How effective are voting restrictions in restricting voting?

It has long been conventional wisdom that having more people vote is good for Democrats while having fewer people vote is good for Republicans. How strong the empirical basis for this belief is is not clear but that seems to no longer matter because the Republican party especially is committed to this idea and Donald Trump’s loss has just cemented it further. As a result, Republican controlled legislatures across the country are changing rules and enacting laws that make voting harder. In particular, they are taking measures that are targeted towards making voting more difficult in areas that are predominantly minority.
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The origins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus

Recently there has been an upsurge of interest into the origins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the one that causes covid-19, with speculation that it may not have originated by mutating spontaneously into a form that could transfer from animals to humans but that it may have been leaked from a research laboratory that does work on such viruses. Most proponents of the lab leak theory have suggested that the leak was accidental but a few have suggested a darker possibility of deliberate release.

I have been trying to make sense of the debate and found this article by Mara Hvistendahl to be helpful in sorting through the various claims. Hvistendahl had been in China when the avian flu virus broke out in 2013 and she had visited the lab of a prominent researcher and avian flu expert Chen Hualan who had been doing the so-called ‘gain of function’ research that is seen by some as an indicator that the covid-19 virus did not come about by accident.
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Alfred Hitchcock preferred suspense over shock

I do not like violent films with a lot of blood and gore but am a big fan of the films of Alfred Hitchcock. Hitchcock was rightly called the ‘master of suspense’ and in this brief interview he explains the difference with what he tried to do and what one sees in some other films.

He said that he wanted the audience to use their imaginations about what is going on rather than telling them and so he did not actually show the violence. For example, in the famous shower scene in Psycho, one does not actually see the victim being stabbed and blood spurting all over the place. One sees her screaming, one sees the assailant in silhouette making stabbing motions, one hears the screeching music rise to a crescendo, and one sees dark fluid representing blood swirling down the drain. All that is more than enough for the viewer to imagine what happened.

Fujimori follows Trump’s lead in Peru

As it becomes increasingly clear that leftist Pedro Castillo has won the presidential election in Peru, losing right wing candidate Keiko Fujimori has gone full Trump in denying her loss, demanding that some votes be cancelled, and claiming to be the rightful winner.

The prospect of the son of illiterate Andean peasants becoming president as his rival cries fraud has shaken Peru’s entrenched class system and its fragile democracy, letting loose a torrent of racism in the bicentennial year of the country’s independence.

With 100% of the official vote counted, leftist Pedro Castillo had 50.12% – and advantage of about 44,000 votes over his far-right rival Keiko Fujimori. But Fujimori has claimed fraud, challenging about 500,000 votes, calling for half to be annulled, and obliging officials at Peru’s electoral board to reexamine ballots – despite the lack of evidence of wrongdoing.
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The Greenwald-Taibbi conundrum

I had long been an admirer and supporter of the work of these two people. Indeed, I first came across Greenwald when he was a mere blogger like me at his site Unclaimed Territory and would financially contribute to him because I found his take on politics to be bracing. It was not surprising that Edward Snowden picked him and Laura Poitras as the conduit to bring his leaks about the national security states to light, and his exposes of the way that Brazilian leader Lula De Silva was railroaded by the Brazilian elite was also highly commendable.

But Greenwald’s more recent stuff has been problematic to say the least. He seems to be spending most of his time and energy attacking people that tilt to the left of the political spectrum and even adopted some right wing tropes in criticizing them. He has become a fixture on Fox News and other right wing media.

Similarly Matt Taibbi was brilliant in the way he dissected Wall Street and the fatuousness of pundits like Thomas Friedman. But he too seems to have joined Greenwald in shifting his focus on attacking the left.
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These electrified versions of a child’s toy are becoming a popular form of adult transportation, able to travel at speeds up to 30mph (50km/h) and even carry two people. One can see their appeal, especially in urban areas, since they reduce traffic congestion, are maneuverable, easy to learn, and do not take up much space. But because of the reckless riding of some people, they are posing a risk to pedestrians.

French police are searching for two women after the death of a pedestrian who was hit by an electric scooter in Paris, officials say.

The 31-year-old victim, an Italian citizen named only as Miriam, was walking along the Seine early on Monday when she was hit by the e-scooter.

The pair were reportedly travelling at high speed, and did not stop.

The case has renewed the debate over e-scooters in Paris, where there have been concerns for the safety of pedestrians.

In 2019, the French government introduced rules after hundreds of incidents, including several deaths. Riders are required to be at least 12 and cannot ride their scooter on the pavement.

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How Edward Snowden confounded the US elite’s predictions

Soon after Edward Snowden was revealed as the source of the blockbuster leaks about how the US and other western countries were engaged in massive and illegal programs to spy on their own citizens and the citizens of other nations, the Obama administration went after him with a vengeance, trying to capture him even to extent of forcing the plane of Bolivian president Evo Morales, on his way home from a conference in Russia, to land in Austria to be searched because they thought that Snowden would be on it on his way to Bolivia where Morales had offered him asylum.
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Juneteenth and a remaining form of involuntary servitude

Given how slowly things move in the US except when it comes to war or benefitting the oligarchy, I was surprised at the speed with which legislation was passed declaring today June 19th, the day known as Juneteenth, to be declared a federal holiday. I was even more surprised that this move was widely supported by Republicans in Congress (despite some opposition), though there were efforts of some in the right-wing media world to turn it into yet another white grievance.

But attention needs to be focused on a remnant of the post-Civil War reaction during the period known as Reconstruction where white people used a clause in the Thirteenth Amendment outlawing slavery to enact laws that brought back involuntary servitude of black people, this time under the guise of making all manner of behavior criminal. There are calls to remove that clause.
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A more realistic view of US-Russia relations

I wrote yesterday that the Biden-Putin summit was surprisingly good and devoid of the saber-rattling and threats and ultimatums that Biden had been urged to pose to Putin by the political-media establishment in the US who had demanded that Russia be punished for its alleged misdeeds. Branko Marcetic writes that Joe Biden’s Russia policy has been, so far at least, surprisingly reasonable.

Left-wing critics of the Russiagate madness were often accused of covering for Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and other provocations through “whataboutism.” But the real issue was the need for the subject to be put in context. As they pointed out over and over again — indeed, as we teach children — you tend to lose your moral high ground when you criticize someone for doing to you something you yourself do to others all the time, however wrong and objectionable it might be.
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