July 18, 2017

New York Times and alternate reality

On July 16, music critic Mikal Gilmore shared on Facebook an opinion piece from the New York Times, "No One Cares About Russia in the World Breitbart Made" by Joshua Green, pulling the following quote:

"Look to the right now and you’re apt to find an alternative reality in which the same set of facts is rearranged to compose an entirely different narrative. On Fox News, host Lou Dobbs offered a representative example on Thursday night, when he described the Donald Trump Jr. email story, with wild-eyed fervor, like this: 'This is about a full-on assault by the left, the Democratic Party, to absolutely carry out a coup d’état against President Trump aided by the left-wing media.' Mr. Dobbs isn’t some wacky outlier, but rather an example of how over the last several years the conservative underworld has swallowed up and subsumed more established right-leaning outlets such as Fox News."

https://www.facebook.com/mikal.gilmore/posts/10213875532309171

Olaf Errwigge replied: This is classic projection, since it is the New York Times and other self-described "liberal" media that have been creating and tirelessly reinforcing an alternate (McCarthyite) reality since Trump was elected.

Ken Eisner: Yeah, maybe take another run at that incomprehensible assertion.

Ken Eisner: Well?

Olaf Errwigge:

From "The World Through Breitbart-Vision" [as the piece appeared in print] by Joshua Green:

"Donald Trump’s son, son-in-law and campaign manager met with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer promising information that would “incriminate” Hillary Clinton …" — Veselnitskaya is not "Kremlin-connected" and wanted the meeting only to lobby against the Magnitsky Act. The interesting part of the story is why Rob Goldstone, who arranged the meeting, wrote to Trump Junior, "The Crown prosecutor of Russia … offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father. This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump …" and "Emin asked that I schedule a meeting with you and The Russian government attorney who is flying over from Moscow for this Thursday." Again Veselnitskaya is not a "Russian government attorney", had no dope on Clinton, and just wanted to lobby the Trump campaign about the Magnitsky Act.

"a metastasizing Russia scandal" — or a metastasizing attempt to manufacture a Russia scandal

"Another argument holds that Mr. Trump’s efforts to discredit mainstream outlets, echoed by the right-wing media, have stripped his followers of their ability to distinguish what’s real from what isn’t." — this in an effort by one mainstream outlet to discredit other mainstream outlets or the appearance of Trump-friendly voices on NYT-approved outlets

From editorial "Russia Isn't Delivering for Mr. Trump" [shared by Gilmore in the comments]:

"President Vladimir Putin has shown a ruthless commitment to self-preservation that relies heavily on returning Russia to a mythical place of power and glory, not in helping the West build a more stable world." — How dare Putin put Russian interests first! And what evidence supports the last clause (in either of its assumptions)?

"Mr. Trump is making sound policy making even harder, though, with his admiration of Mr. Putin and his willingness to surrender the country’s international leadership …" — Again, on what evidence are these statements based?

"Mr. Trump is noticeably more comfortable with Mr. Putin than he is with most of America’s democratic allies, despite Mr. Putin’s record of crushing domestic opponents, invading Ukraine and bombing civilians in Syria." — Hmm, no mention of the US/EU-supported coup to overthrow a democratically elected government in Ukraine, no mention of US bombing civilians in Syria and several other countries. Not to mention that Russia is democratic, too.

"… But that does not mean it is wise to underestimate, as Mr. Trump seems to do, the threat posed by Mr. Putin’s efforts to weaken NATO and the trans-Atlantic alliance, subvert democratic procedures and institutions in Europe and America, wage cyberwarfare, destabilize Ukraine and secure influence in Syria." — Again, evidence? Again, the US/EU fomented the coup in Ukraine, and it is the US who is attempting to "secure influence in Syria"; Russia was always there.

"Last month, … the Senate approved legislation that would impose tough new sanctions on Russia for meddling in the 2016 election and allow Congress to block the president from lifting any sanctions in the future, including those relating to Ukraine. The bill has been stymied by partisan wrangling in the House, and the White House has tried to weaken it." — First, what meddling? That's the primary alternate reality (and projection) promoted by the Times and their ilk. Second, the editorial neglected to mention that the White House simply sent the bill back to the Senate as constitutionally invalid.

"His aides are also pressing Washington to return two diplomatic compounds in Maryland and New York that were seized as part of the Obama administration’s response to the election meddling and were reportedly used for spying. But there is no reason to entertain these requests until Mr. Putin has pledged not to interfere in future American elections." — Again with the alleged "meddling", which seems to based on only 2 things: the existence of RT and the insistence that the DNC e-mails were hacked (by Russia!) rather than leaked.

"Russia is still occupying Crimea, which it annexed in 2014, and is intensifying the war in the east against Ukrainian government forces, despite promising in the 2015 Minsk agreement to halt the fighting." — Crimea is part of Russia again, since it was clear that the US/EU overthrew the Yanukovych government to ensure that the lease on Sevastopol would not be renewed (that infernal self-preservation again!). And there is no evidence of Russian forces in Donbass but every evidence of NATO egging on Kyev, which has indeed been raining down more terror on Donetsk over the past year (which in the alternate reality/projection of mainstream US news is blamed on Putin).

"Nor has Mr. Trump persuaded Mr. Putin … to stop the dangerous face-offs with American warplanes over the Baltic Sea …" — Reality: The Baltic Sea borders Russia, not America; it is the US that needs "to stop the dangerous face-offs".

In another piece in today's Sunday Review, "A Playboy President and Women's Health", Michelle Goldberg wrote, "after nearly six months in office, Mr. Trump has already surpassed George W. Bush as the American president most hostile to reproductive rights and measures to promote sexual health." — In this alternate reality, Ronald Reagan is forgotten, as are the facts that more abortion clinics closed and more state restrictions were imposed during Barack Obama's tenure than under any other President's, that Obama tried to prevent over-the-counter access to the morning-after pill, and that Obama made such a cursory statement after the murder of Dr George Tiller that it was effectively a kiss-off.

Jerry Murrel:

Olaf Errwigge wrote: "Veselnitskaya is not "Kremlin-connected" and wanted the meeting only to lobby against the Magnitsky Act."

That's a ludicrous statement; in fact it's the precise talking point that the Kremlin is pushing in defense of the charges of election meddling. Although Veselnitskaya was heavily involved in lobbying efforts to try to have the Magnitsky act repealed, it's reported by Rolf Mowatt-Larssen that Russian operatives would only broach the subject of a meeting to discuss damaging information on HiIlary Clinton if there were a discussion about a secondary matter (Magnitsky Act) to provide cover in case the meeting was later scrutinized as inappropriate, or the offer of opposition research was rejected by the Trump campaign:

"But everything we know about the meeting — from whom it involved to how it was set up to how it unfolded — is in line with what intelligence analysts would expect an overture in a Russian influence operation to look like. It bears all the hallmarks of a professionally planned, carefully orchestrated intelligence soft pitch designed to gauge receptivity, while leaving room for plausible deniability in case the approach is rejected."

https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/trump-jrs-russia-meeting-sure-sounds-like-a-russian-intelligence-operation/2017/07/14/5f7f3dfe-6762-11e7-9928-22d00a47778f_story.html

Here's a truthful article by Julia Ioffe which explains more about Ms.Veselnitskaya:

https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/07/natalia-veselnitskaya-trump-junior/533670/

Jerry Murrel:

Olaf Errwigge wrote: "more abortion clinics closed and more state restrictions were imposed during Barack Obama's tenure than any other President's."

What a disingenuous statement! A relationship doesn't prove causation; the fact that more abortion clinics were closed during Obama's tenure has nothing to do with Obama; these closures are the result of sweeping red-state legislation by Tea Party Republicans to attack women's rights. The implication that Obama had anything to do with these clinics closing is absurd; but it's typical Breitbart propaganda.

Olaf, you have a destructive and anti-democratic agenda, and I'm calling you out for your misinformation and deceit.

Olaf Errwigge:

Jerry Murrel — Trump Junior's receptivity to dirt on Clinton was already established. The meeting ended quickly when it was clear that Veselnitskaya was there for other reasons. The twisted piece in the Washington Post reads more like conspiracy theory than explanation. And again, it is more likely another example of projection: If there was an "operation" behind the meeting, the more plausible explanation is that it was a trap laid by the Clinton campaign. In his attempt to create an alternate reality, Rolf Mowatt-Larssen does not mention Fusion GPS, who was doing opposition research for Clinton and had also worked for Veselnitskaya. Veselnitskaya would have then gone public with her story to cover up the fact that Trump Junior did not compromise himself (perhaps on the coaching of Manafort and Kushner) as hoped for, to pretend that the meeting was innocent.

As for Obama and abortion restrictions, it is one example of his general domestic neglect, in stark contrast to Bill Clinton's Attorney General Janet Reno, who actually fought to protect access to abortion.

Olaf Errwigge: Here's another example of the New York Times's selective (Memory Hole) reality in the July 12 "Fact Check", "Stories of Foreign Election Influence, Separate and Not Equal" by Linda Qiu: The second part dismisses DNC consultant Alexandra Chalupa's working with the Ukrainian embassy to expose Trump's then–campaign manager Paul Manafort's work with the pre-coup government. The dismissal is fair enough, but what is not mentioned at all is that the original story in Politico was by the very well respected Ken Vogel, who since June 26 was now working for the New York Times.

Ken Eisner: Mikal, ya got a "live one" here.

Olaf Errwigge: "Uppity" seems to be the word you want.

July 10, 2017

VPIRG and its sham of a carbon tax

It gives 90% of it back, so what was the point? And it doesn't tax cows.

The carbon tax is part of VPIRG's summer campaign focus, so here's a short piece about it from 2014:

Comments on the Vermont campaign for a carbon tax

In short, it's a merely symbolic gesture primarily designed for fundraising.

June 22, 2017

Liberals in the desert they made for themselves

Emmett Rensin writes at the Los Angeles Review of Books (excerpts):

Liberalism is not working. Something deep within the mechanism has cracked. All our wonk managers, our expert stewards of the world, have lost their way. They wander desert highways in a daze, wondering why the brakes locked up, why the steering wheel came off, how the engine caught on fire. Their charts lie abandoned by the roadside. It was all going so well just a moment ago. History was over. The technocratic order was globalizing the world; people were becoming accustomed to the permanent triumph of a slightly kinder exploitation. What happened? All they can recall is a loud thump in the undercarriage, an abrupt loss of control. Was it Brexit? Trump? Suddenly the tires were bursting and smoke was pouring into the vehicle, then a flash. The next thing they could remember, our liberals were standing beside a smoldering ruin, blinking in the hot sun, their power stolen, their world collapsing, their predictions all proven wrong. …

The most significant development in the past 30 years of liberal self-conception was the replacement of politics understood as an ideological conflict with politics understood as a struggle against idiots unwilling to recognize liberalism’s monopoly on empirical reason. The trouble with liberalism’s enemies was no longer that they were evil, although they might be that too. The problem, reinforced by Daily Kos essays in your Facebook feed and retweeted Daily Show clips, was that liberalism’s enemies were factually wrong about the world. Just take a look at this chart …

This shift was a necessary accommodation to the fact that, beginning with Bill Clinton, the slim ideological differences that existed between the Democrats and the GOP were replaced with differences of style. Clinton’s “Third Way” promised to be every bit the dupe-servant of war and profit its rivals were, but to do it with the measured confidence of an expert. The New Democrats would destroy the labor movement, but sigh about it. They would frown while they voted to authorize the next war. They would make only the concessions necessary to bolster the flailing engine of finance capital, but they would do it with the latest research in the world. …

The notion that knowledge asymmetries lay at the root of all political conflict was quickly transmuted into the basis of policy itself. …

The result was an American political movement whose center was a moral void. …

The 2016 presidential election was meant to be the final victory of the wonk-managers, the triumph of a West Wing fantasy wherein the leadership class didn’t quite do anything beyond displaying the sublime confidence of cerebral people hurrying down the hallways of power with matters well in hand. Donald Trump was a perfect foe: the forces of stupidity and reaction, starkly manifested, were about to be dispatched. By this point, the knowledge-asymmetry theory of politics had become a commitment so pervasive that its champions could articulate it explicitly: Hillary Clinton was the most qualified candidate in history, full stop. The Clinton campaign was technocratic liberalism incarnate. Its surrogates might have been empty or evil, but they were smart. Its ideas might have been inert, but they were backed up by the latest charts. The campaign’s messaging apparatus was a digital marvel, cooked up by the best computers Robby Mook could buy. The Clinton campaign believed that it would win because it predicted that it would win, and because the capacity to predict and manage was precisely the competence Clinton’s team was selling. But then Clinton lost. The car crashed in the desert instead. …

Politics, in its classic incarnation, is the art of deriving an is from an ought; the point, as Marx famously said, is not to describe the world but to change it. But if the world is as it ought to be already and the essential task is to maintain it — that is, to police the circumscribed boundaries of permissible behavior and ideas — then those tasked with that maintenance must conceive of themselves as acting above politics itself. They become a superego, beyond the libidinal whims of any faction and dedicated not to some alternative vision of the world but to resisting all impulse toward alternatives. Possibility goes in, correction comes out. The End of History suggests a perfectly healthy mind; thus, any attempt to alter this situation is dangerous. But the trouble with superegos is that, once they have taken on this role, they cannot cease to perform it. When the id can be kept in control, all is well. But when it can’t, then the result is not the superego’s surrender — it is repetitious, manic dysfunction. …

If liberalism has ceased to function as a political faction so much as a censorious regency for capital, then there is little difference, in its view, between left and right — both are id-ish impulses that must be suppressed. The language of irresponsibility and childishness is not just a messaging contrivance but an explicit statement of core values: the trouble with all of these radical politics is that they want to pull society up by the root — and the root, as any adult knows, must be kept firmly in place. The fact that the right receives a larger share of liberalism’s disdain is not a reflection of a larger distaste but simply of the fact that the right happens to be winning. That it might be winning because managerial liberalism has hamstrung progressive impulses is an unthinkable idea, dutifully suppressed.

Like any superego, managerial liberalism is concerned first and foremost with appearances. This explains why, in the face of so much bad policy, liberals are incessantly talking about decorum. …

For 60 years, liberal managers believed that their political authority was derived from their intellectual authority. When their political authority was suddenly and violently ripped away, they tried to reestablish it by reminding the world that they still knew better than the rest of us. But they got the order of their power backward: without political power, there is no power to assert the boundaries of the normal. … The truth is that intellectual authority does not cause political authority, and political authority does not cause intellectual superiority. Both are derived from class power. …

May 31, 2017

Rare earths and wind turbines: Yes, it’s a problem

Despite wind industry lobbyists and apologists asserting otherwise, rare earth metals, particularly neodymium, are indeed extensively used in wind turbine magnets.

‘Permanent magnet machines feature higher efficiencies than machines with excitation windings (absence of field winding losses), less weight and the advantage of having no slip-rings and brushes. Machines above kilowatt range (and most below) employ high-specific energy density PM material, preferably of neodymium-iron-boron (Nd-Fe-B).’ —Wind Energy Systems for Electric Power Generation, by Manfred Stiebler, Springer, 2008

‘The data suggest that, with the possible exception of rare-earth elements, there should not be a shortage of the principal materials required for electricity generation from wind energy. ... Sintered ceramic magnets and rare-earth magnets are the two types of permanent magnets used in wind turbines. Sintered ceramic magnets, comprising iron oxide (ferrite) and barium or strontium carbonate, have a lower cost but generate a lower energy product than do rare-earth permanent magnets comprising neodymium, iron, and boron (Nd-Fe-B). The energy-conversion efficiency of sintered Nd-Fe-B is roughly 10 times that of sintered ferrite ... As global requirements for rare-earth elements continue to grow, any sustained increase in demand for neodymium oxide from the wind resource sector would have to be met by increased supply through expansion of existing production or the development of new mines. ... An assessment of available data suggests that wind turbines that use rare earth permanent magnets comprising neodymium, iron, and boron require about 216 kg [476 lb] of neodymium per megawatt of capacity, or about 251 kg [553 lb] of neodymium oxide (Nd₂O₃) per megawatt of capacity.’ —Wind Energy in the United States and Materials Required for the Land-Based Wind Turbine Industry From 2010 Through 2030, by U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Department of the Interior, Scientific Investigations Report 2011–5036

‘Five rare earth elements (REEs)—dysprosium, terbium, europium, neodymium and yttrium—were found to be critical in the short term (present–2015). These five REEs are used in magnets for wind turbines and electric vehicles or phosphors in energy-efficient lighting. ... Permanent magnets (PMs) containing neodymium and dysprosium are used in wind turbine generators and electric vehicle (EV) motors. These REEs have highly valued magnetic and thermal properties. Manufacturers of both technologies are currently making decisions on future system design, trading off the performance benefits of neodymium and dysprosium against vulnerability to potential supply shortages. For example, wind turbine manufacturers are deciding among gear-driven, hybrid and direct-drive systems, with varying levels of rare earth content. ... Neodymium-iron-boron rare earth PMs are used in wind turbines and traction (i.e., propulsion) motors for EVs. ... the use of rare earth PMs in these applications is growing due to the significant performance benefits PMs provide ... Larger turbines are more likely to use rare earth PMs, which can dramatically reduce the size and weight of the generator compared to non-PM designs such as induction or synchronous generators. ... Despite their advantages, slow-speed turbines require larger PMs for a given power rating, translating into greater rare earth content. Arnold Magnetics estimates that direct-drive turbines require 600 kg [1,323 lb] of PM material per megawatt, which translates to several hundred kilograms of rare earth content per megawatt.’ — Critical Materials Strategy, by U.S. Department of Energy, December 2011

‘In the broader literature ..., concerns have been raised about future shortage of supply of neodymium, a metal belonging to the group of rare-earth elements that is increasingly employed in permanent magnets in wind turbine generators.’ —Assessing the life cycle environmental impacts of wind power: a review of present knowledge and research needs, by Anders Arvesen and Edgar G. Hertwich, 2012, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 16(8): 5994-6006.

‘A single 3MW [direct-drive] wind turbine needs ... 2 tons of rare earth elements.’ —Northwest Mining Association

Also see:

And:

May 28, 2017

Brief summary of CBD (cannabidiol) effects

Endocannabinoids are naturally produced in the body. The endocannaboid system operates through the nervous system with roles in several regulatory, physiological, and metabolic processes. They are produced in response to calcium levels in the cells to help stabilize nerve transmissions. The main endocannabinoids are called anandamide (N-arachidonoylethanolamine, AEA) and 2-arachidonyl glycerol (2-AG). The endocannabinoids act as activators (“agonists”) of the cannabinoid receptors which are also naturally present in the body.

There are two types of cannabinoid receptors:
CB1R is most prominent centrally as well as in the gastrointestinal tract. It modulates several inhibitory and excitatory neurotransmitters, and its activation inhibits the anxiety response. AEA is a partial agonist and 2-AG a full agonist of CB1R.
CB2R is most prominent peripherally with roles in the immune and hematopoietic systems, and its activation causes an inflammatory response. AEA is a weak agonist and 2-AG a full agonist of CB2R.

Cannabidiol (CBD) is the main phytocannabinoid in Cannabis besides tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the intoxicating cannabinoid, which mimics AEA but at higher concentrations can increase anxiety; CBD can reduce the side-effects of THC). In “hemp”, which has negligible THC, CBD is the main cannabinoid.

CBD has strong analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. Its half-life is ~9 hours. Unlike THC, it works mostly by preventing the breakdown of the endocannabinoids AEA and 2-AG, which serves to reduce anxiety and depression, respectively. Instead of activating the endocannabinoid receptors, it binds with the proteins that carry AEA and 2-AG to the enzymes that break them down.

CBD has other actions and consequent effects as well:

  • CBD binds with CB2R as an inverse agonist (deactivator), reducing inflammatory response.
  • CBD binds with 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT, serotonin) 1A receptor, reducing depression.
  • CBD binds with transient receptor potential cation channel subfamily V member 1 (TrpV1, vanilloid receptor 1, capsaicin receptor) as an antagonist (blocker), reducing pain response.
  • CBD binds with peroxisome proliferator–activated receptor (PPAR) gamma, reducing inflammation.
  • CBD has direct antioxidant effects.

In addition, the terpenes in Cannabis have anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties.

Cannabidiol in Pubmed-indexed science publications

April 24, 2017

Recent notes on the Irish language

(in reply to a question of why Irish spelling is so weird)

One reason for some of the quirks is the (generally) precise indication of consonants being broad or slender. This is reflected in pronunciation most obviously for d, t, and s. Broad d is like a hard [TH], slender d like [j]. Broad t is like a soft [th], slender t like [ch]. Broad s is [s], and slender s is [sh]. Spelling rules require that when consonants are broad they are flanked by broad vowels (a, o, u) and when slender by slender vowels (e, i). So there are often vowels that are there not for their own pronunciation but to indicate that the consonant has broad or slender pronunciation.

Many of the double-vowel and triple-vowel combinations (as in the name Saoirse [Seershuh or Sairshuh]) likely evolved out of the above rule.

Then there’s the softening (or aspiration or lenition) of consonants, which is indicated by an h after the consonant. (In traditional Irish, it is indicated by a dot over the consonant.) Some softened consonants are pronounced differently when they are at the start, middle, or end of a word. And if they are broad or slender. Often the lenition makes them silent.

Besides causing lenition, various declensions cause eclipsis of a consonant at the start of a word, a voicing or nasalization indicated by an eclipsing consonant in front, so that the original consonant after it is essentially silent. Examples are mb, gc, nd, ng, bhf, bp, dt. In words starting with a vowel, an h (sometimes hyphenated) is added before, but does not “eclipse”, the vowel.

Some declensions also cause an h or t to be added to the start of the word. If the word starts with an s, the added t eclipses it (eg, the street: an tsráid [un trawd].

Those are some of the reasons there often seems to be too many letters, even though there only 18 in the traditional alphabet.

PS: In 1948, Irish spelling was standardized and greatly simplified!

--------------------

(in reply to a shared article by Barry Evans, on distinct “do” (particularly in the past tense, e.g., “I do not think ...”) and “-ing” forms betraying a Celtic influence in the formation of English)

Irish (these are all literally present-tense forms):
Scríobhim - I write
Tá mé ag scríobh - I am writing [at this moment]
Bím ag scríobh - I am (‘I do be’) writing [these days] (present habitual tense of “be”)
Tá mé tar éis scríobh - I was just (‘I am after’) writing
Tá mé scríofa - I have written [in the past]
Tá leabhar scríofa agam - I have written a book
Tá an leabhar ar scríobh - The book has been written
Also of interest is the past habitual tense compared with the conditional mode:
Scríobhainn - I would (‘I used to’) write [in those days]
Bhínn ag scríobh - I would (‘I used to’) be writing [in those days]
Scríobhfainn - I would write [if I could]
Bheinn ag scríobh - I would be writing [if I could]
Note: “scríobh” is a verbal noun (gerund) and “scríofa” is a verbal adjective.

March 23, 2017

Letter in support of proposed wind turbine sound rules

To the Clerk of the Vermont Public Service Board:

I support the proposed wind turbine sound rules as a first step to protect the aural environment of our mountains.

As you know, a quiet rural night in Vermont is likely to have a sound level of only 25 dBA or even less. An increase in ambient noise of 5 dB is recognized as a cause of widespread complaints. So limiting the sound level at night to 35 dBA is not severe but actually rather lenient.

The proposed rule does not address low-frequency noise, which Denmark (the world's leader in wind energy technology and implementation) since 2011 has limited to 20 dBA indoors (10-160 Hz).

Infrasound (which is not heard but instead felt) is also a concern, with many acoustic engineers determining that a C-weighted indoor limit of 50 dB is necessary to protect health.

Nor does the proposed rule address amplitude modulation, the distinct "swish" or "thump" of large wind turbines. In the UK, planning permission for the Den Brook project included a rule to limit amplitude modulation: A 125-ms pulse of 3 dBA or greater (3 dB being the difference in noise level detectable by the human ear) can not occur in any 2-second period five or more times in six or more minutes of any hour, when those minute-long average noise levels are 28 dBA or more.

While these limits, as well as the proposed setback of 10 times the total height from residences (which should be at least 15 times the height, and from property lines, so that people can enjoy all of their property), begin to protect human neighbors, they do nothing to protect the wildlife of the mountains, who in most cases are much more sensitive to sound than humans.

[See also:  Proposal and comments for implementing a rule regarding sound from wind generation projects, by Stephen Ambrose]