June 22, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 8:23 PM


In 24 States, 50% or More of Babies Born on Medicaid (Terence P. Jeffrey, March 24, 2017, CNSNews.com)  

In 24 of the nation's 50 states at least half of the babies born during the latest year on record had their births paid for by Medicaid, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

You can't claim to be the pro-life party and stop caring once the kid leaves the womb.

Posted by orrinj at 8:21 PM


Supreme Court sets higher bar for stripping citizenship (Reuters, 6/22/17)

The Supreme Court handed a setback to the Trump administration on Thursday by making it harder for the government to strip immigrants of U.S. citizenship in a case involving an ethnic Serb woman who lied about her husband's military service after Yugoslavia's collapse.

The justices ruled 9-0 that a naturalized American citizen cannot be stripped of citizenship if a lie or omission on immigration forms was irrelevant to the government's original decision to grant entry into the United States.

They rejected the Trump administration's stance that the government should be able to revoke citizenship of people for even minor misstatements in the citizenship application process.

Posted by orrinj at 3:12 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:38 PM


Americans want states to pick up federal climate policy slack (Barry Rabe, Sarah Mills, and Christopher BorickTuesday, June 20, 2017, Brookings)

This high support for renewable energy technologies particularly among this group of Americans indicates the diverse factors driving renewable energy deployment across the country--economic motivations in particular. A majority of Americans (81 percent) believe wind and solar energy create jobs. The numbers are nearly as high among those who think there is no solid evidence that global warming is occurring: 70 percent believe solar energy creates jobs while 74 percent believe the same of wind energy. As many states have previously found, clean energy policies aimed at creating "green jobs" rather than "carbon-free energy" often appeal to a wider constituency.

Posted by orrinj at 12:35 PM


Canada's Trump Strategy: Go Around Him (MAX FISHER JUNE 22, 2017, NY Times)

As President Trump disrupts alliances across the map, nearly every level of government in Canada has taken on new duties in a quietly audacious campaign to cajole, contain and if necessary coerce the Americans.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's strategy for managing Mr. Trump is unlike anything tried by another ally. And he has largely succeeded where even experienced leaders like Angela Merkel of Germany have fallen short. [...]

The Doughnut Strategy

So Canada turned to courting every other level of government, forming something like a doughnut around a White House-shaped hole.

Donald who?

Posted by orrinj at 9:36 AM


Trump Turns an Iowa Rally Into a Venting Session (MAGGIE HABERMAN, JUNE 21, 2017, NY Times)

Free from his handlers for roughly 70 minutes, Mr. Trump described his administration as he wished it to be: one in which he had made historic governing accomplishments and been stymied solely by the "resistance."

"I think health care is going to happen, and infrastructure is going to happen, and I look forward to being able to produce it," he said.

He derided trade deals despite an Iowa economy that relies in part on exports. He denounced the $6 trillion spent and the lives lost in the Middle East over the last 15 years, despite his administration's decision to reauthorize troops in Afghanistan.

He toggled back and forth between telling farm-rich Iowa that he had fought for forgotten voters and lauding the wealth of Gary D. Cohn, his top economic adviser and a former executive at Goldman Sachs, the Wall Street giant that Mr. Trump derided in commercials in 2016.

"In those particular positions, I just don't want a poor person -- does that make sense?" he said of Mr. Cohn's job and that of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, another immensely wealthy man whom Mr. Trump lauded as a "legendary Wall Street genius."

"Brilliant business minds" are what the economy needs, he said.

And the president frequently embellished details during his speech, or told outright falsehoods. He tried to catch himself at one point, saying, "I have to be a little careful, because they'll say, 'He lied!'"

But he nonetheless plowed ahead, including misstating whether the Paris climate agreement, from which he plans to withdraw the United States, is binding. While doing so, he also prompted the audience to name the agreement themselves. "P... p... p," he said.

"Like hell it's nonbinding!" thundered Mr. Trump, who in fact called the accord nonbinding in his Rose Garden speech announcing the withdrawal this month.

"We're not even campaigning, and look at this crowd!" he said at another point. The rally was advertised, sponsored and organized by his campaign committee.

He also repeated his frequent, untrue campaign refrain that the United States is one of the world's highest-taxed nations.

The president dismissed the potency of wind-harnessed energy in a state filled with thousands of turbines. "I don't want to just hope the wind blows to light up your house and your factory," he said, "as the birds fall to the ground."

And he vented throughout against the news media: "the fake news," he said, one of his favorite and most therapeutic invocations.

Mr. Trump also condemned Democrats as "obstructionists" -- but then added that he wanted to work with them and might be damaging those prospects. "But who cares," he concluded. He ignored the fact that Republicans hold majorities in Congress.


Posted by orrinj at 7:20 AM


Trump suggests creating law enacted in 1996 (MALLORY SHELBOURNE, 06/21/17, The Hill)

President Trump in a rally on Wednesday evening said immigrants who enter the United States should not be eligible for welfare benefits for five years, though such a law has already existed for 20 years.

Posted by orrinj at 7:09 AM


Will Robert Mueller Separate Fact From Fiction? (David Von Drehle, 6/20/17, TIME)

The special counsel is, like Trump, the scion of a wealthy family, raised at a boarding school and educated in the Ivy League. But the life choices of Robert Swan Mueller III, 72, suggest a decidedly different temperament from the one that occupies the Oval Office. Unlike Trump, who says he has few if any personal heroes, Mueller's path was marked by a profound admiration for a role model he met at Princeton, a student a year ahead of him named David Spencer Hackett.

"I played lacrosse with David," Mueller explained last year in a speech at West Point. "He was not necessarily the best on the team, but he was a determined and a natural leader." Hackett's decision to join the Marine Corps, and his death in 1967 while rallying his platoon during an ambush in Vietnam, moved Mueller to follow in Hackett's footsteps. "Many of us saw in him the person we wanted to be," Mueller said.

Trump once joked with radio shock jock Howard Stern that chasing women while risking STDs was his version of Vietnam, adding, "It is very dangerous." He might have chosen a different analogy if he had served as Mueller did. Commissioned in the Marine Corps and trained at Army Ranger School, Lieut. Mueller led a rifle platoon in Vietnam from 1968 to 1969. Wounded in combat, he received a Bronze Star with a V for valor as well as a Purple Heart and two Navy Commendation Medals.

Mueller told his West Point audience that his military experience instilled in him a desire to continue to serve his country. After earning a law degree from the University of Virginia and learning the ropes as an associate at a large law firm, he joined the U.S. Attorney's office in San Francisco, where he rose to chief of the criminal division.

In 1989, Mueller moved to Washington, where he soon took charge of the entire Justice Department's criminal division. Under his watch, department lawyers prosecuted major cases involving terrorism, organized crime, drugs and money laundering. Although his voter registration said Republican, Mueller earned the confidence of leaders in both parties. In 1998, Democrat Bill Clinton appointed him U.S. Attorney for Northern California. Republican George W. Bush called him back to Washington as Deputy Attorney General, then picked him to lead the FBI in 2001.

Mueller's first official day at the Hoover Building was Sept. 4. A week later, terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington plunged the bureau into one of the most tumultuous periods in its history. Mueller's challenge was to transform a primarily domestic law-enforcement agency into a global counterterrorism force-while breaking down cultural barriers to information sharing and pulling the paper-pushing bureau into the digital age. Many agents found Mueller to be bullheaded as he shook up personnel rules and rammed through technology updates. And he made mistakes, including a botched investigation of the 2001 anthrax attacks in D.C., Florida, New York and New Jersey, in which an innocent man was hounded in the press while Mueller and his agents ignored the real killer. But overall, in the judgment of FBI historian Ronald Kessler, no director in the modern era "has had a greater positive impact on the bureau than Mueller."

As director, Mueller worked closely with Comey, who was appointed Deputy Attorney General in 2003. Together, they threatened to resign in 2004 over a White House plan to preserve a program of warrantless wiretaps. Their frantic dash to the bedside of ailing Attorney General John Ashcroft to ward off a delegation of White House arm twisters on a mission to save the program was a heroic high point for friends of Mueller and Comey-and an example of their sanctimony to their detractors. Either way, they won: Bush agreed to make changes to the program. When Mueller's extended term at the FBI ended in 2013, few were surprised that Obama installed Comey in his place.

Praise was widespread and bipartisan for Mueller's appointment on May 17 as special counsel. But that enthusiasm was not shared at the White House. As the gravity of his miscalculation sets in, Trump has been lashing about for someone to blame. Attorney General Sessions, one of his earliest supporters, offered to resign after a bawling out from Trump, who feels that he would not be in this pickle if Sessions had not recused himself from the Russia investigation.

Trump is also furious with the flip-flopping Democrats who went from hating Comey (they blamed his public hand-wringing over her emails for Hillary Clinton's loss in November) to hailing him as a martyr. "The Democrats should be ashamed," Trump tweeted. "This is a disgrace!"

And then there's Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, who wrote a memo at Trump's request that the White House briefly used to justify the Comey firing, then appointed the special counsel. "I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director!" the President tweeted. "Witch hunt!" That June 16 outburst caught Capitol Hill Republicans flat-footed. "Is this part of a new plan?" an adviser to House Speaker Paul Ryan asked a White House aide. Of course not, the aide answered. "Do you think we would plan to have the President of the United States implicate himself?"

Friends report that the wrathful President discussed the possibility of firing Mueller, an idea that horrifies White House advisers and terrifies veteran congressional Republicans. The last President to try such a thing was Nixon, who sparked the so-called Saturday Night Massacre in 1973 by ordering the ouster of Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox.

Beyond the disastrous politics of such a move, it's unclear how Trump could execute this step. Justice Department regulations tightly govern the removal of a special counsel, which can be done "only by the personal action of the Attorney General" and only for "misconduct, dereliction of duty, incapacity, conflict of interest or for other good cause." With Sessions recused, the power of removal passed to Rosenstein-but his involvement in the Comey firing could force his recusal as well. Rosenstein has assured a Senate committee that he would not carry out an unjustified firing. "If there were not good cause, it wouldn't matter to me what anybody says," he averred. If Rosenstein refused to fire the special counsel, the order would go next to another Senate-confirmed Justice official. With the Solicitor General's office still unfilled, that leaves Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand, who hasn't said publicly how she would respond.

Trump's alternative to this uncertainty might be to exercise his constitutional authority to rewrite the Justice Department regulations, giving himself the firing authority. Such a step would smack of despotism in a capital that cherishes checks on power.

Posted by orrinj at 6:58 AM


Democrats Seethe After Georgia Loss: 'Our Brand Is Worse Than Trump' (ALEXANDER BURNS and JONATHAN MARTIN, JUNE 21, 2017, NY Times)

A small group of Democrats who have been critical of Ms. Pelosi in the past again pressed her to step down on Wednesday. And in a private meeting of Democratic lawmakers, Representative Tony Cárdenas of California, Ms. Pelosi's home state, suggested the party should have a more open conversation about her effect on its political fortunes.

But the most acute and widely expressed concerns were economic. Speaking after a meeting of the Democratic caucus on Wednesday morning, Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York said the party was preparing to be "aggressively focused on job creation and economic growth." And Representative Jim Himes of Connecticut, who represents an affluent district near New York City, said Democrats must do more to compete with what he described as expansive and unrealistic promises by President Trump.

"It's not enough to say, 'I want jobs,'" Mr. Himes said.  [...]

Representative Tim Ryan of Ohio, who tried to unseat Ms. Pelosi as House minority leader late last fall, said she remained a political millstone for Democrats. But Mr. Ryan said the Democratic brand had also become "toxic" in much of the country because voters saw Democrats as "not being able to connect with the issues they care about."

"Our brand is worse than Trump," he said.

US has 5.7 million job openings, near record high (Patrick Gillespie, 5/09/17, CNNMoney)

Looking for a job? America has 5.7 million openings.

That's close to the record number of job openings reported by the Labor Department since it started tracking them in 2000. The US had an all-time high of 5.9 million openings last July.

Everyone who is willing to work has a job.  The disconnect between Democrats and Americans is cultural, not economic.
Posted by orrinj at 6:15 AM


Stepping out of the shadows, Saudi Arabia's next king is a young, ambitious risk-taker (AYA BATRAWY June 22, 2017, Times of Israel)

Domestically, MBS expanded his reach by turning to outside consulting firms to launch a plan to overhaul the kingdom's economy. His goal is to drastically reduce the country's dependence on oil exports after a plunge in prices nearly crippled Saudi Arabia's ability to spend on national projects and foreign efforts.

MBS vowed to end Saudi Arabia's "addiction" to oil, and pushed through politically-sensitive austerity measures that curbed spending on subsidies and the public sector -- where the majority of Saudis are employed.

His Vision 2030 plan and its accompanying National Transformation Plan grabbed international headlines when he announced the country would publicly list a percentage of Saudi Aramco.

Social reforms, he's argued, are also needed in order to bring the deeply conservative nation into the 21st Century. MBS has promised amusement parks and more fun for his generation of millennials. For the first time in decades, Saudis can attend musical concerts in the kingdom and the powers of country's feared religious police have been curbed.

In retrospect, deciding to export US oil and force a transition to alternative energy sources in the West will be seen as the decisive steps in the WoT.

Posted by orrinj at 6:09 AM


As Solar Pushes Electricity Prices Negative, 3 Solutions for California's Power Grid (LESLIE KAUFMAN, JUN 14, 2017, Inside Climate News)

For a time this spring in California, as the snow melted above hydroelectric dams, the sun shone on solar arrays, and the wind whipped through turbines, the state was confronted with both a blessing and a curse.

It arrived as an overwhelming flood of cheap, clean electricity. At times it drove wholesale prices below zero. And it has left grid operators in California, and in other parts of the country, wondering how to cope with the upending of power markets by abundant renewable energy.

California has led the pack in adding renewable energy to its grid. How it manages the challenges of energy over-abundance may determine whether other states follow in its clean energy footsteps.

Some worry that if California bungles the transition to clean energy, it could undermine the state's own incredibly rapid solar build-out--from 300 megawatts on the grid in 2008 to nearly 15,000 megawatts today--which has put California well ahead of its milestones toward deep decarbonization. 

The crux of the issue that arose this spring is that in the middle of some days, California produced so much renewable energy it drove wholesale electricity prices below zero--what's known as negative pricing.

Posted by orrinj at 5:59 AM


Airbus concedes defeat to Boeing in Paris order race (Reuters, 6/22/17)

Airbus (AIR.PA) conceded defeat to arch-rival Boeing (BA.N) at the Paris Airshow on Thursday as a last-minute haul of almost 100 orders, including new interest from Iran, failed to close a gap opened up by the launch of Boeing's new 737 model.

Posted by orrinj at 5:38 AM


In this part of the Midwest, the problem isn't China. It's too many jobs. (Danielle Paquette June 20, 2017, Washington Post)

Each day at Zimmer Biomet headquarters, machinists on one robot-assisted factory floor churn out about 3,000 metallic knee parts. They are facing pressure to crank up the pace as the population ages and demand soars.

But the artificial-bone giant is grappling with a steep downside of the nation's low unemployment rate: It is struggling to find enough workers, despite offering some of the region's best pay and benefits. Forty positions sit open.

Other manufacturers in ­Kosciusko County, home to roughly one-third of global orthopedic device production, are running into the same problem.

The lack of laborers not only threatens to stunt the growth of these companies, experts warn, but it could also force them to decamp their home town in search of workers.

With the U.S. unemployment rate at a 16-year low of 4.3 percent, employers across the country are dealing with a dearth of potential hires. Economists say that talent shortages are growing constraints on the country's economic expansion, especially as millions of baby boomers enter retirement.

But the shortage is particularly problematic in places such as Kosciusko County, where the unemployment rate rests at 2 percent. Of the county's 41,136 adults who can work, 40,311 are employed, according to government statistics.

This region -- a land of clear lakes, duck farms and medical device makers -- escaped the industrial decline that rocked other communities throughout the Rust Belt.

It prospered, thanks to a local industry that proved largely immune to competition from China and Mexico.

But without more people to grow Warsaw's business, the chances of companies relocating is "extraordinarily high," said Michael Hicks, a labor economist at Indiana's Ball State University.

Posted by orrinj at 5:29 AM


Islamic State blows up historic Mosul mosque where it declared 'caliphate' (Marius Bosch and Maher Chmaytelli, 6/21/17, Reuters)

''Blowing up the al-Hadba minaret and the al-Nuri mosque amounts to an official acknowledgement of defeat,'' Iraqi Prime Minister said in a brief comment on his website.

June 21, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 9:13 AM


Fill up your ebook reader with beautifully formatted free classics (ABHIMANYU GHOSHAL, 6/20/17, Next Web)

You've probably heard of Project Gutenberg, an incredible initiative that's turned over 54,000 books whose copyrights have expired into freely downloadable ebooks. But they aren't formatted as well as most ebooks you'd pay for, and issues with justification, odd spaces and inconsistent typography can distract from the reading experience.

That's where Standard Ebooks comes in. This volunteer-driven project beautifies Project Gutenberg ebooks by fixing typesetting, making minor corrections in punctuation and grammar, adding covers and enhancing metadata. The result is a more enjoyable ebook that looks better on your device.

Of the 54,000 ebooks available from Project Gutenberg, Standard Ebooks has tackled about 100 titles that you can grab for free and read on your phone, Kindle, Kobo or desktop.

Posted by orrinj at 9:10 AM


The Trump Administration Is Working to Hold Russia Accountable for Ukraine -- Whether Trump Likes It Or Not (PATRICK TUCKER, 6/20/17, Defense One)

Vice President Mike Pence and other national-security leaders are dragging President Donald Trump along in a growing effort to hold Russia accountable for illegal actions in Ukraine. For evidence of that just look at how two very different people interpreted Tuesday's meeting in the Oval Office.

As Trump sat for his first photo-op with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, the U.S. Treasury Department unveiled new sanctions aimed at Russian citizens, banks, and other entities that support the Russian soldiers who are - unofficially - attacking the government of Ukraine. After the meeting, a reporter asked Poroshenko whether Trump had discussed the future of the U.S. Russian-sanctions policy. "I think it is obvious. To date, the U.S. adopts additional sanctions almost every day. I consider the position of the United States as a solid, reliable and strategic partner of Ukraine," said Poroshenko, avoiding any mention of the U.S. president, according to an official readout from his office.

Trump, too, declined the opportunity to take credit for the Treasury Department's decision. The White House readout of the meeting says only that the two leaders discussed "the peaceful resolution to the conflict in eastern Ukraine and President Poroshenko's reform agenda and anti-corruption efforts."

That fits with a pattern. In a now-infamous May 10 meeting in the Oval Office, Trump told Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that his "critics cared about the issue" of Ukraine. 

Posted by orrinj at 9:01 AM


Robert Mueller terrifies President Trump. Of course he wants him gone. (Richard Painter and Norman Eisen, June 20, 2017, USA Today)

He is about as good a special counsel as one can imagine, having bipartisan credentials and deep prosecutorial experience -- far more than the late Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox. And Mueller is assembling a dream team of expert deputies. Of course the president would love an excuse to get rid of Mueller.

We have rebutted claims that Mueller's prior law firm affiliation posed a conflict -- under the District of Columbia's tough professional conduct rules, it does not. But Trump's surrogates continue to manufacture new and ludicrous conflict of interest claims against Mueller. One is that because he worked closely with James Comey at the FBI and because Comey is a material witness to the obstruction of justice part of the case, Mueller cannot investigate and if appropriate prosecute the obstruction of justice charge.

We are not aware of any precedent for a prosecutor being required to recuse from a case simply because a colleague who was also a law enforcement officer was a material witness in the case. Nor do the applicable rules of professional conduct for attorneys or prosecutors require it. In fact, many prosecutors are close friends with police officers, detectives, FBI agents and other law enforcement officials. Indeed, the rules even explicitly state that a lawyer can act as an advocate in a trial in which another lawyer currently in the same law firm is a witness -- so clearly, a former colleague would not be a problem. To preclude prosecutors from working on cases solely for these kinds of reasons would unduly hamper the course of justice.

Another argument is that Mueller should not have hired any lawyers for his staff who made significant campaign contributions. This overlooks that Mueller himself was a registered Republican when he was appointed by President George W. Bush to head the FBI, and he was named special counsel by Trump's own deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein.

His critics apparently feel that Mueller has not sufficiently solidified his GOP credentials by making significant campaign contributions recently. But to them, his deeper sin is that he appointed to his staff a handful of lawyers who made contributions to Democrats. This presumably makes the entire enterprise a partisan "witch hunt."

This objection is frivolous. Presidents of both political parties have for a long time appointed campaign contributors to be U.S. attorneys and top Justice Department officials. Every American is subject to being prosecuted by these officials who were also campaign contributors to one party or the other. But a Republican special counsel who hires a handful of Democrats is presumed to be biased against the most powerful man in the country, the president? Nonsense.

...who doesn't believe that he fired Comey?

Posted by orrinj at 8:32 AM


The Meaningless Politics of Liberal Democracies : The desire for theocracy in the Muslim world can be partly understood through the failures of Western secularism.  (EMMA GREEN  JUN 8, 2016, The Atlantic)

In his new book Islamic Exceptionalism, Shadi Hamid--an Atlantic contributor, a scholar at Brookings, and a self-identified liberal--calls Affleck's declaration a "well-intentioned ... red herring." Islam really is different from other religions, he says, and many Muslims view politics, theocracy, and violence differently than do Christians, Jews, or non-religious people in Europe and the United States.

Perhaps his most provocative claim is this: History will not necessarily favor the secular, liberal democracies of the West. Hamid does not believe all countries will inevitably follow a path from revolution to rational Enlightenment and non-theocratic government, nor should they. There are some basic arguments for this: Islam is growing, and in some majority-Muslim nations, huge numbers of citizens believe Islamic law should be upheld by the state. But Hamid also thinks there's something lacking in Western democracies, that there's a sense of overarching meaninglessness in political and cultural life in these countries that can help explain why a young Muslim who grew up in the U.K. might feel drawn to martyrdom, for example. This is not a dismissal of democracy, nor does it comprehensively explain the phenomenon of jihadism. Rather, it's a note of skepticism about the promise of secular democracy--and the wisdom of pushing that model on other cultures and regions. 

Most Islamists--people who, in his words, "believe Islam or Islamic law should play a central role in political life"--are not terrorists. But the meaning they find in religion, Hamid said, helps explain their vision of governance, and it's one that can seem incomprehensible to people who live in liberal democracies.

...if Bernie Sanders introduced a measure calling for all traces of Judeo-Christianity law to be expunged from the Republic? It's no coincidence that the Protestant North/Anglosphere is thriving while secular Europe is dying.

Posted by orrinj at 8:28 AM


What If Donald Trump Doesn't Sink The Republican Party? (David Harsanyi, JUNE 21, 2017, The Federalist)

You can try and grasp at moral victories, of course, as I saw a number of liberal pundits on cable television trying to do yesterday. You can tell yourself that Ossoff had come closer than any Democrat ever in the sixth district. But there are numerous problems with this optimism. For one, there won't be many red districts were the president is less popular. Democrats are going to have to flip some of these seats to win back a majority. Second, it's difficult to imagine how the environment could be any worse for the GOP (though, of course, that too is possible.) Moreover, Ossoff spent a record $25 million on a House race, yet Handel still outran not only him but Trump, as well.

This last point is mentioned as often as the others, yet it's probably the most important. Trump's approval rating in the sixth district is at the national average of 35 percent, which is to say exceptionally low for a Republican area. Trump had won the district by less than two percentage points back in November. According to a recent Atlanta Journal Constitution poll, the majority of Republicans surveyed (55 percent) said "expressing their opinion on Trump wasn't a factor in their decision-making."

Now, I realize that neither Ossoff nor Handel mentioned the president much during the race -- which, in itself, bolsters the theory that Trump might not be as consequential in these races as Dems hope. But the race was nationalized. Its implications were national. The coverage was national. The parties treated the race as one that would have national implications. Certainly, the money that poured into the race was national. One imagines that every Georgian Republican who went to the polls understood what this race meant for the future of the parties. When you nationalize races, Republicans will take more than the president into account.

Donald ran behind the bottom of the ticket in November--he was carried to victory on Republican party coattails.  

Posted by orrinj at 7:07 AM


The truth about the Fed and inflation (Rick Rieder, BlackRock Chief Investment Officer of Global Fixed Income)

[W]e believe the excessive obsession some market watchers have with the Fed hewing to its 2% inflation target is shortsighted. Here's the truth about the Fed and inflation: The Fed adopted its 2% inflation target only quite recently, in 2012. Prior to that, the central bank was comfortable with an inflation level slightly lower than 2% and looked past the small variations around its previously preferred target range.

Today, massive technological disruptions and long-term demographic trends are remaking the inflation landscape, and we believe both investors and policy makers need to abandon an overly rigid view of price change.

Historically, technological innovation has proved to be deflationary, exerting downward pressure on prices. This is evident in the chart below, showing the drastic drop in computing and storage costs over the last 60 years. Based on the chart below, an iPhone in 1991 storage and computing cost dollars would be worth $1.44 million--per phone. An iPhone today costs a miniscule fraction of that.

Technological innovation is disrupting traditional business models of many industries, putting a lid on prices and influencing inflation in the economy overall. 

Posted by orrinj at 5:31 AM


White supremacists are killing in the name of an ancient Nordic religion (Will Carless, 5/25/17, PRI)

They planned to rob a jewelry store and use the money to stockpile guns, ammo and explosives. Then they would charge into churches and synagogues, slaughtering as many people as possible in the name of their religion.

The man in Kansas wanted to kill as many Jewish people as possible. So he drove to two Jewish centers, where he shot and killed three people, all of them Christians. He told the court that sentenced him to death that he had mistaken his victims for Jews.

"I wanted to kill Jews, not people," he told the court that sentenced him to death.

Across the country in Spokane, Washington, another man plotted to kill President Barack Obama. Prosecutors say he planned a "final solution," a battle that would ultimately be won by stealing nuclear material for dirty bombs or flying hijacked airplanes into buildings.

These men, and possibly thousands more like them across the United States, share a common religious ideology.

They're white supremacists who have turned to an ancient heathen religion known most commonly as Odinism. In at least six cases since 2001, professed racist Odinists have been convicted of plotting -- or pulling off -- domestic terrorism attacks, according to a review of terrorism cases by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting.

And across the Atlantic, the man who carried out the 2011 mass murders at a summer camp in Oslo, Norway, Anders Breivik, has attracted new attention after telling a court he long has identified as an Odinist.

Posted by orrinj at 5:23 AM


PREJUDICE AND THE BLAINE AMENDMENTS (Philip Hamburger, 6 . 20 . 17, First Things)

Maine Representative James G. Blaine (1830-93) was born to a Catholic mother and a father who later converted to Catholicism; as a child, he apparently was baptized in the Catholic Church. As an adult, however, he had presidential ambitions. He does not seem to have harbored anti-Catholic animosity, and he refused to be drawn into "any avowal of hostility or unfriendliness to Catholics." But in an era of profound anxieties about Catholics, including fears about their voting power and about the danger of their introducing papal tyranny, he was eager to be elected. He therefore proposed a constitutional amendment in late 1875 that would have rewritten the First Amendment--applying it to the states, and adding that "no money raised by taxation in any State for the support of public schools ... shall ever be under the control of any religious sect."

For decades, states had used taxes to support public and private schools controlled by Protestants, with the goal not merely of Americanizing but of Protestantizing Catholic children. 

Within the confines of the text and history, it is nearly impossible to run afoul of the Establishment part of the 1st.

June 20, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 7:59 PM


Loopstok more than an unusual name (Damien Sordelett, 6/20/17, MLB.com)

Sicnarf Loopstok's resolution for his third season with Class A Advanced Lynchburg was simple: Swing for the fences. [...]

The 13th-round selection in the 2013 Draft out of Western Oklahoma State College returned to Aruba during the offseason and worked with former Major Leaguer Eugene Kingsale on hitting, defense at first base and a plethora of other small details needed during the course of the lengthy season.

Loopstok also credited current Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts with providing some tips and insight as he continues his development in Lynchburg.

"For us to get that information and some advice from them, it really meant a lot to us," he said. "It was a good thing."

Posted by orrinj at 7:11 PM


Newly Uncovered Recordings Find Thelonious Monk In His Prime (TOM MOON, 6/20/17, NPR)

In 1959, the peak of his playing years, Thelonious Monk did something he'd never done before: record music for a film. Released in the U.S. as Dangerous Liaisons, the French film Les Liaisons Dangereuses featured nearly 30 minutes of Monk's music, none of which ever made it to a record. But the master tapes resurfaced last year, and were first released as a vinyl exclusive on Record Store Day this April. The music collected in Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960 is a discovery that offers fresh perspective on the jazz visionary's heyday. [...]

Monk laid down the music for the film on July 27, 1959. Romano had prepared a list of cues -- they only had a day to record, and the pressure was on. But those plans went out of the window almost immediately, as Monk and his crew ripped through some of his well-known compositions. The playing throughout Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960 is lively and spirited -- Monk scampers around the piano, finding delight in every register, jabbing at chords in ways that jolt his rhythm section. And occasionally, he takes a few left turns, among them a tender rendition of the hymn "We'll Understand It Better By And By."

Posted by orrinj at 7:06 PM


Despite Concerns About Blackmail, Flynn Still Heard C.I.A. Secrets (MATT APUZZO, MATTHEW ROSENBERG and ADAM GOLDMAN, JUNE 20, 2017, NY Times)

At the F.B.I., the C.I.A., the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence -- agencies responsible for keeping American secrets safe from foreign spies -- career officials agreed that Mr. Flynn represented an urgent problem.

Yet nearly every day for three weeks, the new C.I.A. director, Mike Pompeo, sat in the Oval Office and briefed President Trump on the nation's most sensitive intelligence -- with Mr. Flynn listening. [...]

The concerns about Mr. Flynn's vulnerabilities, born from misleading statements he made to White House officials about his conversations with the Russian ambassador, are at the heart of a legal and political storm that has engulfed the Trump administration. Many of Mr. Trump's political problems, including the appointment of a special counsel and the controversy over the firing of the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, can be ultimately traced to Mr. Flynn's tumultuous tenure.

Time and again, the Trump administration looked the other way in the face of warning signs about Mr. Flynn. Mr. Trump entrusted him with the nation's secrets despite knowing that he faced a Justice Department investigation over his undisclosed foreign lobbying. Even a personal warning from President Obama did not dissuade him.

...but the obstruction is.

Posted by orrinj at 7:03 PM


Judge, jury and executioner: The ballad of 'Cowboy' Joe West (Jeff Passan, 6/20/17, Yahoo Sports)

See, when Joe West is behind the plate and a fresh-to-the-big-leagues kid in the batter's box, West expects the rookie to introduce himself. Do that, West said, "and next time up you can call me a [expletive]." Don't do that, West said, and it's just disrespecting the game.

"A lot of problems we have today as umpires are based on how society brings up people," West said. "When I came to the big leagues, if a player got out of line, the umpire took care of it right then. Our umpires coming out of the minor leagues - they're not letting them take care of it. A player will come to the big leagues not knowing what he's supposed to do."

Lest you think West is simply a graybeard who wants things to be how they once were, it isn't true. He loves instant replay. Seriously.

"The best thing that ever happened with replay is the umpires get to review their work and everyone else's and learn from things done correctly and mistakes that are made," he said. "They'll sit in there and dissect the play. I think it's been great for the game. The funny thing about it is baseball spent $40 million to prove we're 99 percent right."

But ...

"When we put in replay, I thought there would be no arguments," West said. "The first year we put in replay, ejections went up 20 percent. Baseball is a funny game. It's typically American. If you don't succeed it's someone else's fault. And the first person you want to look at is the official. Just look at our last election. When Hillary lost, it's someone else's fault. The Russians. Wikileaks. It's the fact you couldn't stand up and say I lost. Nobody in today's society wants to say I wasn't good enough. Baseball is a game of failures. The last hitter who hit .400 is dead and gone. There isn't going to be another of those. For anybody to think this is a perfect game, they're kidding themselves. Let's be honest: How do you hit a round ball with a cylindrical bat square."

That is Joe West. That, in 141 words, is him being thoughtful, bombastic, brash, exaggerated, contemplative and introspective. That is 40 years of marriage between a titan and the game he loves. And to see Joe West as anything but a fundamental part of nearly half a century of baseball would be wrong. The game was what it was, is what it is, because of Joe West.

It's impossible to say whether there will be another of him because he is an archetype: the principled belligerent. West believes in the end. The means are malleable. If it takes him running a guy to make his point, he runs him. If it takes him grabbing Jonathan Papelbon's jersey - something for which he earned a one-game suspension and near-unanimous praise throughout the game for putting a boor in his place - then grab he will.

Posted by orrinj at 6:50 PM


Fountainheads of Fusionism (Jordan J. Ballor, June 6th, 2017, Public Discourse)

[I] believe that fusionism is a phenomenon that illustrates a deeper and more fundamental connection between social conservatism and economic liberty. To better understand this connection, let us consider the relationship between Edmund Burke and Adam Smith.

Reconsidering Burke and Smith

There is extensive literature on both Burke and Smith and upon the relationship between the two. Without reviewing it all, I should simply note that the view that Burke and Smith's conceptions of political economy are complementary has a long pedigree. It goes all the way back, in fact, to Adam Smith himself, who said (according to Burke) that after first conversing "on subjects of political economy" that Burke was "the only man, who, without communication, thought on these topics exactly as he did." Burke's biographer, Robert Bissett, who passes along this oft-repeated quotation, also observes that Burke talked in very high terms of Dr. Adam Smith; praised the clearness and depth of his understanding, his profound and extensive learning, and the vast accession that had accrued to British literature and philosophy from these exertions; and described his heart as being equally good with his head, and his manners as peculiarly pleasing.

As William Clyde Dunn puts it, "The views which Smith and Burke each held with regard to the other's field of major interest show a close ideological relationship between the two. There is much of Burkian politics in Adam Smith." Burke, in fact, briefly reviewed Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments quite favorably in print. He calls Smith's treatise "one of the most beautiful fabrics of moral theory, that has perhaps ever appeared." Burke also corresponded privately to Smith in 1759, again praising the work: "I am not only pleased with the ingenuity of your Theory; I am convinced of its solidity and Truth." In Burke's view, a special virtue of Smith's theory was its grounding in timeless truth about the human person. "A theory like yours founded on the Nature of man, which is always the same, will last, when those that are founded on his opinions, which are always changing, will and must be forgotten," says Burke.

Though he praised the work highly, Burke reserved judgment on some of the particulars of Smith's project in The Wealth of Nations, preferring to see how particular policy proposals and application of prudential judgments might play out in relation to timeless and objective truths about reality and human society. In Burke, we see this connection to the past, to tradition, to culture, and to religion as a source and foundation for moral virtue.

Burke and Smith did not hold identical religious views, nor did they agree upon all details of political economy. Still, there is a broad coherence and complementarity between their perspectives about the relationship between virtue and social order. Keeping Burke and Smith in conversation can help us to hold on to tradition while still being open to dynamism. It can help us to respect religion, make right use of reason, and hold together both freedom and virtue.

In succeeding generations, there was a close connection between religion--Christianity in particular--and classical political economy. As Paul Heyne put it, "Protestant clergymen played a prominent part in the early teaching of economics in the United States, especially prior to the Civil War, and their doctrines generally lauded the productive as well as the moral virtues of the American economy." This connection between clergy and classical political economy was evident not only in the United States, but also overseas.

The Future of Fusionism

While not advocating a simplistic return to a bygone age of "clerical laissez-faire," as Heyne calls it, I do advocate a return to the moral foundations of the free economy represented by Burke and Smith. In particular, reconnecting virtue and liberty can help us sort out the contemporary challenges of nationalism and internationalism.

We need a proper balance between nationalism and internationalism, or what has been called cosmopolitanism. Burke can help us realize that we are all rooted in particular places and among a particular people, whether defined by creed, ethnicity, or culture. We cannot cease to be a member of a political society any more than we can cease to be a member of a family or a member of the human race, and it is the challenge presented by much contemporary populism that we must properly order and orient these different aspects of our individual identities.

Much contemporary economics proceeds as if the economic argument, whether it is on an issue like the minimum wage or free trade or welfare transfers, ought to be the end of the discussion. If the cost-benefit analysis comes out in favor of a particular policy, then that policy should be enacted. Yet, even if there is an economic consensus on a particular question, that should not be the end but rather the beginning of the policy discussion. Advocates of the liberal order and of the connection between freedom and virtue must work to put the political back into political economy. Lord Acton said it well: "Political economy cannot be supreme arbiter in politics. Else you might defend slavery where it is economically sound and reject it where the economic argument applies against it."

A corollary of this correction to the dynamic dichotomy between nationalism and internationalism is the proper valuation of the "middle things," those institutions and realities that lie between the individual and the collective, and especially the state, as an expression of identity. We can think here of Burke's "little platoons," or Tocqueville's observations about civil society and voluntary associations. It isn't of course only strictly voluntary associations that mediate between the individual and the state, though. There are families, which we are naturally born into or at least become part of independent of an act of rational willing on our parts. There are churches, which, depending on the ecclesiology, we are born into or at least nurtured in before the age of consent. Even our earthly citizenship defies a "voluntary association" identification, as we are all born a citizen of some nation or some political order. All of these things are real and have consequences and meaning for people and cannot simply be elided into a dichotomy of individual and state. For the most part, these "middle things" are where life is lived and given its meaning, where we are formed and express our virtues and our vices.

Wealth of Nations can not be read in isolation from Moral Sentiments and still make sense.
Posted by orrinj at 6:36 PM


Trump's Renewed Russia Sanctions Look A Lot Like Obama's (ROBBIE GRAMER, JUNE 20, 2017, Foreign Policy)

"It looks like a list that would have come out under the last administration," said Sean Kane, an international trade and sanctions expert at Hughes Hubbard & Reed law firm.

And the timing couldn't be better. For starters, they're in the wake of the European Union's new agreement to extend sanctions against Russia for another year, signaling transatlantic solidarity -- something that appears to be a rare commodity in the Trump era.

The new measures also come a week after the Senate voted overwhelmingly to pass another round of sanctions against Russia, a strong check against what was widely seen as Trump's plans to soften Washington's stance toward the Kremlin. They also come on the same day Russia is trying to price its new bond issuance, which could scuttle Moscow's plans to breath new life into its anemic economy.

As diplomatic icing on the cake, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko visited Washington Tuesday on the heels of the announcement, signaling the Trump administration's willingness to back Kiev after growing fears it'd sell out the government there for some form of grand bargain with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Always bet on the Deep State.

Posted by orrinj at 3:19 PM


Secret Government Report: Chelsea Manning Leaks Caused No Real Harm (Jason Leopold, 6/20/17, BuzzFeed News)

In the seven years since WikiLeaks published the largest leak of classified documents in history, the federal government has said they caused enormous damage to national security.

But a secret, 107-page report, prepared by a Department of Defense task force and newly obtained by BuzzFeed News, tells a starkly different story: It says the disclosures were largely insignificant and did not cause any real harm to US interests.

Regarding the hundreds of thousands of Iraq-related military documents and State Department cables provided by the Army private Chelsea Manning, the report assessed "with high confidence that disclosure of the Iraq data set will have no direct personal impact on current and former U.S. leadership in Iraq."

Open source everything and let the market determine the value of what we think we know.
Posted by orrinj at 10:26 AM


How the Democrats Lost Their Way on Immigration : In the past decade, liberals have avoided inconvenient truths about the issue. (PETER BEINART, JULY/AUGUST 2017, The Atlantic) 

In 2005, a left-leaning blogger wrote, "Illegal immigration wreaks havoc economically, socially, and culturally; makes a mockery of the rule of law; and is disgraceful just on basic fairness grounds alone." In 2006, a liberal columnist wrote that "immigration reduces the wages of domestic workers who compete with immigrants" and that "the fiscal burden of low-wage immigrants is also pretty clear." His conclusion: "We'll need to reduce the inflow of low-skill immigrants." That same year, a Democratic senator wrote, "When I see Mexican flags waved at proimmigration demonstrations, I sometimes feel a flush of patriotic resentment. When I'm forced to use a translator to communicate with the guy fixing my car, I feel a certain frustration."

The blogger was Glenn Greenwald. The columnist was Paul Krugman. The senator was Barack Obama.

Prominent liberals didn't oppose immigration a decade ago. Most acknowledged its benefits to America's economy and culture. They supported a path to citizenship for the undocumented. Still, they routinely asserted that low-skilled immigrants depressed the wages of low-skilled American workers and strained America's welfare state. And they were far more likely than liberals today are to acknowledge that, as Krugman put it, "immigration is an intensely painful topic ... because it places basic principles in conflict."

The only difference between Donald and Bernie is why they hate immigrants.

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