August 14, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 7:22 PM


Analyst: Renewable energy will be 'effectively free' by 2030 (BRYAN CLARK, 8/14/18, Next Web)

Analysts at Swiss investment bank UBS believe that by 2030, we could all be living without much of a carbon footprint -- at least at home. The analysts believe that the cost of renewable energy will continue to dive heading into the next decade, and that by 2030, costs will be so low they will "effectively be free," according to new research published this morning in the Financial Times (paywall).

The analysis explained that solar and wind farms are getting bigger a move that is "great news for the planet, and probably also for the economy." With its increased popularity among consumers and, more importantly, energy providers, the economics of scale come into play. With declining prices, it makes little sense to ignore alternative energy sources, especially those that are renewable.

Posted by orrinj at 7:20 PM


Is God Dead... or is it Nietzsche? (Donald Devine, 8/12/18, Imaginative Conservative)

It turns out the authoritative Pew Research Center had just completed a comprehensive study of 24,000 people in fifteen Western European countries finding, as most everyone thought they knew, that most Europeans were religiously non-practicing, with only one-fifth attending religious services monthly or more.[4] Yet, contrary to expectations, 71 percent of Europeans insisted they were still Christian, with 65 percent believing in God or a higher power, and 51 percent saying they pray. Moreover, 70 percent said they were raising their children as Christians.

There were differences by country. In Italy 40 percent did attend church regularly (and another 40 percent were non-attending Christians), with 35 percent attending church in Portugal, 34 percent in Ireland, 28 percent in Austria, and 27 percent in Switzerland (Poland was not included in the survey), all near U.S. levels. There was a very distinct north-south and Protestant-Catholic difference: In the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Belgium, and Denmark only one-in-ten attended regularly and four-in-ten were unaffiliated with religion. Only Netherlands had a non-Christian plurality but even there only 17 percent said they were specifically atheist or agnostic.

The British magazine Christian Today was intrigued by the study finding that European Christians were more likely to "express anti-Muslim and anti-Jewish views" than those not affiliated with religion, although it is hardly surprising that those with stronger beliefs would be more protective of their values.[5] Specifically the study asked whether it was important to have a British family background or to have Muslims or Jews accepted into their families. Was this simple prejudice or perhaps not wanting daughters pressured into hijab or prohibited from shaking hands with men?

The Atlantic magazine's intriguing headline about the Pew study was "Atheists Are Sometimes More Religious than Christians."[6] It noted that many religiously unaffiliated were still religious in many ways. Even more "striking" was that American religiously unaffiliated were "as religious as--or even more religious than--Christians in several European countries, including France, Germany, and the U.K." "The notion that religiously unaffiliated people can be religious at all may seem contradictory, but if you disaffiliate from organized religion it does not necessarily mean you've sworn off belief in God, say, or prayer."

...who would be affiliated with the Institution?

Posted by orrinj at 7:17 PM


Few Have Genuine Allergy to Penicillin (Kate Furby, 8/10/18, The Washington Post)

Ten percent of all patients in the United States claim to have a penicillin allergy. Of those people, 90 percent are not truly allergic and can tolerate the drug. That means millions of people take alternative antibiotics, which are more expensive and can put their health and potentially the health of others at risk. The solution is a simple allergy test.

A study in the British Medical Journal looked at six years' worth of medical records for patients in the United Kingdom and found that those with a penicillin allergy had an almost 70 percent greater chance of acquiring a methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection and a 26 percent increased risk of Clostridium difficile-related colitis (C. diff.). MRSA and C. diff. are major health risks worldwide. The study compared adults with a known penicillin allergy to similar people without a known penicillin allergy.

Posted by orrinj at 6:25 PM


Trump Wants to Destroy the World Order. So What? : Whatever the U.S. president's intentions, his efforts to rock the foundation of international politics are hopeless.  (JAMES KIRCHICK,  JULY 26, 2018, Foreign Policy)

Were Trump to exist in a different political system, one with fewer checks and balances and external limitations on a leader's power, he would be far more dangerous. Trump's behavior as a businessman, his authoritarian rhetoric, and his frequently expressed admiration for strongmen suggest dictatorial tendencies.

But as Trump would probably be the first to admit, running a democratic country--with a free media, independent judiciary, active civil society, energized opposition party, and regular elections--isn't at all like running a family business. If Trump were president of a banana republic like Venezuela, or a nonconsolidated democracy like Hungary, it would be much easier for him to single-handedly undermine his country's democratic institutions and geopolitically reorient it away from the free world. Fortunately, Trump--however despotic his inclinations--is the democratically elected leader of the world's oldest constitutional republic, and his attempts to undo the seven-decade-old liberal world order that republic built and sustained have thus far largely been frustrated.

The primary reason for this is that, at least in the realm of foreign and defense policy, Trump has either been unwilling or unable to staff his administration with like-minded "America First" nationalists. The U.S. diplomatic and security apparatus is a behemoth, comprising tens of thousands of people, and it requires a great number of ideologically committed and bureaucratically skilled individuals to transform America's world role in the way Trump desires. Beginning with Defense Secretary James Mattis, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, National Security Advisor John Bolton, and continuing further down the bureaucratic chain to Wess Mitchell, the assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, and Fiona Hill, the National Security Council senior director for European and Russian affairs, there is no one in the upper echelons of the U.S. diplomatic and military firmament who even remotely shares the president's antipathy to the EU, NATO, or U.S. global leadership, never mind his bizarre affinity for Putin. (The role of these patriotic officials in restraining Trump's worst impulses, and the likelihood of their replacement by incompetent and obsequious ideologues, makes the recurring calls for them to resign shortsighted.) Until he was fired last summer, Steve Bannon was the closest thing Trump had to an advisor capable of translating his gut prejudices, conspiratorial delusions, and half-baked proposals about the world into actual policies. For a taste of the damage Bannon might have wreaked were he still in the White House, look to Brussels, where he has decamped to set up a nationalist political network he claims will rival George Soros's Open Society Foundations.

Absent Bannon whispering in his ear, Trump's ability to wreck the liberal world order hinges upon the degree to which he can translate his nationalistic, zero-sum worldview into actions on the world stage. Thus far, the damage he has done is mostly rhetorical. And nowhere has the gap between wild presidential rhetoric and actual governmental deeds been more apparent than Russia. The media's obsessive coverage of the Trump-Putin summit as if it were a major title boxing match--with television news outlets dispatching entire teams to Helsinki for nonstop coverage--exemplifies its simplistic reduction of U.S.-Russia relations to mere personalities and is seriously distorting analysis. For all the talk of Trump's "treasonous" behavior last week (and it was indeed morally despicable), there were no actual U.S. policy concessions to Russia as a result of his disastrous performance. From expulsions of Russian diplomats to sanctions on Russian individuals and entities to Ukrainian arms sales and increased support for--yes-- NATO, the posture of the United States toward Russia is tougher than it has ever been since the end of the Cold War. "Trump and the U.S. are not exactly the same thing right now," a person close to a Russian business tycoon recently lamented to the Financial Times, with more than a little understatement.

A common misperception of presidents (not least Trump's predecessor) is that they can change the world by their mere presence on the international stage. By treating Trump's rhetoric as if it constitutes policy, many are essentially endorsing a simplistic "great man theory" of history. Writing in Foreign Affairs, Celeste Wallander, a former National Security Council staffer under President Barack Obama, says that because of Trump's comportment, "Americans must face the fact that the biggest threat to NATO today may be the United States itself"--not the country that has perpetrated the first territorial annexation on European soil since World War II, whose military doctrine paints NATO as its main adversary, and that simulates nuclear strikes on NATO territory. If the biggest threat to NATO is its most powerful member, the other nations in the alliance certainly are not acting like it.

Yes, a handful of European leaders--namely German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her foreign minister, Heiko Maas--have repeatedly made statements to the effect that Europe can no longer fully depend on the United States as it used to in the past. But like Trump's alleged single-handed destruction of the liberal world order, their pursuit of alternate arrangements to work around or replace the status quo has been almost entirely rhetorical. Aside from the activation of an EU defense collaboration initiative called PESCO ("Permanent Structured Cooperation"), which was envisioned long before the arrival of Trump and is not intended to replace NATO, there is little evidence to indicate that European policymakers are genuinely preparing for a post-American future. In Asia, meanwhile, "Trump's focus on China as a great-power rival will compel him or some future administration to refurbish and expand U.S. alliances rather than withdraw from them," Daniel Deudney and John Ikenberry write in Foreign Affairs.

Always bet on the Deep State.

Posted by orrinj at 2:20 PM


Posted by orrinj at 2:15 PM


Turkey's Economy is on a Collision Course with Reality (Jonah Shepp, 8/14/18, New York)

Turkey's economy has been on a collision course with reality for years, as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan bought his popularity with low interest rates and cheap credit, which has fueled several years of rapid growth in the country's real GDP. Unfortunately, it has also fueled high inflation and a massive current account deficit: All that growth was greased with easily available loans in foreign currencies, and with the collapse of the lira, that debt has suddenly become unmanageable.

The Turkish bonanza of the past few years can be easily blamed on foreign financiers, who saw Turkey and other developing economies as attractive investment destinations compared to the ultra-low-interest-rate environments being maintained by central banks in the United States and Europe. Now that interest rates are beginning to rise again in these more stable economies, investors are turning away from emerging markets again. [...]

Investors are wary of Turkey largely because they are wary of Erdogan: The strongman has run the country for the past 15 years (first as prime minister, and since 2014 as president) and in that time has grown increasingly paranoid and authoritarian. He appointed his son-in-law as minister of finance last month and has attacked the independence of the Turkish central bank. Investors are rightly concerned that a more authoritarian Turkey will be a riskier place to do business.

Erdogan also believes in voodoo economics: The purpose of his recent meddling with the central bank has been to prevent it from raising interest rates, which he believes to be the cause of inflation rather than a cure for it. For a while, it was possible to write this belief off as merely a product of his recognition that low rates mean faster growth and faster growth means more votes for Erdogan. Now, however, it is increasingly clear that Erdogan's opposition to high interest rates is more fundamental and philosophical, guided perhaps by the Islamic proscription against usury.

Posted by orrinj at 2:11 PM


New Omarosa Tape Lends More Credence to Possibility of Trump N-word Recording (Benjamin Hart, 8/14/18, New York)

During an October 2016 phone conversation that Manigault Newman surreptitiously recorded -- as was her wont during her Trump tenure -- she speaks about the possibility of the tape's release with Lynne Patton, who was then an aide to Eric Trump, campaign communications director Jason Miller, and spokeswoman Katrina Pierson.

From the CBS transcript:

"I am trying to find at least what context it was used in to help us maybe try to figure out a way to spin it," Pierson is heard saying.

Patton then described a conversation she had with then-candidate Trump about making the slur.

Patton: "I said, 'Well, sir, can you think of anytime where this happened?' And he said, 'no.'"

Omarosa: "Well, that is not true."

Patton: "He goes, how do you think I should handle it and I told him exactly what you just said, Omarosa, which is well, it depends on what scenario you are talking about. And he said, well, why don't you just go ahead and put it to bed."

Pierson: "He said. No, he said it. He is embarrassed by it."

Posted by orrinj at 1:59 PM


The Trump Administration Is Launching Stealth Attacks on Veterans (Eric Levitz, 8/14/18, New York)

Many veterans hail from humble backgrounds and enter the military early in adulthood, before they've had the opportunity to build much credit. For decades, this made them a prime target for unscrupulous lenders; according to Defense Department research, vets are four times more likely than other Americans to be exploited by payday lenders. The Pentagon claimed such practices hurt the morale of America's fighting forces, and thus, national security. In response, Congress passed the Military Lending Act (MLA), which bars lenders from charging military members an annual interest rate above 36 percent, forcing vets to settle legal disputes over loans through arbitration, or imposing penalties for early payment, among other restrictions.

After Elizabeth Warren pushed the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) into existence, the federal government stepped up enforcement of the MLA. In addition to investigating individual reports of abuse, the CFPB began conducting routine inspections of various lenders' practices -- essentially stopping and frisking shady financial institutions. Through this tactic and others, the CFPB has redistributed more than $130 million from abusive lenders to military members and their families since 2011.

But some of the Republican Party's best friends are abusive lenders. And so, according to documents obtained by the New York Times and NPR, the Trump administration will soon suspend the CFPB's efforts to enforce the MLA through proactive investigations; instead, the agency will merely react to individual reports of alleged malpractice.

This change will make it significantly easier for payday lenders to profit off of veterans' financial desperation with impunity. This fact is so plain, the administration is not even arguing that the CFPB's proactive investigations are unnecessary.

Posted by orrinj at 4:35 AM


Donald Trump and the disturbing power of dehumanizing language: Dehumanization is already prevalent in America. We don't need anyone -- especially Trump -- stoking it further. (Brian Resnick,  Aug 14, 2018, Vox)

As a president, Donald Trump can be erratic. But there's at least one area where he's consistent: using demeaning and dehumanizing language, especially when he's talking about refugees, immigrants, and his critics.

Here's the most recent example. On Tuesday, he tweeted this apparent attack against former White House staffer Omarosa Manigault-Newman, calling her a "dog."

Trump has been railing against the former Apprentice contestant for the past few days, calling her "wacky," "vicious," and "not smart," in retaliation for her tell-all book about her time in the White House.

All these attacks -- on a woman of color, in particular -- are concerning. But it's important to focus on Trump's propensity to compare those he does not like to animals, or inferior beings.

History and psychological science show us that when we refer to people as "animals" or anything other than "people," it can flip a mental switch in our minds. It may increase our anger and disgust toward them.

Posted by orrinj at 4:25 AM


Posted by orrinj at 4:24 AM


Fox compared 'socialist' Denmark to Venezuela, sparking a puzzled backlash from top officials (Rick Noack, August 14, 2018, Washington Post)

"Everyone in Denmark is working for the government," anchor Trish Regan announced in a segment aired last week. "And no one wants to work."

"Not only is school free; they actually pay you.... You know what happens then? Nobody graduates from school.... They just stay in school," Regan went on to say, referring to university-level education.

"Because that's the reality of socialism. As one person who studied Denmark said: Nowadays all the kids graduating from schools in Denmark, they want to start cupcake cafes," Regan said, before breaking into laughter. "Denmark -- like Venezuela -- has stripped people of their opportunities," the anchor concluded on a more serious note.

The Danish government wasn't very amused. "We are working much more than Americans and at the same time ranking as the worlds best in Work-Life-Balance," Danish Finance Minister Kristian Jensen wrote Monday on Twitter. Addressing the Fox Business Network anchor directly, he added: "You should come to Denmark if you dare be confronted with facts."

On the other hand, Denmark produces no decent baseball players.

Posted by orrinj at 4:24 AM


Stephen Miller is a product of "chain migration," his uncle says (Emily Stewart  Aug 13, 2018, Vox)

Stephen Miller, the senior policy adviser to the president and one of the ideologues pushing the administration's hardline immigration policies, is a product of the so-called "chain migration" he and President Donald Trump often deride. That's according to his uncle, who penned an essay in Politico outlining Miller's family's immigration story on Monday.

David Glosser, a retired neuropsychologist and Miller's uncle on his mother's side, detailed the story of how the family came to live in the United States. Miller's great-great-grandfather Wolf-Leib Glosser left the village of Antopol in what is now Belarus amid "violent anti-Jewish pogroms" there and came to the US. He landed on Ellis Island in 1903 and, over time, was able to bring over the rest of his family. [...]

I shudder at the thought of what would have become of the Glossers had the same policies Stephen so coolly espouses -- the travel ban, the radical decrease in refugees, the separation of children from their parents, and even talk of limiting citizenship for legal immigrants -- been in effect when Wolf-Leib made his desperate bid for freedom. The Glossers came to the US just a few years before the fear and prejudice of the "America First" nativists of the day closed U.S. borders to Jewish refugees. Had Wolf-Leib waited, his family would likely have been murdered by the Nazis along with all but seven of the 2,000 Jews who remained in Antopol. I would encourage Stephen to ask himself if the chanting, torch-bearing Nazis of Charlottesville, whose support his boss seems to court so cavalierly, do not envision a similar fate for him.

Posted by orrinj at 4:16 AM


Posted by orrinj at 4:11 AM


Erdoğan Tilts at Windmills as Lira's Decline Continues: The central bank took steps to halt the slide of the currency--but stayed mum about raising interest rates (KRISHNADEV CALAMUR, AUG 13, 2018, The Atlantic)

Although the lira's decline stemmed from a number of factors, the actual chain of events leading to the crisis is fairly straightforward. Turkey's economic growth came on the back of low interest rates and foreign capital. The low rates allowed Turkish companies to borrow money cheaply to finance projects. But corporate debt swelled to 70 percent of gross domestic product--one of the highest shares among major economies. Much of this borrowing was done in foreign currencies like the U.S. dollar--not in liras. This factor is one reason why Turkey's broader economy could be vulnerable as the lira continues to slide. The loans incurred by Turkish companies in U.S. dollars and other foreign currencies will now be more expensive to repay; profits will also be hit because of the depreciation.  

"This is a foreign currency crisis in its origin, but given the reliance of Turkey--both in the government and corporate sectors--on external finance, this could turn into a debt crisis which engulfs its banks," Hasnain Malik, the head of equity research at Exotix Capital, said Monday in a research note. "Because of the high participation of foreign banks and portfolio investors in Turkey, there are clear risks of contagion."

Investors would like to see Turkey's central bank raise interest rates (its benchmark rate is at 17.75 percent), address inflation (which is at 16 percent), and engage with multilateral lenders to keep the crisis from spreading. Erdoğan, however, has railed against higher interest rates. Turkey's central bank has stayed mum on rates, casting doubts about its independence. Erdoğan's appointment of his son-in-law as the country's finance minister hasn't inspired confidence either.   

Economists worry that Turkey's troubles could cause investors to start pulling money from other emerging economies. Other currencies fell Monday against the U.S. dollar, including the Indian rupee, which hit a record low, and the South African rand. Markets in Asia and Europe fell as well on Monday before recovering.

Posted by orrinj at 4:06 AM


Trump's Dangerous Obsession With Iran: Why Hostility Is Counterproductive (Steven Simon and Jonathan Stevenson, 8/13/18, Foreign Affairs)

The United States' treatment of Iran as a serious strategic competitor is deeply illogical. Iran imperils no core U.S. interests. It refrains from attacking U.S. forces or using terrorism to target U.S. assets or territory, coexists with the United States in Iraq with little friction, and has agreed to limits on its nuclear program. Tehran scarcely reacts to Israeli strikes on its assets in Syria, where it maintains only a small forward-deployed force supplemented by ragtag Afghan, Iraqi, and Syrian Shiite militias. Iran is economically beleaguered and militarily weak, and its navy is a coastal defense force, capable of disrupting shipping but not of seriously challenging the U.S. Fifth Fleet or the battle groups in the Pacific theater it can call upon in a crisis. According to independent, informed assessments, such as the International Institute for Strategic Studies' Military Balance, Iranian forces are plagued by outdated equipment, an inadequate defense-industrial base, and a large conscript army that is substantially undeployable on a large scale. Its air force flies planes incorporating 1960s technology, and it has virtually no amphibious capability.

Iran's annual defense spending, about $16 billion, or 3.7 percent of GDP, on both measures falls considerably short of Israel's, Saudi Arabia's, or the UAE's individually, and is positively dwarfed by their collective spending. Moreover, the United States' military capabilities overwhelm those of Iran on every conceivable measure. Although those capabilities are intended to support the United States' global interests, given U.S. forces' astounding operational effectiveness, honed in continuous warfare in the Middle East and Central Asia since 2011, any serious Iranian challenge to U.S. regional interests that could not be contained through diplomacy would be easily suppressed, even if it morphed into a long-term, low-intensity conflict marked by persistent Iranian terrorism. But of course that is why diplomacy is such an attractive alternative to the use of force.

Iran does have some high-end military capabilities: it has deployed a 2,000-kilometer range ballistic missile, fields the advanced Russian-made S-300 surface-to-air missile system, and is thought to have substantial cyberwarfare capabilities. But the latter is an asymmetric asset, scarcely a match for its U.S. and Israeli equivalents, and Syria's S-300s have not helped it defend against the Israeli Air Force, which destroyed its nuclear weapons infrastructure in 2007. Iran's ballistic missile program would be a serious threat if it were coupled with mass production of compatible nuclear warheads, but this is a distant concern as long as the JCPOA remains in force. Overall, Iran's ability to project military force in the region is severely limited. Iranian troops in Syria probably peaked at about 4,500, roughly equal to the 4,000 or so that the United States has deployed in the eastern part of the country. In Yemen, Iran's military presence is even smaller. In Iraq, there is a residual Iranian military presence because Iran was a combatant in the war against the Islamic State (ISIS). Even there, however, it has reportedly inserted only around 2,000 troops to complement the Shiite militias that it supports, and these assets seem to be overmatched by the presence of an estimated 5,000 U.S. military personnel.

The Iranian intrigues that so alarm the Trump administration mainly boil down to its influence with the Iraqi government and support for Shiite militias, its ongoing reinforcement of the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and its backing of the Houthi rebels in Yemen. Some would also throw in its support for Shiite groups in Bahrain, a vassal state of Saudi Arabia ruled by a Sunni minority. Yet Iran's foreign policy has evolved essentially on the basis of opportunistic realism rather than especially aggressive revisionism, and, as noted, it has a sparse military presence in the region.

Iran, to be sure, is theoretically a problem for the United States in Iraq. But the United States created that problem by overthrowing the Sunni minority government of Saddam Hussein, ushering in a Shiite-dominated Iraq that would inevitably be subject to Iranian influence. Trump must of course deal with Iranian clout in Iraq, but U.S. strategic interests do not demand overriding Washington's short-term need to stabilize the country. Recently, especially in the campaign against ISIS, the United States and Iran have been on the same side, and it appears that the Iraqi government has figured out how to work simultaneously with Washington and Tehran. There are still areas of clear U.S.-Iranian friction--Iraq, for instance, allows Iranian weapons to cross Iraq into Syria--but these are critical from Washington's point of view only if Iran's involvement in Syria poses a major threat to core U.S. interests, which it does not.

The main incoherence of US policy towards Iran remains the same as it has ever been; it is based on opposing democracy in the Middle East, which we treat as our main interest everywhere else on Earth. Essentially, we just remain petulant because of the hostage crisis.  But the generation behind the one in government won't even remember what it was.

Posted by orrinj at 3:57 AM


Turkey's Lira Crisis Tests Erdogan's Authoritarian Approach (Carlotta Gall, Aug. 13, 2018, NY Times)

Turkey's economic troubles, analysts say, are largely of Mr. Erdogan's own making. They have less to do with his dispute with the United States and the prospect of greater sanctions than with Mr. Erdogan's deepening economic interference as he attempts to bend the logic of monetary policy and global financial markets to suit his political purposes.

Yet while Mr. Erdogan asserts greater control over life in Turkey -- including the media, the judiciary, foreign policy and political decision-making -- it is far less clear that he can bully an economy increasingly beholden to global markets to submit to his will, they say.

Business leaders warn that the many strands of the president's authoritarian approach are intertwined, and that Turkey will not climb out of its hole until the country enacts major structural reforms that would undo many of Mr. Erdogan's constraints.

Those would include allowing a free press, an independent judiciary and returning powers to Parliament. Another step, the release of political prisoners, would help repair relations with Europe.

August 13, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 6:38 PM


Fact-checking Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's media blitz: The self-described "democratic socialist" keeps making statements that are false, misleading or incorrect. (Glenn Kessler, August 10, 2018, Washington Post)

For instance, in an appearance on CNN on Monday, when challenged on the costs of government-financed health care, she answered: "Why aren't we incorporating the cost of all the funeral expenses of those who died because they can't afford access to health care? That is part of the cost of our system."

Huh? [...]

"Unemployment is low because everyone has two jobs. Unemployment is low because people are working 60, 70, 80 hours a week and can barely feed their family."
-- interview on PBS's "Firing Line," July 13, 2018

This is an example of sweeping language -- "everyone has two jobs" -- that can get a rookie politician in trouble. She may personally know people who have two jobs, but the data is pretty clear that this statement is poppycock.

First of all, Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that the percentage of people working two jobs has actually declined since the Great Recession -- and been relatively steady at around 5 percent since 2010. The percentage bounced around a bit but it was as low as 4.7 percent in October 2017 and was 5.2 percent in the July jobs report, the most recent available. That hardly adds up to "everyone."
"After reaching a peak of 6.2 percent during 1995-96, the multiple job-holding rate began to recede," the BLS noted in a report. "By the mid-2000s, the rate had declined to 5.2 percent and remained close to that level from 2006 to 2009. In 2010, the multiple job-holding rate decreased to 4.9 percent and has remained at 4.9 percent or 5.0 percent from 2010 to 2017."

The July data shows most of these people juggling two jobs -- 58 percent -- have a primary job and a part-time job. Only 6 percent have two full-time jobs, which calls into question her claim that people are working "60, 70, 80 hours a week." Indeed, the average hours worked per week for private employees has remained steady at just under 35 hours for years.

"ICE is the only criminal investigative agency, the only enforcement agency in the United States, that has a bed quota. So ICE is required to fill 34,000 beds with detainees every single night and that number has only been increasing since 2009."
-- in an interview with the Intercepted podcast, May 30

As our friends at PolitiFact documented, this is an urban legend. There is language in the 2016 appropriations bill that requires ICE to have 34,000 beds available -- ICE "shall maintain a level of not less than 34,000 detention beds through September 30, 2016" -- but it is not required to fill them. The main point of such language, a version of which dated to 2009, is to make sure the money is not spent on something else. [...]

"They [national Democrats] were campaigning most when we had more of an American middle class. This upper-middle class is probably more moderate but that upper-middle class does not exist anymore in America."
-- interview on "Pod Save America," Aug. 7

Here's some more sweeping rhetoric. In knocking the current leaders of the Democrats, stuck in " '90s politics," Ocasio-Cortez said the "upper-middle class does not exist anymore."

But the data show that while the middle class overall may have shrunk a bit, the upper-middle class has actually grown. In a 2016 paper published by the Urban Institute, Stephen J. Rose documented that the upper-middle class has grown substantially, from 12.9 percent of the population in 1979 to 29.4 percent in 2014. His analysis showed that there was a massive shift in the center of gravity of the economy, with an increasing share of income going to the upper-middle class and rich.

Posted by orrinj at 4:12 PM

SMACKING DOWN BETA MALES (profanity alert):

The failure of the 2018 Unite the Right march shows that - for now - Antifa's tactics work (NICKY WOOLF, 8/13/18, New Statesman)

Remember, that this is an administration that cried foul at the supposed lack of "civility" shown by the staff at the Red Hen restaurant in Virginia, who quietly and politely asked White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave, but which refused to publicly condemn Heather Heyer's murderers.

Instead it has chosen to focus its ire on the Antifa movement, which aims to respond to neo-Nazi violence in kind, with sticks and fists. This tactic may be unseemly, but when the instruments of the state fail to clamp down on rising far-right agitators, it is unsurprising that a grassroots movement would rise up to fill the vacuum.

Whether the violent tactics of Antifa are the most moral option in the face of emboldened Nazi marchers is also one for debate by future historians. On one hand, their violent attacks against the Nazis marching in Charlottesville and at other white supremacist rallies like one in Berkeley just two weeks later gave Trump cover to pretend moral equilibrium between the two sides.

But on the other hand, those who said that stooping to their level would in some way undermine the counter-movement do not yet seem to have been proven right.

In the end, in Washington DC, the outer bands of a torrential rainstorm to the north of the city dampened this weekend's Unite the Right rally. Two dozen soggy white supremacists arrived at the White House flanked by rows of police officers, allocated for their protection from the masses of counter-protesters who gathered to show that they were not welcome, and from the black-clad Antifa in their midst.

The message seems to have gone out that, at least as far as the American people are concerned, Nazis will not be allowed to march through the streets with impunity.

Inside Omarosa's reign of terror (Jonathan Swan, 8/13/18, Axios)

[S]ome of the most powerful men in government were terrified of her. [...]

"I'm scared s[***]less of her... She's a physically intimidating presence," a male former colleague of Omarosa's told me. (He wouldn't let me use a more precise description of his former White House role because he admitted he's still scared of retribution from Omarosa. Other senior officials have admitted the same to me.)

"I never said no to her," the source added. "Anything she wanted, 'Yes, brilliant.' I'm afraid of her. I'm afraid of getting my ass kicked."

Three other former officials shared that sentiment: "One hundred percent, everyone was scared of her," said another former official.

The big picture: Trump has nobody to blame but himself for Omarosa's raucous book tour, in which she calls him a racist and a misogynist, and says he's in mental decline. Trump brought her into the White House at the senior-most level with the top salary. In many ways, two former senior administration officials pointed out, what Omarosa is doing now is pure Trump.

"She may be the purest of all the Trump characters," one told me. "She may be the most Trumpian. She knows media, she knows about physical presence, like Trump does...that's why I think he's rattled."

"The only reason Trump works is because he gives less of a crap than anybody in the world," the other source told me. "That's where she's at. She's totally undeterred by things that would freak out most people.

"She's out-Trumping Trump right now," the source added, before losing his train of thought in a fit of laughter.

Behind the scenes: Former chief of staff Reince Priebus made valiant efforts to keep Omarosa out of the Oval. And former press secretary Sean Spicer kept having to rebuff administrative officials who were lugging desks over to the West Wing to set up a personal workstation for Omarosa at her command.

But Omarosa answered to nobody. And senior staff told me last year they felt paralyzed because she was the only top-level official in the White House who was African-American.

On a weekend last April, Omarosa caused a security and ethics stir when she dropped into the White House in full bridal attire and with members of her bridal party to try to hold a wedding photoshoot in the Rose Garden and throughout the West Wing.

Faith-based protesters flock to Washington to counter white supremacists (Jack Jenkins, 8/12/18, RNS) 

Some religious groups have been actively fighting against racism throughout America's history, and a band of faith leaders and theologians were among the few who stared down white supremacists in Charlottesville last year. But a broad swath of religious groups began organizing ahead of this year's rally in Washington, hosting vigils, trainings and events. Auburn Seminary, the Council on American-Islamic Relations) and Bishop Michael Francis Burbidge of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Arlington, Va., also issued statements condemning racism, the planned white supremacist rally or both.

"Let us pray for those who shout 'Jews will not replace us' or 'you will not replace us,'" the Rev. William Barber of the Poor People's Campaign declared at a teach-in Friday at Washington Hebrew Congregation. He was referring to the haunting chant bellowed by white supremacists the year before as they marched with torches onto the University of Virginia campus -- all while, as Barber noted, a group of religious activists met to condemn racism in a church across the street.

"(We know) those who have been overcome by the insanity of hate and the insanity of racism. For we know it is a disease, a terrible disease of the spirit that diminishes the humanity of anyone it infects."

On Sunday, this blitz of faith-based activism was evident across the city, beginning with a "United to Love" rally on the National Mall organized by the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church. Dozens of attendees swayed and sang as a choir led the group in singing hymns, and some waved signs emblazoned with slogans such as "Jesus was black" and quotes from the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., such as, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that."

The event also included a sermon from the conference's Bishop LaTrelle Easterling, who stood silhouetted against the U.S. Capitol as she spoke. She repeatedly condemned racism and white supremacy, arguing that those who champion racism "betray God."

"Hate kills," she declared. "Hate destroys. Hate controls. Hate dominates. Hate imprisons. Hate legislates inequality. Hate hides behind religion and politics to promote oppression and inequality. Hate is not of God."

United Methodist Bishop LaTrelle Easterling preaches during the "United to Love" rally in Washington, D.C., in opposition to the "Unite the Right 2" white supremacist demonstration on August 12, 2018. RNS photo by Jack Jenkins

As she spoke, a lone white man walked up to demonstrators and began shouting racial slurs, insisting white supremacists will "rule the night." When security officials turned to face him, he quickly fled.

Posted by orrinj at 4:17 AM


The Prague Spring still haunts Europe : The human thirst for political rights, justice and national freedom is unquenchable (TONY BARBER, 8/13/18, Financial Times)

The Prague Spring seems far off because the geopolitical setting in which it took place is long gone. In 1968 the cold war divided Europe in two. Its eastern half languished under communism -- a repressive, dreary system of government imported from Moscow in the 1940s and not to be cast aside for another 21 years. Nowadays, the reborn Czech and Slovak states are independent, increasingly prosperous democracies and members of Nato and the EU.

Yet there are still lessons to be learnt from the Prague Spring. The first is that doctrinaire ideologies and political practices, whether they be 1960s-style communism or the intolerant dogmas of today's radical right and left, contain the seeds of their own downfall. They propose inadequate solutions to the complex problems of modern societies. They bully critics, deride experts and degrade reason. In so doing, they generate economic inefficiency, social tension and political discontent.

The second lesson is that the human thirst for political rights, justice and national freedom is unquenchable. This was on display throughout the communist era: East Berlin in 1953, Budapest in 1956, Prague in 1968, Gdansk in 1980 and across the Baltic states in 1988-91. The patriotism of Czechs and Slovaks is more civic than nationalist in nature. But the recovery of independence is one of their most cherished gains of 1989.

The third lesson is that political struggle need not be conducted, as in much of today's world, in the language of the gutter and with the manners of the yahoo. In 1968, Dubcek wore a permanent smile on his face and celebrated the dignity of the individual. He can be faulted for a naive faith that communism was reformable. But he had the last laugh when he returned to a hero's welcome on Wenceslas Square after the triumph of the 1989 Velvet Revolution.

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CHILE VS. VENEZUELA (Steven F. Hayward, 8/12/18, Powerline)

What's the difference between Chile and Venezuela? Socialism, sure, but we should take this point one large step further: the only reason Chile isn't also a socialist basket case is that it had a military coup in 1973 to prevent the socialist government of Salvador Allende from making Chile into the prototype for Hugo Chavez's Venezuela. Allende had every intention of following the same playbook of rigging elections and legislative bodies, subverting rival power structures, censoring the press and arresting opposition leaders, nationalizing industries and launching Chile's economy down the same road to oppressive mediocrity like all other socialist regimes.

Likewise, Spain's GDP per capita is triple Romania's, and so on.

Posted by orrinj at 4:02 AM


Under Trump, the rare act of denaturalizing U.S. citizens on the rise (BRITTNY MEJIA, AUG 12, 2018, LA Times)

The move comes at a time when Trump and top advisors have made it clear that they want to dramatically reduce immigration, both illegal and legal.

The administration granted fewer visas and accepted fewer refugees in 2017 than in previous years.

Recently, the federal government moved to block victims of gang violence and domestic abuse from claiming asylum. White House senior advisor Stephen Miller -- an immigration hawk -- is pushing a policy that could make it more difficult for those who have received public benefits, including Obamacare, to become citizens or green card holders, according to multiple news outlets.

Shusterman, now a private immigration attorney in L.A., said he's concerned denaturalization could be used as another tool to achieve the president's goals.

"I think they'll ... find people with very minor transgressions," he said, "and they'll take away their citizenship."

Dozens of U.S. mayors, including L.A.'s Eric Garcetti, signed a letter sent to the citizenship agency's director in late July, criticizing a backlog in naturalization applications and the agency's commitment of resources to "stripping citizenship from naturalized Americans."

"The new measure to investigate thousands of cases from almost 30 years ago, under the pretext of the incredibly minimal problem of fraud in citizenship applications, instead of managing resources in a manner that processes the backlogs before them, suggests that the agency is more interested in following an aggressive political agenda rather than its own mission," the letter stated.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


White House exploring legal options against Omarosa Manigault Newman for making secret recording in Situation Room (MERIDITH MCGRAW TARA PALMERI, Aug 12, 2018, ABC News)

Omarosa Manigault Newman's former White House colleagues are looking into legal options to stop her from releasing more tapes and to punish her for secretly recording her conversation with Chief of Staff Gen. John Kelly, White House officials tell ABC News.

August 12, 2018

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Steel users are frustrated by process of seeking tariff exemptions (David Nicklaus, 8/12/18,  St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

RotoMetrics, a cutting-die manufacturer in Eureka, thought it had a strong case for being exempted from President Donald Trump's steel tariffs.

Nearly three months after it started asking for such an exclusion, the company is still waiting for an answer.

So is Deutsche Precision, a transmission parts manufacturer in Maryland Heights. The Commerce Department took weeks to even post its exemption requests.

Both companies import thousands of tons of steel a year, and they continue to price and sell their products despite not knowing how much that steel will cost -- the price suppliers were charging before Trump announced his trade action in March, or 25 percent more to cover the tariffs.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said up front that companies could apply for exemptions "through a fair and transparent process" with decisions based on "whether a product is produced in the United States of a satisfactory quality or in a sufficient and reasonably available amount."

RotoMetrics buys 71 percent of its steel domestically. It asked for tariff exclusions on types of tool steel that aren't available in the U.S.

Deutsche Precision imports all of its steel from Italy and Japan. Carlo Ilardi, the company's general manager, said domestic mills can't meet its customers' specifications for hardness and purity.

Each firm must file a separate request for each size, grade or chemical composition of a steel product it imports. So far, that adds up to 72 requests by RotoMetrics and 14 by Deutsche Precision.

Ken McInnis, RotoMetrics' director of supply chain-Americas and global purchasing, says dozens of his requests were kicked back for being incomplete.

Of the requests that went through the required 30-day comment period, several drew objections from steel suppliers in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas that say they can meet RotoMetrics' needs.

McInnis has checked; they can't. "They had huge lead times and were charging three times the price," he said. "Financially, we can't pay that and be viable."

The process, though, provides no way for him to answer the steel companies' claims. An objection seems to stop the request in its tracks.

"The process has just been a fiasco," McInnis said. "They kill it even though it (an objection) is not legitimate."

Ilardi, too, is frustrated by the exemption process. "There's nobody to call. You just email an address and hope they will respond," he said.

Posted by orrinj at 12:17 PM


Omarosa Released A Secret Recording From When John Kelly Fired Her From The White House (Mary Ann Georgantopoulos, 8/12/18, BuzzFeed News)

On the recording, Kelly can be heard saying:

"There are pretty significant legal issues that we hope don't develop into something that, that'll make it ugly for you. But I think it's important to understand that if we make this a friendly departure we can all be, you know, you can look at, look at your time here in, in the White House as a year of service to the nation. And then you can go on without any type of difficulty in the future relative to your reputation. " [...]

On the one-year anniversary of the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Manigault Newman on Sunday said she was "totally complicit" when she defended the president after he blamed "both sides" for the violence.

"He should have been denouncing what we saw as clearly racist Nazis," she said Sunday

"I was complicit with this White House deceiving this nation, they continue to deceive this nation," she said.

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Posted by orrinj at 9:50 AM


The Left's Contempt for Jordan Peterson Is Perfectly Rational (Eric Levitz, 8/12/18, New York)

Is it actually the case that Peterson's argument against identity politics is profound, and that the left has no coherent reason for disdaining him on the basis of it?

To answer this query, let's take a look at what Peterson's own fans have identified as "his finest moment" -- his nutshell case for rejecting identity politics and embracing the individualist, "free market" traditions of "the West."

This viral clip from one of Peterson's lectures begins with the professor arguing that every single person in his audience is "oppressed." The ensuing rant is worth quoting at length:

God only knows why. Maybe you're too short, or you're not as beautiful as you could be, or, you know, your parent, your grandparent was a serf -- likely, because almost everbody's grand-, great-grandparent was. And you're not as smart as you could be. And you have a sick relative, and you have your own physical problems -- and it's like, frankly, you're a mess. And you're oppressed in every possible way including your ancestry and your biology. And the entire sum of human history has conspired to produce victimized you, with all your individual pathological problems. It's like: YES! TRUE! OKAY!

But the problem is that, if you take the oppressed, you have to fractionate them and fractionate them, and it's like: You're a woman? Yeah, okay -- well I'm a black woman. Well, I'm a black woman who has two children. Well, I'm a black woman who has two children, and one of them isn't very healthy. And then, well, I'm a Hispanic woman, and I have a genius son who doesn't have any money, so that he can't go to university -- and, you know, I had a hell of a time getting across the border. It was really hard on me to get my citizenship. My husband is an alcoholic brute. It's like, well, yeah, that sucks too. And so, let's fix all your oppression. And we'll take every single thing into account, and then we'll fix yours too. We'll take every single thing into account.

It's like: NO, you won't because you can't. You can't. It is technically impossible. First of all, you can't even list all the ways that you're oppressed. Second, how are you going to weight them? Third, who's going to decide? And that's the bloody thing: Who's gonna decide? That's the thing. 

Well, what's the answer in the West? It's like, in free markets ... We're going to outsource it to the marketplace. You're going to take your sorry pathetic being, and you're gonna try to offer me something that maybe I want. And I'm going to take my sorry pathetic being, and I'm gonna say, "well, all things considered, as well as I can understand them, maybe I could give you this much money", which is actually a promise for that thing. And you've packed all of your damn oppression into the price. And I packed all my oppression into the willingness to pay it. And that solution sucks. It's a bad solution. But compared to every other solution - man, it's why 10 percent of us have freedom!

Here, Peterson argues that seeking political solutions to problems of identity-based oppression is futile; that attempts to do so will inevitably bestow arbitrary powers on some tyrannical authority (Who's gonna decide?); and thus, that the best society can do is to maintain free markets, where all individuals can seek to transcend their oppression by selling goods and services that other individuals wish to buy.

This narrative rests on so many flimsy premises it's hard to know where to begin. Does Peterson genuinely believe that "free markets" are the best solution "the West" has found for a woman whose "genius son" can't afford to go to college? Or for a mother with a sick child? Is he unaware of the existence of public universities, and his home country's single-payer health-care system? Or does he not understand that people had to organize collectively -- around shared identities of oppression (as with workers in trade unions or people who suffer from disabilities, in lobbying groups) -- to bring these kinds of public goods into being? And is the question of "who will get to decide" whose oppression the state should prioritize redressing really so confounding? Didn't "the West" develop republican institutions precisely so that the people's elected representatives could adjudicate such claims, and be voted out of office if they do so in way that displeases a majority of the public?

But the core problem with Peterson's argument -- the one that best justifies the left's contempt for him -- is that it proceeds from the premise that it is impossible to draw a categorical distinction between oppressions that are rooted in race, gender, or class, and ineluctable misfortunes like "being less tall than one might prefer."

That is, of course, precisely the opposite of what Mr. Peterson said in the quoted excerpt (see bold).  It's rather easy to draw categorical distinctions.  When Donald Trump rages against immigrants, Muslims, etc. he's just drawing categorical distinctions. The Left and the Right, both being rational, simply believe themselves uniquely well-suited to drawing them and then basing public policy on them.

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