October 16, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 7:34 PM


Hundreds of people walk 11-year-old Utah boy home from school after bullies shout racial slurs (Kate Scanlon, 10/16/17, The Blaze)

Heather Romauldo told KSTU that her son, Mateus, called her after he walked home from school recently and he was very upset.

"He was walking home from school [Oct. 5] when a car full of teenagers drove by repeatedly yelling a racial slur at him," Romauldo said. "He felt very terrified and actually told me he thought the kids were going to shoot him."

Romauldo said she filed a police report and the incident is being investigated.

She also wrote on Facebook about what allegedly happened to Mateus, and her post caught the attention of Mateus' basketball coach, Troy Harlan.

Harlan told KSTU, "I know that when I read the post that his mom wrote about him being scared, I've gone through all that."

"I grew up in Davis County, and I know what it feels like to be one of only two black kids at my school," Harlan said.

Harlan told the station that he wished he would have been there when Mateus was walking home, so he decided to organize a walk so the boy wouldn't be alone when he walked home from school.

Hundreds of people volunteered for the walk. Harlan's basketball connections helped, too -- the Utah Jazz Bear came to the walk, as did retired Jazz basketball player Thurl Bailey.

Posted by orrinj at 7:06 PM


Five types of gun laws the Founding Fathers loved (Saul Cornell, 10/15/17, The Conversation)

The framers and adopters of the Second Amendment were generally ardent supporters of the idea of well-regulated liberty. Without strong governments and effective laws, they believed, liberty inevitably degenerated into licentiousness and eventually anarchy. Diligent students of history, particularly Roman history, the Federalists who wrote the Constitution realized that tyranny more often resulted from anarchy, not strong government.

I have been researching and writing about the history of gun regulation and the Second Amendment for the past two decades. When I began this research, most people assumed that regulation was a relatively recent phenomenon, something associated with the rise of big government in the modern era. Actually, while the founding generation certainly esteemed the idea of an armed population, they were also ardent supporters of gun regulations.

Consider these five categories of gun laws that the Founders endorsed.

#1: Registration

Today American gun rights advocates typically oppose any form of registration - even though such schemes are common in every other industrial democracy - and typically argue that registration violates the Second Amendment. This claim is also hard to square with the history of the nation's founding. All of the colonies - apart from Quaker-dominated Pennsylvania, the one colony in which religious pacifists blocked the creation of a militia - enrolled local citizens, white men between the ages of 16-60 in state-regulated militias. The colonies and then the newly independent states kept track of these privately owned weapons  required for militia service. Men could be fined if they reported to a muster without a well-maintained weapon in working condition.

#2: Public carry

The modern gun rights movement has aggressively pursued the goal of expanding the right to carry firearms in public.

The American colonies inherited a variety of restrictions that evolved under English Common Law. In 18th-century England, armed travel was limited to a few well-defined occasions such as assisting justices of the peace and constables. Members of the upper classes also had a limited exception to travel with arms. Concealable weapons such as handguns were subject to even more stringent restrictions. The city of London banned public carry of these weapons entirely.

Posted by orrinj at 7:02 PM


Producers Guild expels Harvey Weinstein and creates task force to combat sexual assault in Hollywood (Jen Yamato, 10/16/17, LA Times)

The Producers Guild of America's board of directors has voted unanimously to terminate Harvey Weinstein's membership, the organization announced Monday.

The exact same behavior won't bar you from the Republican presidential ticket.

Posted by orrinj at 7:00 PM


U.S. strike on Islamic State camps in Yemen kills dozens: Pentagon (Reuters, 10/16/17)

The camps in al-Bayda province were being used to train new fighters using AK-47s, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers, the Pentagon said in a statement. Islamic State has used ungoverned areas in Yemen to plot, direct, instigate, resource and recruit for attacks against America and its allies around the world, it said.

Posted by orrinj at 6:52 PM


On Obamacare, Donald Trump is sabotaging himself : It would be comic if millions of people weren't going to suffer so Trump could teach himself this lesson. (Ezra Klein, Oct 16, 2017, Vox)
Like the Republicans who came before him, Trump is trying to gain leverage by sabotaging the governance of the country; unlike the Republicans who came before him, Trump is responsible for the governance of the country, and so he is sabotaging himself. This would all be quite comic if not for the millions of people who badly need decent health insurance and are going to suffer as Trump teaches himself this lesson.

Go deeper

For an excellent overview of the legal dispute around the cost-sharing reduction payments, read law professor Nicholas Bagley's history of the case.

The Congressional Budget Office has analyzed the effects of canceling the payments, and their predictions are grim. The key point is that "gross premiums for silver plans offered through the marketplaces would be 20 percent higher in 2018 and 25 percent higher by 2020," which would in turn send federal subsidies skyrocketing.

The Kaiser Family Foundation also has an excellent report on the subject, which concludes, among other findings, that "the increased cost to the federal government of higher premium tax credits would actually be 23% more than the savings from eliminating cost-sharing reduction payments."

For these reasons and others, it's not just Democrats upset over Trump's decision. Nevada's GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval blasted the policy: "It's going to hurt people. It's going to hurt kids. It's going to hurt families. It's going to hurt individuals. It's going to hurt people with mental health issues. It's going to hurt veterans. It's going to hurt everybody."

He's Cleavon Little in Blazing Saddles.

Posted by orrinj at 3:03 PM

THANKS, DONALD! (profanity alert):

Harvey Weinstein, Donald Trump, and the (Sometimes) Beneficial Politics of Reaction (PAUL WALDMAN OCTOBER 15, 2017, American Prospect)

We're at a moment where awareness of the reality of sexual coercion in the workplace is reaching levels we haven't seen before, and it's partly because we're living not only in the age of Trump, but in the age of reaction to Trump. [...]

At this point we have to pause, for the benefit of those Trump supporters inclined to say that there's no real comparison between Weinstein's alleged actions and the "locker room talk" revealed in the Access Hollywood recording with Trump and Billy Bush, to remind ourselves of some of what we learned in 2016. The plain and obvious truth is that Donald Trump views women (and even underage girls) as sex objects whose value as human beings is defined by whether he wants to screw them. His own assertion that he believed could do whatever he wanted to them, including "grab 'em by the p[***]y," was corroborated by multiple women who made credible allegations of him acting somewhere between inappropriately and criminally toward them. Here's reminder of some of the things we learned in 2016 about the man who is now president of the United States:

A dozen women went public to say that just as he had bragged about doing on the Access Hollywood tape, Trump had groped them or kissed them against their will.

He countered the accusations by saying the women were too ugly for him to sexually assault.

When he owned the Miss U.S.A. and Miss Teen U.S.A. pageant, according to contestants he would burst into the dressing rooms when they were changing, something he also bragged to Howard Stern about doing ("I'm allowed to go in, because I'm the owner of the pageant ... and so I sort of get away with things like that").

According to people who worked on The Apprentice, he routinely "rated female contestants by the size of their breasts and talked about which ones he'd like to have sex with."

At the age of 46, he met a 10-year-old girl and said, "I am going to be dating her in 10 years."

He told an interviewer, "I tell friends who treat their wives magnificently, get treated like crap in return, 'Be rougher and you'll see a different relationship.'"

He said "if Ivanka weren't my daughter, perhaps I'd be dating her," just one of multiple occasions in which he has publicly expressed a sexual interest in his daughter. On another occasion he told a reporter, "Yeah, she's really something, and what a beauty, that one. If I weren't happily married and, ya know, her father."

That's just a sampling, but what it all adds up to is a man who, despite his frequent insistence that "Nobody has more respect for women than I do," is the most unapologetic misogynist to occupy the Oval Office in modern times. 

October 15, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 4:14 PM

Posted by orrinj at 3:32 PM


Trump Given A Subpoena For All Documents Relating To Assault Allegations (Jessica Garrison & Kendall Taggart, BuzzFeed News)

A high-stakes legal showdown is brewing for President Donald Trump, as a woman who said he groped her has subpoenaed all documents from his campaign pertaining to "any woman alleging that Donald J. Trump touched her inappropriately." [...]

Summer Zervos, who previously accused President-elect Donald Trump of sexually assaulting her, speaks at a press conference with attorney Gloria Allred at Allred's office in Los Angeles on Nov. 11, 2016.
They also asked for "all documents" concerning other women who have accused Trump of groping them, including Jessica Leeds, Mindy McGillivray, Rachel Crooks, Natasha Stoynoff, Temple Taggart, Kristin Anderson, Cathy Heller, Jill Harth, and Jessica Drake.

Posted by orrinj at 7:58 AM


The Economist Who Saw How Irrational We Are (Michael Lewis, 10/14/17,  Bloomberg View)

There's now a fairly long list of intellectuals responsible for the spread of this subversive idea [the data might trump the expertise of managers.] Somewhere near the top of it is the economist Richard Thaler, who has just published an odd and interesting professional memoir, Misbehaving. It's odd because it's funnier and more personal than books by professors tend to be. It's interesting because it tells the story not just of Thaler's career but also of the field of behavioral economics -- the study of actual human beings rather than the rational optimizers of classical economic theory.

For a surprisingly long time, behavioral economics wasn't much more than a bunch of weird observations made by Richard Thaler, more or less to himself. What he calls his "first heretical thoughts" occurred in graduate school, while writing his thesis. He'd set out to determine how to value a human life -- so that, say, the government might decide how much to spend on some life-saving highway improvement. It sounds like a question without a clear answer but, as Thaler points out, people answer it clearly, if implicitly, every day, when they accept money for a greater chance of dying on the job. "Suppose I could get data on the death rates of various occupations, including dangerous ones like mining, logging and skyscraper window washing, and safer ones like farming, shop keeping and low-rise window washing," recalls Thaler. "The risky jobs should pay more than the less risky ones: otherwise why would anyone do them?" Using wage data, and an actuarial table of mortality rates in those jobs, he was able to work out what people needed to be paid to risk their life. (The current implied value of an American life is $7 million.) Only he didn't stop there. He got distracted by a funny idea. [...]

[I]n addition to calculating the market's price for a human life, Thaler got distracted by how much fun he might have if he asked actual human beings how much they needed to be paid to run the risk of dying. He began with his own students, telling them to imagine that by attending his lecture, they had exposed themselves to a rare fatal disease. There was a 1 in 1,000 chance they had caught it. There was a single dose of the antidote: How much would they be willing to pay for it?

Then he asked them the same question, in a different way: How much would they demand to be paid to attend a lecture in which there is a 1 in 1,000 chance of contracting a rare fatal disease, for which there was no antidote?

The questions were practically identical, but the answers people gave to them were -- and are -- wildly different. People would say they would pay two grand for the antidote, for instance, but would need to be paid half a million dollars to expose themselves to the virus. "Economic theory is not alone in saying that the answers should be identical," writes Thaler. "Logical consistency demands it. ... To an economist, these findings are somewhere between puzzling and preposterous. I showed them to (his thesis adviser) and he told me to stop wasting my time and get back to work on my thesis."

Instead, Thaler began to keep a list of things that people did that made a mockery of economic models of rational choice. There was the guy who planned to go to the football game, changed his mind when he saw it was snowing, and then, when he realized he had already bought the ticket, changed his mind again. There was the other guy who refused to pay $10 to have someone mow his lawn but wouldn't accept $20 to mow his neighbor's. There was the woman who drove 10 minutes to a store in order to save $10 on a $45 clock radio but wouldn't drive the same amount of time to save $10 on a $495 television. There were the people Thaler invited over to dinner, to whom he offered, before dinner, a giant bowl of nuts. They ate so many nuts they had no appetite for the far more appealing meal. The next time they came to dinner Thaler didn't offer nuts -- and his guests were happier.

And so on. People who read Thaler's list might well just shrug and say, "There isn't anything here that any good used car salesman doesn't know." That's the point: It's obvious to anyone who pays any attention at all to himself or his fellow human beings that we are not maximizers, or optimizers, or logical, or even all that sensible. In the early 1970s, when Thaler was a student, his professors didn't argue that human beings were perfectly rational. They argued that human irrationality didn't matter, for the purpose of economic theory, because it wasn't systematic. It could be treated as self-cancelling noise.

Enter Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman, psychologists at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Together, in the late 1960s, they had set off to confirm their suspicion that the weird self-defeating stuff that people do isn't random and inexplicable but fundamental to human nature. More to the point, human beings were not just occasionally irrational, but systematically irrational.

It is no coincidence that every significant philosopher of the English-speaking world has been skeptical of Reason.

Posted by orrinj at 7:46 AM


Blade Runner 2049 isn't a sci-fi masterpiece, but it's trying really hard to replicate one (Alissa Wilkinson, Oct 8, 2017, Vox)

Blade Runner, though complex, had a relatively lean concept at its core: Its villain (or is he?), the replicant Roy Batty (played by Rutger Hauer), is a pretty clear cipher for the Miltonian conception of Lucifer: created to be an angel in God's service, then banished from his creator to serve humans in an off-world colony, only to rebel, "fall" back to earth, and wreak his rebellious vengeance against his creator -- who also, in this formulation, happens to be man. (For what it's worth, in this year's Alien: Covenant, which has a story co-written by Green, Michael Fassbender plays a character who is explicitly modeled on the Miltonian Lucifer.)

Blade Runner 2049 returns to those themes, with talk of angels now explicit. But the movie also stuffs in a lot of other Biblical references along with philosophical questions. What is the soul, and who has one? How necessary are bodies? Do we have free will, and if not, can we still call our feelings desires? Does it matter whether our memories are real? And what does it mean to be "free"?

That last one is the most important for this film. If Blade Runner was interested in who can be truly considered human, and how that's linked to our ability as a species to feel empathy for others, Blade Runner 2049 is more interested in the question of freedom, in a manner that recalls much recent blockbuster entertainment from Twin Peaks: The Return and Westworld to Alien: Covenant and even The Good Place. Are we free if we are governed by the laws of the universe? Does it matter who set those laws? Is it really possible to break our creators' decrees, or are we programmed to fulfill functions, conforming to our destinies no matter what we think we're doing?

The entirety of the conflict between faith and Reason boils down to just this question : do you choose to believe that humans were endowed with Free Will or not?

Posted by orrinj at 7:36 AM


Trump Ties Presidency to Stock Market (Heather Long, 10/15/17, The Washington Post)

President Donald Trump seems to have another obsession: The stock market. He mentions it almost daily now, touting how the Dow Jones industrial average -- a popular U.S. stock market indicator -- is up 25 percent since Election Day.

It's almost as if, in Trump's mind, the stock market is his report card. At a time when the polls give him about a 40 percent approval rating, he seems to view the market as giving him a standing ovation.

To be fair, the fact that the Deep State has stopped him from doing any damage has allowed him to enjoy the legacy of W and the UR's economy. And doing nothing at a time when nothing need be done is creditworthy, no matter how you achieve it.

Posted by orrinj at 7:32 AM


Tony Blair laments boycotting Hamas after 2006 PA election (Times of Israel, 10/15/17)

Former British prime minister and peace negotiator Tony Blair said the international community made a mistake boycotting Hamas after the terror group's victory in the 2006 Palestinian elections, saying it should have instead attempted to "pull Hamas into a dialogue."

Blair, along with leaders of countries in the Middle East Quartet and Israel, sanctioned and cut aid to the Palestinian Authority after Hamas's win, demanding that the terror group recognize Israel, renounce violence and adhere to previous agreements between Israel and the Palestinians, conditions that Hamas rejected.

It's long past time to stop making Woodrow Wilson's mistake. Even W had this blindspot.

Posted by orrinj at 7:25 AM


Britain could join NAFTA if Brexit trade deal fails - Telegraph newspaper (Reuters, 10/15/17)
Britain could join a formal trade alliance with the United States, Canada and Mexico if the European Union refuses to clinch a post-Brexit trade deal, the Daily Telegraph newspaper reported on Tuesday.

The newspaper said British ministers were looking at joining the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as part of planning for the possibility of Britain leaving the EU in March 2019 without a trade deal. It gave no sources for the report.

"As we prepare to leave the EU, we will seek to transition all existing EU trade arrangements to ensure that the UK maintains the greatest amount of certainty, continuity and stability in our trade and investment relationships," a spokesman for the Department for International Trade said.

Posted by orrinj at 7:19 AM


The 25 conservatives actually worth following on Twitter (TAYLOR LINK, 10.14.2017, Salon)

[W]hat if we told you there are 25 conservatives actually worth following on Twitter? What if we said that there are conservatives that not only dislike President Trump, but also engage in a level of ideological introspection that has surpassed most liberals? Wouldn't you have to check them out?

Well, here they are, the 25 must-follow conservatives on Twitter. Give them a look and a follow if you want to get a view outside of your liberal bubble for a moment or two.

...and the fact that all comedy is conservative, this is the easiest time to be a conservative pundit since at least the Carter presidency.

Posted by orrinj at 7:10 AM


Promise the Moon? Easy for Trump. But Now Comes the Reckoning. (PETER BAKEROCT. 14, 2017, NY Times)

President Trump leaves little doubt about what he thinks of his predecessor's top domestic and international legacies. The health care program enacted by President Barack Obama is "outrageous" and "absolutely destroying everything in its wake." The nuclear deal with Iran is "one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into."

Yet as much as he has set his sights on them, Mr. Trump after nearly nine months in office has not actually gotten rid of either. Instead, in the past few days, he took partial steps to undercut both initiatives and then left it to Congress to figure out what to do next. Whether either will ultimately survive in some form has become a central suspense of Mr. Trump's first year in office.

In the case of health care, Mr. Trump is making a virtue of necessity. Having failed to push through legislation replacing the Affordable Care Act, he is taking more limited measures on his own authority aimed at chipping away at the law. On the other hand, when it comes to the Iran deal, he has the authority to walk away without anyone else's consent but has been talked out of going that far by his national security team. Instead, by refusing to recertify the deal, he rhetorically disavows the pact without directly pulling out.

These are not the only instances in which Mr. Trump's expansive language has not been matched by his actions during this opening phase of his presidency. On immigration, diplomatic relations with Cuba and international accords like the North American Free Trade Agreement and a separate trade pact with South Korea, he has denounced decisions made by Mr. Obama or other previous presidents without fully reversing them.

"Presidential campaigns are won with big, simple, directional promises that rarely align well with the complexity confronted in the Oval Office," said Michael O. Leavitt, a Republican former governor of Utah and secretary of health and human services who advised Mr. Trump's transition team. "So presidents do the best they can to stretch the fabric of incomplete outcomes to cover as much bare backside as possible and move on."

Posted by orrinj at 7:07 AM


Posted by orrinj at 6:57 AM


Trump Owns Fake Renoir That He Insists Is Real (Chris Sosa, 10/15/17, AlterNet.

Biographer Tim O'Brien told Vanity Fair an amazing anecdote about how President Donald Trump owns a Renoir print and straight-up refuses to acknowledge it's not the original painting.

O'Brien spotted the print on Trump's plane and asked him if it was an original, apparently to see if he'd lie.

Trump told O'Brien it was. The biographer responded, "No, it's not Donald." Instead of letting it go, Trump argued with him.

"I grew up in Chicago, that Renoir is called Two Sisters on the Terrace, and it's hanging on a wall at the Art Institute of Chicago," O'Brien countered. "That's not an original." The conversation was eventually dropped.

The very next day, after the two boarded his plane, Trump said without prompting, "You know, that's an original Renoir."

Fast-forward to 2016. That fake Renoir was spotted hanging in Trump Tower during Trump's infamous 60 Minutes interview.

October 14, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 6:14 PM


Republican Congressman Brought Holocaust Denier To Capitol Meeting (Nathan Guttman, 10/12/17, The Forward).

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher brought a Holocaust denier to a meeting last week with Sen. Rand Paul to discuss Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, the Daily Caller reported.

Posted by orrinj at 6:04 PM


France's Macron 'considers' trip to Iran after Rouhani invite (AFP, 14 October 2017)

Macron said the US decision "will not put an end to the Iranian nuclear accord and that together all the parties in France and its European partners will continue to meet their commitments."

Rouhani assured Macron that Iran in turn "will continue to carry out its commitments" in the nuclear accord, the Elysee said.

Posted by orrinj at 5:55 PM


Sinister figures lurk around our careless president (George F. Will, 10/13/17, Washington Post)

With Trump turning and turning in a widening gyre, his crusade to make America great again is increasingly dominated by people who explicitly repudiate America's premises. The faux nationalists of the "alt-right" and their fellow travelers such as Stephen K. Bannon, although fixated on protecting the United States from imported goods, have imported the blood-and-soil ethno-tribalism that stains the continental European right. In "Answering the Alt-Right" in National Affairs quarterly, Ramon Lopez, a University of Chicago PhD candidate in political philosophy, demonstrates how Trump's election has brought back to the public stage ideas that a post-Lincoln America had slowly but determinedly expunged. They were rejected because they are incompatible with an open society that takes its bearing from the Declaration of Independence's doctrine of natural rights.

With their version of the identity politics practiced by progressives, alt-right theorists hold that the tribalism to which people are prone should not be transcended but celebrated. As Lopez explains, the alt-right sees society as inevitably "a zero-sum contest among fundamentally competing identity groups." Hence the alt-right is explicitly an alternative to Lincoln's affirmation of the Founders' vision. They saw America as cohesive because of a shared creed. The alt-right must regard Lincoln as not merely mistaken but absurd in describing America as a creedal nation dedicated to a "proposition." The alt-right insists that real nationhood requires cultural homogeneity rooted in durable ethnic identities. This is the alt-right's alternative foundation for the nation Lincoln said was founded on the principle that all people are, by nature, equal.

October 13, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 6:59 PM


Why Trump's Obamacare Sabotage May Backfire -- and Give Millions Free Health Care (Eric Levitz, 10/13/17, New York)

[H]ere's the crucial thing: Insurers are still required to give low-income people the discounts. Trump can't change that regulatory requirement without passing a law. All he can do is stiff the insurers. (And according to health-care economist Nicholas Bagley, he can only do that temporarily. Insurers still have a legal entitlement to reimbursement -- even if the Treasury can't legally honor that entitlement without congressional consent. So, the insurers can sue the government and collect what they're owed through a special fund dedicated to settling Uncle Sam's lawsuits.)

For insurers, this drastically increases the (near-term) costs of participating in Obamacare. In response, some will exit the exchanges, while others will jack up the premiums on their silver-level plans by roughly 20 percent, according to the CBO. This is the part of Trump's sabotage that will hurt some ordinary people: It's possible that insurers will completely abandon some counties, and that people who earn too much to qualify for subsidies -- but don't get insurance through their employer -- will see their health-care costs increase. While the CBO expects the cancellation of the cost-sharing reductions to (ironically) give more Americans insurance in the long-term, the budget office expects it to result in fewer Americans having insurance next year, amid these marketplace disruptions.

That said, the vast majority of people who use Obamacare do qualify for subsidies. And those subsidies are tied to the price of silver-level plans. Which is to say: The more expensive silver plans get, the bigger most Obamacare enrollees' subsidies become. If you are an ACA enrollee who makes 200 percent of the poverty line, the law guarantees you a tax credit big enough to lower the cost of a silver-level plan to 6.43 percent of your annual income -- no matter how expensive the silver plan gets. Critically, while the size of the tax credit is tied to the silver plan, enrollees can spend that credit on gold- or bronze-level ones, if they so choose.

Posted by orrinj at 6:37 PM


Puerto Rican exodus could boost Small Town, USA (Lydia DePillis, 10/13/17, CNNMoney)

They're already landing in Lorain, Ohio -- Puerto Rican families, with few possessions and bleak memories.

"We started to see it last week," says Victor Leandry, director of El Centro, a nonprofit social services agency based in this faded industrial town on the shores of Lake Erie. "Just today, we have at least four or five new families. When I walk into the building at nine in the morning, we are seeing already a migration."

This isn't the norm. In what's shaping up to be the second greatest exodus to the mainland since World War II, most Puerto Ricans fleeing the devastation of Hurricane Maria will end up in New York and Florida, where hundreds of thousands of islanders already live.

But as Puerto Rico's economy has deteriorated in recent years -- the country's diaspora has ballooned to 5.4 million people, far exceeding the 3.4 million who live on the island itself -- many have migrated to other parts of the U.S.

Some who leave the island as a result of Hurricane Maria will end up in lesser-known Puerto Rican communities in states like Ohio, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Illinois.

Many towns, like Lorain, could really use the newcomers.

Posted by orrinj at 6:22 PM


Don't Believe the Hype: Trump Is Not "Decertifying" the Iran Deal (Marty Lederman, October 13, 2017, Just Security)

-- He is not using the delegated statutory authorities that the President has long had to reimpose the nuclear sanctions on Iran that Presidents imposed before the JCPOA. President Obama lifted, or waived, those sanctions after Iran undertook major (and in important respects irreversible) steps to significantly constrain its nuclear program and submit to an extremely robust monitoring and transparency regime. As a matter of U.S. domestic law, the President could remipose them, although such action would constitute the United States' unilateral breach of the JCPOA. (As I have explained elsewhere, such a breach would not violate international law because the JCPOA is not binding on the U.S. (or the other parties) as a matter of international law--which is why President Obama was able to have the United States agree to it in the first place without Senate ratification or congressional authorization.) Notably, however, Trump is not doing so.[1]

-- The President is not certifying that Iran has done anything to breach the JCPOA.

-- Indeed, Trump is not "certifying" anything.  Instead, he is declining to certify one thing (see below).

-- The Presdient is not even refusing to certify that Iran has complied with the JCPOA--to the contrary, the President reportedly will certify, or at a minimum his officials are likely to confirm what virtually everyone agrees to be the case, namely, that Iran is complying with its obligations under the JCPOA.[2]

-- Trump is not identifying any material change in circumstances or new information since his last set of certifications to Congress (in July) pursuant to the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 (INARA).

-- He is not doing (or declining to do) anything that would require Congress to reimpose, or "snap back" into place, the nuclear sanctions against Iran.

-- Nor is he doing (or declining to do) anything that would even require Congress to invoke the INARA's highly expedited procedures for considering whether to "snap back" sanctions.

So, if those are among the important things that Trump is not doing, what is he doing, and to what effect?

As he mentioned in his speech this afternoon, President Trump is refussing, this weekend (the statutory deadline is the 15th), to make one particular INARA certification that he made in April and in July--not direcly involving Iran's compliance with the deal, but simply a certification that the U.S.'s own "suspension of sanctions related to Iran pursuant to the agreement" is: (I) "appropriate and proportionate to the specific and verifiable measures taken by Iran with respect to terminating its illicit nuclear program; and (II) vital to the national security interests of the United States."  Trump is declining to make this particular certification to Congress, notwithstanding Secretary Mattis' recent testimony that it is in the national security interest of he United States to "stay in" the JCPOA.

What is the legal impact of Trump's refusal to make this discrete certification about the relationship between sanctions suspension and our national security?  Merely that, under INARA, it frees up Congress to circumvent its ordinary, internal legislative procedures for considering a new statutory "snap back" of sanctions. It is noteworthy, however, that Trump is not urging or recommending that Congress actually use such "fast track" procedures, let alone recommending that Congress approve a "snap back" of the sanctions. To the contrary, by all accounts Trump and his officials do not recommend that Congress enact such a "snap back," just as Trump himself is not exercising his own authority to lift the sanctions suspension.  And there's no indication that Congress is inclined to do anything of the sort.

Therefore, not only is the President's new refusal to certify that the U.S. sanctions suspension is "vital" to the national security and "appropriate and proportionate" to Iran's efforts an extremely narrow exception to his certifications; more importantly, it will also have no legal effect, either under domestic law or with respect to the continuing operation of the JCPOA.

Posted by orrinj at 3:40 PM


Football's decline has some high schools disbanding teams (Ben Nuckols, 10/13/17, AP)

The risks of football have never been more apparent. This summer, researchers at Boston University said they'd found evidence of a brain disease linked to repeated head blows in nearly all of the 202 former football players they studied. The athletes whose brains were donated to the study had played football in the National Football League, college and even high school.

The report doesn't confirm chronic traumatic encephalopathy, known as CTE, is common in all football players, because many donors or their families participated in the study because of the players' troubling symptoms.

After years of denials, the NFL acknowledged a link between head blows and brain disease and agreed in 2015 to a $1 billion settlement to compensate former players who had accused the league of hiding the risks.

"There's no question about it. The amount of publicity, beginning with the NFL and what you see on national news, has caused concern among parents," said Bob Gardner, the NFHS executive director. "Probably some who would have been more inclined to let their young men play, maybe are making different decisions now."

A study published last month in the medical journal Translational Psychiatry showed that kids who played football before age 12 were more than twice as likely to have mood and behavior problems.

The news hasn't escaped the parents at Centennial, one of the top-rated public high schools in Maryland, where 97 percent of students go on to college after they graduate. Just 10 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price meals, an indicator of poverty.

"Families around here are more into academics," Zach said.

Maryland is one of 14 states where participation in football was down 10 percent or more over the past five years, according to NFHS data. In all, 41 states saw a decline between the 2011-12 and 2016-17 school years, and just nine states and the District of Columbia saw increases.

In West Windsor Township, New Jersey, which borders Princeton University and has a median household income of $137,000, one of the two public high schools dropped varsity football this year, and the other might have to do the same next year.

Trinity High School in Manchester, New Hampshire, also disbanded its varsity team, with hopes that it could return in a lower division next year.

At the first practice, the team "had three seniors, one junior, 12 sophomores and one freshman," athletic director Chip Polak told the New Hampshire Union Leader in August. "Two of the seniors have never played any kind of organized football and the other senior is dealing with concussion symptoms."

Posted by orrinj at 3:39 PM


October 12, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 6:37 PM


Trump says aid to Puerto Rico can't last 'forever.' Here's what the island is without. (Luis Gomez, 10/12/17, San Diego Union-Tribune)

The latest figures, as of Thursday, tell a clear picture of Puerto Rico's need for continued aid and support.

83 percent are without power
36 percent are without potable water
About half still don't have cell phone service
21 percent are without access to gasoline

Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria: The Public's Knowledge and Views of Its Impact and the Response (Bianca DiJulio, Cailey Muñana, and Mollyann Brodie, 10/12/17, Kaiser)'

Most of the public (62 percent) says that most people in Puerto Rico affected by Hurricane Maria are not yet getting the help they need, while about a third say they are (32 percent). However, views vary by party with majorities of Democrats (80 percent) and independents (61 percent) saying people are not yet getting the help they need, compared to 56 percent of Republicans who feel they are getting the help they need.

Posted by orrinj at 4:28 PM


Gay Coffee Shop Owner Kicks Out Pro-Life Customers (Amber Randall, October 12, 2017, Daily Signal)

The gay owner of a coffee shop in Seattle kicked a group of Christians out of his coffee shop Sunday after declaring in obscene terms that he would like to sodomize Jesus Christ.

The owner heatedly tells the Christians to leave his shop immediately in a video posted to Facebook by Abolish Human Abortion, a Christian group seeking to end the practice of abortion.

"I'm gay, you have to leave," the owner tells the group. "This is offensive to me. I own the place. I have the right to be offended."

...that there are other coffee shops in the area not owned by decent people.

Posted by orrinj at 4:22 PM


San Juan mayor excoriates Trump for condemning Puerto Ricans 'to a slow death' (The Week, 10/12/17)
The mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, issued a scathing statement against President Trump on Thursday and begged for international aid for the U.S. territory. "I ask every American ... to stand with Puerto Rico and let this president know WE WILL NOT BE LEFT TO DIE," Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz wrote. "I ask the United Nations and UNICEF and the world to stand with the people of Puerto Rico and stop the genocide that will result from the lack of appropriate action of a president that just does not get it because he has been incapable of looking in our eyes and seeing the pride that burns fiercely in our hearts and souls."

Earlier Thursday, Trump appeared to tell Puerto Rico that its federal relief effort has a pending expiration date. "Electric and all infrastructure was disaster before hurricanes," Trump tweeted. "Congress to decide how much to spend. We cannot keep FEMA, the military, [and] the first responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!"

Thirty-five percent of Puerto Rico residents still don't have drinking water, and just 10 percent have electricity.

Posted by orrinj at 12:17 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:14 PM


'He threw a fit': Trump's anger over Iran deal forced aides to scramble for a compromise (Anne Gearan, October 11, 2017, Washington Post)

President Trump was livid. Why, he asked his advisers in mid-July, should he go along with what he considered the failed Obama-era policy toward Iran and prop up an international nuclear deal he saw as disastrous?

He was incensed by the arguments of Secretary of State Rex ­Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and others that the landmark 2015 deal, while flawed, offered stability and other benefits. He did not want to certify to Congress that the agreement remained in the vital U.S. national security interest and that Iran was meeting its obligations. He did not think either was true.

"He threw a fit," said one person familiar with the meeting. ". . . He was furious. Really furious. It's clear he felt jammed."

So White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster and other senior advisers came up with a plan -- one aimed at accommodating Trump's loathing of the Iran deal as "an embarrassment" without killing it outright. [...]

As a practical matter, Trump's expected move will place the onus on Congress to decide what to do next. Working with Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), a leading congressional hawk on Iran, the White House would refrain from recommending that Congress reimpose nuclear sanctions that were suspended under the deal.

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