FreedomWorks Statement in Response to $984 Billion CBO Budget Deficit Estimate   


WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In response to the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) recently released final estimated budget deficit for FY 2019, which shows the deficit reaching $984 billion, Jason Pye, FreedomWorks Vice President of Legislative Affairs, commented:

“Democrats and Republicans must be held responsible for the outrageous deficit reported today by the CBO. Fiscal sanity has all but escaped Washington, as evidenced by this year’s cap-busting budget deal. This unsustainable situation is only going to get worse.

“In spite of record revenues, the deficit has grown to a nearly insurmountable figure under Congress’ watch — or more accurately, its lack thereof. If the federal government is to one day get its fiscal house in order, Congress needs to take a hard look at cutting spending, which means considering real reforms to mandatory spending programs, the primary drivers of the deficit.”


New Song: Gucci Mane – ‘Big Booty’ (featuring Megan Thee Stallion)   


Gucci Mane isn’t one to rest on his laurels, as evidenced by the recent announcement of the October 17th due date of his new project, ‘Woptober II’ (the conceptual sequel to his 2016 mixtape, ‘Woptober’).

Coming just 4 months after his June 2019 album, ‘Delusions of Grandeur’ (which was delivered 6 months after the December 2018-released album ‘Evil Genius’

 » Read more about: New Song: Gucci Mane – ‘Big Booty’ (featuring Megan Thee Stallion)  »

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Problematic Alcohol Use and Associated Characteristics Following Bariatric Surgery.   

Icon for Springer Icon for PubMed Central Related Articles

Problematic Alcohol Use and Associated Characteristics Following Bariatric Surgery.

Obes Surg. 2018 05;28(5):1248-1254

Authors: Smith KE, Engel SG, Steffen KJ, Garcia L, Grothe K, Koball A, Mitchell JE

PURPOSE: Evidence suggests that a significant minority of individuals who undergo Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (RYGB) experience problematic alcohol and substance use following surgery. However, little research has examined characteristics, drinking patterns, and possible risk factors within this population. To provide descriptive information of a sample of adults with self-identified alcohol use problems following bariatric surgery, this study examined (1) alcohol and substance use symptoms using standardized assessments, (2) current and past psychiatric comorbidity, (3) subjective changes in alcohol sensitivity following surgery, and (4) specific patterns of alcohol use prior to and following bariatric surgery.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: Adult participants (N = 26) completed a series of structured diagnostic interviews and self-report assessments (e.g., Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test [AUDIT], Michigan Alcohol Screening Test [MAST], Drug Abuse Screening Test [DAST]) by telephone 1 to 4 years following a RYGB or sleeve gastrectomy.
RESULTS: All participants met objective criteria for current problematic alcohol use based on AUDIT and MAST cutoff scores, reported increased subjective sensitivity to alcohol following surgery, and evidenced significant current and past psychiatric comorbidities, most notably previous major depression (45.5%). Approximately one third of participants evidenced new-onset Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) alcohol use or dependence following surgery. Preoperative drinking frequencies and quantities were similar to those reported during the period of the heaviest postoperative alcohol use.
CONCLUSIONS: Findings have implications for pre- and postoperative prevention and intervention efforts. Additional research is needed to further elucidate risk factors for problematic alcohol use following bariatric surgery.

PMID: 29110243 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]


At BrooklynSpeaks meeting Thursday (with electeds), a chance to discuss a "new plan" for affordable housing, traffic, and more. But what's the leverage?   

The sponsors of the BrooklynSpeaks coalition--neighborhood and housing groups--and some allied elected officials are holding a forum tomorrow night at the Montauk Club (25 8th Avenue) in Park Slope at 7 pm.

"Sixteen years of promises, but we still have a hole in the ground. It's time for a new plan," the announcement says:
  • Fix the traffic problems. Improve transit.
  • Design spaces that work in Brooklyn.
  • Create real affordable housing.
Assemblymembers Walter Mosley and Jo Anne Simon are expected.

Developer pre-empts the meeting?

Surely in anticipation of the meeting, developer Greenland Forest City Partners this week floated an article in the New York Post regarding new plans to start the first half of the Vanderbilt Yard platform next year, dutifully regurgitated as Brooklyn’s Pacific Park moves to fast track.

Three towers over railyard,
but no timetable
The developer also released a glossy image (left) of those three towers over the railyard, plus the B4 tower flanking the Barclays Center.

As I wrote, it's surely progress, but it's not quite the fast track, because the developer provided no specific timetable for completion of the platform, or the start of future towers.

Still, the three towers over the railyard (B5/B6/B7) might plausibly start in a year or two, as suggested on the tentative project schematic below, given the projected time for the platform, as I write today. Then again, is there a market for all that?

Either way, there still will be a large "hole in the ground" over the eastern block of the railyard, slated for the final three towers, which could take until 2035 and must be built before the lion's share of the much-touted open space can be completed.

See photo below right.

What's on the agenda?

What might the "asks" be?

Eastern block of railyard
As Gib Veconi, a BrooklynSpeaks leader, wrote to me, "In the past, the BrooklynSpeaks sponsors have called for traffic mitigations like residential permit parking, and affordability levels that better reflect the needs of the most rent-burdened members of the community."

Whether it be permit parking and/or other reforms, expect new concerns from neighbors about parking and street safety and new buildings and a school open near congested Sixth Avenue, close to fire and police stations.

Affordability, as of now, relies significantly on the revised Affordable New York program, as I wrote Monday. There's a tension between an increased number of units and more affordability: buildings with 30% affordable units have more middle-income units, while those with 25% affordable units have more low-income ones. That said, an additional commitment by government entities could enhance affordability.

BrooklynSpeaks also once warned that open space behind buildings "is likely to feel more like a private backyard than a public park." In 2015, when the most recent open space design was unveiled, I suggested that Veconi was generous in not repeating that critique.

Let's see if BrooklynSpeaks takes a harsher stance, especially since the open space so far is fractional and there's no timetable for the full open space.

No voluntary changes

It's unlikely that Empire State Development (ESD), the state authority that oversees/shepherds Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park, is looking to adopt a new plan.

After all, a recent effort to allow nearly 100,000 square feet in below-grade space for a fitness center and fieldhouse under the B12 and B13 sites was approved by ESD despite criticism from BrooklynSpeaks, Simon, and Veconi. He also sits on the advisory Atlantic Yards Community Development Corporation (AY CDC), which, at his instigation, reached a first-ever split vote, unable to endorse (or oppose) that below-ground space.

Nor was any public benefit--such as increased affordability, or public space--provided as reciprocation for what many saw as a gift to developer TF Cornerstone, which leased the sites from master developer Greenland Forest City Partners.

What's the leverage?

There may be points for future leverage. The most dramatic would be a lawsuit, such as a challenge to the fitness center and field house approval process. But there's been little talk of such an effort.

Another would be an oversight hearing, conducted by the state Assembly.

Another option would be pressure during the expected (but not yet launched) effort to change the project plan to approve a much larger, two-tower project at Site 5, currently home to P.C. Richard and Modell's.

Veconi suggested another pathway:
The main leverage at this point may be the unstable state of the project. It’s not easy to see how Atlantic Yards’ affordable housing deadline will be met without building over the railyard, and the recent announcement about construction of the platform above block 1120 doesn’t speak to when the buildings above it will be built or by whom. China’s monetary policy no longer favors foreign investment in real estate, as evidenced by the recent pattern of sales of development leases. And the project’s financing strategy was conceived at a time when City and State subsidy policies for affordable housing was very different that they are now (to say nothing of what may change in 2022 when Affordable New York expires).
He's right that, as project uncertainty rises, the chance for leverage increases, but I still think it's possible--as suggested yesterday--to meet the affordability deadline by building just two towers over the railyard.

I also spoke with Mosley, who said he'd stress the affordable housing component, while Simon, in whose district Site 5 sits, may focus on that issue.

"My issue is the deliverability of the affordable housing within the time frame that was renegotiated," said Mosley, who noted that legislators' query to ESD about a timetable has not drawn a response.

"I've had preliminary conversation about possibility of having oversight hearings," he said. Like Veconi (and speaking before the latest announcement), he expressed skepticism about Greenland USA's commitment, "in terms of the market, the geopolitical landscape."

Mosley said he hoped the meeting would provide "a clearer directive from our constituents as to how we could proceed."

The housing conundrum and the larger transparency issue

The difficulty in requesting more affordability, for example, is that that likely would require an extra subsidy from government or, perhaps, an extra benefit to the developer.

(The Site 5 negotiation could offer leverage on that, but it's also possible that Site 5 would deliver additional affordable units beyond the 2,250 required--seemingly a boon--but would skew toward middle-income households.)

That's because there's no way to hold Greenland Forest City to the once-pledged housing configuration, in which 40% of the affordable units would be low-income. The definition of affordable housing in the guiding Development Agreement is far more broad, encompassing units in various subsidy/assistance programs.

The overarching Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park issue is transparency: the timing of towers, the plan to meet affordability, the progress of the railyard, the likelihood the eastern section will actually be built.

Despite Greenland Forest City's latest strategic announcement, starting a platform does not translate into a project timetable.


Liverpool leave it late to keep winning run going   

James Milner scored a penalty four minutes into added time to extend Liverpools club-record winning run to 17 matches and ruin Brendan Rodgers return to Anfield.The midfielder held his nerve to snatch a 2-1 win a 17th in succession in the Premier League after James Maddisons late goal had cancelled out Sadio Manes first-half opener.Four years and a day since he was sacked by the Reds, Rodgers looked like he had become the first manager since his Foxes predecessor Claude Puel in January to prevent Liverpool winning at Anfield. Liverpool FC (@LFC) October 5, 2019But for the second successive week Jurgen Klopps side benefited from a stroke of luck as an error by substitute Marc Albrighton led to the winger fouling Mane and presenting Milner with an opportunity he rarely passes up.An angry confrontation followed, with Leicesters Ayoze Perez having to be dragged away by team-mates before continuing to argue with Liverpools Andy Robertson as the teams left the field.Mane took his personal tally to 17 in his last 15 starts on this ground in scoring his 50th Premier League goal for the club on his 100th appearance but he and his team-mates should have made sure of the result before Maddisons late intervention.Milners strike extended their 100 per cent record to eight matches and increased their advantage over Manchester City to eight points, although they have a chance to reduce it at home to Wolves on Sunday.FULL-TIME Liverpool 2-1 LeicesterLate, late drama as Liverpool win their 17th #PL match in a row#LIVLEI Premier League (@premierleague) October 5, 2019Klopp sprang a couple of surprises with his team set-up, dropping Joe Gomez who looked rusty in the chaotic midweek Champions League win over Red Bull Salzburg to hand Dejan Lovren his first Premier League start since May.The other saw Roberto Firmino switched to the left, Sadio Mane to the right and Mohamed Salah through the middle in an apparent attempt to occupy Leicesters full-backs and nullify any threat they may have in providing the ammunition for Jamie Vardy.Milner blasted the first chance over after Trent Alexander-Arnold nutmegged opposing full-back Ben Chilwell on the byline, while at the other end Lovren, running back towards his own goal, headed a Harvey Barnes cross onto the roof of the net.Firmino bundled another Alexander-Arnold cross wide and Klopp thought there should have been a penalty for a push on Virgil Van Dijk as Liverpool began to establish some momentum.The breakthough, when it came in the 41st minute, was efficient and clinical. Sadio Mane, second left, is congratulated by Mohamed Salah after opening the scoring (Peter Byrne/PA)Van Dijk played out from the back and Milner, exchanging passes with Robertson, sent a raking pass down the left. Mane raced forward and confidently steered past Kasper Schmeichel something he should have done moments later from Firminos cut-back, with Milner shooting over from Salahs lay-off as Liverpool finished the half strongly.Rodgers replaced Barnes with Albrighton for the second half but the chances continued to fall to the hosts as Salah forced a close-range save, an Evans tackle on Mane ricocheted into the side-netting, Firminos angled drive flew wide and Robertson and Wijnaldum both shot at the keeper.Vardy almost delivered a sucker punch at the other end when Albrightons low, angled cross put him clear but Adrian, most likely playing his last league match with Alisson Becker set to return after the international break, stuck out a leg to deny him.The game remained in the balance, evidenced by Dennis Praets long-range effort whistling past the post, and with Liverpool unable to shut down their opponents the anxiety began to grow.Madders #LivLei Leicester City (@LCFC) October 5, 2019It manifested itself in Maddisons well-taken goal after substitute Ayoze Perez got the wrong side of Fabinho to slide through a pass for the forward to shot through Adrians legs, possibly aided by a deflection off Lovren.But having profited from a goalkeeping error at Sheffield United a week ago Liverpool were beneficiaries of Albrightons scrambled mind deep into added time.The winger, tackling back, took a loose ball away from Schmeichel and gave Mane the chance to retrieve possession near the six-yard area. In attempting to rectify his error, he brought down the Senegal international.Milner, as he so often does, did the rest from the spot with cool efficiency, allowing Liverpool to go to Manchester United after the international break with a chance to equal Citys Premier League record of 18 wins in a row.(function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i['GoogleAnalyticsObject']=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){ (i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o), m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m) })(window,document,'script','//','ga'); ga('create', 'UA-72310761-1', 'auto', {'name': 'pacontentapi'}); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'referrer', location.origin); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'dimension1', 'By Carl Markham, PA'); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'dimension2', '2836152f-e0df-4c98-8b03-1ee4e4b5e371'); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'dimension3', 'paservice:sport,paservice:sport:club-news,paservice:sport:football,paservice:sport:match-reports,paservice:sport:uk,paservice:sport:world'); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'dimension6', 'story'); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'dimension7', 'composite'); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'dimension8', null); ga('pacontentapi.set', 'dimension9', 'sport:football'); ga('pacontentapi.send', 'pageview', { 'location': location.href, 'page': (location.pathname + + location.hash), 'title': 'Liverpool leave it late to keep winning run going'});

The Murder Book of J. G. Reeder   

The Murder Book of J. G. Reeder (aka The Mind of Mr. Reeder; 1925) by Edgar Wallace is a small collection of short stories featuring the mild-mannered, bland-looking Mr. J. G. Reeder. Reeder works for the Public Prosecutor and those who see him might mistake him for a simple office clerk. But those who attempt to operate outside the law do so at their peril. 

Mr. Reeder wore whiskers and a frock coat--he always carried an umbrella--his strongest expression was "Dear, dear!"--but he spread grim death through London's underworld.

Many a criminal has taken one look at Reeder and thought how easy it was going to be to put one over on the little man...only to find themselves inside a prison cell before they knew quite what had happened. He claims that his secret is simple: "You see, I have a criminal mind." Apparently, if he had wanted to he could have (as has been said about Holmes) made a formidable crook. Instead he uses his insight into the villainous mindset to help him trap the villains.

An interesting collection of stories from the early 20th Century. They lean a bit towards the Holmes style--not all (and sometimes not many) clues are displayed for the reader. But still an enjoyable, short read. ★★

Observations: there is less murder going on in the "Murder Book" than one might suppose from the American title--fraud, theft, kidnapping, forgery abound and Mr. Reeder is more often investigating these less violent crimes. When murder does rear its ugly head its usually tangential to the crime which has initially caught Mr. Reeder's attention. Despite his preference for the "lesser" (if you will) crimes, he is perfectly up to the task of catching a murderer out...evidenced by the second story in this collection, "The Treasure Hunt." Reeder uses a criminal's intention to take revenge as a tool to (quite literally) dig up evidence of an ingenious murder.

Other stories:
"The Poetical Policeman": Despite evidence implicating the bank's manager, Mr. Reeder is convinced that there is another answer to the question of who masterminded the operation. A policeman's poetical tendencies help illuminate the problem.

"The Troupe": The investigator takes on a jewelry fraud with artistic ties to a theatrical group.

"The Stealer of Marble": A story about embezzlement and a housekeeper's inordinate interest in acquiring chips of marble.

"Sheer Melodrama": Two members of the criminal fraternity combine forces for a spot of forgery and an effort to do Mr. Reeder down. They should leave the melodrama behind in the theater when they ambush Mr. Reeder and his young lady one evening. 

"The Green Mamba": Mr. J. G. Reeder, outsmarts one of the leading master-criminals in London at the very moment when he is on the verge of his greatest criminal coup. Mo Lisky has held sway in London for quite some time, but when he crosses Mr. Reeder he finds that his power can't protect him from a strike as deadly as that of a poisonous snake.

"The Strange Case":When a wealthy government minister dies, suspicion falls on the man's heir who stood badly in need of money. But Mr. Reeder suspects a much deeper plot.

"The Investors": Mr. Reeder becomes curious about a number of mysterious disappearance--but he becomes very concerned when there are hints that the disappearances may be related to a certain investment opportunity. An investment opportunity that his young lady is now taking part in.

Finished on 9/28/19
Deaths = (three poisoned; one shot)


The Original Word Order   

The October 23 AWAD email had a link to a news article on the word order of the first language. Talk like Yoda? We May have originally by Natalie Wolchover in the Science website of She was reporting on a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Merritt Ruhlen and Murray Gell-Mann, co-directors of the Santa Fe Institute Program on the Evolution of Human Languages.

Of the six possible word orders of Subject, Object, Verb, slightly over half of the 2,000 languages they looked at are SOV (I you like). English is SVO (I like you) while Latin and German are SOV. The SOV order, the authors claim, is the most likely order for the proto human language from which all the rest have evolved. Incidentally, it is also the word order spoken by Yoda in Star Wars, hence the title of the article.

Ruhlen and Gell-Mann came to this conclusion after creating a family tree of the world's languages and discovering a clear pattern. While SOV languages changed into other orders, the other orders never changed into SOV. Therefore SOV had to be the original order.

A previous article had also predicted SOV as the original but based on an entirely different information. Tom Givon, a linguist from the University of Oregon, argued that the SOV order is the most natural to humans as evidenced by how children learn language.

So, perhaps Yoda's speech would not seem so strange to a German?


Deutsche Bank analysts say the arrival of Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian 'changed everything' in the fight with Amazon Web Services (GOOG, GOOGL)   


Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian at Google Cloud Next 2019

  • Analysts were skeptical for many years of Google Cloud being able to catch up to Amazon Web Services and Microsoft, but Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian is spearheading several changes.
  • Analysts point out that Google Cloud made several new leadership hires this year, which they see as costly, but worth the investment if it translates to winning bigger customers.
  • Google Cloud is poised to go from an $8 billion cloud business today to nearly $17 billion in revenue in 2021, Deutsche Bank research analyst Lloyd Walmsley wrote in a note for clients.
  • Google Cloud still doesn't have as many deals with large enterprises, but these companies are starting to at least consider Google Cloud, analysts say.
  • Google Cloud also has an advantage because it's known for being friendly with developers, who are becoming more influential in picking what cloud to use, analysts say.
  • Click here for more BI Prime stories.

For years, analysts were skeptical that Google Cloud could ever catch up to its rivals Amazon Web Services and Microsoft — the first- and second-place cloud providers, respectively. 

Karl Keirstead, managing director at Deutsche Bank, tells Business Insider that he thought Google Cloud would remain a "distant third," But the arrival of Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian who came from Oracle, "changed everything," he said.  

For one thing, Kurian has been making several new leadership hires at Google Cloud, which Keirstead calls "one of the most impressive bursts of hiring that we've ever seen from a large tech firm." What's more, even though Google Cloud hasn't scored many "mega-deal wins" yet he says that large companies are increasingly viewing it as a viable option. 

"He's built a fantastic leadership team, essentially pulling talent from other tech organizations that also serve the large enterprise market," Keirstead told Business Insider. 

The reason for the earlier skepticism didn't have much to do with Google Cloud itself.

"Having been built by Google, it's world class," Keirstead said. "Google has never built up an enterprise sales marketing branding and presence that can hold a candle to Microsoft. Whereas Amazon started relatively early and also didn't have as much of an enterprise presence, they just had longer to build it out."

In the bigger picture, Google Cloud is making the right investments in hiring and infrastructure – and it's poised to go from an $8 billion cloud business today to nearly $17 billion in revenue in 2021, Deutsche Bank research analyst Lloyd Walmsley wrote in a note for clients.

"It's money well spent, and I think they will be able to scale to margins that look more to AWS in the next three to five years," Walmsley told Business Insider. "We don't think, looking three years from now, they'll get to AWS on the same scale, but we think they can get to attractive margins on a three to five year basis."

New hires

Under Kurian, Google Cloud plans to triple its salesforce in a move seemingly taken from his former employer Oracle. To help manage all that growth, Google Cloud has made some key hires. 

Keirstead highlights says former SAP exec Robert Enslin, president of global customer operations, is a key hire. Others include VP and Head of Platform Amit Zavery from Oracle, EMEA President Chris Ciauri from Salesforce, Engineering VP Sunil Potti from Nutanix, and Engineering VP Yanbing Li from VMware.

Those hires are a good start, say the Deutsche Bank analysts: It's not cheap to attract hires of that caliber, they say, but it's a worthy investment in helping signal to would-be customers how serious Google Cloud is about winning their business. However, the analysts warn, that doesn't automatically translate into winning those big deals. 

Read more: Here are 12 of the most important executives leading Google Cloud as it takes on Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure

The 'larger deal wins are likely to come'

Keirstead sees rising interest from Fortune 500 companies, making him "confident that the larger deal wins are likely to come."

Keirstead says he hasn't heard about many Fortune 500 companies fully embracing Google Cloud, but winning large deals against AWS or Microsoft will take time. Some of Google Cloud's recent major customer wins include HSBC, Mayo Clinic, Macy's, and KeyBank.

Keirstead said that he recently attended a Google Cloud event in New York City with mostly financial services and banks in attendance. He says that while it's true that most of them weren't Google Cloud customers, there's something to be said for the fact that these old-school institutions were at least taking it under serious consideration. 

"They tend to be cautious buyers that move relatively slowly," Keirstead said. "This will be one of the last big markets that Google Cloud will end up going after. We took some comfort in the fact that some very large banks were there, evaluating Google Cloud."

Another aspect Google Cloud will have to fix is cultural. While Google has traditionally focused on the technology above all else, Walmsley said, it will have to learn how to take customers' concerns more seriously and act on them. 

"That's something culturally that may still encumber them," Walmsley said. 

'Currying favor' with developers

Under the legacy IT model, it was the CIO or CTO who made major technology decisions, like picking which cloud to use. However, as evidenced by Microsoft's purchase of GitHub, cloud providers are becoming aware that it's increasingly developers who drive IT spending.

He says in this sense, Google has an advantage because it's active in open source, the community of developers who write software that's free for anyone to use and download. Google engineers often contribute code to popular projects — the popular cloud project Kubernetes was even created at Google

In comparison, while Amazon's cloud is known as being developer friendly, it has a reputation for using open source code without giving anything back, Keirstead says. He says that, anecdotally, smaller startups are increasingly looking at building on Google Cloud rather than AWS, which he takes as a reflection of Google's strength in open source.

"Currying favor with and providing good functional software to the developer community is fairly essential and becoming a big strategy for the cloud providers," Keirstead said.

With developers on Google Cloud's side, Keirstead says what's left is to grow its sales.

"If they can scale up the leadership team and close the sales gap with Microsoft and Amazon, I think that's all they need to have a legitimate market share in that space," Keirstead said.

SEE ALSO: A former Google Cloud engineering leader is joining Microsoft-owned GitHub to lead its data group

Join the conversation about this story »

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10/8/2019: COMMENT & FEATURES: The democracy component in Israel’s relations with Arab states   


Something good is happening in relations between Israel and the Arab world, as evidenced by more frequent visits of senior Israeli officials to Arab capitals and conciliatory remarks about Israel by Arab leaders in the Gulf. For the first time since...

Wildlife Wednesday :: Birds in the Garden   

Early in May a pair of Purple Martins began building a nest in our martin house.

It was amusing to watch Mrs. Martin try to fit a too-long stick through the apartment door. No matter how much she tilted it or how many times she flew circles around the house, it just wouldn't fit. Eventually she abandoned this nonsense, dropped the stick on the ground, and flew off to find more appropriate sized nesting material.

We love Purple Martins and have been fortunate to have nesting pairs every year since we first put a martin house in our backyard.

One of the keys to our success has to do with the placement of the bird house. There has to be plenty of clear flyway space, so the birds can circle the house as they approach it. If a tree or a building is in the flight zone, they won't even consider your house. Our oak tree has encroached into the flyway space over the past 20 years, but the martins still seem to have enough room to maneuver.

Beyond our control, but also a factor in attracting Purple Martins to our garden is the vacant field behind our fence. This is where the martins spend the day hunting for insects.

The power lines at the back and side of our yard, although unattractive, serve as good perches for the birds to keep an eye on the house and the field...or as in this photo, to keep an eye on the photographer.

As far as I can tell, we only have one pair of nesting Purple Martins this year, even though there are others that seem interested. We would definitely be more successful if there were fewer House Sparrows and European Starlings around. These non-native species will take over martin house apartments, destroy eggs, and kill nestlings.

We are using a martin house with starling-resistant holes and that helps a little. But keeping the sparrows away is impossible. My husband has diligently removed sparrow nests weekly, but they are quick to rebuild again. The last time he checked there were martin eggs in the lower left apartment where Mr. Martin is standing guard. We think they may have hatched, because we've seen both mom and dad flying in with food.

I have asked my husband to leave the nests alone now that there are eggs and possibly babies. My fear is that it will disrupt the balance of things and we'll do more harm than good. Well, according to the Purple Martin Conservation Association, it seems this is wrong thinking and as responsible Purple Martin landlords, we should continue our nest checks. Even after all these years, I have a lot to learn about caring for these birds.

There have been other birds in the garden too...

We've seen a lot of this Northern Cardinal. He and his mate have become regular visitors at our feeder. Cardinals are not rare birds, but they are rarely seen in our garden, so this is exciting!

Our next door neighbor watched the same cardinal pair that have been at our feeder construct a nest in a potted fir tree she has outside her kitchen window. I don't know what happened, but the nest was abandoned. I think they must have a nest somewhere else now, but we haven't found it.

Since we relocated the bird feeder to the center of the backyard under the oak tree, we've been feeding lots of Blue Jays, a bird our town is known for. It's the high school mascot and our police officers even wear a Blue Jay patch on their uniform. This pretty bird is feeling quite relaxed at our platform feeder as evidenced by the way it has lowered its crown.


Today's post is my contribution to Wildlife Wednesday—a meme, hosted by Tina at My Gardener Says...that celebrates wildlife in the garden on the first Wednesday of every month.

Understanding America's Cultural And Political Realignment   

Understanding America's Cultural And Political Realignment

Authored by Richard Tafel via,

Understanding American politics has become increasingly confusing as the old party labels have lost much of their meaning. A simplistic Left vs. Right worldview no longer captures the complexity of what’s going on. As the authors of the October 2017 “Pew Survey of American Political Typologies” write, “[I]n a political landscape increasingly fractured by partisanship, the divisions within the Republican and Democratic coalitions may be as important a factor in American politics as the divisions between them.”

To understand our politics, we need to understand the cultural values that drive it. The integral cultural map developed by philosopher Ken Wilber identifies nine global cultural value systems including the archaic (survival), tribal (shaman), warrior (warlords and gangs), traditional (fundamentalist faith in God), modern (democracy and capitalism), and postmodern (world-centric pluralism). When combined with Pew’s voter typologies, Wilber’s cultural levels offer a new map of America’s political landscape.

Of Wilber’s nine global value systems, the Traditional, Modern, and Postmodern categories are most useful to understanding our moment. Traditional culture values disciplined adherence to assigned gender and social roles: men are providers and heads of households, marriage is between one man and one woman, and the institutions of the military, law enforcement, and the clergy are all highly respected. Historically, traditional cultures were monarchies or states ruled by “strongmen.” Modern culture superseded traditional systems in the West during the Enlightenment, and values rationality, democracy, meritocracy, capitalism, and science. Individual rights, free speech, and free markets harness an entrepreneurial spirit to solve problems.

Postmodern culture offers a borderless, geocentric political view that values pluralism. It challenges a pro-American narrative by focusing on the horrors of American history, including the exploitation of Native Americans, slavery, and persistent inequality disproportionately affecting historically disadvantaged groups. Those left behind by modernity and progress now seek recognition, restoration, and retribution via a politics of protest, and show little interest in building political organizations or institutions. We are currently living in a postmodern political moment of disruption, best described by author Helen Pluckrose in her Areo essay How French Intellectuals Ruined the West: Postmodernism and its Impact, Explained”:

If we see modernity as the tearing down of structures of power including feudalism, the Church, patriarchy, and Empire, postmodernists are attempting to continue it, but their targets are now science, reason, humanism and liberalism. Consequently, the roots of postmodernism are inherently political and revolutionary, albeit in a destructive or, as they would term it, deconstructive way.

When we overlay Pew’s data with Wilber’s Value levels, six cultural political categories emerge: Traditional Left and Right, Modern Left and Right, and Postmodern Left and Right.

Traditional Left: Devout and Diverse

If you live in an urban bubble, you may not even recognize the Traditional Left. Pew identifies these Democrats as “Devout and Diverse,” mainly comprised of minorities. Pew describes them as “…fac[ing] the most difficult financial challenges among all Democratic categories.” They are “the most religiously observant Democratic-leaning group, and the only one in which a majority (64 percent) says it is necessary to believe in God to be moral and have good values… they have a strong support for the social safety net and further action on racial equality.” These Democrats don’t support gay rights or increasing immigration and, as Pew notes, “40 percent describe their own ideology as conservative.” They are the oldest of the Democratic voter groups and make up around six percent of all engaged voters.

Traditional Right: Country First

While the Devout and Diverse voters have almost no public profile in the media, the Traditional Right is perceived to be much larger than it is. Pew refers to them as “Country First” Republicans, who “fear America risks losing our identity as a nation.” They have largely negative views of scientists and artists, and are the most elderly of all typology groups. Primarily comprised of white men, they hold a generally favorable view of Trump and uniformly oppose same-sex marriage. They make up about six percent of all engaged voters.

While both Republicans and Democrats have socially conservative, anti-gay, anti-immigrant voters in roughly the same numbers, the social conservatives on the Right play a more prominent role in American politics, partly because they play a larger role in the GOP, and partly because the media like to highlight them to fit their own narrative. Based on their aging demographic, the traditional value level is unlikely to be as significant a force in future elections.

Modern Left: Opportunity Democrats

The Modern Left is best represented by Pew’s “Opportunity Democrats,” who are optimistic and pro-business. They believe “most people can get ahead if they are willing to work hard” to achieve the American Dream. Almost half of them say “most corporations make a fair and reasonable amount of profit.” They are primarily white, financially well off, and describe themselves as moderate. They are socially inclusive, liberal on immigration, and supportive of gay rights. They are also less likely to believe that blacks and women face structural barriers to advancement. Until recently, this group defined what it meant to be a Democrat, but they have lost their center of power. Today, they make up around 13 percent of all engaged voters.

Modern Right: Core Conservatives and New Era Enterprisers

Two different groups in Pew’s study represent Modern values among Republican voters. The larger and older of the two are called “Core Conservatives,” while the younger, smaller group Pew calls “New Era Enterprisers.” Both groups share modern values evidenced by their belief in the power of capitalism and democracy. Both believe in the power of the free market and the importance of America’s global leadership. Both remain optimistic about the possibilities afforded by the American Dream. They make up the 66 percent of Republicans who support the “Dreamers.” Their pro-immigration position is also confirmed in a Gallup report, which states that “… significantly more Republicans favor a path to citizenship than support building a border wall or deporting illegal immigrants.”

Core Conservatives are the largest Republican voter group. Made up of mostly white men, they enjoy the highest rates of home ownership of any voter group, and a majority believe that they’ve achieved the American Dream. They are the best educated of any Republican group, yet have the most negative attitudes toward the impact colleges have on our country. They are most likely to invest in the stock market and their most important issue is the economy. “Sixty-eight percent express a positive view of US involvement in the global economy ‘because it provides the US with new markets and opportunities for growth.’” In addition to their largely pro-free market and pro-immigration views, they have the most favorable view of Donald Trump among all voting groups. They represent 20 percent of all engaged voters.

New Era Enterprisers, meanwhile, are young, urban, and much more ethnically diverse. Pew points out that they are “strongly pro-business and generally think that immigrants strengthen, rather than burden, the country.” Innovation and entrepreneurship are most important to them. They are pro-immigration and pro-gay rights with the highest opinion of a role for government among any Republican group. Only a quarter of them self-identify as strong Republicans. They are the least supportive of Donald Trump among Republican groups, and the least likely to express negative attitudes toward the Democratic Party. They make up nine percent of all engaged voters.

Together these two modern Republican groups total 29 percent of engaged voters, and represent the center of power within the GOP.

Postmodern Left: Solid Liberals and Disaffected Democrats

The two Pew voting groups which make up the Postmodern Left are “Solid Liberals” and “Disaffected Democrats.” Both groups have negative views of capitalism and are concerned about America’s treatment of minority groups.

Solid Liberals is a bit of a misnomer as they tend to reject liberalism in its classical form. They are progressives who hold strongly negative views of businesses, question or reject the concept of the American Dream, and see the world through the lens of identity politics. They are mostly white, well-off, and well-educated, and they are the most secular voters found across voting groups. Ninety-seven percent strongly disapprove of Trump’s job performance. They are unlikely to have friends outside their political circle, and over half of this group would say “that a friendship would be strained if someone voted for Trump,” much higher than any other Democratic group. It isn’t just Trump they dislike. They are highly partisan in general and the least tolerant of Republicans among all Democrat groups. They are the largest engaged Democratic voting group and the largest of all voting groups in Pews voter typologies. They make up 25 percent of engaged voters.

Pew characterizes Disaffected Democrats as a “financially stressed, majority-minority group [that] supports activist government and the social safety net…” They are unhappy with America and their “disaffection stems from their cynicism about politics, government and the way things are going in the country. Disaffected Democrats would be the most likely to see the world through the lens of identity politics.”

A large majority of Disaffected Democrats say their side has been losing in politics, while fewer than half believe that voting gives them a say in how the government runs things, highlighting another hallmark of their beliefs: they have very little faith in the system.” They believe government has failed them and that, “poor people have hard lives because government benefits do not go far enough to help them live decently.” Unlike the white elite Postmodern Democrats, they often have lived in the same neighborhood their entire lives. They make up 11 percent of all engaged voters.

Together these two diverse progressive groups make up 36 percent of all engaged Democratic voters, which makes them the largest of any groups on the Left or Right. When pundits refer to the Democratic Party moving “leftwards” there are trying to capture this movement toward the postmodern level—the new center of gravity of cultural power on the American Left.

Postmodern Right: Market Skeptic Republicans

The group that is least understood in American politics is the Postmodern Right. While postmodernism on the Left focuses on the failure of modernity to address social justice in term of identity politics, the Postmodern Right questions the fundamental economic worldview of the Modern Right. In Pew’s survey, they show up as a new category named “Market Skeptic Republicans.”

Like those on the Postmodern Left, they share a strong skepticism of America exceptionalism, an overriding pessimism about the country, and they are critical of both political parties. They are the first ever “Republican-leaning group that is deeply skeptical of business and the fundamental fairness of the nation’s economic system.” They do not believe in lower taxes, which until recently defined the modern GOP, and they have an unfavorable view of banks and other financial institutions. Unlike other Republicans, Market Skeptic Republicans believe American capitalism is unfair, “an overwhelming share (94 percent) say the economic system unfairly favors powerful interests.”

The media often lumps them in as traditional conservatives because of their opposition to immigration. But that’s a mistake. They favor legal abortions in higher numbers than the Traditional Left Democrats, and they are the most secular of all Republican groups. They are also most interested in a white identity politics, mirroring those on the Left.

They are also the least loyal to the GOP. As Pew notes, “They stand out for their criticism of both political parties when it comes to caring about the middle class.” They hold a more favorable view of Donald Trump than most other Republican groups. Though not well known and ignored by the media, they are a larger voting group than the religious Right in the Republican Party, making up 10 percent of all engaged GOP voters.

Using Pew’s voter groups on an integral value map illuminates how polarization is causing divisions within, and well as between, America’s Left and Right. It also shows that the center of American politics has moved from a modern base which held the center of gravity for over a century to a new postmodern base. Today, the Democratic Party energy’s is centered at that postmodern level, while the center of the GOP remains modern.

What this Map Tells Us about the 2016 Election

In 2016, instead of hiring DC-based consultants, Donald Trump listened to conservative talk radio to plot his strategy. Just as a bat uses sonar, Trump bounces ideas off audiences and recalculates his path accordingly. He intuitively understood that the element unifying the different aspects of the Traditional and Modern Rights was their united opposition to the growing dominance of the urban elite, and the identity politics favored by the Postmodern Left. He exploited those tensions by aggravating them and antagonizing the mainstream media as a means of uniting the Right.

In addition, his post-truth worldview and ability to criticize establishment Republicans provided him with access to a new, postmodern Republican voting group—Market Skeptics. Writer David Ernst has argued in the Federalist that Trump is the first President to “turn postmodernism against itself,” because he grasped the postmodern idea of the anti-hero. 

If politics flows downwards from culture, then it was only a matter of time before a politician mastered the role. Love him or hate him, Donald Trump cracked that code. Tony Soprano, Walter White, and Frank Underwood are just a few recent examples of the enormously popular characters who have, each in their own way, stood in for the role of the complicated bad guy who fascinates millions of Americans.

Clinton’s Loss

No one told Hillary Clinton that the political landscape in which she and her husband had learned politics had changed. In the 1990s, Bill Clinton successfully navigated the values divide between moderns and traditionalists by polling and then speaking successfully to both traditional and modern voters on the Left and center-Right. That’s not the political world Hillary inherited.

Neither she nor Bill are at home with the postmodern voters that are now the largest voting group in the Democrat coalition. Bill Clinton repeatedly proved to be a liability in the 2008 and 2016 races because he failed to understand the demands of the newly “woke” Democrat coalition. Hillary was a modern candidate in a postmodern party without the cultural translation skills she needed to communicate with progressives. Many of those progressives voted in unusually high numbers for Green party candidate Jill Stein or simply stayed home.

What to Expect in 2020

Trump will again seek to unite his coalition by goading the Postmodern Left. Though incumbents are usually judged by how they performed in office, Trump will try to make these opponents the focus of his 2020 campaign, just as he did in 2016. The more he’s scolded by the media, the better his chances will be of reuniting his coalition. However, this strategy risks losing New Era Entrepreneurs, and losing any voting group on the Right makes Trump’s re-election difficult.

Democratic primary voters, meanwhile, are becoming more postmodern. The pressure to move from the modern liberal to progressive postmodern worldview in the crowded primary field risks alienating modern Democrats. Worse, whoever wins the progressive primary will need to work hard to attract any modern voters in the center and on the Right. Though two aging straight white men lead the polls in the primary as of this writing, the reality of a postmodern base in the Democratic coalition doesn’t bode well for straight white male candidates, and offers new opportunities to candidates who are female, black, Latino, or gay.

The challenge for Republicans is that the Traditional Right voting block is aging out. The divisions around business and the role of government between Market Skeptic Republicans and Core Conservatives are as profound as—if not greater than—the divisions on the Left. Worse, their larger voting coalitions are demographically much older. Trump risks pushing the remaining younger entrepreneurial, ethnically diverse voters into the Democrat coalition.

There is, however, one bright spot in this chaos. According to Wilbur’s theory, a new “integral” value system is emerging that “transcends and includes” the best aspects of earlier value systems. Jordan Peterson’s popularity may be an early sign of this—while embracing aspects of tradition, science, and therapeutic culture, his message and best-selling book appear to be resonating.

If this marks an early shift towards integral values, such a move could put an end to our vicious culture wars as new leaders emerge with the ability to see multiple viewpoints and accommodate their contradictions. Understanding American politics will continue to be hard work. But only when we understand culture will we understand politics so that we can transform it for the better.

Tyler Durden Tue, 10/08/2019 - 18:05
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