August 28, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 12:05 PM


Plouffe Annoys Chuck Todd When He Calls Trump a 'Psychopath' (Alyssa Canobbio, August 28, 2016, Free Beacon)

In a previous conversation with Todd, Plouffe had expressed concern with Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton winning Virginia and Colorado. Noting the states seem safely in Clinton's column, Todd asked him how he didn't seem to assess those states correctly.

"I think the assessment was that Donald Trump would try and do some things to appeal to the middle of the electorate, to appeal to the suburban college educated women. He's not. Basically we have a psychopath running for president," Plouffe said. "He meets the clinical definition, OK?"

Todd immediately took issue with Plouffe diagnosing Trump on television and stopped him and asked if he had a degree in psychology.

"Is that fair? We're jumping to conclusions here," Todd said.

What "Psychopath" Means (Scott O. Lilienfeld, Hal Arkowitz, December 1, 2007, Scientific American)

First described systematically by Medical College of Georgia psychiatrist Hervey M. Cleckley in 1941, psychopathy consists of a specific set of personality traits and behaviors. Superficially charming, psychopaths tend to make a good first impression on others and often strike observers as remarkably normal. Yet they are self-centered, dishonest and undependable, and at times they engage in irresponsible behavior for no apparent reason other than the sheer fun of it. Largely devoid of guilt, empathy and love, they have casual and callous interpersonal and romantic relationships. Psychopaths routinely offer excuses for their reckless and often outrageous actions, placing blame on others instead. They rarely learn from their mistakes or benefit from negative feedback, and they have difficulty inhibiting their impulses.

Donald Trump: Sociopath? (JAMES HAMBLIN  JUL 20, 2016, The Atlantic)

Labeling people from afar is an inherently flawed endeavor, of course, especially with regard to mental health. Many psychologists and psychiatrists say that their work could never be done remotely, and should never be attempted outside of the standard, one-on-one approach to diagnosis. Many regard anything less as patently unethical. But certain extenuating circumstances seem to make this exercise worthwhile.

Psychiatrists often bestow labels knowing less about the facts of people's lives and actions than we collectively know today about Donald Trump's. We're also legitimized in this endeavor by the fact that sociopathy and psychopathy--which are similar, and sometimes used interchangeably--are not formal psychiatric diagnoses. The terms "sociopath" and "psychopath" do tend to be thrown around casually by people in need of an insult that carries an air of empiricism. "My boss is a sociopath" is to say that this is not just an opinion or judgment, but a fact. But different people define the terms differently, with understandings converging around the feature of lacking "a conscience."  

The closest thing to psychopathy or sociopathy in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM)--the book that defines every mental illness and outlines how mental-health professionals should make the diagnosis--is either Narcissistic Personality Disorder or Antisocial Personality Disorder.

Other analysts have focused on the applicability of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, which the Mayo Clinic defines by "an inflated sense of [one's] own importance, a deep need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of ultra-confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that's vulnerable to the slightest criticism." One psychologist, Ben Michaelis, called Trump "textbook Narcissistic Personality Disorder." Psychologist George Simon called Trump "so classic that I'm archiving video clips of him to use in workshops because there's no better example of his characteristics."

To more wholly assess the claim of sociopathy, then, it may be more illustrative at this point to consider the Antisocial Personality Disorder side of the picture, which focuses on deceit, manipulation, disregard for the rights of others, and failure to take responsibility for one's actions.

According to the DSM, Antisocial Personality Disorder should be diagnosed in a person who meets two criteria about the way they function in the world, and criteria about their personal traits. In the realm of the latter, the person must also demonstrate two other traits: antagonism and disinhibition.

Antagonism can be characterized by hostility, manipulativeness, deceitfulness, or callousness. It's worth considering these one by one.

Posted by orrinj at 11:58 AM


Trump's 2,000-Mile Mistake (Francis Wilkinson, 8/26/16, Bloomberg View)

Even Donald Trump recognizes that he has an immigration problem. No, I'm not talking about his wife, Melania, whose promised news conference detailing her sketchy immigration history has, almost three weeks after Trump announced it, still failed to materialize. I'm talking about the pronouncements -- mass deportations, the famous Mexican-financed border wall -- that have been the centerpiece of Trump's presidential campaign.

With November's election fast approaching, it seems Trump is having second thoughts. Given this particular candidacy, it's equally plausible that Trump is having first thoughts. There is no evidence that he has ever seriously considered any issue, including immigration. His purpose throughout the Republican primary was to convey hostility to Hispanic immigrants, and to validate the hostility of his crowds. Accusing Mexicans of crimes and promising deportations and a wall to keep them out accomplished his goal. Were his pronouncements actual policies that Trump intended to carry out? I don't know. Maybe.

Now, polls are showing the limits of bigotry and boorishness in a general election. While the horse-race numbers have been generally bad for Trump, a Pew Research poll released this week is arguably worse. It reveals why he might want to wiggle out of his promises to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants and erect an impenetrable wall along the southwestern border.

August 27, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 5:57 PM


Trump Is the Titanic (JONATHAN V. LAST, 8/25/16, Weekly Standard)

What I was trying emphasize with all the poll talk Wednesday is that this race is over. There is no coming back from where Trump is now. A candidate with high-favorables and a semi-competent campaign--say, Bob Dole--couldn't do it. A conspiracy-obsessed narcissist who is hated by 60 percent of the country and whose operation spends more money on hats and private planes than on voter turnout isn't going to do it.

Here's the #realtalk: Donald Trump is not going to be elected president. And if you're serious about blunting Hillary Clinton's agenda, then you need to accept this reality and start working to save (1) as many marginal Senate seats as possible and (2) the House.

Posted by orrinj at 5:50 PM


Louisiana floods, but Wal-Mart, UPS keep trucks running (Brett Duke, August 17, 2016, Times Picayune)

Wal-Mart trucks were among the first to deliver much needed supplies after Hurricane Katrina tore through the Gulf Coast in 2005. As many Katrina survivors still note, Wal-Mart trucks arrived well before the Federal Emergency Management Agency did.

Over the weekend, Wal-Mart was again among the large companies in Louisiana able to keep supply lines open and operations going despite catastrophe -- this time historic flooding that devastated whole communities and shut down major roadways.

Wal-Mart spokeswoman Erica Jones said the corporation's emergency operations center in Bentonville, Ark., kicked into high gear late last week as forecast warnings of record rainfall started to roll in. Wal-Mart has about 30 locations in the affected area, including stores in the heavily flooded communities of Denham Springs and Baker.

Jones said early planning included mapping alternate routes for trucks delivering to stores in and around Louisiana. Corporate meteorologists monitored the weather and helped inform plans. Preparations were made to ramp up shipments of essential supplies -- from bottled water to baby formula -- to the region as it became clear conditions would worsen.

Jones said eight Wal-Mart stores were closed because of various levels of flooding and damage. As of Thursday (Aug. 18), five of those stores had re-opened. A key distribution center in Hammond also remained open. The Hammond center serves stores in Louisiana and south Mississippi.

Jones said the current priority is ensuring Wal-Mart employees are healthy and taken care of and that trucks are safely re-routed to get to where they need to be.

"We are shifting our resources to be able to work around the road closures and damage to facilities," Jones said.

Big corporations have a clear motive in investing in disaster preparedness. Planning ahead minimizes the dent otherwise unpredictable natural disasters can make on revenues. And there's a sales advantage in being able to quickly get back to providing supplies and services to customers in a time of need.

On the plus side, corporations can serve as a model for how disaster response should work. Experts point to Katrina. While FEMA's response was lethargic and inefficient, major companies ushered in needed supplies quickly.

Posted by orrinj at 9:56 AM


Denmark world's happiest country, Burundi least: new report shows (Philip Pullella, 8/27/16, Reuters)

The report, prepared by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and the Earth Institute at Columbia University, showed Syria, Afghanistan and eight sub-Saharan countries as the 10 least happy places on earth to live.

The top 10 this year were Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, Finland, Canada, Netherlands, New Zealand, Australia, and Sweden. 

Posted by orrinj at 9:51 AM


Donald Trump broke the conservative media (Oliver Darcy, 8/27/16, Business Insider)

The roots of the conservative news media industrial complex came in the 1990s with the rise of three key forces: Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and Matt Drudge.

All broke ground and revolutionized their respective platforms: Fox News opinion programming on TV, Limbaugh on radio, and Drudge on the web.

In the years that followed, many emulated their successes. What Limbaugh did with talk radio paved the way for hosts like Hannity, Glenn Beck, Michael Savage, Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin, and more. And what Drudge did with the internet helped spawn a slew of conservative websites. Breitbart, TheBlaze, The Daily Caller, Hot Air, and Townhall came online to serve a right-leaning audience with an insatiable appetite for news told through a conservative lens.

But in the 1990s, the conservative press was not very hostile to politicians on the right. In its formative era, the conservative-media movement mostly played friendly with Republicans. It instead spent its energy zeroing in on President Bill Clinton. Perhaps the peak came with the Monica Lewinsky scandal, during which the conservative media relentlessly hammered the president.

For the most part, Republicans and the conservative media existed symbiotically. Republicans used their newfound apparatus as a vehicle to drive home their message to supporters. Simultaneously, the conservative news media sought to lock in its audience by characterizing the mainstream press as an industry comprising dishonest liberals -- something with which the GOP was more than happy to go along.

"What it became, essentially, was they were preaching this is the only place you can get news. This is the only place you can trust. All other media outlets are lying to you. So you need to come to us," said Ted Newton, president of Gravity Strategic Communications and former communications adviser to 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

"And so in an attempt to capture an audience, they almost made them slaves to those news outlets. So there is a whole group of people who will only watch Fox, who will only read Breitbart. And they are living in a bubble," he added.

Toward the end of President George W. Bush's second term, the symbiotic relationship showed signs of souring. Establishment figures inside the GOP supported immigration reform and a bailout at the height of the 2008 recession. Conservative talkers didn't.

In essence, the Right only trusts the least trustworthy media sources they can find.

Posted by orrinj at 9:45 AM


From Political Islam to Muslim Democracy : The Ennahda Party and the Future of Tunisia (Rached Ghannouchi, September/October 2016, Foreign Affairs)

Ennahda, one of the most influential political parties in the Arab world and a major force in Tunisia's emergence as a democracy, recently announced a historic transition. Ennahda has moved beyond its origins as an Islamist party and has fully embraced a new identity as a party of Muslim democrats. The organization, which I co-founded in the 1980s, is no longer both a political party and a social movement. It has ended all of its cultural and religious activities and now focuses only on politics.

Ennahda's evolution mirrors Tunisia's broader social and political trajectory. The party first emerged as an Islamist movement in response to repression at the hands of a secularist, authoritarian regime that denied citizens religious freedom and the rights of free expression and association. For decades, Tunisian dictators shut down all political dis­course in the country, forcing movements with political aims to operate exclusively as social and cultural organizations. But the revolution of 2010-11 brought an end to authoritarian rule and opened up space for open, free, and fair political competition.

Tunisia's new constitution, which Ennahda members of parliament helped draft and which was ratified in 2014, enshrines democracy and protects political and religious freedoms. Under the new constitution, the rights of Tunisians to worship freely, express their convictions and beliefs, and embrace an Arab Muslim identity are guaranteed, and so Ennahda no longer needs to focus its energies on fighting for such protections. 

Posted by orrinj at 9:40 AM


THE MORAL HEART OF HAMILTON (Alexi Sargeant, 8 . 25 . 16, First Things)

Hamilton tells of America's pursuit of greatness and reminds us how much we need goodness. Lin-Manuel Miranda's musical locates politics downstream of marriage and family. Alexander Hamilton's legacy depends, in the end, on the grace of his wife Eliza. She is the answer to the last question of a three-part motif: "Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?"

The musical reverences George Washington as general, president, and man of God. Actor Chris Jackson, who originated the role, inhabited this threefold authority naturally, gathering the cast in a backstage prayer circle before each show. On stage Washington recites Micah 4:4, historically his favorite scriptural passage, incorporated into the farewell address: "Everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree / And no one shall make them afraid." With these words, Miranda emphasizes how Biblically-saturated America's founding was, and hints at the moral concerns of the show.

Aaron Burr, Hamilton's narrator and Hamilton's killer, complains that Hamilton has been "seated at the right hand of the father," elevated to Washington's side. The Trinitarian image is ironic: Though Washington is a godly man and father-figure, Hamilton isn't quite a spotless lamb. Inaugurating the role, Miranda played his protagonist as an irrepressible motor-mouth, committed to his ideals, hungry for fame, and susceptible to his passions. Hamilton's involvement in America's first political sex scandal is treated as a profound moral failing.

Hamilton woos his wife Eliza (originally played by Philippa Soo) in Act One, in a bright rhythm-and-blues/rap duet called "Helpless." It's a lady-and-the-tramp story, as the orphan immigrant Hamilton courts a daughter of the wealthy Schuyler family. He promises to protect and care for her: "Long as I'm alive, Eliza, swear to God you'll never feel so helpless!" But he breaks this promise. Hamilton commits adultery with a married woman named Maria Reynolds, is blackmailed and extorted by her husband, and finally publishes an account of the whole thing to clear himself of the charge of mishandling government funds. The music of adultery darkly mirrors the music of marriage--again a rhythm-and-blues/rap duet, but more foreboding. Even as Hamilton succumbs to Reynolds's charms, he reflects bitterly on how hollow the whole affair is: "This is the last time / I said that last time / It became a pastime." Sin can take everything from you without even giving what it promised.

By his infidelity and its public fallout, Hamilton leaves Eliza helpless. Devastated, she "erases herself from the narrative" by burning all her correspondence with him (this is the musical's clever way of incorporating the lack of extant writing by Eliza into the character's arc). She sings, "You forfeit your place in my heart, / You forfeit your place in our bed, / You'll sleep in your office instead, / With only the memories of when you were mine." Striving for greatness but falling short of goodness, Hamilton has undone his family.

Hamilton has no reason to expect forgiveness from his wife, yet somehow he gets it. First, he must endure more heartbreak--the death of his eldest son in a duel. In the Act Two show-stopper "Quiet Uptown," the Hamilton family grapples with this new sorrow. Hamilton sings, "I take the children to Church on Sunday, / The sign of the cross at the door, / And I pray. / That never used to happen before." His prayer is for forgiveness, and he gets it. "She takes his hand," go the lyrics, as Eliza draws near him. "There are moments that the words don't reach, / There's a grace too powerful to name": Marriage is capable, if we humbly let it, of producing fruit that is greater than anything we could reasonably hope for.

Posted by orrinj at 8:14 AM


Cancer is now the leading cause of death in 22 states. Surprisingly, that's good news. (Julia Belluz on August 24, 2016, Vox)

Americans are also simply living longer, and the overwhelming majority -- 86 percent -- of all cancers in the US are diagnosed in older people, over the age of 50.

But while more people may be dying from cancer, the cancer death rate has actually been declining since the early 1990s. (In other words, of the people diagnosed with the disease, fewer are now dying from it.) These changes are mainly attributed gains in early detection and treatment advances, as well as declines in the smoking rate.

The drop in heart disease deaths is also clearly good news. According to the American Heart Association, it can also be attributed in part to the decline in smoking, as well as improvements in emergency care for heart disease patients, medications and procedures, and increased awareness about healthy eating and lifestyle.

Such are the benefits of taxing what we don't want.

Posted by orrinj at 8:08 AM


U.S. intelligence sees Islamic State as weakened after series of defeats  (W.J. Hennigan and Brian Bennett, 8/27/16, LA Times)
The Pentagon and U.S. intelligence agencies now view Islamic State as a shrinking and increasingly demoralized military force, a sharp shift from the seemingly invincible extremist army that declared an Islamist caliphate two years ago.

The revised assessment comes after surprisingly swift and relatively bloodless victories this summer near Syria's border with Turkey and in the Sunni heartland of Iraq, two areas where Islamic State had appeared entrenched.

The rapid recapture this week of Jarabulus, the militants' last garrison by the Turkish border, helped close off a boundary region that was crucial for movement of recruits, supplies and money in and out of the group's quasi-state.

It also was the latest fight to suggest the Sunni militants no longer are willing to fight to hold territory against a sustained assault.

Posted by orrinj at 8:03 AM


Jordan's Election Poses a Test for Muslim Brotherhood's Change (Yaroslav Trofimov, 8/25/2016, WSJ)

The Sept. 20 elections in Jordan--a monarchy where most major decisions are taken by the royal court--aren't likely to alter the country's domestic or foreign policies. But they offer a rare test of strength for political Islam in the region as well as a measure of what lessons, if any, the Brotherhood has learned from its disastrous experience in power in Egypt.

The head of the IAF's elections committee, Zaki Bani Irsheid, was released from Jordanian prison earlier this year after serving most of his 18-month sentence for criticizing the United Arab Emirates, one of the region's most strident enemies of the Brotherhood.

"Political Islam is one of the most important components of Arab society and it cannot be eliminated," he said in an interview. "But the Islamic movement has undergone a deep review of its ideas and discourse, and the experiment of these elections is a manifestation of this change."

The IAF boycotted previous elections in 2010 and in 2013, when many Jordanian Islamists hoped street protests here would bring them to power the same way they had in Egypt and Tunisia--and that Brotherhood-affiliated rebels would take over in neighboring Syria.

Today, after a series of setbacks and splits, some of them engineered by the Jordanian government, the IAF is embracing a very different posture.

"We have always raised the slogan that we want to reform the regime, and stood in the way of those who said they want to overthrow the regime," said Ali Saleh Abu Sukkar, the IAF's deputy secretary-general.

The Brotherhood's mother organization in Egypt was repressed and kept out of power from its inception in the 1920s until the 2012-2013 administration of President Mohammed Morsi, who is currently behind bars. But the Jordanian branch has at times belonged to the kingdom's government and often backed the monarchy at critical intersections.

Because of Jordan's complicated electoral laws, the IAF-led coalition, Mr. Abu Sukkar said, is unlikely to win more than 20% of parliament's 130 seats. Such an achievement, however, would be enough to make the Islamists the biggest organized political force in the country's usually fractured legislature.

"Elections will give us a chance to influence political life instead of being politically absent," Mr. Abu Sukkar said. "There is a buildup of resentment in the society, and going on with the boycott would have only increased that resentment. That would have further dented the legitimacy of the legislative process, and the integrity of the state."

Posted by orrinj at 7:56 AM


What Donald Trump Knew About Undocumented Workers at His Signature Tower (Massimo Calabresi, Aug. 25, 2016, TIME)

In the summer of 1980, Donald Trump faced a big problem. For six months, undocumented Polish laborers had been clearing the future site of Trump Tower, his signature real estate project on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, where he now lives, maintains his private offices and hosts his presidential campaign.

The men were putting in 12-hour shifts with inadequate safety equipment at subpar wages that their contractor paid sporadically, if at all. A lawyer for many of the Poles demanded that the workers be paid or else he would serve Trump with a lien on the property. One Polish worker even went to Trump's office to ask him for money in person, according to sworn testimony and a deposition filed under oath in a court case.

For help, Trump turned to Daniel Sullivan, a 6-ft. 5-in., 285-lb. labor consultant, FBI informant and future officer of the Teamsters Union. "Donald told me he had difficulties ...," Sullivan later testified in the case. "That he had some illegal Polish employees on the job."

Sullivan had been helping Trump negotiate a c[****]o deal in New Jersey at the time, and he testified that he was shocked by Trump's admission. "I think you are nuts," Sullivan testified that he told Trump. "You are here negotiating a lease in Atlantic City for a c[****]o license and you are telling me you have got illegal employees on the job."

For 36 years, Trump has denied knowingly using undocumented workers to demolish the building that would be replaced with Trump Tower in 1980. After Senator Marco Rubio raised the issue of undocumented Polish workers during a Republican primary debate this year, Trump described himself as removed from the problem. "I hire a contractor. The contractor then hires the subcontractor," he said. "They have people. I don't know. I don't remember, that was so many years ago, 35 years ago."

But thousands of pages of documents from the case, including reams of testimony and sworn depositions reviewed by TIME, tell a different story. Kept for more than a decade in 13 boxes in a federal judiciary storage unit in Missouri, the documents contain testimony that Trump sought out the Polish workers when he saw them on another job, instigated the creation of the company that paid them and negotiated the hours they would work. The papers contain testimony that Trump repeatedly toured the site where the men were working, directly addressed them about pay problems and even promised to pay them himself, which he eventually did.

The documents show that after things got ugly over unpaid wages, Trump sought Sullivan's advice on the workers and their immigration status. At one point, a lawyer for the Poles testified, Trump threatened, through his own lawyer, to call the Immigration and Naturalization Service and have the workers deported.

Posted by orrinj at 7:52 AM


Exclusive: Iraq plans to sell oil through Iran if talks with Kurds fail (Stephen Kalin, 8/27/16, Reuters)

Iraq's government would consider selling crude through Iran should talks with the autonomous Kurdish region on an oil revenue-sharing agreement fail, a senior oil ministry official in Baghdad told Reuters.

Iraq's State Oil Marketing Organisation (SOMO) plans to hold talks with the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), possibly next week, about Iraqi oil exported through Turkey, Deputy Oil Minister Fayadh al-Nema said in an interview on Friday evening.

"If the negotiations come to a close" without an agreement "we will start to find a way in order to sell our oil because we need money, either to Iran or other countries", he said by telephone.

Posted by orrinj at 7:47 AM


In a federal mandate for waste, envelope lobby reveals Washington (TIMOTHY P. CARNEY, 8/26/16, Washington Examiner)

Five years ago, a new quirky-sounding consumer-rights group set up shop in a sleepy corner of Capitol Hill. "Consumers for Paper Options is a group of individuals and organizations who believe paper-based communications are critically important for millions of Americans," the group explained in a press release, "especially those who are not yet part of the online community."

This week, Consumers for Paper Options scored a big win, according to the Wall Street Journal. Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Mary Jo White has abandoned her plan to loosen rules about the need to mail paper documents to investors in mutual funds.

Mutual funds were lobbying for more freedom when it came to mailing prospectuses -- those exhaustive, bulky, trash-can-bound explanations of the contents of your fund. In short, the funds wanted to be free to make electronic delivery the default, while allowing investors to insist on paper delivery. This is an obvious common-sense reform which would save whole forests of trees.

Consumers for Paper Options fought back. The group warned that changing the default from paper to electronic delivery would "Confuse potentially millions of investors who suddenly stop seeing important printed fund performance material from investment firms."

"Ask Congress to stop the SEC from impeding access to paper-based investment materials," the group's website blared.

Consumers for Paper Options seems to have won for now, the SEC's reported pullback suggests.

If you're not familiar with how Washington works, you might be baffled that such a group exists. But if you understand how the sausage is made, you've probably guessed what Consumers for Paper Options really is: a front group for the companies and unions that profit from the federally required mailing of unread and unwanted materials. They defend tree-killers.

Posted by orrinj at 7:38 AM


Europe and the Nation State: Thoughts on Ortega y Gasset (DANIEL JOHNSON, September 2016, Standpoint)

What does it mean to be a conservative in Europe today? My answer is simple: to be a conservative means to reject the politics of negativity -- anger, revenge, hatred, guilt and resentment -- and instead to pursue a positive vision: a liberal-minded vision of generosity and justice, of peace and prosperity, of democracy and conviviality under the rule of law. To be a conservative means, in other words, to take the best ideas of the past and apply them to the present: not in a negative spirit of reactionary fear of the future, but embracing this world as we find it, with all its defects and depravity, its opportunities and its glimpses of divine glory, in the hope of improving it before we leave it for a better place. Conservatives are conscious that the material world matters to us all, but that it is not the only one; just as we know, too, that those living in it are not the only people who matter, for we cherish the generations who have come before us and learn from them, while never forgetting that we are but the harbingers of posterity, the generations to come who will inherit the world that we bequeath them. Conservatives feel the weight of history not as a burden, but with gratitude for the responsibilities that have been placed upon us by God. We are responsible for the preservation of the civilisation that has formed us and of which we in turn must endeavour to be worthy. For us European conservatives, our primary duty is to the civilisation of the West; but our responsibilities do not stop there. Wherever in the world the forces of barbarism seek to destroy humanity and liberty, we must resist and overcome them. If we do not, they will seek us out sooner or later. Even if they fail in their attempt to annihilate us, physically and culturally, the barbarians may do great damage. 

Who are the conservative thinkers to whom we should be looking for inspiration? Here in Madrid, such questions spring naturally to mind, for this Most Catholic Kingdom of Spain is and always has been of a naturally conservative disposition, and conservative thought has flourished here at least since Ferdinand and Isabella ushered in the Spanish Golden Age. The grim fundamentalism of the Grand Inquisitor Torquemada and his Dominicans was only one side -- a dark one -- of that glittering coin. This was also the Spain that opened up the New World, that created global markets and trade routes, and to which we owe, perhaps, the very idea of "Western" civilisation. This was the Spain of El Greco and Velázquez, the Spain of Calderón and, above all, of Cervantes. It is worth recalling that the strict censorship of the Spanish Inquisition did not apply to the most popular literary genre of the day, novels and romances of chivalry. My godfather, the historian Hugh Thomas, describes this as "a remarkable toleration". The author of Don Quixote -- whose quatercentenary we celebrate this year along with that of his contemporary, Shakespeare -- was a true Spanish conservative. He loved the past, he revered the old knightly virtues of courtesy and mercy, but he was also a man of action who was wounded at Lepanto, helping to save Christendom from the Ottoman threat. Like Shakespeare, another great conservative, he loved his country more than himself. He believed in God, but his subject was humanity. For Cervantes, we are all, like the Don, muddle-headed fools with lucid intervals. Such is the hard-headed conservative view of politics and especially ideology. To a conservative, the pursuit of a perfect world, the world of which the Left has always dreamt, is at best like tilting at windmills; at worst, it means the abandonment of all the chivalry that mitigates man's savagery to man and especially to woman. We cannot avoid mistakes, but we may hope by the end to emulate the Don's epitaph: "Morir cuerdo, y vivir loco." ("To die in wisdom, having lived in folly.")

One part of this realism concerns the problem of inequality. Unlike many modern writers, including even some conservatives, Cervantes has no illusions about abolishing inequality: "Dos linajes solos hay en el mundo, como decía una abuela mía, que son el tener y el no tener." ("There are only two families in the world, as a grandmother of mine used to say: the Haves and the Have-nots.") This must be the first literary use of the phrase "Haves and Have-nots", more than two centuries before another great conservative, Benjamin Disraeli, wrote in his novel Sybil of "two nations; between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy . . . the Rich and the Poor". Because conservatives do not yearn for an egalitarian Utopia, they prefer to address the problem by ameliorating the effects of poverty, rather than demonising the rich. It is as important today as it ever was to avoid class warfare, which is stoked up by the demagogy of the far-Left; but the Right will only be taken seriously if it is seen to take radical measures to open up society and the economy to enable the Have-nots to compete on equal terms with the Haves. The Left will always try to exploit the guilt complexes of the Haves and the resentments of the Have-Nots; and these two emotions, guilt and resentment, are very powerful political factors, today as much as ever. If the centre-Right cannot counter guilt with generosity and resentment with justice, then its place will be taken by the far-Right, which exploits similarly negative emotions to the Left. The far-Right is in the ascendant across Europe today precisely because the conservative cause has allowed itself to abandon liberalism, and with it the positive politics that alone provide a vision of the future that may inspire the young and old alike. 

In its long period of decline from the 17th to the 20th centuries, Spain produced several conservative thinkers of a deeply pessimistic cast of mind, from the great Jesuit Baltasar Gracián, whose Criticón and Oráculo so impressed Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, to the noble diplomat Donoso Cortés, whose Ultramontane polemics against progress exercised a profound influence on Carl Schmitt. We can certainly learn much from these Catholic Cassandras, but in my view the Spanish thinker who should inspire conservatives today is José Ortega y Gasset. In his early tribute to Cervantes, Meditations on Quixote, he declared: "Hatred is the feeling which leads to the extinction of values." That was published in the fateful year 1914. Then came the Great War, from which Spain was fortunate to escape unscathed. In his best-known work, La Rebelión de las Masas (The Revolt of the Masses), published in 1930 as monarchy was replaced by republic in Spain, while Europe was being crushed between the pincers of Fascism and Communism, Ortega developed this thought. "Civilisation," he wrote, "is nothing else than the attempt to reduce the use of force to being the ultima ratio, the last resort." What he called "the revolt of the mass man", the tyranny of the majority and the use of force to resolve political disputes, was "the Magna Carta of barbarism". He went on: "Civilisation is above all the will to live together. A man is uncivilised, a barbarian in so far as he does not take others into account." This is what we see today, in its most extreme form, in the jihad against the West by Isis and other Islamist terrorists. What Ortega held up as his ideal "form of life" he called convivencia, a wonderful Spanish expression which combines the English words "coexistence" and "conviviality", as well as the Latin concordia. Such is the life that is only made possible by civilisation, and such is the true raison d'être of conservative thought and politics.

Posted by orrinj at 7:33 AM


Trump campaign CEO made anti-Semitic remarks, says ex-wife (BRIAN MELLEY AND JILL COLVIN, August 27, 2016, Times of Israel)

That revelation came a day after reports emerged that domestic violence charges were filed 20 years ago against Bannon following an altercation with his then-wife, Mary Louise Piccard.

In a sworn court declaration following their divorce, Piccard said her ex-husband had objected to sending their twin daughters to an elite Los Angeles academy because he "didn't want the girls going to school with Jews."

"He said he doesn't like Jews and that he doesn't like the way they raise their kids to be 'whiney brats,'" Piccard said in a 2007 court filing.

Posted by orrinj at 7:24 AM


Who is fighting who in Syria? (AFP, August 27, 2016)

The main battleline pits the approximately 300,000 soldiers of the Syrian army, and allied forces, against myriad rebel groups and Syrian and foreign jihadists.

The largest anti-regime rebel alliance is the Army of Conquest, grouping Islamist factions like Ahrar al-Sham and Faylaq al-Sham with jihadists such as Fateh al-Sham Front, previously Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front.

The biggest battlefront at present is Aleppo city, divided between government and opposition control but surrounded by loyalist forces.

The government is also fighting to retake control of Eastern Ghouta, next to Damascus, which is largely controlled by the Jaish al-Islam rebel group.

Syria's army has fought IS in several parts of the country, expelling the jihadists from the ancient city of Palmyra in March.

Posted by orrinj at 7:05 AM


The Gorbachev Files: Secret Papers Reveal Truth Behind Soviet Collapse (Christian Neef, 8/11/11, Der Spiegel)

Reading the documents feels like stepping back in time. All at once, they reveal the many problems of the calcified system, where farmers and miners alike were rebelling and intellectuals were demanding democratic elections. The people of the Baltic states, the Georgians and the Moldovans were revolting against the Russians, while the end of the Brezhnev Doctrine -- the Soviet Union foreign policy that countries could not leave the Warsaw Pact -- was looming in Eastern Europe.

Gorbachev, who had once been a provincial official in Stavropol, stood at the helm of this country, watching it suffocate as a result of its sheer size and the refusal of its bureaucracy to change course. The documents also show that even under Gorbachev, the bureaucracy was as inefficient as ever.

Gorbachev's aide Anatoly Chernyaev, for example, complains about incompetent leaders in the global communist movement, like French Communist Party leader Georges Marchais ("a dead horse") and Gus Hall, the chairman of the Communist Party USA ("a philistine with plebeian conceits"). Nevertheless, Moscow was still paying millions to support its representatives around the world.

At this time, shops in the Soviet Union had run out of eggs and sugar, and even vodka was in short supply. Conditions were so bad that, in September 1988, Chernyaev had to submit a written request to get a telephone connection in the apartment of his driver Nikolai Nikolayevich Maikov, so that the general secretary could reach him. [...]

Gorbachev later used some of the documents in his books, much to the chagrin of the current Kremlin leadership. But many of the papers are still taboo to this day. This is partly because they relate to decisions or people that Gorbachev is still unwilling to talk about. But most of all it is because they do not fit into the image that Gorbachev painted of himself, namely that of a reformer pressing ahead with determination, gradually reshaping his enormous country in accordance with his ideas.

During a research visit to the Gorbachev Foundation, the young Russian historian Pavel Stroilov, who lives in London today, secretly copied about 30,000 pages of the material archived there and made them available to SPIEGEL.

The documents reveal something that Gorbachev prefers to keep quiet: that he was driven to act by developments in the dying Soviet state and that he often lost track of things in the chaos. They also show that he was duplicitous and, contrary to his own statements, sometimes made deals with hardliners in the party and the military.

In other words, the Kremlin leader did what many retired statesmen do: He later significantly embellished his image as an honest reformer.

The West has praised Gorbachev for not forcefully resisting the demise of the Soviet Union. In reality, it remains unclear to this day whether the Kremlin leader did not in fact sanction military actions against Georgians, Azerbaijanis and Lithuanians, who had rebelled against the central government in Moscow between 1989 and 1991. When Soviet troops violently quelled the demonstrations, 20 people were killed in Georgia, 143 in Azerbaijan and 14 in Lithuania, not to mention the wars and unrest in Nagorno-Karabakh, Trans-Dniester and Central Asia.

Many have not forgotten the tragedy that unfolded in the Georgian capital Tbilisi on the night of April 8-9, 1989, when Russian soldiers used sharpened spades and poison gas to break up a protest march in the city.

Gorbachev claims that he was not made aware of the incident until six hours later. He had not given the military or the intelligence service clear signals to exercise restraint in the smoldering conflict, even though he knew how fragile the relationship was between Russians and Georgians. He also did not call anyone to account later on. Even today, he still says that it was "a huge mystery" as to who gave the orders to use violence in Tbilisi.

But when Gorbachev met with Hans-Jochen Vogel, the then-floor leader of Germany's center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), on April 11, two days after the bloody suppression of the protests, he sought to justify the hardliners' approach. He later had the following passage deleted from the published version of the Russian minutes of the conversation with Vogel:

You have heard about the events in Georgia . Notorious enemies of the Soviet Union had gathered there. They abused the democratic process, shouted provocative slogans and even called for the deployment of NATO troops to the republic. We had to take a firm approach in dealing with these adventurers and defending perestroika -- our revolution.

The "notorious enemies of the Soviet Union" were in fact peaceful civilians. Of the 20 Georgians killed in Tbilisi, 17 were women.

A remark made at a politburo meeting on Oct. 4, 1989, in which Gorbachev learned that 3,000 demonstrators had been killed on Tiananmen Square in Beijing that June, shows that he was prepared for resistance to his reform plans and was not necessarily ruling out the need for violent action. Gorbachev said:

We must be realists. They have to defend themselves, and so do we. 3,000 people, so what?

Although the minutes of the meeting were later published, this passage was missing.

Gorbachev: the wrong man for Andropov's reforms (ANDREI KONCHALOVSKY, 30 March 2011, Open Democracy)

Paradoxically, however, there was a kind of democracy flourishing in the USSR, and that was inside the narrow circle of Politburo members -- the governing body of the Central Committee (CC). All Politburo meetings were strictly secret, but the archives reveal that there were fairly heated discussions and confrontations between opposing points of view. No one was subsequently held responsible, or punished: people simply said what they thought. These Politburo discussions sometimes got as far as the CC itself, if it was necessary to publicise a new tendency. 

The next period of tension between the so-called liberals and conservatives blew up at the beginning of the 1960s. In the corridors of Dom Kino [the building at the centre of the film industry], I remember, there were intense discussions of the rumours about ideological debates going on inside the Kremlin. The new ideological head of the Party, Demichev, attempted to loosen control over literature and art, but this provoked a violent reaction from officials in the Soviet republics. Everyone was discussing the news that the Georgian Ideology Secretary had leapt on to the stage and shouted "I was a Stalinist and I still am! We will not permit the Party to be deprived of its leading ideological role!" A direct challenge to the Politburo!  Clearly these were no longer Stalinist times, when disagreement with the proposed party course meant instant death. But it was a sign that no reforms would get through without difficulty and that the party bosses were not afraid to protect their own interests.

In 1957, Yuri Andropov was head of the CC international department under Khrushchev.  He was then appointed Secretary to the Central Committee, in charge of interparty relations within the Soviet Bloc.  I remember the time very well: Andrei Tarkovsky and I were friends with some young people who were working in Andropov's foreign policy consultancy group in the CC administration.  There was Kolya Shishlin, Sasha Bovin, Zhora Shakhnazarov, Arbatov.... Andropov had employed them so as to inject some flexibility into the work of the all-powerful but cumbersome party apparatus. For Tarkovsky and me, meeting these people was a complete revelation, because they were young, free-thinking, educated, polyglot intellectuals. The freedom of thought that we enjoyed during our discussions at the dinner table -- over lots of vodka -- made me think that Andropov was different from those that had gone before him. If the likes of these people were his consultants, it indicated a wide-ranging world view, which didn't fit neatly into the dogma of the official elite. 

I should add that both Bovin and Shishlin, as well as other like-minded people in the department, were also responsible for writing the Secretary General's speeches. They told me that they always tried to see the text last, just before it was put in front of Brezhnev, and each time they checked to see that their paragraph condemning the cult of personality had not been taken out. The Stalinists working in the editorial section never failed to remove any negative references to Stalin or to the cult of personality.  Every time, Andropov's people would promptly put the offending paragraph back into the text and "guard" it until it was time for the speech. This was a legitimate way of putting their anti-Stalinist ideas into action.

As far as I can see, Andropov symbolised a wing of the Soviet "liberals", to a certain extent anti-Stalinists, though of course he never revealed this publicly. He was interested in European communism, which was natural, as he had always had dealings with Western communists. At the time, Western Marxism was moving actively in the direction of revising Stalinist dogma.

This long preamble is motivated by a wish to remind readers that the ideas of liberalisation and reform began not just anywhere, but from the heart of the Central Committee, and were implemented by people I knew.

In the middle of the 1960s, and under constant pressure from the liberal wing, the party signed itself up to economic reform. Prime Minister Kosygin was charged with putting the reform into effect. Kosygin was an economist and was quite unenthusiastic about the reforms, knowing the resistance this liberalisation would provoke among the Stalinists.  Understandably, for at that time the party had the monopoly of hearts, minds and the subsoil - in short, the riches of the whole country. The party elite had unlimited control over everything that was produced at that time in the Soviet Union, so any liberalisation would deprive the communists of their monopolistic privileges.

I remember meeting my friend Kolya Shishlin as he was returning from talks between the leaders of the Communist Parties of Czechoslovakia and the USSR.  He came towards me with a tragic face. "It's all over", he said. "We spent 10 years 'creeping up' on the enemy (Stalinist) trenches and that idiot (Dubcek) got up and 'ran for it', giving us all away. We'll have to forget about reforms for another 20 years."
The reforms and all the liberalising tendencies came to a tragic end, however, for Alexander Dubcek, Czechoslovakia's communist leader, sensed an opportunity and decided to get in first.  His Prague Spring (1968) set in motion an active programme to reform state organisations and the party.  Dubcek's project to decentralise the economy was christened "socialism with a human face".  We watched what was happening in Prague with amazement and delight, in sharp contrast to my friends in the Central Committee, who were afraid that it could all come badly unstuck.  Which, in the end, is exactly what happened.  The Soviet Stalinists, exploiting the rapid growth of anti-Soviet attitudes in Czechoslovakia, sent in the tanks and immediately put paid to all reforms in the USSR.  The reason given was that reforms could result in a similar catastrophe: the turning of the Soviet people against the whole totalitarian system.

Wise Kolya turned out to be absolutely right. It was 20 years later, in the middle of the 1980s, that the idea of progress dawned again, when Mikhail Gorbachev appeared on the scene as a reformer. He had been transferred to Moscow at the end of the 70s under the direct protection of Andropov, who often took his holidays in the south, where he had treatment for his kidneys and where Gorbachev was First Secretary of the Stavropol Regional Committee of the CPSU. Andropov took a shine to him and introduced him to Brezhnev, who also liked the young, educated, modern party activist. This was how Gorbachev came to Moscow in 1978 as CC Secretary of Agriculture.

The idea of reform and liberalisation was entirely Andropov's. As head of the KGB, he was better informed than anyone else about the catastrophic economic situation in the USSR. When he became head of state, he was able to start putting into effect the plan he had been hatching for a long time.  [...]

As a "new man",  Gorbachev (who was born in 1931) probably thought he could free the Soviet system from all its economic and ideological encumbrances. He probably hoped that this would guarantee unprecedented economic growth and inspire the people to new heights of achievement in the field of labour and so on. But it didn't happen. What happened was exactly the opposite. 

Gorbachev certainly didn't expect the course that events took, and for most of his time in power he was completely lost. The simple reason is that he didn't have (nor could he have done!) any real political experience which would have enabled him to perceive the results of his actions. It's unlikely that he could have imagined dismantling the system without being buried in the resulting wreckage. His lack of experience, education and intellectual potential meant that he had no idea of what was needed to embark on such a grandiose plan. Of course, it's easy for us to say this now. Back then, few people had any understanding of how complicated everything was - the one passionate desire was to destroy everything "quickly and for ever". 

Posted by orrinj at 6:42 AM


The San Diego Chicken Heads Into a Sunset (PETE CROATTO, AUG. 26, 2016, NY Times)

DES MOINES -- Ted Giannoulas's arrival was delayed four-plus hours; some of his luggage had not arrived. Now, in a brightly lit, empty drive-through restaurant outside of downtown, he savored a double burger as closing time neared. It was a late Sunday night in early August. The surrounding suburban strip malls offered little for sale but boredom.

The next day promised to be better. Men will want to shake his hand. Women will want to marry him. Children will want to take him home.

The San Diego Chicken will have a crowd.

Giannoulas, who turned 63 this month, has spent 42 years as perhaps the most influential mascot in sports history. Geoff Belinfante, a former executive producer with Major League Baseball Productions, said he believed Giannoulas's riotous antics in the 1970s spurred other teams to create their own mascots.

David Raymond, the original Phillie Phanatic, said of Giannoulas, "He just created actual entertainment for the fans, and did it in a way that was just spontaneous, interactive and unrehearsed."

Erin Blank, the owner of Keystone Mascots and a former Detroit Tigers and Washington Capitals mascot, added, "We wouldn't be doing what we do today if it wasn't for him."

Giannoulas's business model was always to go where a laugh was appreciated. For years, he pursued them relentlessly, spending up to 260 days on the road.

These days, thanks to the unpredictability of travel and a desire to enjoy life in San Diego, Giannoulas stays still -- or what, for him, passes for still. He hit 11 ballparks in July and August.

He looks uncertainly to the future, unsure about appointing a successor or retiring the character that has been his alone for decades. But he does know one thing.

"It's not the end," he said before the tour, "but I can see it from here."

Jane Giannoulas, his wife, had wondered what the slow times would be like. Though she loved being a part of the rush, the transition to a quieter present has been lovely. Time is theirs. They work in the yard, watch the waves crash onto the beach and devote autumn Sundays to the N.F.L.

Seeing her husband get to enjoy the simple pleasures is like "watching a child experience fireworks for the first time," she said. "People take these things for granted, but to see Ted sit down in the middle of the summer on a blanket at the lake, it's a real special thing."

Yet she acknowledges the Chicken is "in his soul." 

August 26, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 5:17 PM


Wolfowitz, a neo-con and strong supporter of Iraq war, says he'll vote for Clinton (Deutsche-Welle, 8/26/16)

Paul Wolfowitz, a neo-conservative who as a senior advisor to then-US President George W. Bush was a vociferous advocate for the preemptive war against Iraq in 2003, says Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump poses a security risk to the country and that he will vote for the Democratic candidate, Secretary Hillary Clinton.

Wolfowitz told Der Spiegel magazine that he has "serious reservations" about Clinton, but that he could not vote for Trump.

"It's important to make it clear how unacceptable he is," Wolfowitz told the magazine.

Posted by orrinj at 2:55 PM


Berkeley's Soda Tax Is Working And That Could Be A Game Changer (Nancy Fink Huehnergarth, 8/26/16, Forbes)

A study published on Tuesday found that Berkeley, California's penny-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks had reduced consumption by 21% in low-income neighborhoods - precisely where health officials hoped to see the largest decrease.

"Low-income communities bear the brunt of the health consequences of obesity and diabetes, so this decline in soda and sugary beverage consumption is very encouraging," said study senior author Kristine Madsen, an associate professor of public health at UC Berkeley, in a statement. "We are looking for tools that support people in making healthy choices, and the soda tax appears to be an effective tool."

Posted by orrinj at 11:08 AM


Why Are We Still Wasting Billions on Homeland Security Projects That Don't Make Us Any Safer? (Stephen Engelberg, 8/26/16, Pacific Standard)

In his September cover story for The Atlantic, Steven Brill recounts how the political lessons of those early years evolved into an approach he succinctly summarizes as "never again." Politicians and government bureaucrats understood that the public would not forgive a second, devastating strike. For the administrations of both President Bush and President Barack Obama, "never again" has meant saying yes to any initiative that could be sold as plausible protection against a future attack. The "never again" approach has remained in place even as those who commit acts of terrorism have shifted in recent years to take advantage of the lethal possibilities of the ever-more connected world.

Certainly, some of the government programs created to address vulnerabilities exposed by the 9/11 attacks were long overdue. The U.S. needed a much better system for screening air travelers, one that did not allow people to board airplanes with lethal weapons in hand. And it made sense to harden New York's underwater subway tunnels to limit the damage a bomb could do to both passengers and the city's infrastructure.

But for every valid effort, it seems like the terrorism-industrial complex came up with an array of boondoggles that were profitable for the companies involved but added little to the security of ordinary Americans. The upwards of $47 billion spent on FirstNet, the troubled effort to make sure firefighters and police could talk to each other in an emergency, staggers the imagination. Altogether, Brill calculates, the government has spent $100 to $150 billion on equipment and programs that do not work. What might have been accomplished if all of that money had been spent on, say, reducing the cost of a college education for poor and middle-class kids?

"Never again" might have made some sense when the enemy America faced, al-Qaeda, put all of its effort into planning terrorism spectaculars like the simultaneous attack on two American embassies or the destruction of the Twin Towers. The international logistics and footprint required for such operations gave intelligence and law-enforcement officials something to detect.

Posted by orrinj at 11:01 AM


Posted by orrinj at 10:54 AM


Texas elector threatens not to vote Trump : Another Republican member of the Electoral College wavers in his commitment to back the GOP nominee. (KYLE CHENEY 08/25/16, Politico)

Chris Suprun is a member of the Electoral College from Texas, a state the GOP can reliably count on to deliver votes every four years to the Republican presidential nominee.

But this year, with Donald Trump sitting atop the ticket, Suprun is warning he might not cast his electoral vote for the GOP standard-bearer. Indeed, he won't rule out throwing his vote to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton if Trump doesn't moderate his demeanor.

"I'm not a professional politician. I've got no training on this one," said Suprun. "The nominee is ... saying things that in an otherwise typical election year would have you disqualified."

Posted by orrinj at 10:50 AM


More Americans Can Afford Medications Under Obamacare: Study (Robert Preidt, 8/26/16, HealthDay Reporter)

At the recession's height in 2009, over 25 million Americans said they had not filled a prescription in the previous year because they couldn't afford it, the analysis of federal government data showed. That was nearly one in 10 Americans.

Between 1999 and 2009, every age group except seniors found prescription drugs increasingly difficult to afford. Among seniors, the problem was worst in 2004, when 5.4 percent were unable to afford their medicine. In 2006, once the new Medicare Part D program was in place, that number fell to 3.6 percent, the study found.

The Affordable Care Act, also called Obamacare, was signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2010.

Most groups now have greater ability to afford prescription drugs, the researchers said. For example, the percentage of 19- to 25-year-olds who couldn't afford to fill a prescription fell from nearly 11 percent in 2010 to just over 8 percent in 2011, as the Affordable Care Act let young adults remain on their parents' health insurance.

Posted by orrinj at 10:43 AM


Trump campaign chief Steve Bannon is registered voter at vacant Florida home (Jon Swaine and Lauren Gambino in New York and Richard Luscombe in Miami, 26 August 2016, The Guardian)

Donald Trump's new presidential campaign chief is registered to vote in a key swing state at an empty house where he does not live, in an apparent breach of election laws.

Stephen Bannon, the chief executive of Trump's election campaign, has an active voter registration at the house in Miami-Dade County, Florida, which is vacant and due to be demolished to make way for a new development.

"I have emptied the property," Luis Guevara, the owner of the house, which is in the Coconut Grove section of the city, said in an interview. "Nobody lives there ... we are going to make a construction there." Neighbors said the property had been abandoned for several months.

Bannon, 62, formerly rented the house for use by his ex-wife, Diane Clohesy, but did not live there himself. Clohesy, a Tea Party activist, moved out of the house earlier this year and has her own irregular voting registration arrangement. According to public records, Bannon and Clohesy divorced seven years ago.

On the other hand, it's not a swing state thanks to his boss, so his illegal vote doesn't matter.

Posted by orrinj at 10:38 AM


MLK's Niece: 'Black Lives Matter In The Womb ... But They Don't Want' To Say That (Michael W. Chapman, August 24, 2016, CNS)

Alveda King, 65, is a Christian minister, author, and a former member of the Georgia House of Representatives. She regularly speaks on pro-life issues.

During a recent interview on The Jim Bakker Show, co-host Lori Bakker asked, "If black lives matter, then why is it that black women are more than 5 times as likely as a white woman to have an abortion?"

Alveda King said, "Planned Parenthood hates it when this is explained. About 60 to 70% of all Planned Parenthoods are in minority neighborhoods. Abortion is billed and marketed - abortion mills or clinics are in predominantly black communities and we have proven this. Just traveling around the country and they'd say, 'oh, here's an abortion mill,' and it would be on or near a street named after Martin Luther King Jr. I began to see that beginning and then there were various organizations, and so we did the research and Life Research Institute really did confirm that."

"So then you get there [the abortion clinic], and they say, 'We really want to help you. We want abortion to be safe, legal and rare. But if you get pregnant, we're going to do this. We want you to be a credit to your race,'" explained King. "And it's [abortion] not rare. The recourse to this before '73 was the Negro Project. And the Negro Project was marketed primarily to the black community giving free and low-cost vasectomies and tubal ligations."

"When abortion became legal, then it was offered on a disproportionate rate to the black community, and sold as reproductive health care, reproductive freedom - this is your right," said Alveda King. "But Black Lives Matter in the womb, I would think. I think the womb that brings forth the black life should matter. But they don't want that out there. That's the thing. And so because black lives absolutely matter, what about the babies in that womb? What about that mama?"

Posted by Glenn Dryfoos at 7:45 AM


Rudy Van Gelder, Audio Engineer Who Helped Define Sound of Jazz on Record, Dies at 91 (Peter Keepnews, 8/25/2016, NY Times)

Rudy Van Gelder, an audio engineer whose work with Miles Davis, John Coltrane and numerous other musicians helped define the sound of jazz on record, died on Thursday at his home, which doubled as his studio, in Englewood Cliffs, N.J. He was 91.

His death was confirmed by his assistant, Maureen Sickler.

Mr. Van Gelder, as he took pains to explain to interviewers, was an engineer and not a producer. He was not in charge of the sessions he recorded; he did not hire the musicians or play any role in choosing the repertoire. But he had the final say in what the records sounded like, and he was, in the view of countless producers, musicians and listeners, better at that than anyone.

The many albums he engineered for Blue Note, Prestige, Impulse and other labels in the 1950s and '60s included acknowledged classics like Coltrane's "A Love Supreme," Davis's "Walkin'," Herbie Hancock's "Maiden Voyage," Sonny Rollins's "Saxophone Colossus" and Horace Silver's "Song for My Father."

I don't know anything about the technical aspects of recording sound, but I know the sound of a Rudy Van Gelder recording.  The unique timbre of each instrument is captured distinctly and cleanly, and yet they all blend together with a beautiful warmth.  Also, there is no doubt about the spatial relationship of the I write this, I'm listening to "Lester Left Town" from The Big Beat (for all of the great artists he recorded over the years, when I think of Van Gelder, I first think of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers).  I can picture the band right in front of me: Lee Morgan (on the left) and Wayne Shorter (to Lee's right) front the band, with Bobby Timmons and his piano on the far left, Jymie Merritt on bass behind the horns and Blakey to the back right.  (Sure, I know that that's a pretty standard set-up for a jazz quintet, but when RVG is at the sound board, you really hear it in the recording.  The relative space between the players "feels" right and it seems like you're sitting right in front of the band in the studio.)  Finally, the dynamics are captured with extraordinary sensitivity.  You can hear it right from the start in "Lester Left Town": the barely audible woodpecker-like rim shots that Blakey lays down after the first phrase from the horns become a little louder after that phrase is repeated, and then as the tune moves on, Blakey bashes the cymbals at a little higher volume, and he then turns around first 16-bars into the second 16 with a short press roll that in just a beat or two crescendos and crashes like a wave onto shore.   It all sounds so unprocessed that one might be fooled into concluding that there's not much skill involved in placing place a few mikes in a room of great musicians and hitting the "record" button.  But comparing Van Gelder's work to that of pretty much every other engineer who ever made a jazz record proves that isn't the case.  And that may be his real genius -- in creating recordings that were so faithful to the sound of the musicians and so clearly devoid of any mixing, compression, distortion or other engineer-imposed effects, he paradoxically created a "sound" for which he became famous.

The last few ATJ's have been bittersweet celebrations due to the deaths in quick succession of Bobby Hutcherson, Toots Thielemans and Rudy Van Gelder, but I hope to have some happier posts coming up, including the celebration of Sonny Rollins 86th (!) birthday in a couple of weeks, my long-gestating review of an Aaron Diehl album that was released last year and some recordings of music from my favorite jazzy-but-not-jazz musical "Guys and Dolls."

August 25, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:01 PM


In major speech, Hillary Clinton attacks Donald Trump as lifelong racist (DANIEL DALE, Aug. 25, 2016, The Star)

Quote by quote, tweet by tweet, Hillary Clinton made an argument Thursday with no precedent in America's modern campaign history: that her opponent is not just dangerous and foolish but an unrepentant lifelong racist.

In a calm but blistering Nevada speech aimed in large part at moderate Republicans, Clinton systematically outlined Donald Trump's alleged housing discrimination as a 1970s landlord, his offensive remarks about minority groups, and his embrace of conspiracy theorists, nationalist foreign leaders and the bigots of the online "alt-right."

"Of course, there's always been a paranoid fringe in our politics, steeped in racial resentment. But it's never had the nominee of a major party stoking it, encouraging it and giving it a national megaphone. Until now," Clinton said.

Clinton offered specific examples. At one point, she described Trump's retweet of a Twitter user who goes by the name "WhiteGenocide™." At another, to gasps from the crowd at a Reno college, she read out four incendiary headlines from Breitbart News, the far-right website run by his new campaign chief.

"From the start," she said, "Donald Trump has built his campaign on prejudice and paranoia. He's taking hate groups mainstream and helping a radical fringe take over one of America's two major political parties."

The speech represented a deepening of Clinton's strategy of separating Trump from the rest of his party. She favourably cited the way three previous Republican nominees, George W. Bush, Bob Dole and John McCain, handled racial matters.

The election really is this simple : are you with or against the candidate of racism?



"Race is at the foundation of everything to the alt-righters," says Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks the alt-right movement as a hate group. "They have this idea that white people and white civilization is under assault by the forces of political correctness, by social justice and so on."

The term "alt-right" is merely a rebranding of an ideology with deep, dark historic roots, says Jessie Daniels, a professor of sociology at Hunter College and author of the book Cyber Racism. In fact, you could say it's a "dog whistle" for white supremacy. "People who are in the United States, mostly white people, are uncomfortable saying white supremacy," Daniels says. "They're more comfortable saying alt-right"

And social media has been an important vehicle for that rebranding, she says, because it's a place where, for better or worse, all ideas can have equal weight, regardless of where they originate. "It creates an equivalence of ideas, the undermining of expertise," Daniels says. "That's part of what has given them more power. No one's an expert or everyone's an expert. White supremacists saw that and got that early on and use that to their advantage."

Posted by orrinj at 4:43 PM


A Majority of Republicans Are Cool With 'Amnesty' (Eric Levitz, 8/25/16, New York)

Only 18 percent of Americans believe that undocumented immigrants "are not as honest and hardworking as U.S. citizens." Among Trump's strongest supporters, that figure is 34 percent -- six points higher than among Republican voters, as a whole. Even more starkly, while just 27 percent of all voters think the undocumented are more likely to commit "serious crimes" than are other Americans, 59 percent of Trump's base says the opposite. That puts Trumpists out of step for the majority of their own Party, as 52 percent of Republicans say the undocumented are no more criminal than the rest of us sinners.

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