February 15, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 7:35 PM


Trump's bewildering national emergency press conference, annotated (Aaron Blake and Transcript courtesy of Bloomberg Government,  February 15, 2019, Washington Post)

Broadcasting him live does damage to truth, justice and the American way.

Posted by orrinj at 7:17 PM


'Bring back our #ChildHoodDiseases,' White House official's wife says as she criticizes vaccines (Lindsey Bever, February 15, 2019, Washington Post)

Darla Shine, the outspoken wife of White House communications director Bill Shine, has been tweeting about childhood diseases, claiming that illnesses such as measles, mumps and chickenpox "keep you healthy & fight cancer." Health experts warn that the claim is not true and adds to misinformation that could cause harm.

Posted by orrinj at 6:54 PM


Mueller Unceremoniously Went into Significant Detail About Roger Stone Connection to DNC Hack (Matt Naham, February 15th, 2019, Law & Crime)

[M]ueller emphasized that the Stone did case did arise from a common search warrant, which was contested by Stone's lawyers as "not likely."

"In the course of investigating that activity, the government obtained and executed dozens of search warrants on various accounts used to facilitate the transfer of stolen documents for release, as well as to discuss the timing and promotion of their release. Several of those search warrants were executed on accounts that contained Stone's communications with Guccifer 2.0 and with Organization 1," Mueller continued. "Evidence obtained from those search warrants resulted in the allegations that the Netyksho defendants hacked and stole documents for release through intermediaries, including Organization 1, and that Stone lied to a congressional committee investigating, among other things, the activities of Organization 1 regarding those stolen documents."

"This case is properly related to Netyksho for the additional reason that the cases "arise[] from . . . activities which are a part of the same alleged criminal event or transaction," he added.

Notice as well that Mueller said Stone case is part of the "same criminal event or transaction," which was another thing Stone's lawyers disputed.

At one point, the special counsel put this even simpler:

In other words, the criminal conduct alleged in Netyksho was a central focus of the congressional investigation that the defendant is alleged to have obstructed, and therefore the activities underlying the crimes charged in that case are part of the same activities underlying the crimes charged in this case. The defendant's false statements did not arise in a vacuum: they were made in the course of an investigation into possible links between Russian individuals (including the Netyksho defendants), individuals associated with the dumping of materials (including Organization 1 [WikiLeaks]), and U.S. persons (including the defendant).

Posted by orrinj at 5:35 PM


One Obstacle to Trump's Border Wall Might Be His First Supreme Court Appointee (STEPHANIE MENCIMERFEBRUARY 15, 2019, Mother Jones)

[T]rump's border wall still faces a host of thorny legal obstacles. Foremost among those might be one of his own making: his first Supreme Court appointee, Justice Neil Gorsuch.

Building an actual wall along the southern border will require the federal government to seize thousands of acres of private land, mostly in Texas. The government's seizure of private land through eminent domain is hugely controversial, but the Supreme Court has largely given the federal government free rein to use it widely so long as private landowners are compensated for their losses. The most recent decision reaffirming that power is Kelo v. City of New London, decided in 2005, in which the court upheld the right of the government to seize private land and give it to a private party for redevelopment.

According to emails released during his confirmation hearing, Gorsuch thinks Kelo was wrongly decided, and court watchers have taken that as a sign that he might be highly skeptical of claims by the Trump administration that its declaration of an emergency would authorize the mass seizure of private land. "It's clear that Gorsuch values constitutional property rights far more than Trump does," says Ilya Somin, a libertarian law professor at George Mason University and the author of a book on the Kelo decision.

It's not a question of how you feel about property rights but of how you feel about the Constitution. There is no coherent argument that government takings to build a defensive wall would be unconstitutional.  The Takings Clause, after all, states that: "private property [shall not] be taken for public use, without just compensation." Whatever else it may be, the wall is a public use.

Kelo offered a more interesting, because debatable, question: how broadly is public use meant to be read.  Justices Thomas and Gorsuch believe that the property taken then has to be used by a public entity:

Long ago, William Blackstone wrote that "the law of the land ... postpone[s] even public necessity to the sacred and inviolable rights of private property." 1 Commentaries on the Laws of England 134--135 (1765) (hereinafter Blackstone). The Framers embodied that principle in the Constitution, allowing the government to take property not for "public necessity," but instead for "public use." Amdt. 5. Defying this understanding, the Court replaces the Public Use Clause with a " '[P]ublic [P]urpose' " Clause, ante, at 9--10 (or perhaps the "Diverse and Always Evolving Needs of Society" Clause, ante, at 8 (capitalization added)), a restriction that is satisfied, the Court instructs, so long as the purpose is "legitimate" and the means "not irrational," ante, at 17 (internal quotation marks omitted). This deferential shift in phraseology enables the Court to hold, against all common sense, that a costly urban-renewal project whose stated purpose is a vague promise of new jobs and increased tax revenue, but which is also suspiciously agreeable to the Pfizer Corporation, is for a "public use."

This is a far narrower dispute than the Court will face when the Wall case is argued. If they want to rule against the takings then they will have to either repudiate the Constitution or rely on the possibility that the compensation offered to the current landowners is unjust.

Of course, they are more likely to avoid ever getting to the defense of private property by simply finding that the presidential emergency order fails a simple factual test.

Posted by orrinj at 5:06 PM


Black-white cancer disparities narrow sharply amid progress against common malignancies (Laurie McGinley February 14, 2019, Washington Post)

Longtime cancer disparities between African Americans and whites -- with blacks having a sharply higher mortality rate -- have narrowed significantly during the past several years and disappeared nearly entirely for a few age groups, including men under 50 and women who are 70 and older, according to a new study by the American Cancer Society. [...]

"The message is progress has been made, but we still have a long way to go," said Len Lichtenfeld, interim chief medical officer for the cancer society. [...]

Lichtenfeld noted that early evidence suggests the Affordable Care Act, which expanded health insurance coverage, helped "made a difference" in narrowing cancer disparities but he said it was too early to know the impact of some recent changes.

Posted by orrinj at 5:03 PM


Philadelphia beats U.S. appeal in sanctuary city case (Jonathan Stempel, 2/15/19, Reuters) 

A federal appeals court said on Friday the Trump administration cannot cut off grants to Philadelphia for its refusal to cooperate with immigration authorities seeking to deport immigrants who are in the country illegally.

Posted by orrinj at 4:12 PM


'Off the reservation' Ann takes on 'idiot' president over wall 'emergency' (Jacob Heilbrunn, February 15, 2019, Spectator US)

The sheer weirdness of Trump's press conference, in which he veered around wildly from praising China for liquidating drug dealers to professing his love for tariffs to claiming Barack Obama, whom he always derided previously as a wimp, was on the verge of war with North Korea until he came along, must have given McConnell a fresh case of heartburn. Trump didn't even really make the case for an emergency declaration perhaps because he knows it's bogus. He himself gave away the game when he declared, 'I didn't need to do this.' Meanwhile, his erstwhile fan Coulter is busily tweeting about the 25th Amendment.

No One Hates the Immigration Plan More Than Trump's Base (ANDREW EGGER  FEBRUARY 15, 2019, The Bulwark)

Here's maybe the king of the immigration hawks, Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies, beseeching Trump not to sign the bill in a Thursday column at National Review:

The text of the funding bill was released last night/this morning, and lawmakers are expected to vote on the 1,169 page measure as early as this evening. The bill is disappointing in many respects, but if it had been as advertised earlier, it might have been tolerable.

But my fears that senators Durbin and Leahy would trick the Republican conferees (none of whom knows the first thing about immigration policy) were realized. Standing out among the many distasteful provisions are two poison pills that I hope the Republican committee members either didn't know about or didn't understand.

Krikorian goes on to describe how the bill sneaks in provisions requiring the Department of Homeland Security to get permission from local elected officials before building barriers in counties along the border--while also opting only to authorize new walls in the Rio Grande Valley, where local governments are overwhelmingly Democratic. Even worse, he says, the bill blocks border security agents from detaining "anyone who has effectively any relationship with an 'unaccompanied' minor--either because they're sponsors, in the same household as sponsors, or even just 'potential sponsors' (or in the household of potential sponsors!) of such a child.

It's genuinely difficult to put into words just how bananas this all is. The president of the United States is currently setting the concept of constitutional governance on fire, making a mockery of every conservative warning about the imperial presidency, and hanging his allies in Congress out to dry to boot, all in an apparent effort to placate the immigration wing of his base--who all the while are shrieking for him not to do the thing he is nevertheless doing.

Posted by orrinj at 3:55 PM


PODCAST: Episode 86: Venezwailin' (HOSTED BY JONAH GOLDBERG, February 12, 2019, The Remnant)

Will Venezuela collapse? Will Maduro be overthrown? Is God Emperor of Dune the key to understanding American politics in 2019? Venezuela expert and AEI scholar Roger Noriega comes onto The Remnant to answer the first two questions, leaving Jonah and his Sancho Paza to attempt to answer the third by themselves.
A few points of interest here: (1) Marco Rubio is basically running our policy there; (2) No one knows what the opponents of Maduro are for, other than socialism; (3) the Cubans, speaking from 60 years of experience, tell Maduro to ignore our regime change chatter.

Posted by orrinj at 9:19 AM


5 insane provisions in the amnesty omnibus bill (Daniel Horowitz, February 14, 2019, Conservative Review)

Here are the immediate issues to flag:

1) Less of a wall than even what Democrats already agreed to: Trump originally demanded $25 billion for the wall. Then he negotiated himself down to $5.6 billion. Democrats balked and only agreed to $1.6 billion. This bill calls it a day at $1.375 billion, enough to construct 55 miles. But it's worse than that. This bill limits the president's ability to construct "barriers" to just the Rio Grande Valley sector and only bollard fencing, not concrete walls of any kind. [...]

2) Liberal local officials have veto power over wall: Actually, on second thought, it's likely that not a single mile of fence will be built. Section 232(a) of this bill states that "prior to use of any funds made available by this Act for the construction of physical barriers" the Department of Homeland Security "shall confer and seek to reach mutual agreement regarding the design and alignment of physical barriers within that city." With whom must the feds consult? "The local elected officials." Now you can understand the brilliance of limiting the wall to the Rio Grande Valley. These are the most liberal counties on the border (thanks to demographics of open borders itself!), and there is practically no local official who supports the wall in these counties. [...]

3) This bill contains a blatant amnesty for the worst cartel smugglers: Section 224(a) prohibits the deportation of anyone who is sponsoring an "unaccompanied" minor illegal alien - or who says they might sponsor a UAC, or lives in a household with a UAC, or a household that potentially might sponsor a UAC. It's truly difficult to understate the betrayal behind this provision. [...]

4) More funding to manage and induce the invasion rather than to deter it: While offering no new funding for ICE deportation agents or immigration judges to speed up asylum claims, as the president requested, this bill adds another $40 million for the Alternatives to Detention (ATD) program, which moves asylum seekers to facilities in the interior of the country, where they are usually released. [...]

5) Doubling low-skilled workers: This bill (p. 1,161) doubles the number of H-2B non-agricultural, unskilled seasonal workers who will continue to be a public charge on America. This gives you a glimpse of what is driving this amnesty bill on the Republican side.


Posted by orrinj at 9:12 AM


Experts consistently underestimate U.S. oil production (Ben Geman, Harry Stevens, 2/15/19, Axios)

A new report this week underscores a wider trend: The Energy Department's data arm and private forecasters alike have consistently underestimated the U.S. crude oil production surge in recent years.

Malthusianism and everything that follows is faith, not science.

Posted by orrinj at 9:10 AM


Six GOP House Members Who Need to Resign for Anti-Semitism Before Ilhan Omar (Mehdi Hasan, February 15 2019, The Intercept)

There is a bigger issue here, though. Trump said that "anti-Semitism has no place in the United States Congress." I agree with him. But here's his problem: The modern GOP is riddled with bigots, Islamophobes, and anti-Semites.

If the president wants Omar to resign from Congress over alleged anti-Semitism, here are six Republican members of the House, including the two most senior members of the GOP leadership, who need to resign first.

The main difference is that the Congresswoman regrets her choice of memes.

Posted by orrinj at 9:07 AM


Japan to recognise Indigenous Ainu people for first time (SBS, 2/15/19)

Japan's government introduced a bill Friday to recognise the country's ethnic Ainu minority as Indigenous people for the first time, after decades of discrimination against the group.

The Ainu people - many of whom live in northern Hokkaido - have long suffered the effects of a policy of forced assimilation, and while discrimination has receded gradually, income and education gaps with the rest of Japan persist.

"It is important to protect the honour and dignity of the Ainu people and to hand those down to the next generation to realise a vibrant society with diverse values," top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga told reporters.

Posted by orrinj at 9:02 AM


How Watford's Heurelho Gomes juggles his faith in people, Jesus and Jair Bolsonaro: Interview: As the popular goalkeeper approaches retirement and a new career as a football agent, he reflects on the challenges Brazilians face both in the Premier League and back home in a divided nation (Jack Pitt-Brooke, 2/15/19, Independent)

No one in English football has a bad word to say about Heurelho Gomes. He will retire this summer, 11 years after he arrived here, with the good wishes of everyone he has met. A cult hero at Tottenham, an authentic hero at Watford, he has won people over with his enthusiasm, professionalism and personal warmth. [...]

You do not have to spend very long with Gomes to realise that his faith is what drives his life. Like one third of Brazilians, including many footballers - Kaka, David Luiz, Willian - he is part of Brazil's evangelical community, and he worships at the Christian Community of London, a popular church for Brazilian evangelicals here. "People change a lot the way they worship God, they find the right way to do it. God is opening the mind of the people, that is why people are changing. I was a Catholic, my family is Catholic, but Jesus just grabbed me by the hand and said 'this is the way I want you to follow.'"

It is not the practice, but the faith itself, that Gomes says has changed his life. "Religion is not important, Jesus is important to me. People think religion will change you, Jesus will change you. It is very important to me to follow him. Some people are in church, but they are not changed. Some people take religion to hide themselves, and when they are out of church, they behave the same. If I behave on the pitch, I have to behave off the pitch as well. I have to be an example. Religion doesn't change people. Jesus, when you accept him, will change you."

When far-right Jair Bolsonaro won the run-off round of the Brazilian presidential election in October, nearly 70% of evangelicals voted for him. He was well-supported in the Brazilian sports community, from within UFC, ju-jitsu, and professional surfing and of course football, with Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, Felipe Melo, Lucas Moura and many more throwing their support behind the former army captain. So how much of a surprise should it have been to see Gomes smiling in a 'Bolsonaro Presidente' t-shirt in a post on his Instagram from last October? It does feel at odds with everything else we know about Gomes, his compassion, his warmth and sense of caring for others.

Gomes insists that Brazil was in such a bad state after years of PT (workers' party) rule and corruption that it needed the painful medicine of Bolsonaro. Even though Gomes quickly made clear he could not support every policy of his new president, a man who supports the destruction of the Amazon rainforest and police violence in the favelas.

"We were just going down, down, down, down. We were already there. It is going to take a long time for us to grow again, because of the corruption, and the people just ignoring it.

"We need a change in Brazil. And he was the one and only one that can change the way. I probably don't support the whole of his ideas. But I support the change...we need a change. That is why we needed to do something, to change everything that was going on in Brazil. The economy has changed already. So he was the only way to change the way that politics were going in Brazil."

Posted by orrinj at 8:52 AM


The President Is Hallucinating and I Think We Should Be Concerned (TIM MILLER,  FEBRUARY 15, 2019, The Bulwark)

What I know for certain is that here on the physical plane of existence there is no security emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border. The incursion the president describes is not the lived reality of any actual Americans. Border crossings are down, crime is down, employment is up. Yet the president's hallucinations persist, and in the past week they seem to be growing more severe.

At a speech in El Paso, rather than just talking about the imaginary caravan of people invading the country, Trump actually claimed that he had invented the word "caravan" altogether. (In fact, the word is sourced from medieval Latin, caravana, picked up during the Crusades from Persian karwan "group of desert travelers." Donald Trump is very old but this is slightly before his time.)

He has also begun touting the construction of an imaginary wall. "The wall is being built. It'll continue. It's going at a rapid pace," he said. "Now you really mean 'finish the wall' because we've built a lot of it," he continued. None of these statements are remotely true. And rather than be alarmed that the president is having a wall-themed seance, everyone is going along with it. After all, the wall is in our hearts.

So then I start to wonder--maybe I'm the crazy one. Maybe this is all just equal parts Trumpian hyperbole and good old fashioned gaslighting.

But if so, what explains the other delusions, like the blubbering tough guys crying whenever they meet Trump. And it's not just this one time. Trump seems to keep meeting "monster" sized buff men who are brought to tears by their gratitude to him. For a wall that doesn't exist. That's designed to stop an infiltration that isn't happening.

The layers of unreality build upon itself.

After-all, whatever happened to the president's friend "Jim" who used to go to Paris every year but now doesn't? He was scared of the imaginary brown-skinned "infiltration" of the City of Lights. We haven't heard from him in a while. Are you in there Jim?

Posted by orrinj at 8:10 AM


Stadium gates gradually open for Iranian women (Saeid Jafari, February 14, 2019, Al Monitor)

During his March 2018 trip to Iran, the president of the world soccer governing body FIFA attended the popular derby between Tehran archrivals Persepolis and Esteghlal in the capital. Following the match, Gianni Infantino sat down with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. And back in Zurich the day after, the FIFA chief announced in a presser that his Iranian host had given his word that the ban on women's entry to men's soccer events will be lifted.   

"There are two ways to deal with this matter -- either we criticize, we sanction, we condemn, we don't speak and we cut relations," said Infantino in a soft warning to Iran and other states practicing similar bans. "Or we go there and have a discussion and try to convince the leaders of the country." The FIFA president said that Rouhani, while offering assurances, had also noted that the process would take "a bit of time."

Ever since that meeting in Tehran, several positive steps have been taken toward a settlement of the issue. On June 20, Iran's national team faced Spain in a key match during the FIFA World Cup in Kazan, Russia. In Tehran, the city's iconic Azadi Stadium hosted a screening of the game, which would up being a nail biter. This was the breakthrough. Authorities allowed women to enter the stadium and watch live video of the match on a giant 1,200 square-meter screen. Hours ahead of the game, rumors kept circulating that permission for women to attend had been revoked. But women ended up entering the stadium in relatively large numbers for the first time in nearly four decades of Islamic Republic rule.

Arameh Etemadi, a Tehran-based journalist, was one of the female spectators who made it into the stadium. "I was not actually watching a real soccer game [in person]. But even that was still a thrilling experience, which we as women had been deprived of for years," she told Al-Monitor. While bringing into question the logic behind the ban, Etemadi said she believes the recent small developments paving women's way into stadiums are the fruit of years of campaigning by Iran's civil society activists.

Not everything has gone smoothly after the Iran-Spain game. The country's hard-liners further sharpened their attacks, albeit to little avail as the next episode marked another victory for Iranian women. On Oct. 16, they once again found their way into the grand stadium, purchasing tickets this time for a friendly match between the national teams of Iran and Bolivia.

Posted by orrinj at 7:57 AM


Trump Keeps Doubling Down On The Same Failed Strategy (Nate Silver, 2/14/19, 538)

President Trump will declare a national emergency and seek money to build a border wall, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Thursday, moments before the U.S. Senate passed a compromise spending bill that didn't include wall funding.

If Trump follows through on the emergency declaration, he'll be doing something that large majorities of Americans oppose -- and he'll be doing it at right as his job approval ratings had begun to rebound following the partial government shutdown in December and January.

Indeed, the act of declaring a national emergency to build a wall is even more unpopular than the wall itself -- and the wall isn't popular. Polls as tracked by PollingReport.com show an average of 32 percent of Americans in favor of the declaration and 65 percent opposed. Even in an era where many of Trump's top priorities poll only in the low-to-mid-40s, that's an especially large split, with roughly twice as many voters opposed as in favor.

Americans dislike him to precisely the degree he's fighting for racist objectives.
Posted by orrinj at 7:27 AM


SAY THIS MUCH for the "reproducibility crisis" in science: It's poorly timed. At the same instant that a significant chunk of elected and appointed policymakers seem to disbelieve the science behind global warming, and a significant chunk of parents seem to disbelieve the science behind vaccines ... a bunch of actual scientists come along and point out that vast swaths of the social sciences don't stand up to scrutiny. They don't replicate--which is to say, if someone else does the same experiment, they get different (often contradictory) results. 

...they might intuit that Science's abandonment of reproducibility contributed to the distrust.  See under: Darwinism.

Posted by orrinj at 7:23 AM


A Growing American Crisis: Who Will Care for the Baby Boomers? (JAY NEWTON-SMALL , 2/15/19, TIME)

Beatrice is one of 43 million unpaid caregivers in America, a number poised to spike as the Baby Boomers, who comprise most of the family caregivers now, join the ranks of the oldest old. "Family caregivers make up a silent support army -- without them, health and social systems within our aging societies would be absolutely overwhelmed," says Scott Walker, who oversees Embracing Carers, an international caregiving initiative for pharmaceutical company EMD Serono. The group conducted a survey of unpaid caregivers in 2017, which found that nearly half of family caregivers suffer from depression, and 45% did not have time to book or attend their own medical appointments as a result of their caregiving activities -- thus putting caregivers at risk of falling ill and needing caregiving themselves. A 2002 Stanford University study found that 40% of Alzheimer's and dementia caregivers actually die from stress-related disorders before the one for whom they are caring.

Compounding pressure on this unpaid labor force is a shortage of paid caregivers to fill a growing class of jobs that are troubled by low pay and poor working conditions. The Bureau of Labor Statistics ranked home health and personal care aides as among the fastest growing occupations, with an anticipated 1.2 million new jobs anticipated between 2016 and 2026. But these are already jobs that most Americans don't want, leading to high turnover rates of 74% annually in nursing homes. So who will be filling these jobs?

Posted by orrinj at 7:20 AM


Independents Trust Mueller, Which Could Be Bad News For Trump (Nathaniel Rakich, 2/15/19, 538

According to a Washington Post-Schar School poll released this week, 51 percent of adults approve of the way Mueller is handling the investigation, while 34 percent disapprove. Similarly, 57 percent think Mueller is mostly interested in uncovering the truth, while 36 percent think he's out to hurt President Trump politically. By contrast, a majority of Americans thought Starr was mainly interested in hurting then-President Bill Clinton politically in the Whitewater investigation.

During both the Starr and Mueller probes, members of the president's party were convinced that the investigators had the knives out for their president, and members of the opposition party believed the investigators had noble intentions. Since the partisan divides are similar in both cases, independent voters are the main drivers behind the difference in overall public opinion. In 1998, as the Whitewater investigation was wrapping up, 59 percent of independents told the Post that they thought Starr's investigation was politically motivated. This year, 57 percent said they have faith in Mueller.

The poll also suggests that independents may be the deciding factor in whether the public supports Trump's impeachment, if it comes to that. Per the Post poll, if Mueller's report finds that Trump obstructed justice by trying to undermine the Russia investigation, Americans believe -- 65 percent to 29 percent -- that Congress should impeach Trump and try to remove him from office.1 And if the report concludes that Trump authorized his campaign staff to collude with Russia, Americans support impeachment and attempted removal by a similar margin: 61 percent to 33 percent.

Posted by orrinj at 7:11 AM


This Is What the Beginning of a Real Israel Debate Looks Like (BEN EHRENREICH, February 15, 2019, New Republic)

By the time Ilhan Omar walked onto the national stage, a lot had changed, and not much at all. Since 2006, we've seen three devastating and overwhelmingly one-sided Israeli assaults on Gaza, the massive expansion of settlements in a brutal and seemingly endless occupation, the collapse of U.S.-sponsored peace negotiations and anything that could be called an Israeli "left," a widening gulf between Israeli and American Jews, and an Israeli prime minister who went out of his way to embarrass a popular Democratic president and to embrace the neo-fascist right. Ever-larger cracks are appearing in the defensive wall the U.S. media has for years erected around Israel: Critical voices--even Palestinian ones--are increasingly making it into the op-ed pages. Space for debate is finally opening up. And the controversy that blew up around Omar is a foretaste of how bitterly that space will be contested. [...]

Nancy Pelosi and the House leadership rebuked Omar. Chuck Schumer jumped in on Twitter, as did Chelsea Clinton. Omar apologized on Monday without exactly backing down, reaffirming "the problematic role of lobbyists in our politics, whether it be AIPAC, the NRA, or the fossil fuel industry." The following day, President Trump demanded she resign. Mike Pence called for "consequences." For a minute it seemed like it would be 2006 all over again, only potentially far uglier, since neither Mearsheimer nor Walt wore a hijab.

And then, suddenly, it didn't anymore. Leftist Jews rushed to Omar's defense, taking to the pages of the Guardian, Jacobin, and The Nation to declare that Omar was right about AIPAC, and that accusing her of anti-Semitism was opportunistic and absurd. Prominent liberal Jewish commentators refused to join the anti-Omar pile-on. Peter Beinart focused on "the sick double standard" of the attacks on Omar. Her tweets had been "irresponsible," he wrote, but her "fiercest critics in Congress are guiltier of bigotry than she is." Foreign Policy's David Rothkopf, who had shown little mercy to Mearsheimer and Walt, tweeted that while Omar's words had been "ill-considered," it was "vitally important we distinguish between criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism." And Jeremy Ben-Ami, chair of AIPAC's liberal rival J Street, dismissed the whole affair as "overblown," issuing a statement warning politicians to "refrain from labeling all criticism of Israeli actions or policies as 'anti-Semitic,' in a transparent effort to silence legitimate discussion."

By Wednesday, the story was no longer Omar, but the schism within the Democratic Party that the controversy had revealed. CNN, Slate, Politico, Time, and the The Washington Post all ran stories on the Democrats' Israel split, pointing out that only one of the seven Democrats vying for the presidency voted for Rubio's anti-BDS bill, and citing poll after poll finding Democratic voters' allegiance to Israel slipping.

That story has been developing for years, but what happened in Washington this week was something we haven't seen before. The imputation of anti-Semitism, an old and much-used tool, was suddenly revealed to be blunt. Critics of Israel have long understood that speaking too loudly would get them silenced and shunned. But Ilhan Omar is still standing. Let the arguing begin.

The End of History was always coming for Eretz Israel.

Posted by orrinj at 7:07 AM


Universal basic income: the idea that shows no sign of abating (ANTHONY PAINTER, 2/14/19, New Statesman)

Finland was the first country to launch a UBI trial in January 2017. The results of the country's two-year trial were published last Friday. The aim of a basic income - a universal, regular, unconditional flat-rate payment for all citizens - is to underpin economic security and enable personal wellbeing. At first glance, the initial results of the Finnish trial are promising. [...]

The most impressive long term trial, however, is Alaska's permanent dividend fund, where every Alaskan receives an annual unconditional cash payment. Economists at the University of Chicago studied the fund and found that the policy, which has been in place for almost forty years, has not reduced employment overall, and has increased part time employment as cash is recycled back into the Alaskan economy. It's unsurprising that Alaska's permanent universal divided fund had no adverse impact on work. The universal support of the NHS, for instance, has hardly frayed the UK's work ethic.

Four years of trials in Canada in the 1970s showed very positive impacts on health and education. The Canadian trials suggested that young men remained in education for longer, and young mothers were more likely to take a longer period of maternity leave. A Basic Income experiment among Cherokee Indians in North Carolina had similar positive effects.

Last week's data from the Finnish trials reveals a similar pattern. There was no detrimental impact on employment during the first year of the UBI trial. There were positive impacts on health and wellbeing, including on mental health. Levels of trust amongst basic income recipients improved - in others and in Government - and participants became more confident about their future work opportunities. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:03 AM



Germany's armed forces are struggling to attract much-needed recruits, with the number of new soldiers joining the Bundeswehr falling to an all-time low last year. The shortages are an urgent challenge for the German military, which has tried to boost its strength and capabilities at a time of record-low unemployment, and against fierce competition from both the private sector and institutions such as the police. [...]

The hiring difficulties were highlighted by the revelation that 21,500 officer and non-commissioned officer positions were vacant, according to a recent official Parliament report, which is a closely followed assessment of the Bundeswehr's strengths, weaknesses and challenges. Recruitment troubles aside, the report points to another critical but increasingly familiar failing: the poor state of military equipment and weaponry.

"My report for the year 2018 finds the personnel situation of the Bundeswehr is strained and the material situation still unsatisfactory," says Hans-Peter Bartels, the commissioner and author of the report. "I would like to say that spring has come, and everything has changed. But the truth is: This is still winter."

February 14, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 7:45 PM


Andrew McCabe's disturbing account of working for Sessions and Trump (Greg Miller, February 1, 2019, Washington Post)

He didn't read intelligence reports and mixed up classified material with what he had seen in newspaper clips. He seemed confused about the structure and purpose of organizations and became overwhelmed when meetings covered multiple subjects. He blamed immigrants for nearly every societal problem and uttered racist sentiments with shocking callousness.

This isn't how President Trump is depicted in a new book by former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe. Instead, it's McCabe's account of what it was like to work for then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

The FBI was better off when "you all only hired Irishmen," Sessions said in one diatribe about the bureau's workforce. "They were drunks but they could be trusted. Not like all those new people with nose rings and tattoos -- who knows what they're doing?"

It's a startling portrait that suggests that the Trump administration's reputation for baseness and dysfunction has, if anything, been understated and too narrowly attributed to the president. [...]

Inevitably, the book includes disturbing new detail about Trump's subservience to Russian President Vladimir Putin. During an Oval Office briefing in July 2017, Trump refused to believe U.S. intelligence reports that North Korea had test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile -- a test that Kim Jong Un had called a Fourth of July "gift" to "the arrogant Americans."

Trump dismissed the missile launch as a "hoax," McCabe writes. "He thought that North Korea did not have the capability to launch such missiles. He said he knew this because Vladimir Putin had told him so." [...]

Sessions "believed that Islam -- inherently -- advocated extremism" and ceaselessly sought to draw connections between crime and immigration. "Where's he from?" was his first question about a suspect. The next: "Where are his parents from?"

Posted by orrinj at 6:33 PM


Paul Manafort Keeps Lying About Russia Collusion. Is It to Protect Donald Trump? (Jonathan Chait, 2/14/19, New York)

When the first Manafort indictment came down in 2017, the Wall Street Journal reassured its readers that Trump was guilty of nothing more than "poor judgement" in hiring a "notorious Beltway operator," as it called the man who had been directing Russian overseas political operations in Ukraine. "One popular theory is that Mr. Mueller is throwing the book at Mr. Manafort so he will cop a plea and tell what he knows about Russian-Trump campaign chicanery," reasoned an editorial. "But that assumes he knows something that to date no Congressional investigation has found."

The next year, a gimmick filing by Manafort's attorneys seized on the fact that prosecutors had not charged him with colluding with Russia yet to present him as innocent. Mollie Hemingway breathlessly wrote it up in the Federalist. Manafort's "legal team also reveals the government has provided no evidence of any contact between Manafort and Russian officials," she declared. Former George W. Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer, impressed by this "evidence," declared, "If Manafort did not illegally collide [sic] with Russia, it's hard to imagine anyone who did."

Last summer, Byron York was still proclaiming, "There's no collusion in the case against Manafort."

This defense has been smashed to pieces. 

Here's the Real Reason Robert Mueller Thinks Paul Manafort Lied To Prosecutors (Colin Kalmbacher, February 14th, 2019, Law & Crime)

As Law&Crime previously reported, a birds-eye review of the hearing suggests that Manafort's lie not only had to do with exactly the Kilimnik allegation-but includes cinematic levels of intrigue as well. Enter: the Midtown Manhattan members-only club, the Grand Havana Room.

Kilimnik, in mid-2016, offered to meet with Manafort and the meeting that occurred was the one at the Grand Havana Room. Apparently, former Trump campaign deputy chair Rick Gates and Manafort printed something for the meeting, but Mueller's redactions ensure that we don't know what was printed. The operating theory is that the alleged poll data exchange happened at the Grand Havana Room on August 2, 2016 for a purpose Manafort would later "lie" about.

Manafort, by way of his attorneys, repeatedly argued that he did not intentionally lie. A last-ditch effort from the defense on Wednesday went so far as to accuse Mueller's attorneys of dishonesty and of failing to understand federal law regarding false statements. That filing didn't work out so well for them.

Posted by orrinj at 5:51 PM


The Amnesty Omnibus 'Deal' Is The Exact Boondoggle Trump Ran Against (JOSH HAMMER, February 14, 2019, Daily Wire)

This bill is, frankly, a disaster. And, holding aside the noxious optics -- which Trump himself, merely a year ago, had pleged to never engage in again -- of signing yet another last-minute, massive omnibus boondoggle, the substance of the bill is so bad that it is not even remotely obvious how a concomitant declaration of a national emergency might sufficiently negate it. In fact, it almost assuredly could never counter this bill's bad provisions.

Two provisions, in particular, stand out.

If we had a Republican Party truly committed to securing our sovereignty and ending the ceaseless amnesty magnets fomented by the open-borders zealots and ruthlessly taken advantage of by the murderous cartels, then Section 224(a) of the bill would single-handedly be a dealbreaker. Here is the text of Section 224(a) (emphasis added):

None of the funds provided by this Act or any other Act, or provided from any accounts in the Treasury of the United States derived by the collection of fees available to the components funded by this Act, may be used by the Secretary of Homeland Security to place in detention, remove, refer for a decision whether to initiate removal proceedings, or initiate removal proceedings against a sponsor, potential sponsor, or member of a household of a sponsor or potential sponsor of an unaccompanied alien child ( as defined in section 462 (g) of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (6 U.S.C. 279(g))) based on information shared by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

As Jessica Vaughan of the Center for Immigration Studies stated in her above tweet, this amounts to a "de facto sanctuary" for anyone remotely near an "unaccompanied alien child." The ramifications of this provision are simply extraordinary. Unaccompanied alien children are already trafficked and exploited by the cartels to take advantage of our insane "credible fear" aslyum loophole regime. Furthermore, according to Vaughan, "ICE has estimated that 30-40 percent of the MS-13 members it has arrested in the last two years arrived as [unaccompanied alien children]." Remarkably, every "sponsor" or "potential sponsor" (emphasis added) of an unaccompanied alien child is shielded from being "place[d] in detention" or "remove[d]." This is insanity. Why are Republicans and this White House shilling for mass amnesty for MS-13 thugs? Why are we incentivizing the mass importation of MS-13 barbarians by the cartels?

But it gets worse. Unbelievably, the bill also provides largely Left-leaning local public officials in Texas's Rio Grande Valley with unilateral vetoes over the meager amounts of wall funding that the bill even authorizes. Section 232(a) of this bill states that "prior to use of any funds made available by this Act for the construction of physical barriers," the Department of Homeland Security "shall confer and seek to reach mutual agreement regarding the design and alignment of physical barriers within that city." The bill then specifies that it is "local elected officials" with whom the Department of Homeland Security must consult. Crucially, the bill actually only authorizes fencing for the Customs and Border Protection-designated Rio Grande Valley sector. But the Texas border counties in the Rio Grande Valley sector are generally heavily Democrat-leaning; as Daniel Horowitz laments, "These are the most liberal counties on the border (thanks to demographics of open borders itself!), and there is practically no local official who supports the wall in these counties."

Signing the bill itself undercuts the notion of an emergency.
Posted by orrinj at 3:34 PM


TVA defies Trump, votes to shut down two aging coal-fired power plants (STEVEN MUFSON, 2/14/19,  WASHINGTON POST)

The Tennessee Valley Authority board of directors voted to shut down two aging coal-fired power plants, defying a tweet from President Trump on Monday urging the agency to keep one of them open.

The TVA directors voted overwhelmingly to close the Paradise 3 and Bull Run plants. Three of the four people appointed by Trump to the board joined the majority voting to close down the coal units.

"It is not about coal. This decision is about economics," TVA Chief Executive Bill Johnson said.

Posted by orrinj at 12:59 PM


Why Did Republicans Vote Against Their Own Bill On Anti-Semitism? (Ron Kampeas, February 14, 2019, The Forward)

Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives were in the odd position Wednesday of voting against a bill that included an initiative to combat anti-Semitism, a measure they initially insisted was in the national security interests of the United States.

Posted by orrinj at 4:12 AM


Conspiracy Theorist And Frequent Presidential Candidate Lyndon LaRouche Dies At 96 (JAMES DOUBEK, 2/14/18, NPR)

His philosophies varied over time, beginning with the far left and then swerving to the far right. Critics accused him of invoking anti-Semitic, racist or homophobic themes. He was prolific in his output of writings and speeches that frequently involved economics. He advocated "a just new world economic order" and imagined that world events were controlled by elites. [...]

More recently, LaRouche's organizations have advocated a theory that the U.K., rather than Russia, interfered in the 2016 U.S. election. [...]

Dennis King, author of the book Lyndon LaRouche and the New American Fascism, told Fresh Air in 1989 that LaRouche's success in finding supporters shows Americans' "extreme vulnerability to manipulation and infiltration and influence by a cleverly disguised right-wing extremist movement."

King said LaRouche and his supporters were "able to make in the 1980s almost unbelievable inroads into American public life."

LaRouche and his followers raised over $200 million and ran thousands of candidates for offices across the country, according to King, "more candidates than any extremist group in American history."

Here's an Insane Story About Roger Stone, Lyndon LaRouche, Vladimir Putin, and the Queen of England (SHILPA JINDIA, DECEMBER 21, 2018, Mother Jones)

Stone's recent association with LaRouche is consistent with his decades-long evolution from a mainstream GOP operative to an advocate and ally of the conspiratorial and political fringe. Stone is reportedly being investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is examining his possible interactions during the 2016 campaign with WikiLeaks ahead of its releases of emails stolen by Russian government hackers. (Mueller himself is no stranger to LaRouche; he was a key player in the 1980s investigation that sent LaRouche to jail.) Despite all the scrutiny over Stone's role in the 2016 campaign, his alignment with a political group that the Heritage Foundation once described as a "strange asset for the KGB's disinformation effort" remains a little-examined aspect of his recent activities.

Also under-examined has been a tantalizing clue about possible ties between LaRouche's organization and Moscow. Buried in Christopher Steele's dossier on Trump's possible links to Russia was an August 2016 report with this allegation: A "Kremlin official involved in US relations" had claimed that Russia facilitated a LaRouche delegation's trip to Moscow, offering members of LaRouche's group assistance and enlisting them in an effort to disseminate "compromising information" as part of the Kremlin's 2016 influence campaign. A lawyer with ties to both Stone and LaRouche's network has claimed that he introduced Stone to a key LaRouche aide in early 2016, as Trump began to secure the Republican nomination.

While Stone's interactions with the LaRouche crowd may at first blush seem bizarre, Stone himself has long been a conspiracy theorist. In 2014, he published a book claiming that Lyndon B. Johnson was behind the assassination of John F. Kennedy. And in recent years, he has forged a political alliance with Alex Jones, the chieftain of Infowars who has peddled noxious conspiracy theories, including the claim that the 2012 Newtown massacre was a hoax.

Posted by orrinj at 4:03 AM


CLASS STRUGGLE AND THE DREAMLIFE OF TRUMP NATIONAL: Indignant solidarity for my fellow golf-club workers (Paul Berman, February 13, 2019, The Tablet)

At age 16, I graduated from mowing the neighbors' lawns and watering their plants to my first real job, which was clearing tables and washing dishes at a college cafeteria, and then to a still better job, with looser hours and wider vistas, as golf caddy at Trump National Golf Club Westchester, known in those days as the Briar Hall Golf and Country Club, in Briarcliff Manor, New York. My career at the cafeteria was brief. During perhaps my second or third day on the job, I noticed that we cafeteria workers were entirely at the mercy of our supervisors, and we were not as well-remunerated as seemed to me just, and, furthermore, many of us, though not me, were members of a cruelly oppressed racial minority--notably the cooks, who were significantly older than 16, with power over the kitchen and impressive skills. And we ought to resist oppression.

I proposed unionization, to be achieved through militant action. And, a week or two later, I was, in a phrase that puzzled me, "let go." I never gathered the courage to tell my parents what had happened. I was ashamed to have lost my first job.

I was proud of the next job, though. After school when the afternoons were long, or on weekends and over the summer, I made my way to the caddy shack at the golf club and sat patiently on a bench until all the caddies with greater status than me had been called, and my turn at last came up. I threw a canvas golf bag, or maybe a leather bag, over my left shoulder and trundled around nine holes of the course, or around all 18 holes, in the footsteps of whomever I was serving.

Sometimes, I was asked to carry two bags, which was difficult. My right shoulder was not as adept and horizontal as my left one, which allowed the bag to slide off. Two bags were heavy, and if they were plush leather and filled with extra and peculiar clubs, a 5-wood or 1-iron or an alternative putter, they were more than I could handle. No one took pity on me. The golfers strode about in their golfing attire and chatted among themselves and said almost nothing to me, apart from issuing orders. Nor were the other caddies full of talk. I labored. Zealously I tramped about in the weeds, looking for lost balls. And I set off along the fairways.

The slopes were ocean seas. The green grass brushed at my toes and parted in foamy waves, and a brine of the freshly mown swept over my cheeks, and I floated along with everyone else from tee to green, and tee to green, almost in silence, except for the regular thwack of the club blades hitting the balls, and snatches of conversation. Some of those golfers were laughably awkward at the game, the women especially, out for the first time, perhaps, on a golf course, unsure how to stand or swing. But we caddies knew how to stand, which was upright with the bags in front of us, like Civil War soldiers at parade rest in the war memorials, wordless, expressionless, snickerless, and reliable.

Best were Tuesday afternoons, when the greenkeepers irrigated the lawns and undertook repairs. The course was closed to the club members, and the caddies were allowed their day. Only a handful of us showed up for those afternoons, mostly the high school boys, and we wandered the course alone, past the noisy lawn tractors and the water sprinklers, carrying our own bags. I owned a set of nine or 10 mismatched clubs and was always well-stocked with the slightly damaged balls that I gleaned from the roughs, and the banged-up wooden tees that were everywhere to be found, and a leather fingerless glove, and that was sufficient.

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 AM


Republicans can hate the 'Green New Deal' or they can compete with it (Eddie Scarry, February 08, 2019, Washington Examiner)

Ronald Reagan is dead. Along with him, the version of conservative politics that says, "Cut taxes, let freedom ring, and everything else is up to you."

An NBC-Wall Street Journal poll last year found that about 60 percent of Americans agreed with the statement, "Government should do more to solve problems and help meet the needs of people."

The average person has no idea how to go about helping "meet the needs of people," but they know the answer they don't want to hear is, "The government just screws everything up so you're better off figuring that one out on your own."

Conservative Republicans for too long have framed elections as a choice between getting free stuff from Democrats or getting a smaller government from the GOP, a position that seems to suggest there is no alternative to "bad government" or "no government." Is there a "halfway decent government" option?

The current healthcare system is a sham, constructed in a way that allows both hospitals and insurance companies to bilk their patients. For all its problems and unpopularity, Obamacare attempted to expand healthcare access. The Republican attempt to fix the law, such as it was, was to give little bits of money to people so they might have enough to buy their own insurance. Which one of those sounds better to you? [...]

The "Green New Deal" is a bad idea. But it's an idea, nonetheless. And the country has shown it's willing to try new things if it might make lives better.

Republicans should learn that quickly, or lose.

One of the biggest problems with the anti-government argument is that we've been rather well-governed since 1981.  Look no further than the way W and Ben Bernanke saved us from Great Recession or even Depression and it becomes awfully hard to coherently argue against effective governance.

And a GOP Green Plan virtually writes itself: replace income taxes with consumption taxes, particularly punitive ones on gas, coal, etc..

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