cases, he was unable to locate relevant bank accounts.

In last week’s bankruptcy papers, a Kenya-based money-transfer company was listed as an FTX entity. That surprised its CEO, Elizabeth Rossiello.

In a 2021 financial report, FTX said it had agreed to buy her company for about $220 million. FTX never did. There was no agreement, at any price, said Ms. Rossiello. “We were going to be their exclusive partner in Africa,” she said, nothing more.

“From compromised systems integrity and faulty regulatory oversight abroad, to the concentration of control in the hands of a very small group of inexperienced, unsophisticated and potentially compromised individuals, this situation is unprecedented,” John J. Ray III said in court papers.

A full accounting of what went wrong at FTX is likely months away, but a reconstruction of what the firm did and how its executives operated makes plain its public image—a team of brilliant quants bringing a sophisticated, digital approach to risk—was a mirage.

Mr. Bankman-Fried has blamed the misuse of customer funds on sloppy record-keeping and a flood of unexpected customer withdrawals...

Still lots more.



On Instagram, with 6.9 million followers!

American Brittney Griner Released in Prisoner Swap

American Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine imprisoned four years at some remote penal colony in outback Russia, was left behind.

At the Los Angeles Times, "Brittney Griner freed from Russian penal colony in high-level prisoner swap."

And at the New York Times, "Brittney Griner's Release Puts a Spotlight on Paul Whelan."

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Gordon W. Prange, At Dawn We Slept

Gordon W. Prange, At Dawn We Slept: The Untold Story of Pearl Harbor.

Anniversary of Pearl Harbor Attack, December 7th, 1941 (VIDEO)

Today's an important day, the anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, December 7, 1941. The U.S. declared war on Japan the next day, and Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany declared war on the U.S. three days after that. 

See, from 2016, "Pearl Harbor’s 75th Anniversary: A Look Back at the Attack."

Please take the time and watch the video below, featuring U.S. Air Force Captain Jerry Yellin, who flew the last combat mission of World War II. In later life, he reconciled with the Japanese and at home he worked on various causes to support American veterans of foreign wars, especially those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Yellen passed away in 2017 at the age of 93. Yellen, and men like him, are the last of a dying breed --- patriotic Americans who volunteered for military service to defend their country, and they were just boys, teenagers often of 18, or even younger, as the young one lied about their age because they wanted to serve their nation so badly. 

Yellen's youngest son married the daughter of a Japanese Kamikaze ("divine wind") pilot. The joining of family was a major element of healing for Captain Yellen and serves as an example of American honor and magnanimity in the wake of the evil of man's inhumanity to fellow man.

Think hard about the men (and women) of this generation, sometimes called the "Greatest Generation." Would you sign up for military service at 18-years-old, still just a babe in the woods, barely out of high school, prepared to fight and die for your country --- with few if any reservations whatsoever?  The fact is, millions of Americans today --- in particular far-left Democrats (who often despise American and its history) --- would not. (Scroll down to "WHAT WOULD AMERICANS DO?")

I can't help but think the decline of patriotism among young people, and their unwillingness to sacrifice for one's country, foretells bad things for America in the future, and the not too distant future at that. Liberty is not free, and there's nothing to guarantee its survival, unless those who enjoy its blessings will stand up --- in time of need --- for truth, justice, and the American way of good in the world. 

Again, think hard. What would you do if faced with virtually the same circumstances, the specter of world totalitarianism threatening peace and freedom in the world? 

Here, below, Captain Yellen tells his story, during a visit to Iwo Jima, in 2010. 

Have a great day.