July 26, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 8:00 PM


A Mormon Tycoon Wants to Build Joseph Smith's Mega-Utopia in Vermont : David Hall is snapping up farmland to bring his vision of a sustainable high-density community to life. The neighbors are horrified. (Caroline Winter | July 20, 2016, Bloomberg Businessweek

Nicole Antal, a 30-year-old librarian in Sharon, Vermont, was putting together a town report in late January when she stumbled upon a series of odd land purchases: In just three months, a Utah-based foundation had quietly bought more than 900 acres of nearby farmland, an area larger than Central Park. All of the land was either adjacent or close to the birthplace and memorial of Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon Church. "I've always loved mysteries," says Antal. "And this seemed like a good one."

That evening, when Antal got home to the 450-square-foot house she's building with her husband, she strapped on a headlamp. The house doesn't yet have electricity and she needed to prepare dinner for her 5-year-old son, Robin. She also wanted to poke around online. Standing next to her wood-burning stove, Antal flipped open her precharged laptop and Googled the name of the Utah organization: NewVistas. "This strange website popped up," she says. "It had all these architectural models with fake people walking around. I didn't know what to think."

NewVistas, Antal soon discovered, was started by a wealthy Mormon engineer named David Hall, who wants to build sustainable, high-tech, high-density communities all across the globe. From the looks of things, he hoped to build one right in her backyard, in rural Vermont.

During the next few weeks, Antal was busy starting the year's maple syrup harvest. She also quit her part-time job at the library to focus on homesteading and raising her son. But in her free time, she scoured the NewVistas website and public records, and resolved to write a story for a local blogging platform called Daily UV. When she contacted Hall by e-mail, he replied almost immediately, and, after some back and forth, suggested they speak on the phone. "I was pretty nervous," says Antal, who's shy, with a round face, asymmetrical haircut, glasses, and a French accent from growing up in Belgium. "Talking on the phone is very uncomfortable for me. But it was also exciting."

On the scheduled day, Antal parked her red Toyota Tacoma pickup next to a nearby bridge, known among locals for having reliable phone reception. She pulled out a Moleskine notebook, summoned her courage, and dialed Hall. They introduced themselves and talked about their respective backgrounds and interests, and then, over the span of an hour, Hall blew Antal's mind. Yes, he said, he was planning an elaborate, 20,000-person community that would extend over four small towns, including hers, and the blueprint was based on the so-called Plat of the City of Zion, a Mormon document depicting a vision that Joseph Smith and two colleagues jotted down in 1833. And while that all sounded a bit far-fetched, Hall revealed that he already had more than 150 engineers working on technology and architecture for the project. "One hundred and fifty engineers!" says Antal. "Before then, it was all just conceptual. All of the sudden it seemed like, oh my God, this is going to happen tomorrow."

Posted by orrinj at 7:53 PM


The Chilling Rise of Copycat Mass Shooters : From Baton Rouge to Munich, a dark phenomenon rears its head. (MARK FOLLMANJUL. 26, 2016, Mother Jones)

[I]nvestigators have uncovered a range of evidence suggesting Sonboly was a textbook copycat attacker. The many parallels with past cases are striking:

One such piece of evidence was literally a textbook: In the apartment where Sonboly lived, investigators found a German-language edition of Why Kids Kill: Inside the Minds of School Shooters. The book's author, American psychologist and school shootings expert Peter Langman, told me that his "heart sank" when he learned of that discovery. It was not the first time an attacker displayed an interest in Langman's case studies. The 18-year-old who went on a rampage at Arapahoe High School in Colorado in December 2013 also had a copy of the book. Investigators in Munich also learned that Sonboly had collected news coverage and other information on past attacks, a behavior familiar from the Newtown killer and many other mass shooters.

Such content helps fulfill the need of aspiring killers to find people they can identify with, says Langman. "Having a role model or an ideology that supports their violent intentions may serve the purpose of transforming what is otherwise aberrant and abhorrent into something admirable," he says. "It validates their urge toward violence."

Sonboly went on his rampage precisely five years after one of Europe's worst massacres in modern history, the attack carried out in July 2011 in Norway by a lone killer who took the lives of 77 people and injured hundreds of others. As with the Norway massacre, which took place primarily at a youth summer camp, most of Sonboly's victims were teenagers.

The desire to strike on the anniversary of a high-profile mass killing is not uncommon among would-be copycats, as I documented last year in my investigation of the "Columbine effect." Since 1999, at least 14 perpetrators who emulated the Columbine killers have plotted to attack schools around the United States on that same date in April.

Forensic psychologists specializing in threat assessment have documented numerous mass shooters who cultivated a "pseudocommando" image--those who were obsessed with military weapons and paraphernalia and aspired to a "warrior mentality." In Sonboly's case, he may have nurtured such tendencies in part through first-person shooter games, including Counter-Strike: Source, a game that German investigators said he was obsessed with.

Posted by orrinj at 7:47 PM



It's a remotely controlled, unmanned vehicle that resembles nothing so much as a rugged golf cart. And it's the result of at least 30 years of work. The concept was approved in 1985, and the first prototype drove onto the Army's Aberdeen Proving Grounds in 2000. It was originally designed to patrol storage sites and warehouses, places that are the trifecta of big, dull, and dangerous in the wrong hands.

There are several different bodies for the vehicle, but they all work roughly the same. They can drive off-road, watch in both normal vision and infrared, and scan the terrain around them with lasers (well, LIDAR), to make sure they're avoiding obstacles. They can also navigate autonomously, which frees the human driver to instead monitor the video coming in.

And now they're driving around parts of the Horn of Africa. Operated by Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, which is based in Djibouti, the task force works to train local militaries. Somalia and Yemen, which border Djibouti by land and just across the sea, respectively, house their share of hostile militant groups, including the al Qaeda affiliated Al Shabaab. Patrolling with robots like MDARS means keeping troops out of danger, and making it so more of them can respond to danger when it happens.

Posted by orrinj at 6:49 PM


Renewed oil weakness sparks demand fears (JESSICA RESNICK-AULT, 7/26/16, Reuters)

The demand response has been slower than bulls had hoped. U.S. drivers have covered fewer miles than expected this summer, and as they speed toward the Labor Day holiday in September, the overhang of gasoline in storage may put downward pressure on crude and refined product prices.

"Right now, the only thing that would drive prices higher is robust demand," said John Paisie, executive vice president at Stratas Energy Advisors, a Houston-based consultancy. The growth must be across the board, for products including distillates like diesel and jet fuel, as well as gasoline.

"Demand just can't be made up by one product," he said, and demand for diesel has been lagging.

Instead of seeing $60 a barrel, which would support an increase in production, the demand questions, and ongoing supply concerns, mean oil could fall further. U.S. crude settled at $43.13 on Monday, after earlier hitting a three-month low.

"Demand is growing very moderately," said veteran oil economist and independent consultant Phil Verleger. "There's no real surge to it - call it the great moderation."

Posted by orrinj at 6:42 PM


Turkey's coup failed everywhere, except in Egyptian media (AHMED MAGDY YOUSSEF 26 July 2016, OpenDemocracy)

On Friday, July 15, in the throes of Turkey's deep crisis which left international media befuddled by who was truly in power, numerous Egyptian media outlets jumped the gun in their reportage. They prematurely declared that the attempted coup had ended in success, heralding the Turkish army's control over the country and overthrow of President Erdogan.

Within hours of the start of the attempted coup, these outlets exposed their unprofessionalism by falling prey to propaganda. Despite confirmed news sources proving that the democratically-elected government remained in charge, and people taking to the streets to support Turkish democracy, several Egyptian state-run as well as privately owned newspapers came out on Saturday, July 16, with headlines and front pages showing a different trajectory.

State-run newspaper Al-Ahram main front page banner headline stated that the Turkish Armed Forces succeeded in ousting President Erdogan. The red headline said "The Turkish army overthrows Erdogan" and was followed by the subhead "The armed forces seize power, declare martial law and Recep Tayyip vanishes." 

State-owned Akhbar Al-Youm, announced in its main headline "A military coup in Turkey," while the subhead said "The military announced it has taken over to protect democracy and human rights, Erdogan calls on supporters to take to the streets to safeguard legitimacy." 

Taken in this light, Egyptian newspaper's choice of the word "legitimacy" is a reminder of when former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi was mocked for repeating the same word in his final late-night televised speeches when he addressed the nation before being ousted by his army generals three years ago.

How Egypt's Brotherhood helped counter Turkey's coup attempt (Amr Mostafa,  July 26, 2016, Al Monitor)

Ankara has not demanded the departure of any of the group's leaders, as Qatar did in September 2014, nor has it opened numerous investigations into the extent of the Brotherhood's involvement in terrorism, as Britain has. Perhaps that is what drove the Brotherhood to call upon Egyptians and Syrians living in Turkey, as well as governments around the world and Turkish civil society, to defend Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after he was targeted by a coup launched by some members of the army.

On its official webpage, the Muslim Brotherhood posted a statement dated July 16 saying it would stand in solidarity with the Turkish people and their right to rally around their elected government. The statement also called upon "all free people around the world, peoples, civil society groups and elected governments to support democracy in every nation equally and reject backward [rebel] ideas." [...]

Mohamed Abd al-Qadir, chief editor of Turkish Affairs magazine and an analyst at Al-Ahram Center for Political & Strategic Studies, told Al-Monitor he is certain the Brotherhood's leadership and young people in Turkey played a significant role in mobilizing Egyptians and Syrians.

"The Syrians [living in Turkey] number around 2.7 million, and the Egyptians' numbers are also massive, with a significant portion of them being students who are [beneficiaries of] Turkish scholarships and initiatives." These young people in Turkey are in contact with a wide network of their counterparts in Egypt and Syria, who "have a great deal of experience in mobilizing in the streets through [the social media networks] that spread throughout Egypt following the January [2011] revolution and during the Brotherhood's rule," Qadir said.

"They [use the networks] to spread notions of participating in some demonstrations and protests." Much of their knowledge is being extended to Turkey, "and they have a great deal of experience in dealing with military operations," he added.

Posted by orrinj at 3:24 PM


Donald Trump gripes about hotel hot air, says he might not pay bill (The Associated Press, 7/26/16)

"I don't know what hotel this is, but you ought to try turning on the air conditioning or we're not going to get you paid," Trump said.

Hotel officials told WDBJ in Roanoke that the air conditioning system "was on and working properly throughout the event." The hotel said temperatures in the 90s did pose "a challenge" while doors were open for two hours to let hundreds of people enter the ballroom. It says staff did everything possible to keep guests comfortable.

In his extended rant, Trump said he is "really good" at the hotel business and knows owners can save money by turning off the air conditioning.

"But this is ridiculous," Trump said. "So then there'll be an article, 'Donald Trump refuses to pay the bill.' Of course. And you know what, the smart people say, 'Trump is smart.' The other people would say, 'Oh, isn't that terrible.' Ok. I think the ballroom and the people that own this hotel should be ashamed of themselves."

TRUMP SLUMP: Donald Trump's Real Estate Empire Is Suffering A YUGE SWOON In 2016 (Eric Owens, 07/25/2016, Daily Caller)

The value of Donald Trump's various luxury real estate ventures is suffering because of his presidential run, according to a Yahoo Finance analysis of national real estate prices.

The analysis, conducted by residential real estate company Redfin, shows that the condominium values in several Trump-branded properties have fallen during the otherwise generally steady housing market of 2016.

Posted by orrinj at 12:36 PM


Isis claims priest's killing as Hollande vows all-out war (The Local, 26 Jul 2016)

President Francois Hollande vowed Tuesday to wage war against terror group Isis "by every means" within the law after two men linked to the jihadist group killed a priest in a French church.

When even the French are all in....
Posted by orrinj at 12:29 PM


Labour as far behind Tories under Jeremy Corbyn as when Michael Foot handed Thatcher landslide in 1983 (Ben Riley-Smith, 26 JULY 2016, The Telegraph)

Jeremy Corbyn's Labour is now as far behind the Conservatives as when his predecessor Michael Foot lost by a landslide to Margaret Thatcher, according to a new poll.

Just 27 per cent of voters would back Labour at an election while 43 per cent would support the Tories, the pollster ICM found - almost identical figures to when Mrs Thatcher won re-election in 1983. 

The findings will increase comparisons between Mr Corbyn and Mr Foot, a Left-winger whose election manifesto was famously dubbed the "longest suicide note in history".

Posted by orrinj at 12:15 PM


...that the Gipper promised us.
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 PM


New home sales hit 592,000 in June, versus 560,000 estimate (Reuters, 7/26/16)

New U.S. single-family home sales rose more than expected in June, reaching their highest level in nearly 8-1/2 years, the latest sign that the housing market was gathering momentum.

July 25, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 6:20 PM


Do You Live in a Bubble? A Quiz (PAUL SOLMAN AND ELIZABETH SHELL   March 14, 2012, PBS Newshour)


You got 63 points.

See below for scores Charles Murray would expect you to get based on the following descriptions. Note that there are ranges of possible scores for categories and some overlap. In the graphic, your score is denoted by the horizontal black line, and typical scores for each range are marked with gray lines. The possible overlap is represented by the blue bars.

The higher your score, the thinner your bubble. The lower, the more insulated you might be from mainstream American culture.

48-99: A lifelong resident of a working-class neighborhood with average television and movie going habits. Typical: 77.

42-100: A first-generation middle-class person with working-class parents and average television and movie going habits. Typical: 66.

11-80: A first-generation upper-middle-class person with middle-class parents. Typical: 33.

0-43: A second-generation (or more) upper-middle-class person who has made a point of getting out a lot. Typical: 9.

0-20: A second-generation (or more) upper-middle-class person with the television and movie going habits of the upper middle class. Typical: 2.

Posted by orrinj at 3:44 PM


A Third Woman Alleges She Was Sexually Assaulted By Donald Trump (Kali Holloway, July 25, 2016, National Memo)

Although there's been scant coverage of the allegations, Harth is the third woman to accuse Trump of sexual assault. In June, a lawsuit was filed in Manhattan federal court accusing Trump of raping a 13-year-old girl in 1994, the same era as Harth's attack. That attack allegedly took place during a party held at the home of Trump's admitted billionaire friend, Jeffrey Epstein, who in 2008 served 13 months in jail for soliciting underage girls for sex. (Epstein remains a registered sex offender.) Death and Taxes quoted directly from the lawsuit at the time it was filed:

In the court filing, "Defendant Trump" allegedly "initiated sexual contact with Plaintiff at four different parties. On the fourth and final sexual encounter with Defendant Trump, Defendant Trump tied Plaintiff to a bed, exposed himself to Plaintiff, and then proceeded to forcibly rape Plaintiff. During the course of this savage sexual attack, Plaintiff loudly pleaded with Defendant Trump to stop but with no effect. Defendant Trump responded to Plaintiff's pleas by violently striking Plaintiff in the face with his open hand and screaming that he would do whatever he wanted."

In the next section, she adds that "Immediately following this rape, Defendant Trump threatened Plaintiff that, were she ever to reveal any of the details of the sexual and physical abuse of her by Defendant Trump, Plaintiff and her family would be physically harmed if not killed."

Another anonymous woman, identified as "Tiffany Doe," corroborates those charges, and says she witnessed the rape. As AlterNet previously noted, "Tiffany Doe testified that between 1991 and 2001, Epstein put her on his payroll, tasking her with bringing underage girls to parties."

The earliest charge of rape against Trump come from his first wife, Ivana Trump. The allegations were made during a deposition taken during the contentious divorce between the two. The book, written by reporter Harry Hurt III and revisited in a Daily Beast article last year, includes a graphic description of a "violent assault" on Ivana by Trump. Before the book was released, Ivana recanted her accusations in a statement provided by Trump's own lawyers

Posted by orrinj at 1:39 PM


Delusions of Chaos (Paul Krugman, 7/25/16, NY Times)

Last year there were 352 murders in New York City. This was a bit higher than the number in 2014, but far below the 2245 murders that took place in 1990, the city's worst year. In fact, as measured by the murder rate, New York is now basically as safe as it has ever been, going all the way back to the 19th century.

National crime statistics, and numbers for all violent crimes, paint an only slightly less cheerful picture. And it's not just a matter of numbers; our big cities look and feel far safer than they did a generation ago, because they are. People of a certain age always have the sense that America isn't the country they remember from their youth, and in this case they're right -- it has gotten much better.

How, then, was it even possible for Donald Trump to give a speech accepting the Republican nomination whose central premise was that crime is running rampant, and that "I alone" can bring the chaos under control?

Of course, nobody should be surprised to see Mr. Trump confidently asserting things that are flatly untrue, since he does that all the time -- and never corrects his falsehoods. Indeed, the big speech repeated some of those golden oldies, like the claim that America is the world's most highly taxed country (when we are actually near the bottom among advanced economies).

But until now the false claims have been about things ordinary voters can't check against their own experience. Most people don't have any sense of how their taxes compare with those paid by Europeans or Canadians, let alone how many jobs have been displaced by Chinese competition. But 58 million tourists visited New York last year; tens of millions more visited other major cities; and of course many of us live in or near those cities, and see them every day. And while there are, as there always were, bad neighborhoods and occasional violent incidents, it's hard to see how anyone who walks around with open eyes could believe in the blood-soaked dystopian vision Mr. Trump laid out. 

...when even Mr. Krugman is more positive about America than the GOP nominee.

July 24, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:03 PM


Remember When Republicans Wanted to Stand Up to Putin? (Eli Lake, 7/21/16, Bloomberg View)

Remember when the Republican Party was a reliable foe of Russia's autocratic leaders? It actually wasn't that long ago. When President Barack Obama forged the New Start treaty with Moscow in 2010, Republican leaders opposed the treaty in part because Russia under Vladimir Putin could not be trusted with an arms control agreement.

Now the Republican nominee for president in 2016 is suggesting he may not honor U.S. commitments to NATO, which exists to counter Russian aggression. In an interview with the New York Times,he said he would only come to the aid of Baltic states if they were attacked by Russia, if "they have fulfilled their obligations to us."

This is not a unique position. The view that America should not necessarily honor its mutual defense agreements in NATO is popular among many foreign policy academics, particularly those in the "realist" school. Many progressives too, like the editors of the Nation Magazine, have mused that America's push to expand NATO is the root cause of Putin's aggression in Ukraine. Pat Buchanan, the White House speechwriter (and the force who resurrected the pre-World War II mantra of "America First") also thinks NATO's expansion has baited the Russian bear.

Posted by orrinj at 12:15 PM


See CNN Host's Reaction When Pro-Life Guest Says This About Tim Kaine and Planned Parenthood (Carly Hoilman, 7/24/16, The Blaze)

Conservative Christian radio talkshow host and author Eric Metaxas appeared on "CNN Tonight" with Don Lemon Friday to discuss Hillary Clinton's newly appointed running mate, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine.

Metaxas explained to Lemon that Clinton has some obstacles to overcome if she hopes to gain the votes of religious pro-life voters. He noted that her decision to choose Kaine, a practicing Catholic who personally opposes abortion, as her vice president is a smart one, but the challenges facing her party remain.

"I mean, [Clinton] has to deal with the fact that ... the Democrats are considered the party of Planned Parenthood and selling baby parts," he said. "Now, that's gruesome. She has to deal with that. So I think she probably reached to a religious candidate because she realizes that she's gonna be attacked on that."

When Lemon noted that Kaine is well liked by Planned Parenthood, the pro-life talkshow host interjected.

"Right!" Metaxas fired back. "Now that he's out of the womb."

Lemon nodded at first, until he realized what had been said.

"OK," Lemon said, seeming a little agitated by the comment.

"Enough?" Metaxas asked.

Lemon smiled and rolled his eyes before saying, "yeah," and moving on.

Posted by orrinj at 12:02 PM


Donald Trump loses battle with Teleprompter in GOP acceptance speech (Brian Lowry, July 22, 2016, CNN Money)

Those consuming this through the lens of TV couldn't see the speech's other major player, but Trump's TelePrompTer occupied a central role in the drama. Clearly committed not to extensively riff or drift off script -- as was his habit on the campaign trail -- the candidate frequently sounded awkward, raising his voice and emphasizing words and phrases ("regime change," "ever") for what felt like no reason.

Setting aside the content of the speech, the structure created problems for Trump that became more apparent as the delivery wore on. He started by rattling off an almost dizzying litany of facts and figures, then turned into sections filled with such a depressing, woe-is-America vision as to create few spaces for obvious applause lines, which seemed to stifle the appreciative crowd. [...]

Ivanka Trump concluded the parade of Trump-branded children who spoke this week, and introduced her father in warm, measured tones. The stylistic mismatch between Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump felt even more striking once her father began to shout whole sentences.

"We can't ignore the presentation," said Fox News' Chris Wallace. "For some reason, he shouted the speech. ... He said each word so slowly that it kind of became an endurance test."

During the pre-coverage, Fox News' Bill O'Reilly said that the text -- which was available in advance -- was "designed for television." Yet if it gave that impression on the page, it actually yielded the opposite effect.

Donald Trump doesn't read much. (Marc Fisher July 17, 2016, Washington Post)

 As he has prepared to be named the Republican nominee for president, Donald Trump has not read any biographies of presidents. He said he would like to someday.

He has no time to read, he said: "I never have. I'm always busy doing a lot. Now I'm more busy, I guess, than ever before."

Trump's desk is piled high with magazines, nearly all of them with himself on their covers, and each morning, he reviews a pile of printouts of news articles about himself that his secretary delivers to his desk. But there are no shelves of books in his office, no computer on his desk.

Presidents have different ways of preparing to make decisions. Some read deeply, some prefer to review short memos that condense difficult issues into bite-size summaries, ideally with check-boxes at the bottom of the page. But Trump, poised to become the first ­major-party presidential nominee since Dwight Eisenhower who had not previously held elected office, appears to have an unusually light appetite for reading.

He said in a series of interviews that he does not need to read extensively because he reaches the right decisions "with very little knowledge other than the knowledge I [already] had, plus the words 'common sense,' because I have a lot of common sense and I have a lot of business ability."

Posted by orrinj at 10:05 AM


Buying the Deepest Stock Dips in 2016 Returned Three Times S&P 500 (Oliver Renick, July 24, 2016, Bloomberg)

The buy-the-dip strategy that's been a hallmark of the U.S. stock rally is outdoing itself in 2016, where buying stocks in the most extreme state of free fall is paying like rarely before. An index tracking shares in the Russell 3000 Index that register as "oversold" on a momentum metric is up 28 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The durability of strategies focusing on momentum reversals is a gift to traders who've been otherwise hamstrung in a market that just spent 13 months going nowhere before breaking to a new high earlier in July. From the 11 percent decline in first two months of the year to the 5.3 percent drop after Brexit, U.S. companies have been quick to shake off losses tied to the economy, earnings and global turmoil.

Every over-arching economic trend is positive for the U.S.. Perhaps the most hilarious example of "bad news" that markets have sold on the pasty few years being declining energy costs.

Posted by orrinj at 9:33 AM


A Pope Like None Before. Somewhat Protestant : The idyll between Francis and the followers of Luther. The alarm of cardinals and bishops against the "Protestantization" of the Catholic Church. But also the distrust of authoritative Lutheran theologians  (Sandro Magister, July 22, 2016, Chiesa)

In the alarmed letter that thirteen cardinals from five continents were preparing to deliver to Pope Francis at the beginning of the last synod, they were warning him against leading the Catholic Church as well to "the collapse of liberal Protestant churches in the modern era, accelerated by their abandonment of key elements of Christian belief and practice in the name of pastoral adaptation:"

Then at the last moment the thirteen deleted these two lines from the letter that was actually put into the hands of the pope. But today they would put them back in word for word, seeing the ever more pronounced idyll that is developing between Francis and the followers of Luther.

On October 31, Jorge Mario Bergoglio will fly to Lund, Sweden, where he will be met by the local female bishop, to celebrate together with the Lutheran World Federation the five hundredth anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. And the closer that date gets, the more sympathy the pope manifests for the great heretic.

At the last of his in-flight press conferences, on the way back from Armenia, he sang the praises of Luther. He said that he was moved by the best of intentions, and that his reform was "medicine for the Church," skimming over the essential dogmatic divergences that for five centuries have pitted Protestants and Catholics against each other, because - these are again his words, this time spoken in the Lutheran temple of Rome - "life is greater than explanations and interpretations":

The ecumenism of Francis is made like this. The primacy goes to the gestures, the embraces, some charitable act done together. He leaves doctrinal disagreements, even the most profound, to the discussions of theologians, whom he would gladly confine "to a desert island," as he loves to say only half-jokingly.

Benedict was the first protestant Pope, completing the Church's acceptance of the End of History -- democracy, capitalism  and protestantism -- and finishing the Reformation:

A Tocquevillian in the Vatican (Samuel Gregg, 2/08/06, Acton)

Upon Joseph Ratzinger's election to the Papacy in April 2005, many commentators correctly noted that Benedict XVI's self-described theological "master" was St. Augustine. The fifth-century African bishop is widely acknowledged as a giant of the early church whose life and writings are counted, even by his detractors, among the most decisive in shaping Western civilization. Pope Benedict's first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est , is full of citations and themes drawn from Augustine's texts.

The encyclical's publication appears, however, to confirm that another, more contemporary thinker has influenced the way that Benedict XVI views religion in free societies and the nature of the state. That person is the nineteenth-century French social philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville.

The author of classic texts such as Democracy in America , Tocqueville's own relationship with Christianity is best described as "complex." Raised in a devout French aristocratic family, Tocqueville was appalled at the French Revolution's assault on the Catholic Church -- an attack involving looting of church property and violence against clergy and laypeople alike. But Tocqueville also disapproved of the post-Revolutionary clergy's tendency to attach itself to political absolutism. On a personal level, Tocqueville oscillated between doubt and faith for most of his life.

What Tocqueville did not doubt, however, was religion's importance in sustaining free societies. This theme is addressed at length in Democracy in America . More importantly, it has attracted Joseph Ratzinger's attention. Upon being inducted into the Académie des Sciences Morales et Politiques of the Institut de France in 1992, then-Cardinal Ratzinger remarked that Tocqueville's " Democracy in America has always made a strong impression on me."

Describing Tocqueville as " le grand penseur politique ," the context of these remarks was Ratzinger's insistence that free societies cannot sustain themselves, as Tocqueville observed, without widespread adherence to " des convictions éthiques communes. " Ratzinger then underlined Tocqueville's appreciation of Protestant Christianity's role in providing these underpinnings in the United States. In more recent years, Ratzinger expressed admiration for the manner in which church-state relations were arranged in America, using words suggesting he had absorbed Tocqueville's insights into this matter.

Posted by orrinj at 9:17 AM


Shooter received inpatient psychiatric care (AP, Jul. 24, 2016)

The spokesman for Munich prosecutors' office says the teenage gunman who killed nine people in the city on Friday had received psychiatric treatment last year.

The 18-year-old, identified only as David S., "received inpatient treatment in 2015 for two months and after that received outpatient care," said Thomas Steinkraus-Koch.

"The suspect had fears of contact with others" and also depression.

The shooter took his own life following the attack. [...]

[Bavarian investigator Robert Heimberger] said the shooter [...] likely got his illegal weapon through the internet's "dark net" market...

Obama Takes His Last Shot at Gun Control : Congress won't act on the problem that now kills more Americans than cars kill so the president is going it alone by shrinking major loopholes for sellers.  (Eleanor Clift, 1/04/16, Newsweek)

On Tuesday in the East Room of the White House, Obama will unveil a series of actions to strengthen gun laws and gun safety--and infuriate his critics.

Why didn't he do it sooner? That question was posed to administration officials in a call with reporters, and the answer could be summed up in a phrase Obama often uses: Enough is enough--and time is running out on his watch.

The central element of his executive actions is shrinking what is commonly called the "gun show loophole." Gun dealers who sell over the Internet or have a booth at a gun show or flea market where they sell firearms for profit will no longer be exempt from conducting background checks on buyers. The exemption for hobbyists and collectors will still remain, though.

"Just because you shop for guns with a mouse and not with your feet, you can't escape background checks," Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser, told reporters.

Norway shooter: Ammo from U.S. (REID J. EPSTEIN, 07/28/11, Politico)

The Norwegian man who allegedly killed dozens at a kids summer camp claims he legally bought high-capacity ammunition clips by mail from the United States, prompting Capitol Hill's leading gun-control advocate to say on Thursday that America should be ashamed such purchases aren't against the law.

Anders Behring Breivik wrote in a 1,500-page manifesto that he bought 10 30-round ammunition clips for his .223 caliber rifle from an undisclosed, small U.S. supplier, which had acquired the clips from other suppliers. Norway forbids the sale of clips for hunting rifles that hold more than three bullets, according to Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten.

Breivik wrote in his manifesto that while he could have purchased the high-capacity magazines in Sweden, they would have been significantly more expensive than ordering them from a U.S. supplier. He wrote that he spent $550 for the 10 clips. [...]

[D]ennis Henigan, the acting president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said the world is endangered by American gun laws.

"It now appears that not even Norwegian children at a youth camp are safe from the battlefield firepower so easily available in America," he said. "Large-capacity assault clips are instruments of mass killing, yet federal law leaves them completely unregulated."

Posted by orrinj at 9:10 AM


Posted by orrinj at 9:04 AM


Turkey ruling, opposition parties to rally together after coup (GARETH JONES, 7/24/16, Reuters)

Supporters of Turkey's ruling and main opposition parties, usually bitter foes, were set to rally together on Sunday in support of democracy following a failed military coup as President Tayyip Erdogan tightens his grip on the country.

In another demonstration of unity after the coup, which was staged by a faction within the armed forces, the head of Turkey's air force issued a rare statement stressing "absolute obedience" to the chief of the military General Staff. Some members of the air force were involved in the coup.

The chief of the military General Staff, Hulusi Akar, who was held hostage by the plotters on the night of July 15, condemned the plotters on Sunday as "cowards in uniform" who had greatly harmed the nation and the army.

Egypt's Regime Faces an Authoritarian Catch-22 (AMR ADLY, July 21, 2016, Carnegie Endowment)

The regime of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is stuck between a rock and a hard place. The country's current economic crisis deprives the regime of the financial and economic resources needed to sustain a solid social base among public sector employees, and hence hinders the consolidation of authoritarian rule. But at the same time, the regime's reliance on this group gives it little latitude to pursue economic reform. The regime may survive, but at the high price of continued repression and an inability to alleviate worsening socioeconomic conditions.

A Self-Defeating Alliance for the Sisi Regime

Past Egyptian authoritarian regimes consolidated power through rules governing interaction in state bodies and between the state and the society. They sustained themselves by depending less on repression and more on efforts to establish institutions of control through which the interests of key constituencies could be represented.

Despite relative stabilization of the country following the military takeover in 2013, Egypt's macroeconomic situation has improved little.

To secure its power, the Sisi regime has relied on an alliance between the military, the security forces, and public sector employees that formed in opposition to the January 2011 uprising against Hosni Mubarak, as well as repressive tactics.

Egypt's economic and fiscal challenges deny the regime the resources needed to maintain support among public sector employees. To avoid alienating the public sector, the Sisi regime will not pursue reform that would make resources available. This catch-22 will continue to hinder its consolidation efforts.

...Egypt too would be a democracy today.

Posted by orrinj at 8:57 AM


'In choice between territories and peace, I prefer peace,' Ben-Gurion said in 1968 (TIMES OF ISRAEL, July 24, 2016)

The former prime minister, celebrated even in life, told kibbutz members he had no wish to receive any special treatment.

"I told them my name is David, not Ben-Gurion. Every morning I came to see what David has to do and I went to do the work," he said.

Ben-Gurion wanted to serve as an example of what Israel could be, and how Israeli leaders should live.

In the interview, conducted a year after the 1967 Six Day War in which Israel conquered the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Old City, the Sinai Peninsula, Golan Heights and Gaza Strip, Ben-Gurion spoke at length of his belief that Israel was still far from achieving its purpose of serving as "a light unto the nations."

Israel's moral compass, he maintained, was inexorably tied to its treatment of the non-Jews living under its rule.

Ben-Gurion criticized those who believed that the biblical commandment to "Love thy friend as thyself" pertained only to Jews, saying that "In the same chapter they said a little later, 'If a stranger will live among you, he should be to you like a citizen and you should love him like yourself because you were strangers in Egypt.' So it doesn't mean only Jews."

He also took the unpopular position in those days of post-war euphoria that Israel should immediately relinquish the territories it had taken if this could secure peace.

"If I could choose between peace and all the territories which we conquered last year, I would prefer peace," he said. He did have two exceptions though: Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

He also voiced opposition to the then-nascent settlement project in the West Bank and Gaza, wondering out loud why it was necessary to settle an area with large Arab populations when the nearly unpopulated Negev desert was available. He said pre-war Israel had enough room for all the Jews who would come to live here in the next 20 or 40 years.

The film also shows a post-war Knesset speech by the former prime minister in which he warns that "our standing in the world will be determined not by our so-called material riches, and not by our military's bravery, but by the moral virtue of our undertaking.

Posted by orrinj at 8:26 AM


Don't Overstate the Terrorist Threat : The mass murder in Nice was horrific, but it doesn't mean that ISIS is on the rise. (MICHAEL FUMENTO • July 22, 2016, American Conservative)

As the investigation of the massacre in Nice continues, authorities continue to find no evidence that killer Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel had any ties to terrorist networks. So why have so many so quick to invoke ISIS? And more importantly, why do so many continue to conflate "ordered or planned by ISIS" with "ISIS-inspired"?

For all the speculation of real connections--and ISIS' own attempt to claim "credit"--the evidence has pointed the other way from the start. Compare the awful expertise and professionalism shown by the ISIS killers in Paris the night of November 17 with Bouhlel's awful wild ride. The Paris attack involved three coordinated attacks, suicide belts, shooting prowess, and slipping past security guards. In Nice, the perpetrator simply rented the biggest truck he could a couple of days beforehand and cased the location. Bouhlel didn't even wear easily obtainable body armor that might have allowed him to kill far more people before being shot himself. The reports of the truck being packed with weapons including grenades proved false, although he did have one working gun. [...]

[T]here's no shortage of evidence that Bouhlel was the proverbial ticking time bomb. He had previously been convicted of assault, having hurled a wooden pallet at another driver after a traffic accident. His wife had recently thrown him out of his home, taking his kids away in the process, for allegedly physically abusing her and other family members. This is not only evidence that he was already unbalanced, but also the sort of thing that could have pushed him even further in that direction. His father said that his mental health indeed deteriorated after the separation.

It appears Bouhlel has long had serious mental-health problems. His father said he suffered from nervous breakdowns in which he "broke everything," and that, while still living with his family, he "defecated all over the place" and shredded his daughter's teddy bear.

Religiously motivated? Though nominally Muslim, "Bouhlel was not religious," his wife's cousin, Walid Hamou, told the British Daily Mail. "He did not go to the mosque. He did not pray. He did not observe Ramadan. He drank alcohol, ate pork and took drugs. This is all forbidden under Islam." Not to mention his womanizing and bisexuality.

July 23, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 9:26 PM


Energized white supremacists cheer Trump message (STEVE PEOPLES July 24, 2016, Times of Israel)

The well-dressed men who gathered in Cleveland's Ritz-Carlton bar after Donald Trump's speech accepting the Republican nomination for president prefer the term "Europeanists," "alt-right," or even "white nationalists." They are also die-hard Trump supporters.

And far from hiding in chat rooms or under white sheets, they cheered the GOP presidential nominee from inside the Republican National Convention over the last week. While not official delegates, they nevertheless obtained credentials to attend the party's highest-profile quadrennial gathering.

Several gathered in the luxury hotel well after midnight following Trump's Thursday address, a fiery appeal they said helped push the Republican Party closer to their principles.

Posted by orrinj at 8:54 PM


Posted by orrinj at 7:20 PM


If California's a 'bad state for business,' why is it leading the nation in job and GDP growth? (Michael Hiltzik, 7/22/16, LA Times)

State and federal statistics released as recently as Friday make it clear: California is smoking hot, economy-wise.

The state gained 40,300 jobs in June and 461,000 over the year. With a gain of 2.9%, that was the best 12-month record of any large state except Florida, which won by a nostril with a gain of 3%, and much better than the nation as a whole (1.7%). According to the congressional Joint Economic Committee, California leads the nation in growth in its gross domestic product, which grew by 4.2% in 2015 -- more than twice the national rate.

Posted by orrinj at 6:00 PM


Munich gunman was treated for depression; 'no evidence' of IS link (TIMES OF ISRAEL, July 23, 2016)

Munich prosecutors said Saturday that the shooter in the attack -- named in the media as 18-year-old Iranian-German national Ali Sonboly, the son of a taxi driver -- had been in psychiatric care and treated for depression. The attack appears to be a "classic shooting rampage" and not terrorism, the prosecutor said. Police said investigators suspect the gunman was "deranged."

Mass Killings Inspire Copycats, Study Finds (MAGGIE FOX, 10/05/15, NBC)

Police have said so for years and now scientists have measured the effect: Mass shootings and school attacks do inspire copycats.

As many as 20 to 30 percent of attacks are set off by other attacks, according to researchers at Arizona State University and Northeastern Illinois University. The effect lasts about 13 days, they write in the report published Thursday in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS ONE.

And mass killings -- such as the 2012 attack on small children at Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut, the 1999 Columbine massacre, and last month's shooting of nine people at a prayer meeting in Charleston -- are becoming alarmingly common in the United States.

Posted by orrinj at 5:52 PM


AP Poll: Support grows among Americans for stricter gun laws (LISA MARIE PANE and RYAN J. FOLEY, July 23, 2016, AP)

Americans increasingly favor tougher gun laws by margins that have grown wider after a steady drumbeat of shootings in recent months, but they also are pessimistic that change will happen anytime soon, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll.

Nearly two-thirds of respondents expressed support for stricter laws, with majorities favoring nationwide bans on the sale of semi-automatic assault weapons such as the AR-15 and on the sale of high-capacity magazines holding 10 or more bullets.

Posted by orrinj at 5:43 PM


By Picking Anti-Abortion Tim Kaine, Hillary Is Testing Feminists' Loyalty (Nora Caplan-Bricker, 7/22/16, Slate)

It's not just that Kaine, like all 47 veeps in our nation's history, is a white dude, not a "first" who could have driven home just how historic Hillary's candidacy is. He's also, at least in his personal views, opposed to abortion due to his Catholic faith--a symbolic kick in the teeth for the feminist organizations that faithfully championed Hillary over Bernie throughout the long primary season. "Is Clinton a progressive? Not if she chooses Tim Kaine," Jodi Jacobson of the reproductive rights site Rewire wrote Thursday.

Hillary Clinton: You Can 'Absolutely' Be A Feminist And Pro-Life (Sam Levine , 4/05/16, HuffPo)

"I respect the opinions and beliefs of every woman," Clinton said. "The reason why being pro-choice is the right way to go is because it is a choice, and hopefully a choice that is rooted in the thoughtfulness and the care that women bring to this decision. So of course you can be a feminist and be pro-life."

She is not who the Left and Right want her to be, any more than the UR and W were.  That's why they win presidential elections.
Posted by orrinj at 5:22 PM


Is Donald Trump a Racist? (Nicholas Kristof JULY 23, 2016, NY Times)

One early red flag arose in 1973, when President Richard Nixon's Justice Department -- not exactly the radicals of the day -- sued Trump and his father, Fred Trump, for systematically discriminating against blacks in housing rentals.

I've waded through 1,021 pages of documents from that legal battle, and they are devastating. Donald Trump was then president of the family real estate firm, and the government amassed overwhelming evidence that the company had a policy of discriminating against blacks, including those serving in the military.

To prove the discrimination, blacks were repeatedly dispatched as testers to Trump apartment buildings to inquire about vacancies, and white testers were sent soon after. Repeatedly, the black person was told that nothing was available, while the white tester was shown apartments for immediate rental.

A former building superintendent working for the Trumps explained that he was told to code any application by a black person with the letter C, for colored, apparently so the office would know to reject it. A Trump rental agent said the Trumps wanted to rent only to "Jews and executives," and discouraged renting to blacks.

Donald Trump furiously fought the civil rights suit in the courts and the media, but the Trumps eventually settled on terms that were widely regarded as a victory for the government. Three years later, the government sued the Trumps again, for continuing to discriminate. [...]

Another revealing moment came in 1989, when New York City was convulsed by the "Central Park jogger" case, a rape and beating of a young white woman. Five black and Latino teenagers were arrested.

Trump stepped in, denounced Mayor Ed Koch's call for peace and bought full-page newspaper ads calling for the death penalty. The five teenagers spent years in prison before being exonerated. In retrospect, they suffered a modern version of a lynching, and Trump played a part in whipping up the crowds.

As Trump moved into c[****]s, discrimination followed. In the 1980s, according to a former Trump c[*****]o worker, Kip Brown, who was quoted by The New Yorker: "When Donald and Ivana came to the c[****]o, the bosses would order all the black people off the floor. ... They put us all in the back."

In 1991, a book by John O'Donnell, who had been president of the Trump Plaza Hotel and C[*****]o in Atlantic City, quoted Trump as criticizing a black accountant and saying: "Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day."

No one hates just Mexicans.

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