October 23, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 6:57 PM


Missing From Hacked Emails: Hillary Clinton Herself (PETER NICHOLAS,  COLLEEN MCCAIN NELSON and  BYRON TAU, Oct. 16, 2016, WSJ)

One person conspicuously absent so far in the thousands of hacked emails showing the internal workings of Hillary Clinton's presidential bid is Hillary Clinton herself.

Time and again, it is Mrs. Clinton's top aides who in a round robin of emails debate and shape major campaign speeches and strategy. When Mrs. Clinton is heard from, it typically is second hand: through an email sent by a confidante to other aides.

In the few missives that have emerged directly from Mrs. Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee usually makes arrangements for issues to be discussed in meetings and phone calls--and that is when she will make the final call on how to proceed.

It is a process that seems to be working. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:51 PM


Microsoft's tablet deal with the NFL has been a disaster (Daniel Roberts, October 21, 2016, Yahoo!)

The Microsoft Surface tablet is so bad that the best coach in the NFL would rather use paper. At least that's the opinion of New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, who has the best record of any current active coach, and who speaks out so rarely that any time he describes something in detail, it is instant catnip for the media. It may not be a fair review of the Surface, but unfortunately for Microsoft, it has become a major story this week.

On Tuesday, Belichick, notoriously stingy with answering questions, unloaded on the Surface tablets for a full five minutes in a team press conference. "I'm done with the tablets," he said. "They're just too undependable for me.... I'll use the paper pictures from here on, because I have given it my best shot." The tablets, which are used by coaches and players to view high-res photos of plays in-game, frequently fail to load the images. Belichick has run out of patience.

Posted by orrinj at 6:46 PM


Aussie Bank's 7000-Mile Blockchain Experiment Could Change Trade (Emily Cadman, October 23, 2016, Bloomberg)

As port staff scan the bales, an update to an electronic contract will be triggered, transferring ownership of the goods and authorizing the release of payment. The deceptively-simple sounding process is only possible because digital-ledger technology encrypts and stores the parameters of the contract, ensuring all parties are working off the same synchronized version, which cannot be unilaterally altered or tampered with.

This assurance allows the various phases of the transaction to be coded into the smart contract, and triggered automatically when certain conditions are met, without the need for a long-winded paper trail and human authorization. The experiment offers a glimpse into how transactions might one day be managed in the $4 trillion trade-finance industry, a global business that's been in the spotlight in recent years owing to high-profile fraud cases.

"This is a truly innovative step," said Scott Farrell, a Sydney-based partner at law firm King & Wood Mallesons who sits on the Australian government's financial technology advisory body. "This experiment turns up the dial," he said in a telephone interview.

While other banks have researched blockchain solutions for trade finance, Commonwealth Bank and Wells Fargo appear to be the only ones to publicly announce a real-world transaction for one of the most cumbersome processes in global finance. Reams of paper, faxed statements and multiple contracts typically follow the movement of goods around the world through the hands of exporters, shipping companies and importers -- and all of these must be kept synchronized.
As well as the risk of human error, the process is also highly vulnerable to fraud. Qingdao, where the ship will dock, was at the center of a multi-billion dollar scam in 2014. The Chinese government discovered that firms were taking advantage of inefficiencies in the paper-based system to use the same stockpile of metals to secure multiple loans.

"Trade finance is one the most clunky processes in business," Michael Eidel, head of transactions at Commonwealth Bank, said in an interview at the bank's office in Sydney. "It is ripe for disruption."

Posted by orrinj at 6:34 PM


Joe Everson- National Anthem & Action Painting from Joseph Everson on Vimeo.

Posted by orrinj at 6:29 PM


MIT researchers think we're a step closer to practical nuclear fusion (Dom Galeon, 18 October 2016, World Economic Forum)

Stable nuclear fusion involves a plasma's particle density, its confinement time, and its temperature, reaching a particular value (the "triply product") that keeps the reaction going. The plasma must be extremely hot (more than 30 million degrees Celsius) and it needs to be stable under intense pressure while remaining in a fixed volume. Adjusting the plasma pressure is most of the challenge.

Now, thanks to scientists working on the Alcator C-Mod tokamak fusion reactor at MIT, we are a step closer to controlling it.

The team managed to set a world record for plasma pressure inside the reactor, reaching over 2 atmospheres of pressure for the first time with a temperature of over 35 million Celsius. The record was set on the Alcator C-Mod reactor's final run, which is about to retire after 23 years of use.

Former deputy director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, Dale Meade, says the achievement of the Alcator C-Mod program takes us a step closer to a working fusion reactor.

"The record plasma pressure validates the high-magnetic-field approach as an attractive path to practical fusion energy," Meade said, according to MIT News.

Posted by orrinj at 6:20 PM


Even if Democrats win the Senate in 2016, their majority is unlikely to endure (Chris Cillizza October 23, 2016, washington Post) 

What few people talk about -- but should -- is that this could be a very short-lived majority for Senate Democrats, as the 2018 field is remarkably bad for them.

The numbers for that year are stunning: 25 Democratic or Democratic-affiliated independents are up for reelection, compared with just eight Republicans. That's as lopsided an election cycle as you will ever see.

But a look inside the numbers makes the Democrats' challenge in 2018 all the more daunting. Fully 20 percent of the 25 Democratic seats are in states that then-Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney carried in 2012 (and even Trump is likely to carry on Nov. 8): Indiana, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia.

All five Democratic incumbents in those states are expected to run for reelection, a prospect that gives Democrats a chance in each. But with 2018 looking almost certain to be the first midterm election of a Hillary Clinton presidency, it's hard to see how her party avoids major losses in red states. [...]

Some important historical context: In the first midterm election of President Obama's term, in 2010, Democrats lost 63 House seats and six Senate seats. In Bill Clinton's first midterm as president, in 1994, Democrats lost 54 House seats and eight Senate seats.

Posted by orrinj at 6:07 PM


Scotland paving renewable energy path in a big way (Stephen Edelstein, OCTOBER 23, 2016, CS Monitor)

Since August 7, Scotland has reportedly achieved 100-percent renewable power multiple times.

On a regular basis, more than half of Scotland's electricity comes from renewable sources, and the country is targeting a consistent 100 percent as soon as 2020.

Scotland's current position as a renewable-energy leader is the result of roughly a decade of concerted efforts to wean the country off fossil fuels.

Posted by orrinj at 6:02 PM


Tasting Apple Cider Vinegar (LAUREN SAVOIE,  SEPTEMBER 6, 2016, Cook's Illustrated)

Our favorite was a well-rounded, versatile vinegar that worked well in every recipe. Fortunately, it's also the one you're most likely to encounter at the supermarket. Heinz Filtered Apple Cider Vinegar enlivened pan sauce, tempered sweet slaw, and balanced barbecue sauce with its bright, moderate acidity and clear apple notes. At $0.17 an ounce, it's also one of the cheapest cider products we found, proving that you don't have to shell out extra for great apple cider vinegar.

Posted by orrinj at 9:46 AM


Russia's October Surprise : Its Failed Attempt to Hack the Election (Mitchell A. Orenstein, 10/23/16, Foreign Affairs)

Moscow's anger over the WikiLeaks debacle may be why it soon changed tack and escalated its verbal attacks against the United States over Syria. A few days after the leaks, Russia unleashed an exceptionally harsh barrage of threats when the United States pulled out of cease-fire negotiations in Syria. On October 10, for example, chief Russian propagandist Dmitry Kiselyov said that the United States' "impudent behavior" toward Russia could have "nuclear" implications and that there had been a "radical change" in U.S.-Russian relations in recent weeks. Vladimir Zhirinovsky, another of President Vladimir Putin's hatchet men, advised Americans to vote for Donald Trump or risk being dragged into a nuclear war. At the same time, Russia positioned nuclear-capable missiles in Kaliningrad, which borders Poland and Lithuania, and test-fired three ballistic missiles elsewhere, making clear that its war of words was coordinated with the threat of military action.

Perhaps Russia thought that its aggressive behavior would cow the American public into supporting Trump, who advocates more friendly relations with Russia. But in reality, Moscow's effort appears to have backfired.

More than anything, all the leaks this year have shown why everything should just be open-sourced.

Posted by orrinj at 9:33 AM


Continetti: Hacked Emails Confirm Clinton as Calculating, Transactional Politician (David Rutz, October 23, 2016, Free Beacon)

"What's fascinating to me about these emails is it kind of confirms a lot of things we already knew about Hillary Clinton," Continetti said. "She's a very cautious, very calculating politician who is also very transactional. So whether it's giving a speech in return for a $12 million donation or maybe even favor-trading ... This is who Hillary Clinton is, and that type of personality and those traits would follow her into the White House if she wins."

It's why her Republican colleagues have always liked her so much.

Posted by orrinj at 9:24 AM


The Art of the Box Score : It's hard to enjoy baseball if you don't know what you're looking for. And the box score teaches you how to do just that. (Kelsey McKinney, 10/17/16, )

My dad only uses blue pens, the type that come in packs of twelve and have nibs a little too big so that the ink runs together if you don't write in blocky capitals like he does, especially if the pen has overheated in the afternoon sun. He'd have them in the front pocket of his shirt when we'd scramble out of the car with our gloves and our snacks. Tickets in hand, we'd weave through the crowds into the Rangers' Ballpark in Arlington that my dad called the Temple and find a spot in the blistering hot stands to watch batting practice.

The pen would come out when the screen in center field showed the names of that afternoon's lineup. Together, we would build the box. He would draw the lines for the innings, write the names on the left hand side of the yellow legal pad, sing the national anthem. The box score, when finished, looked like a cluster of small squares, one per batter per at bat. At the top, inning numbers labeled the vertical columns. The horizontal columns showed each batter's performance. In the printed versions that come with the five-dollar game program, each box would have a diamond printed to represent the field. But I don't remember using those. We always drew ours. 

Once the box was drawn, we would wait. In the shoeboxes full of keepsakes I've moved from apartment to apartment, from where I grew up in Texas to a big coastal city, there are dozens of these yellow pieces of paper. The ink has faded now, but it was smudged to begin with--the running blue lines falling into each other in my uncertain childhood hand.

..then again, he did the Times Crossword that way too.

Posted by orrinj at 9:21 AM


Adrift in the Present: On Mark Lilla's "The Shipwrecked Mind" (Nikita Lalwani, Sam Winter-Levy, OCTOBER 23, 2016, LA Review of Books)

"Many have attempted to understand the revolutionary mind," writes Lilla, a professor of humanities at Columbia University, "yet few have studied the reactionary one." But the two are not so different. Both feel adrift in the present. Yet while the revolutionary sees the promised land in the future, the reactionary locates it somewhere in the past -- in a Golden Age that man, to his detriment, has chosen to forsake. "The reactionary mind is a shipwrecked mind," Lilla writes. "Where others see the river of time flowing as it always has, the reactionary sees the debris of paradise drifting past his eyes."

The term "reaction," borrowed from science, entered the political vocabulary in the 18th century. "But after the French Revolution," Lilla writes, "the term acquired the negative connotation it holds today; the Jacobins used it to dismiss anyone who refused to acknowledge the forward march of history toward human emancipation." Reactionaries, Lilla notes, are not conservatives: in their desire to radically uproot the current political order, they share more in common with revolutionaries than with those who seek to preserve the status quo. So it should not be surprising that alongside right-wing reactionaries, such as the journalist Éric Zemmour, Lilla also profiles leftists, such as the Maoist-Leninist philosopher Alain Badiou. (Badiou is a reactionary who wants to return to an age of revolutionaries, a member of a class of European leftists who have "never gotten over the collapse of the revolutionary political expectations raised in the 1960s and 1970s.")

Posted by orrinj at 9:19 AM


America is still way better off than China (James Pethokoukis, 10/23/16, American Enterprise Institute )

Of course, India and China -- although they've made huge strides forward in recent decades -- remain poor countries compared to the United States. Starting from such a low base, then, they have the capability to growth very fast as they play catch up to advanced economies like America's. On a per capita income basis, China is about as tenth as rich as America, India one-twentieth. And that may actually overstate things, according to research recently published by Charles Jones and Peter Klenow(and highlighted in Ben Bernanke's blog). Jones and Klenow prefer a broader measure of living standards that "combines data on consumption, leisure, inequality, and mortality using the standard economics of expected utility." On based of that standard, China and India only do about half as well as judging by per capital income.

Another interesting finding -- in addition to the gap between the US and Europe being smaller if judged by economic welfare -- dispels the notion that Americans are worse off than a generation ago. 

Posted by orrinj at 9:11 AM


To Win the House, Democrats Need to Change Their Message : Appealing to more moderate voters, not changing district lines, is the path to controlling the lower chamber. (Josh Kraushaar,  Oct. 23, 2016, National Journal)

One of the Demo­crat­ic Party's biggest pri­or­it­ies after this elec­tion is to re­draw con­gres­sion­al lines in states where Re­pub­lic­ans have cre­ated bound­ar­ies to their polit­ic­al ad­vant­age. The ef­fort shouldn't be a sur­prise, even as the party over­states the num­ber of seats that could change hands by changes in polit­ic­al geo­graphy. But it's a telling peek at how the Demo­crats would rather make sys­tem­ic changes so they can main­tain their lib­er­al ideo­logy than nudge the party to the middle so it can com­pete in dozens of GOP-lean­ing seats.

The Demo­crats' dis­ad­vant­age in the House isn't primar­ily a res­ult of re­dis­trict­ing. It's be­cause non­white and lib­er­al voters tend to cluster in dense urb­an areas, di­lut­ing their polit­ic­al im­pact. Re­pub­lic­ans cur­rently hold 246 seats in the House, the highest level of rep­res­ent­a­tion since the Hoover ad­min­is­tra­tion. Even if Demo­crats sweep in­to power in or­der to re­draw state maps after the 2020 elec­tions, they'll make only a small dent in the GOP's fun­da­ment­al ad­vant­ages. (And that's not even tak­ing in­to ac­count that Demo­crats already have drawn con­gres­sion­al dis­trict lines in a par­tis­an man­ner in Illinois and Mary­land.)

The GOP will certainly do well in the '18 midterm, because the size of this rout will sweep out many seats they hold naturally under normal circumstances.  But the size of the reverse tide will be determined by how far Hillary veers from the center towards the left. Indeed, her own fairly bleak shot at re-election depends on same.

Posted by orrinj at 9:05 AM


South Korea may rent Israeli satellite to spy on North -- report (STUART WINER October 23, 2016, Times of Israel)

South Korea is reportedly considering using an Israeli spy satellite to peek at North Korea's military and nuclear facilities as it ramps up its defense capabilities in response to threats from Pyongyang.

Posted by orrinj at 8:58 AM


71-YEAR ITCH: CUBS' PENNANT OVERDUE (Manny Randhawa, 10/23/16, Sports on Earth)

Let's begin with the length of the season: The ten Cubs teams that had reached the World Series from '06 to '45 played 154-game seasons. The 1918 club, which lost to Babe Ruth and the Red Sox in the Fall Classic, played 131 games in a season shortened due to World War I.

Following the regular season, each of those teams advanced to the World Series against the American League champion. As you know, there were no playoffs in between; the clubs from each league with the best win-loss record at the end of the regular season played each other for the championship.

Of course, today's road to the World Series is much more rigorous: 162 games and three playoff rounds (which includes the Wild Card Games). This year, the Cubs had to play 18 more games than their predecessors did before reaching the best-of-seven World Series.

From the introduction of the Wild Card in 1995 through 2015, the club with the NL's best record won the pennant only five times (just once over the final 12 seasons in that period). In other words, the postseason has been a minefield for teams like the Cubs over the past two decades.

Along with the lengthened season and proliferation of teams to beat in the playoffs, this year's Cubs are playing a different game than any other squad in franchise history that got to the World Series.

One of the most pronounced changes is the quality of pitching and usage of bullpens: The '16 Cubs faced 300 different pitchers during the regular season. The '45 Cubs faced 92, the '38 Cubs faced 77, the '35 Cubs faced 76, the '32 Cubs faced 68, the '29 Cubs faced 77 and the '18 Cubs faced 66.

This season's Cubs had to go up against hurlers that threw much harder, on average, than those their predecessors faced. Today's pitchers also have a larger repertoire in their arsenals. The result? In 2016, Major League hitters struck out 8.1 times per nine innings (a record), and pitchers struck out an opposing hitter 21.1 percent of the time (also an all-time high). A change in how hitters approach their craft has something to do with that (only during the 2000 season were more homers hit across the Majors). But pitching has become tougher, nonetheless.

In 1945, the strikeouts-per-nine-innings ratio was 3.15, and pitchers struck out 8.1 percent of the batters they faced. Every other Cubs team to reach the World Series going back to 1918 did so in a season during which the K/9 ratio was between 2.9 and 4.6; the percentage of batters that struck out was within the range of 7.2 to 8.7.

All of this is not to mention the fact that this year's Cubs had to get through the likes of Madison Bumgarner (arguably the greatest postseason pitcher in baseball history) and Clayton Kershaw (the best pitcher on the planet) twice just to reach the World Series, beating Kershaw in the pennant-clinching Game 6 of the NLCS.

Posted by orrinj at 8:17 AM


Tim Kaine already reaching out to GOP' (KATHLEEN RONAYNE AND ALAN SUDERMAN, October 23, 2016, AP)

The vice presidential candidate told The Associated Press on Saturday that he and Hillary Clinton have already spoken about how to heal the nation if they should win. He said tackling economic anxieties, finding common policy ground with the GOP and perhaps bringing Republicans into the administration would be elements of unity, though he added that he and Clinton did not discuss Cabinet positions.

"We have not run this campaign as a campaign against the GOP with the big broad brush -- we've run it against Donald Trump," Kaine said. He predicted: "We're going to get a lot of Republican votes and that will also be part of, right out of the gate, the way to bring folks back together."

...is whether she has the confidence that W did--to stock the Cabinet/staff with people qualified to be president in their own right (Cheney, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, Thompson, etc.)--or the insecurity of her husband and the UR--whose Cabinet's lacked a single person you could even imagine ever being president.

And W was both secure enough and serious enough about bipartisanship that he tried mightily to get big-time Democrats to serve. But Gore v. Bush had poisoned the well. Not serving became a test of Democrat loyalty.

Hillary can reach out to the many disaffected ex-governors in the GOP, starting with Jeb and Mitt, who not only owe no loyalty to Donald but actively want to purge the party and politics of his stench.  She could also easily tab someone like Meg Whitman.

Meanwhile, when she, inevitably, names a task force to look at some issue or another--Campaign Finance or reforming Obamacare?--W and Bill are natural co-chairs.

Beyond the staffing opportunities, the fact that she hasn't much run on any issues gives her the opportunity to focus on a few discrete ones that will attract Republican assistance : immigration reform, infrastructure spending and corporate tax reform.


Posted by orrinj at 8:01 AM


The cult of the expert - and how it collapsed : Led by a class of omnipotent central bankers, experts have gained extraordinary political power. Will a populist backlash shatter their technocratic dream? (Sebastian Mallaby, 20 October 2016, tHE gUARDIAN)

Later that same afternoon, Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke, the bearded hero of this tale, showed up on Capitol Hill, at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. At the White House, he had at least been on familiar ground: he had spent eight months working there. But now Bernanke appeared in the Senate majority leader's conference room, where he and his ex-Wall Street comrade, Treasury secretary Hank Paulson, would meet the senior leaders of both chambers of Congress. A quiet, balding, unassuming technocrat confronted the lions of the legislative branch, armed with nothing but his expertise in monetary plumbing.

Bernanke repeated his plan to commit $85bn of public money to the takeover of an insurance company.

"Do you have 85bn?" one sceptical lawmaker demanded.

"I have 800bn," Bernanke replied evenly - a central bank could conjure as much money as it deemed necessary.

But did the Federal Reserve have the legal right to take this sort of action unilaterally, another lawmaker inquired?

Yes, Bernanke answered: as Fed chairman, he wielded the largest chequebook in the world - and the only counter-signatures required would come from other Fed experts, who were no more elected or accountable than he was. Somehow America's famous apparatus of democratic checks and balances did not apply to the monetary priesthood. Their authority derived from technocratic virtuosity.

When the history is written of the revolt against experts, September 2008 will be seen as a milestone. The $85bn rescue of the American International Group (AIG) dramatised the power of monetary gurus in all its anti-democratic majesty. The president and Congress could decide to borrow money, or raise it from taxpayers; the Fed could simply create it. And once the AIG rescue had legitimised the broadest possible use of this privilege, the Fed exploited it unflinchingly. Over the course of 2009, it injected a trillion dollars into the economy - a sum equivalent to nearly 30% of the federal budget - via its newly improvised policy of "quantitative easing". Time magazine anointed Bernanke its person of the year. "The decisions he has made, and those he has yet to make, will shape the path of our prosperity, the direction of our politics and our relationship to the world," the magazine declared admiringly.

And thanks to W's foresight, we had the single man in that position who understood the Great Depression better than anyone ever has and he managed to turn what could have been a generation-long disaster into a brief and relatively shallow (perhaps too shallow) recession--that's if the 4 months of negative GDP growth holds up when all the numbers are in years from now.
Posted by orrinj at 7:45 AM


Greil Marcus on Bob Dylan's Nobel Prize (Jon Wiener interviews Greil Marcus, OCTOBER 22, 2016, LA Review of Books)

In the song "Highway 61 Revisited" from 1965, Dylan sings these lines: "Abe says 'Where you want this killin' done?'/ God says 'Out on Highway 61.'" A friend told me, "he deserves the Nobel prize just for those two lines." You heard him sing this song two weeks ago at the Desert Trip festival in Indio -- what was that like? [...]

"Highway 61 Revisited" is probably the best song Bob Dylan ever wrote. It seemed liked that in 1965, and it seems like that today: the way the language begins to break down in that first voice: "Abe say, 'what?'" So fast.

The first time I ever drove onto Highway 61, which was in the Twin Cities, I really expected to have some sort of mystical vision. The highway had taken on such a charged sense from that song that it just didn't seem like a real place, it didn't seem like it could be ordinary in any way.

I grew up in Minnesota, so Highway 61 had been part of my life. It's the way you got from Duluth to Minneapolis and St. Paul -- Bob Dylan was born in Duluth and went to college for a year in Minneapolis. And then if you followed Highway 61 south, it went down the Mississippi all the way to New Orleans.

James Marsh came to the US to make four hour-long films for the BBC that were biographies of songs, and "Highway 61 Revisited" was one of them. He shows you that, among other things, Elvis Presley lived on Highway 61, Martin Luther King was assassinated on Highway 61, and Bessie Smith had her fatal auto accident on Highway 61. Just to name a few things.

Posted by orrinj at 7:45 AM


Greil Marcus on Bob Dylan's Nobel Prize (Jon Wiener interviews Greil Marcus, OCTOBER 22, 2016, LA Review of Books)

In the song "Highway 61 Revisited" from 1965, Dylan sings these lines: "Abe says 'Where you want this killin' done?'/ God says 'Out on Highway 61.'" A friend told me, "he deserves the Nobel prize just for those two lines." You heard him sing this song two weeks ago at the Desert Trip festival in Indio -- what was that like? [...]

"Highway 61 Revisited" is probably the best song Bob Dylan ever wrote. It seemed liked that in 1965, and it seems like that today: the way the language begins to break down in that first voice: "Abe say, 'what?'" So fast.

The first time I ever drove onto Highway 61, which was in the Twin Cities, I really expected to have some sort of mystical vision. The highway had taken on such a charged sense from that song that it just didn't seem like a real place, it didn't seem like it could be ordinary in any way.

I grew up in Minnesota, so Highway 61 had been part of my life. It's the way you got from Duluth to Minneapolis and St. Paul -- Bob Dylan was born in Duluth and went to college for a year in Minneapolis. And then if you followed Highway 61 south, it went down the Mississippi all the way to New Orleans.

James Marsh came to the US to make four hour-long films for the BBC that were biographies of songs, and "Highway 61 Revisited" was one of them. He shows you that, among other things, Elvis Presley lived on Highway 61, Martin Luther King was assassinated on Highway 61, and Bessie Smith had her fatal auto accident on Highway 61. Just to name a few things.

October 22, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 1:59 PM


Donald Trump says he likes 'to deny things' (The Week, 10/22/16)

He also chafed at his staff's messaging recommendations, and described his affection for denial. "I won't go into things because my people go crazy," Trump said. "They say, 'Don't be particular, just' -- I like to deny things.

Posted by orrinj at 1:50 PM


This Presidential Poll Has Forecast Every Election Since 1960. The Winner For 2016 Is...  (Eric Owens, 10/22/2016, Daily Caller)

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has won the 2016 Scholastic News Student Vote -- by a yuge, bigly margin.

Posted by orrinj at 9:54 AM


Hamilton's America Has Its Eyes on History : The PBS documentary is less a behind-the-scenes glimpse than a social primer on why Broadway's biggest smash matters. (SPENCER KORNHABER,  OCT 20, 2016, The Atlantic)
About seven minutes into the PBS documentary Hamilton's America, George W. Bush shows up to comment on Alexander Hamilton finally getting his due in the American public consciousness.

"That's the way history works," Bush says into the camera. "Sometimes it takes a while for people to give you credit."

He delivers the line with a pause mid-sentence and a glint in the eye, seeming to relish that he'll be interpreted as talking about himself as much as he's talking about the $10 founding father. There are a lot of similar moments in Hamilton's America, which almost concerns itself more with American history and present-day politics than it does with Lin-Manuel Miranda's Broadway smash.

The PBS documentary--directed by Alex Horwitz with Miranda and Hamilton honcho Jeffrey Sellers among the executive producers--has been hyped as a rare opportunity to get a glimpse of a production that's sold out for the foreseeable future. There are indeed passages fans will gobble up, as when Miranda's seen workshopping lyrics in Aaron Burr's actual bedroom. For anyone locked out of the Hamilton stage phenomenon but obsessed with the cast album, the doc's performance snippets will be manna; I, for example, didn't realize till now that the founding fathers actually take a shot of alcohol during "My Shot."

But the film, primarily, is neither a behind-the-scenes reveal nor a sampler of the stage production. Instead, it's a crash course on why Hamilton matters at all. 

Posted by orrinj at 9:45 AM


How Podesta became a cybersecurity poster child (MARTIN MATISHAK, 10/21/16, Politico)

When John Podesta forgot his Apple iCloud password last spring, he asked an aide to remind him -- so she emailed it to him. And that set the stage for trouble for Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman.

First, a WikiLeaks dump last week of Podesta's alleged Gmail messages revealed the password -- "Runner4567" -- to the world. Then someone hijacked Podesta's Twitter account, possibly using the same password, and blasted out the tweet: "I've switched teams. Vote Trump 2015." The next morning, a security researcher found evidence that digital pranksters had used the password to remotely erase all the contents from Podesta's Apple devices.

Posted by orrinj at 9:35 AM


Why Insurance Companies Want to Subsidize Your Smart Home : Linking doorbells and thermostats to the Internet can cut the chance of expensive surprises. (Stacey Higginbotham,  October 12, 2016, MIT Technology Review)

Insurers such USAA and American Family have lately begun offering to strike a high-tech bargain: wire your home with Internet-connected devices such as a new thermostat, and get a discount on your home insurance policy in return.

Offers like that could speed up the adoption of smart gadgets, revamp the insurance business, and transform how we manage our homes. In the future, your insurer might call a plumber before a pipe bursts, for example. But the data needed to help prevent leaks or burglaries will also introduce new risks, such as vulnerabilities to data loss or ransomware.

Insurers across the U.S. are offering incentives to install one of half a dozen connected devices, ranging from moisture sensors to video doorbells. State Farm offers a discount on your home policy for installing a Canary home security monitor, for example. Liberty Mutual will send you a Nest Protect smoke detector, worth $99, free of charge and cut the cost of fire coverage. 

Some insurers want to go further. They think that urging us to wire our homes with Internet-connected devices will open up a flood of lucrative new data that can make their existing business of handling claims more efficient while creating a new relationship with the customer. With a feed of data from your home, an insurer could help you prioritize maintenance tasks and fix problems such as leaky pipes before they caused major damage.

And auto makers will have to insure their products once you aren't driving them--res ipsa loquitor.

Posted by orrinj at 9:03 AM


Remember When Art Was Supposed to Be Beautiful? : Contemporary art is obsessed with the politics of race, gender and sexuality. (SOHRAB AHMARI, Oct. 21, 2016, WSJ)

There was some connection between beauty and freedom--a link I only made years later after immigrating to the U.S. as a teenager. The mullahs resorted to censorship and violence to sever that connection. But in the Free World today it has been severed, not by any repressive regime, but by the art world itself.

In today's art scene, the word "beauty" isn't even part of the lexicon. Sincerity, formal rigor and cohesion, the quest for truth, the sacred and the transcendent--all of these ideals, once thought timeless, have been thrust aside to make room for the art world's one totem, its alpha and omega: identity politics.

Now, identity has always been at the heart of culture. Who are we? What is our nature? How are we--as individuals and as groups--distinct from each other, from the animals, from the gods or God? But identity politics cares little for such open-ended questions. Its adherents think they already have all the answers, a set of all-purpose formulas that tell you who's right and who's wrong at a particular intersection of identity, power and privilege.

Contemporary art is obsessed with articulating those formulas in novel ways. If you ever find yourself wondering why nothing stirs inside you when you encounter contemporary art, chances are you're suffering the effects of the relentless politicization of the arts. Every form and genre--whether high or low, or whether in the visual, literary or performing arts--is now obsessed with the politics of race, gender and sexuality.

As always, one thinks of Stravinsky in America.

Posted by orrinj at 8:55 AM


Trump Hotels Ditching Name For New Hotels (Cailey Rizzo, October 21, 2016, Travel & Leisure)

Amidst reports that occupancy rates at Trump Hotels have slipped this election season, the company has announced that new brand hotels will no longer bear the Trump name.

The newest line of luxury hotels, geared towards millennials, will be called Scion, the company said.

Posted by orrinj at 8:45 AM


A Workable Blueprint For Energy Freedom (NICOLAS LORIS, 8/05/2016, IBD)

The free-market approach outlined in the Heritage Foundation's "Blueprint for Reform: A Comprehensive Policy Agenda for a New Administration in 2017" would require both presidential and congressional leadership to rein in the size and scope of the federal government.

The blueprint calls for eliminating frivolous federal spending on energy projects that should be driven solely by private sector investment.  This means no more handouts for wind or solar or nuclear -- or carbon-based fuels, for that matter.

There's no need to risk spending any more taxpayer dollars on half-billion dollar boondoggles like failed solar manufacturer Solyndra. Truly promising cutting-edge energy technologies will have no problem attracting private investors.  There's no need to sweeten the pot by giving mega-corporations and wealthy financiers government-backed loans or preferential tax treatment.

Subsidies not only line the pockets of the wealthy, they wind up stunting the development of emerging technologies.  When the government plays favorites, both public and private dollars flow toward that project, starving other potentially groundbreaking ideas of the backing they need.

Moreover, when the government starts doling out tax dollars, the receiving companies have less of an incentive to innovative and more of an incentive to secure another handout. Companies quickly become dependent on federal funding and become bound to pursue the favored path, whether it's a mandate to use biofuels or a special tax break to produce wind power.

Government is bad at picking winners.  Markets are good.  Let the market pick the winners after government sets the market by taxing oil and gas at innovation forcing levels.

Posted by orrinj at 8:35 AM


Lincoln's Crackdown : Suspects jailed. No charges filed. Sound familiar? (David Greenberg, 11/30/01, Slate)

First a definition: The Latin phrase habeas corpus means "you have the body." The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus refers to a common-law tradition that establishes a person's right to appear before a judge before being imprisoned. When a judge issues the writ, he commands a government official to bring a prisoner before the court so he can assess the legality of the prisoner's detention. When the privilege of the writ is suspended, the prisoner is denied the right to secure such a writ and therefore can be held without trial indefinitely. Habeas corpus is the only common-law tradition enshrined in the Constitution, which also explicitly defines when it can be overridden. Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution says, "The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it."

Several times during the war, Lincoln or his Cabinet officers issued orders suspending the writ. The first came early in his presidency. Lincoln had been in office for barely a month when Confederate troops attacked the federal garrison at Fort Sumter in April 1861, starting the Civil War. One of his immediate concerns was how to keep an unobstructed route between Washington, D.C., and the North. He worried that if Maryland joined Virginia and seceded from the Union, the nation's capital would be stranded amid hostile states. On April 19, 20,000 Confederate sympathizers in Baltimore tried to stop Union troops from traveling from one train station to another en route to Washington, causing a riot. So on April 27 Lincoln suspended the habeas corpus privilege on points along the Philadelphia-Washington route. That meant Union generals could arrest and detain without trial anyone in the area who threatened "public safety."

Controversy followed. The most explosive incident centered on John Merryman, a Marylander arrested for insurrectionary activities. Summarily jailed, Merryman petitioned for a habeas corpus writ, which Chief Justice Roger Taney granted. But the commanding officer at Fort McHenry, where Merryman was held, refused to release the prisoner, citing Lincoln's edict. With the army loyal to Lincoln, Taney couldn't enforce his order and railed against the president while Merryman stewed in jail for seven more weeks. After being freed, he was never tried.

The Merryman case and others like it ignited a debate over Lincoln's actions. Democrats argued they were unconstitutional. Taney noted that Article 1 of the Constitution, where habeas corpus is discussed, deals exclusively with congressional powers, meaning that Congress alone can authorize the privilege's suspension. Although correct, Taney's argument framed the debate around a legalistic and secondary issue, that of congressional versus presidential power. It skirted the question of whether the situation warranted a suspension of habeas corpus at all. Thus when in March 1863 Congress passed the Habeas Corpus Act, effectively endorsing Lincoln's actions, civil libertarians were stripped of their main argument. (Taney also criticized Merryman's detention, noting that civilians aren't subject to military justice--an issue I'll get to next week.)

Where Democrats marshaled constitutional arguments against Lincoln's order, Republicans replied that in an emergency, only the president could act fast enough to protect the public safety. Lincoln himself took this line in a famous July 4, 1861, speech to Congress. He also, more memorably, used a pragmatic argument. "Are all the laws but one to go unexecuted," he chided his critics, "and the government itself go to pieces, lest that one be violated?" The phrase has been quoted ever since and even provided the title of a recent apologia by Chief Justice William Rehnquist for wartime suppression of freedoms.

The Constitution is the means, not the end.  But precious little--short of war, and seldom that--actually threatens the Republic.
Posted by orrinj at 8:29 AM


The Free-Trade Miracle (Bjørn Lomborg, OCT 21, 2016, Project Syndicate)

The far greater benefits of free trade are much less obvious. Consumers get a wider variety of goods at cheaper prices. Middle-class Americans gain an estimated 29% of their purchasing power from foreign trade. In other words, the average middle-class American can buy 29% more for each dollar than if there was no trade. The effect is even bigger - 62% - for the poorest tenth of American consumers.

Trade makes exporters stronger, more efficient, and more productive. The benefits are shared among workers: Obama's Council of Economic Advisers found that, on average, US export-intensive industries pay workers up to 18% more than non-exporting firms.

Opposition to free trade ignores our interconnected reality. Some 80% of trade happens along supply chains within or organized by transnational firms, according to a 2013 UN report. While some US politicians call for tariffs against Mexico, the National Bureau of Economic Research estimates that about 40% of the value of Mexican imports to the US is actually added within the US itself.
These arguments are all part of the overwhelming economic case for free trade. But the strongest argument is a moral one. Cost-benefit analysis shows that freer trade is the single most powerful way to help the world's poorest citizens.

Reviving the moribund Doha Development Round of global free-trade talks would reduce the number of people in poverty by an astonishing 145 million in 15 years, according to research commissioned by the Copenhagen Consensus Center. The world would be $11 trillion richer each year by 2030, with $7 trillion going to developing countries - equivalent to an extra $1,000 for every person every year in these countries by 2030.

Moreover, trade also carries much broader benefits for society. Economic globalization has been shown to reduce child mortality and extend life expectancy, owing to increased incomes and better information. In the US, trade over the past half-century has increased longevity significantly. In Uganda, freer trade in the past 35 years has been shown to lengthen the average lifespan by 2-3 years.

What's more, "free trade is good for the environment," to quote one academic study.

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