June 30, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 9:20 PM

"TRUST ME" (profanity alert):

English: Donald Trump's signature.

English: Donald Trump's signature. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Reports: Trump Vetting Chris Christie for VP/White House Butler (Eric Levitz, 6/30/16, NY Magazine)

Christie was one of the first (and only) Establishment Republicans to wholeheartedly embrace the mogul's candidacy. In recent weeks, the governor has assured the public that the demagogue who derides Mexicans as rapists and Muslims as murderers doesn't have a racist bone in his body, cajoled reluctant GOP donors into holding their noses and opening their wallets, fetched the presumptive nominee his McDonald's, and drafted plans for Trump's eventual transition team.

And he has maintained the approval of a full 26 percent of his constituents in the process.

Normally, an established politician with a national platform wouldn't tie his brand to a figure 70 percent of the country despises.

Generally speaking, presidential nominees don't select running mates who could actually hurt the ticket's standing in their home states.

Folks from The Apprentice explained why he wants a Christie around :

"There was a fat contestant who was a buffoon and a [****}up," recalls the midlevel producer. "And he would f{***] up week after week, and the producers would figure that he'd screwed up so badly that Trump would have to fire him. But Trump kept deciding to fire someone else. The producers had to scramble because of course Trump can never be seen to make a bad call on the show, so we had to re-engineer the footage to make a different contestant look bad. Later, I heard a producer talk to him, and Trump said, 'Everybody loves a fat guy. People will watch if you have a funny fat guy around. Trust me, it's good for ratings.' I look at Chris Christie now and I swear that's what's happening."

When W was looking for a vp he chose someone with experience running the country.  Donald Trump wants a buffoon. If Chris Farley was alive he'd be on the short list.

Posted by orrinj at 9:15 PM


Can Donald Trump Even Count on a Convention Polling Bounce? (Jamelle Bouie, 6/30/16, Slate)

More than half of Republicans want someone else to lead their party in the fall, according to a new Fox News survey of the electorate, with the greatest anti-Trump sentiment among Republican women and Republicans with college degrees. Overall, as Phillip Bump shows for the Washington Post, using data from HuffPost Pollster, Trump wins an average of around 80 percent of Republicans, down from May when his support among co-partisans reached the mid-80s. Hillary Clinton, by contrast, wins close to 86 percent of Democrats. Likewise, according to a new survey of swing states by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, a Democratic polling firm, Clinton has consolidated 89 percent of Democrats while Trump holds only 80 percent of Republicans. In a national election, a difference in party unity of five or six percentage points can be dispositive, especially if one candidate is winning a higher-than-normal number of voters on the other side. And that's where Clinton stands: She pulls around 8 percent of Republicans, while Trump wins around 5 percent of Democrats.

Once again, however, it's only July. The conventions--where nominees are buffed and shined and celebrated in primetime--haven't happened yet. Republicans could remember that they're Republicans and return to Trump's column in a spasm of post-convention partisan loyalty. And indeed, this is what we would see if Trump were more like a typical candidate. The problem for his campaign, and for the GOP writ large, is that he's extremely atypical. In addition to his erratic behavior and offensive, often demagogic rhetoric (the attacks on federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel are exhibit A here), Trump rejects the Republican consensus on economic policy, and is silent on issues of abortion and same-sex marriage. He's made little effort to assuage or appeal to party donors and faces a backlash from skittish party elites. Some delegates want to derail Trump at the convention, while dozens of prominent Republicans, from senators and governors to ex-presidents and former nominees, just aren't attending. Mitt Romney is loudly anti-Trump, as are other GOP heavyweights. John Kasich is still governor of Ohio and he's not attending the convention, which Republicans are holding in Cleveland. Far from a coronation of Trump, there's every indication that this convention will be a bonanza of chaos and confusion.

This matters. If a normal convention boosts party unity by activating and celebrating partisan identity, a chaotic one corrodes it by highlighting anger and division in the ranks. Most nominees receive a boost after they officially claim the nomination: It stabilizes the race and sets the stage for the fall. In fact, it's the August after the convention when polls reach their most stable and reliable state. Donald Trump, however, might be the exception.

Without a weeklong endorsement from Republican stars and luminaries--and with wide coverage of any division and disruption--there's a strong chance that Trump gains nothing from his convention. It might even hurt him. It's not out of the question that, come the fall, the Republican Party will be less unified than it is now.

The only remaining question is how much of the downticket GOP he takes with him if the party doesn't dump him.

Posted by orrinj at 2:48 PM


Suicide rates highest in farmers, lumberjacks, fishermen (MIKE STOBBE, 6/30/16, AP)

In a study of suicide rates by occupation, the workers that killed themselves most often were farmers, lumberjacks and fishermen.

Researchers found the highest suicide rates in manual laborers who work in isolation and face unsteady employment. High rates were also seen in carpenters, miners, electricians and people who work in construction. Mechanics were close behind.

Dentists, doctors and other health care professionals had an 80 percent lower suicide rate than the farmers, fishermen and lumberjacks.

The lowest rate was in teachers, educators and librarians.

June 29, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:39 PM


Bitter Scotland Weighs its Own Divorce (Marc Champion, 6/29/16, Bloomberg)

"It's an injustice," said Iain McLaren, a 40-year-old Edinburgh IT worker, as he nursed a post-game beer at another sports bar in the Scottish capital. "I voted a reluctant 'No' in 2014, because the independence campaign hadn't made the case economically. But the Brexit vote has changed everything politically. Now I'm willing to take the gamble."

Two recent opinion polls suggest that if another independence vote were held today, it would succeed, breaking up a three-centuries-old union and adding to Europe's disarray.

What rankles potential swing voters like McLaren is that they expected English voters to stick with the EU for the same reason Scots stuck with the U.K.: although their hearts cried freedom, they decided it would be economically reckless to follow through.

If you're willing to sell your freedom maybe you don't deserve a country.

Posted by orrinj at 7:33 PM


U.S.-led strikes pound Islamic State in Iraq, kill 250 fighters (Reuters, 6/29/16)

U.S.-led coalition aircraft waged a series of deadly strikes against Islamic State around the city of Falluja on Wednesday, U.S. officials told Reuters, with one official citing a preliminary estimate of at least 250 fighters killed and at least 40 vehicles destroyed.

Posted by orrinj at 7:26 PM


People Who Value Time Over Money Are Happier (Kristin Wong, 6/29/16, Lifehacker)

Researchers at UCLA and the Wharton School wanted to study this further and see how time affected the results. They also wanted to look at happiness through the lens of what people want, not just what they already have. conducted a series of experiments and surveys on over 4,400 subjects. They found that two-thirds of those subjects said they'd prefer more money over more time. Here's what they reported:

Across studies, we asked thousands of Americans whether they would prefer more money or more time. Although the majority of people chose more money, choosing more time was associated with greater happiness--even controlling for existing levels of available time and money. Additional studies and experiments provide insight into choosers' underlying rationale and the causal direction of the effect.

As the Washington Post points out, the correlation-causation argument could apply here. Perhaps people who want more time already have enough money. Reporter Christopher Ingraham explains (emphasis ours)

In other words, could happiness be less a function of wanting time, and more a function of having money?

I posed this question to UCLA's Hal Hershfield, one of the lead authors on the study...he points out that even when they did control for the amount of money people already have, they saw the same effect: "By statistically controlling for already existing levels of wealth, we show that choosing time over money has a positive effect on happiness over and above wealth,"

As Hershfield points out, they can't rule out the possibility completely, but they do account for it in the study. Either way, it's a good reminder that sure, money can make you happy, but at the end of the day, it's just a tool. There are more important things that affect your happiness.

Posted by orrinj at 6:54 PM


How Amazon Triggered a Robot Arms Race (Kim Bhasin &  Patrick Clark, June 29, 2016, Bloomberg)

Amazon has about 30,000 Kiva robots scuttling about its warehouses across the globe. Dave Clark, the retailer's senior vice president of worldwide operations and customer service, estimated the addition of the bots reduced operating expenses by about 20 percent. According to an analysis by Deutsche Bank, adding them to one new warehouse saves $22 million in fulfillment expenses. Bringing the Kivas to the 100 or so distribution centers that still haven't implemented the tech would save Amazon a further $2.5 billion.

"To be great in e-commerce, you need to be sophisticated inside the warehouse," said Karl Siebrecht, chief executive at Flexe, which bills itself as the Airbnb for warehouse space. Amazon was the first company to confront the challenge of picking a virtually endless variety of goods from warehouse shelves and combining them in a single box for home delivery. Now that e-commerce is a growing part of the retail trade, more companies are paying attention. "The case for automation is building across the industry," Siebrecht said. 

...than obviating the need for workers.

Posted by orrinj at 6:46 PM


Haley-Endorsed Candidate Wins S.C. State Senate Primary (Natalie Johnson, June 29, 2016, Free Beacon)

Controversial state Sen. Lee Bright was ousted during the South Carolina GOP run-off Tuesday by a local attorney who had the backing of Gov. Nikki Haley. [...]

Bright also voted for the Confederate flag to remain on statehouse grounds following the racially charged massacre on a historically black church in Charleston, S.C.

Bright conceded after the election that voters likely backed Talley because of Haley's endorsement.

The Chamber hailed Talley's win Tuesday as a victory for new conservative leadership.

Pretty much the only way an incumbent could lose a race this year is to run against the Establishment.

Posted by orrinj at 6:42 PM


How EU Overreach Pushed Britain Out (Martin Feldstein, 6/29/16, Project Syndicate)

A thoughtful British friend of mine said to me a few days before the United Kingdom's "Brexit" referendum that he would vote for Remain because of his concern about the economic uncertainty that would follow if the UK left the European Union. But he added that he would not have favored Britain's decision to join the EU back in 1973 had he known then how the EU would evolve.

While voters chose Leave for a variety of reasons, many were concerned with the extent to which EU leaders have exceeded their original mandate, creating an ever larger and more invasive organization.

Jean Monnet's dream of a United States of Europe was not what the British wanted when they joined the EU 40 years ago. Nor were they seeking a European counterweight to the United States, as Konrad Adenauer, Germany's first post-war chancellor, had once advocated. Britain simply wanted the advantages of increased trade and labor-market integration with countries across the English Channel.

Posted by orrinj at 6:28 PM


GOP Lawmakers Struggle to Come to Terms with Trump on Trade (Rob Garver , June 29, 2016, fISCAL tIMES)

Some days, it wouldn't seem surprising if Donald Trump got up on stage and revealed that he is actually a deep-cover mole, working for the Democrats to destroy the Republican Party from within. Because if he were, his attack Tuesday on globalization and international trade would have been perfectly calibrated to do just that.

In his speech, Trump ran roughshod over three decades of Republican orthodoxy on the issue of free trade, prompting harsh rebukes from traditionally Republican-friendly groups, like the US Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers.

Trump also put Republican lawmakers in tough election battles in extremely uncomfortable positions.

In a year when the GOP is locked in a desperate fight to retain control of the United States Senate, he did it in two states where pro-trade Republican senators are facing very tough reelection battles.

Pretty shallow cover, no?
Posted by orrinj at 6:16 PM


The Democratic Party Is In-Fighting About The Trans-Pacific Partnership. Here's Why (Matt Tracy, June 29, 2016, National Memo)

Hillary Clinton's and Debbie Wasserman Schultz's representatives on the party's platform committee -- a usually-sleepy body thrust center stage by the Sanders campaign -- led the fight last Friday against incorporating language in the DNC platform specifically opposing the TPP. In a 10-5 vote, split predictably along campaign lines, the Sanders camp suffered a setback in their effort to fulfill his pledge to stop the deal, which he has described as one that hurts workers and ultimately benefits the wealthy.

Posted by orrinj at 4:29 PM


Imagine Iceland with 442,000 People (VALA HAFSTAD SOCIETY, June 29, 2016, Icelandic Review)

Icelanders will continue to be among the youngest populations in Europe, if new predictions published by Statistics Iceland hold true, RÚV reports. The population forecast just published is for the coming 50 years. During that time, the population of the country, which was 332,000 on January 1 this year, is expected to increase by 110,000.

We have futures; Europe and Asia don't.
Posted by orrinj at 4:22 PM


Plagiarized Lessons and Deceptive Tactics: A Look Inside the Trump Institute (Jonathan Martin, 6/29/16, NY Times))

In 2005, as he was making a transition from developing real estate to capitalizing on his fame through ventures like a reality show and product-licensing deals, Donald J. Trump hit upon a two-pronged strategy for entering the field of for-profit education.

He poured his own money into Trump University, which began as a distance-learning business advising customers on how to make money in real estate, but left a long trail of customers alleging they were defrauded. Their lawsuits have cast a shadow over Mr. Trump's presidential campaign.

But Mr. Trump also lent his name, and his credibility, to a seminar business he did not own, which was branded the Trump Institute. Its operators rented out hotel ballrooms across the country and invited people to pay up to $2,000 to come hear Mr. Trump's "wealth-creating secrets and strategies."

And its customers had ample reason to ask whether they, too, had been deceived.

As with Trump University, the Trump Institute promised falsely that its teachers would be handpicked by Mr. Trump. Mr. Trump did little, interviews show, besides appear in an infomercial -- one that promised customers access to his vast accumulated knowledge. "I put all of my concepts that have worked so well for me, new and old, into our seminar," he said in the 2005 video, adding, "I'm teaching what I've learned."

Reality fell far short. In fact, the institute was run by a couple who had run afoul of regulators in dozens of states and been dogged by accusations of deceptive business practices and fraud for decades. Similar complaints soon emerged about the Trump Institute.

Yet there was an even more fundamental deceit to the business, unreported until now: Extensive portions of the materials that students received after forking over their seminar fees, supposedly containing Mr. Trump's special wisdom, had been plagiarized from an obscure real estate manual published a decade earlier.

Posted by orrinj at 4:17 PM


Red, White, and Blue Chicken Nachos Recipe (Elise Bauer, 6/29/16, Simply Recipes)

Prep time: 10 minutesCook time: 20 minutesYield: Serves 4 to 6

If you want, you can make the cheese sauce ahead of time and reheat it in the microwave when ready to make the nachos. Just pour it into a pyrex or ceramic bowl, cover and chill to save.


1/2 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 teaspon salt
14 ounces blue corn tortilla chips
1 pound pepper jack or monterey jack (or a mix), shredded
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
1 cup fresh tomato salsa (pico de gallo)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro


1 Poach the chicken breast: Place chicken breast(s) in a medium saucepan and cover with 2 inches of water. Add the salt. Cover. Bring to a boil. Turn off the heat. Let sit covered for 10 minutes in the hot salted water to gently poach. Drain. Remove from pan.

2 Preheat oven to 350°F.

3 Make the cheese sauce: If you have a double boiler, use it. Otherwise put an inch of water in a small pot and place a medium metal bowl on top of it to create a double boiler effect.

Put the shredded cheese in the bowl and toss to coat with the cornstarch. Pour in the heavy cream and milk.

Turn on the heat and bring the water in the pot to a boil. Slowly heat up the milk cream cheese mixture until eventually the cheese melts, stirring occasionally until smooth.
red-white-blue-nachos-method-3 red-white-blue-nachos-method-4

4 Heat tortilla chips in oven: While the cheese is heating, spread the tortilla chips out in a large baking sheet and put in the oven at 350°F. Heat for 5 minutes. Then remove from the oven.

5 Cut the cooked chicken into 1/4 to 1/2-inch cubes.

6 Top tortilla chips with cheese sauce, chicken, and salsa: When the cheese sauce is melty and smooth, put the heated tortilla chips on a platter and pour the cheese sauce over it. Top with cooked chicken and pico de gallo tomato salsa.

Posted by orrinj at 4:09 PM


How Erdogan went to sleep with dogs, woke up with beasts (AVI ISSACHAROFF June 29, 2016, Times of Israel)

[I]S's capacity to function as a state is eroding.

In the military sphere, it is enduring veritable fiascoes, losing territory by the week in Syria and in Iraq. Sometimes it is the Kurds who inflict these defeats, sometimes the Iraqi army along with Shiite militias, and sometimes one or more rebel groups. It has been forced to withdraw, with its tail between its legs, from major cities it had controlled for two years.

Beyond the loss of territory, IS's ability to run state institutions is also diminishing.

Then there is the blow suffered in recent months to IS finances. Its reserves are depleted; it can no longer pay its fighters as well as in the past, which has affected the number of volunteers joining its ranks.

The decrease in revenues is a result of the campaign by the US and its allies against the group's cash holdings, its oil fields and the convoys of smugglers who somehow managed to sell tens of millions of dollars worth of its oil each month to countries in the region.

And here is where Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Turkey enters the picture.

The president and his government for years ignored the stream of fighters that traveled through their country to territories controlled by the Islamic State. They preferred to concentrate their military efforts against the Kurds. They preferred to cooperate with IS, the Nusra Front and others by looking the other way, hoping to weaken their other enemy - Bashar Assad, the president of what is left of Syria.

More recently, however, US pressure bore fruit, and Erdogan instructed Turkish intelligence to try to stop the flow of IS volunteers from Turkey, and to tackle the black market for IS oil.

That's how Erdogan, an Islamist from the Muslim Brotherhood ilk, an overt supporter of the Hamas terror group, became the man who went to sleep with dogs and woke up with beasts, how he became the enemy of Islamic State.

By ourselves we can easily keep them from ever having a state.  Statehood just makes target acquisition easier.

But it is the Islamists who pose the existential threat.  Unlike the old world of secular authoritarians, an Islamic world increasingly governed by popular Islamic parties provides infertile ground for radicalism.

The war has transitioned from its Far War phase to the Near War  : Islamicism vs. Islamism.

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 PM


Our five Benghazi conclusions  (Mike Pompeo and Jim Jordan, June 28, 2016, USA Today)

Our contribution to the committee's report draws five conclusions: First, the Obama administration misled the American public about the events in Benghazi. Second, security in Benghazi was inadequate given the risk to the facility, and Secretary Clinton had missed the last clear chance to protect her people. Third, when things went badly, America did not move heaven and earth to rescue our people. Fourth, the administration broke its promise to the American people to bring the terrorists responsible for the attack to justice. Finally, we make note of the disappointing fact that the administration did not cooperate with our committee's investigation from the very beginning. In fact, they obstructed our work from day one.

Turns out, bureaucracies aren't particularly effective.

Posted by orrinj at 3:36 PM


Why This Republican Won't Vote for Trump (Mark Salter, June 29, 2016, rEAL cLEAR pOLITICS)

He's an ignoramus whose knowledge of public issues is more superficial than an occasional newspaper reader's. He casts his intellectual laziness as a choice, a deliberate avoidance of expert views that might contaminate his ill-informed opinions. He excused his failure to consult professionals before commenting on the Brexit vote by dismissing foreign policy advisers in general, including his own. "None of them are any good," he said, as he likened running the world's most powerful government and its foreign policy to opening a golf course.

He's a charlatan, preposterously posing as a business genius while cheating investors, subcontractors, and his own customers. He's rich because his father left him a great deal of money. He couldn't turn a profit with a c[****]o, for crying out loud. The epitome of someone who is famous for being famous, his business model consists mostly these days of selling his surname to a group of (often foreign) investors, who slap it on some vulgar monstrosity that consumers naturally associate with a vulgar reality TV celebrity.

He possesses the emotional maturity of a 6-year-old. He can't let go of any slight, real or imagined, from taunts about the length of his fingers to skepticism about his portfolio. So shaky is his psyche that he's compelled to fits of self-sabotage to defend his self-regard, as was the case in his racist, politically devastating attacks on U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel. He views the powers of the presidency as weapons to punish people who've been mean to him - reporters, rival candidates, critics. "They better be careful," he warns.

He's unhinged by criticism from women, most particularly female journalists. Who knows what that's about, but whatever the cause of his misogyny, minor exchanges provoke it. It needn't take an insult or criticism; sometimes just a lack of fawning deference will have him spewing abuse at the offending woman.

He's a bigot or is pretending to be one in order to win votes from people who hold "others" to blame for the country's problems and theirs -- other races, other religions, other classes. He asks nothing of his supporters' patriotism. Just elect him and he'll keep out the Mexicans and the Muslims, start trade wars with China and Japan, confiscate Middle Eastern oil and hey, presto, America's great again. He doesn't appeal to a single honorable quality or instinct in our society. He exploits fear and incites hatred. They are the emotions that impel him. He wants us to make our way in the world as he does: selfish, insecure, angry, scapegoating, small.

Posted by orrinj at 1:18 PM


What's So Great About 401(k)s, Anyway? (KEVIN DRUM, MAY 22, 2016, Mother Jones)

What is so good about them? The basic answer, of course, is that they're set up to encourage monthly contributions in a hassle-free way and the money you contribute is tax-deferred. Beyond that, though, there are several advantages that a 401(k) plan has over a traditional pension. Here are five:

401(k) plans are portable. They begin accumulating immediately (or close to immediately) when you start a new job, and if you leave your job your 401(k) comes with you. This isn't true of old-style pensions.
If you want, you can withdraw your 401(k) as a lump sum when you retire. This can be handy if you want to use a portion of your retirement savings for a single large purchase, like a house or a motor home.
If you die early, your kids will inherit your 401(k). They won't get a dime from Social Security or an old-style pension. This may or may not be something you personally care about, but a lot of people do.
The main drawback of a 401(k) is that it's risky: since you don't know how long you'll live, you can never be sure how much you can safely withdraw each year. But in 2014 the Treasury issued guidance that made it easier for 401(k) owners to allocate all or part of their contributions into an annuity fund that pays out steadily upon retirement.
Annuities are getting better, but it's still true that you have to be pretty careful selecting one. Some are bad deals. But there's another way to effectively annuitize your 401(k) without paying a dime: delay your Social Security retirement age. Here's how it works.

More and more people are retiring at age 62, but this reduces your Social Security payment by about 20 percent compared to retiring at age 65. For example, a $2,000 monthly Social Security payment would be reduced to $1,600 if you retire at 62.

Instead, use your 401(k) to fund your retirement from 62 to 65. In this example, it would require a final 401(k) balance of about $72,000 or a little less. You'd draw out $2,000 per month and then, at age 65, switch over to your Social Security payout. You've basically guaranteed yourself a lifetime income of $24,000 per year instead of $19,200 without any worries about whether your 401(k) will last forever.

Nothing in life is perfect. There are also advantages to old-style defined-benefit pensions, as well as to a simple expansion of Social Security. And 401(k)s require workers to shoulder more responsibility for figuring out how to invest their savings. They also have to shoulder more of the risk of market downturns.

Nonetheless, 401(k)s aren't bad. The 2006 Pension Protection Act improved them by allowing employers to sign up workers automatically (they can opt out if they want), and this has significantly increased the number of workers who participate.

June 28, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 8:48 PM


With the supply of homes slight, US prices surged in April (JOSH BOAK, 6/28/16,AP)

U.S. home prices scaled new heights in April, with seven cities -- Boston, Charlotte, Dallas, Denver, San Francisco, Seattle and Portland, Oregon -- setting highs.

The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index rose 5.4 percent in April compared with a year earlier, just below the 5.5 percent year-over-year gain posted in March.

Home values are now just 9.6 percent below their peak set nearly a decade ago, according to the report released Tuesday.

Posted by orrinj at 8:45 PM


Congress Has a New Plan to Rein In Military Spending. Soldiers Are Going to Hate It. (MAX J. ROSENTHALJUN. 28, 2016, Mother Jones)

Over the objections of the Pentagon, the Senate passed a military budget in mid-June that changes the housing allowances given to soldiers, denying them a widespread source of supplemental income.

Service members who don't live in barracks receive a monthly stipend called Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH). Right now, it's a simple, flat-rate (and tax-free) cash payment that's handed out according to soldiers' rank, the cost of housing where they live, and whether or not they have dependents. Under current rules, service members are free to rent cheap apartments and pocket the leftover cash, or they can share housing while each getting a full allowance--a popular way for single soldiers and "dual military" couples to offset low military pay. The stipends range from a little over $600 a month for an unmarried private to more than $5,000 a month for a high-ranking officer with dependents.

The measure in the Senate bill, which passed with approval from the Armed Services Committee, would make the housing stipend cover only soldiers' actual bills. (The committee did not respond to requests for comment about which members specifically backed the housing changes.) Soldiers would provide copies of their rents or mortgages and get reimbursed only for what they spent, up to a maximum payable limit. Soldiers sharing housing would have their allowances divided by the number of service members sharing the space. The changes would cost many soldiers hundreds of dollars of a month. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the move would save $2 billion over the next five years.

Posted by orrinj at 8:41 PM


Really Want to Lower Healthcare Costs? Stay Away From Your Doctor (Eric Pianin, June 28, 2016, Fiscal Times)

It can be as simple as a patient's brief phone call or Skype chat with a clinician about an earache or skin rash. Or as routine as hooking up to a phone and  transmitting heart rates, blood pressure and other vital signs to a doctor's office a little too distant to visit.

Or it could be something as dramatic as Doctors Without Borders relaying tough medical treatment questions about victims of terrorist violence or rare diseases in the Sudan, Iraq and other war-torn regions to a network of 280 experts around the globe.

Not all that long ago, the notion of obtaining medical advice and treatment over the phone, email or video seemed exotic and risky. There were too many confusing questions about state regulations, which services would be covered by Medicare, Medicaid or private health insurance, and whether patients were actually receiving quality care.

But as Melinda Beck of The Wall Street Journal wrote on Monday, many of those obstacles and concerns have been surmounted, and the era of the "virtual doctor" is upon us.

"Driven by faster internet connections, ubiquitous smartphones and changing insurance standards, more health providers are turning to electronic communications to do their jobs - and it's upending the delivery of health care," Beck wrote.

As the American Telemedicine Association defines it, telemedicine involves the remote delivery of health care services and clinical information often using the most basic of telecommunications technology - including the internet, wireless, satellite feeds and telephone lines.

There are at present roughly 200 "telemedicine networks" with 3,500 service sites operating throughout the United States. More than 15 million Americans annually receive some type of medical care remotely. One of the most common practices is cardiac monitoring - a service currently provided to about one million Americans.

Posted by orrinj at 8:31 PM


After Brexit, Paul Ryan Calls for 'Special' Trade Deal With Britain (Josh Siegel, June 28, 2016, Daily Signal)

House Speaker Paul Ryan is calling for the United States to engage in a free trade agreement with the United Kingdom once it completes the process of separating from the European Union.

Seeking to preserve the "special relationship" between the two nations, Ryan, R-Wis., said the U.S. should pursue a unique trade partnership with the U.K.

In interviews Friday with Wisconsin media, Ryan said this deal should be negotiated on a "parallel track" with current U.S. negotiations with the European Union on a pact known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

Ryan said the agreement with Britain would be easier to implement than the European Union trade deal.

But open it to all the other Anglospheric/Scandinavian nations too.
Posted by orrinj at 8:23 PM


Detroit's Children, More School Choice but Not Better Schools (Kate Zernike, 6/28/16, NY Times)

Michigan leapt at the promise of charter schools 23 years ago, betting big that choice and competition would improve public schools. It got competition, and chaos.

Detroit schools have long been in decline academically and financially. But over the past five years, divisive politics and educational ideology and a scramble for money have combined to produced a public education fiasco that is perhaps unparalleled in the United States.

While the idea was to foster academic competition, the unchecked growth of charters has created a glut of schools competing for some of the nation's poorest students, enticing them to enroll with cash bonuses, laptops, raffle tickets for iPads and bicycles. Leaders of charter and traditional schools alike say they are being cannibalized, fighting so hard over students and the limited public dollars that follow them that no one thrives.

Detroit now has a bigger share of students in charters than any American city except New Orleans, which turned almost all its schools into charters after Hurricane Katrina. But half the charters perform only as well, or worse than, Detroit's traditional public schools.

"The point was to raise all schools," said Scott Romney, a lawyer and board member of New Detroit, a civic group formed after the 1967 race riots here. "Instead, we've had a total and complete collapse of education in this city."

The city has emerged almost miraculously fast from the largest municipal bankruptcy in American history. Downtown Detroit hums with development -- a maze of detours around construction sites with luxury apartments, a new Nike store along a stretch of prime but empty storefronts. Even where blight resumes a few blocks out, farm-to-table restaurants and modern design stores sprout hopefully. Last year, the city had its smallest population decline since the 1950s.

But the city's residents -- many of them stranded here after whites and middle-class blacks fled in waves -- will not share in any renaissance as long as only 10 percent of rising high school seniors score "college ready" on reading tests.

School choice was a worthwhile experiment that didn't work.  It's long past time to move families out of cities to where good schools and neighborhoods already exist.
Posted by orrinj at 7:57 PM


Republicans' Benghazi goose chase comes up empty (Editorial Board, June 28, 2016, Washington Post)

 Unable to turn the events to their advantage when they occurred, during the 2012 election campaign, Republicans have persisted in attempting to milk the "scandal" for the past four years. They have done so even though repeated previous investigations -- including by a GOP-led House intelligence panel -- found nothing to contradict the Obama administration's basic account. Diplomatic security, intelligence and other preparation were inadequate in hindsight; but the violence in Benghazi was over before any effective U.S. military intervention could have been organized. Government failures before, during and after the attacks, such as they were, resulted from a combination of understandable confusion and good-faith mistakes -- not conspiracy, coverup, politics or deliberate "abandonment" of U.S. personnel, as the Republican right has so often and so feverishly insinuated.

And now, after two years and $7 million, comes Tuesday's final report of a Republican-led House select committee, which adds exactly nothing substantial to the story. It's true that the panel's investigation did, along the way, help trigger the revelation of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's private email server, which is a real issue. On the most sensitive point, however -- Ms. Clinton's personal culpability for what happened in Benghazi -- the committee came up empty. Its report contains dozens of pages on the now-famous early statements from the administration implying the attacks were motivated by Arab-world reaction to an anti-Islamic video on the Internet. But even this exhaustive review produces no proof that this messaging resulted from a politically motivated attempt to play down terrorism, as opposed to a genuine factual dispute among State Department and CIA officials, compounded by faulty verbal formulations by then-Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice and other hastily briefed administration spokesmen.

The only new information they developed is that Ms Clinton thought it was safe enough that she planned on visiting herself.

Posted by orrinj at 7:20 PM


Labour Leader Corbyn Loses No-Confidence Vote As Brexit Crisis Deepens (REUTERS,  06/28/16)

Britain's Brexit political crisis deepened Tuesday when lawmakers in the opposition Labour Party passed a motion of no confidence in its leader Jeremy Corbyn by an overwhelming margin, but Corbyn said he would not resign.

In the nonbinding vote, Labour lawmakers voted 172-40 against Corbyn, the 67-year old left-wing activist behind a socialist rebranding of Britain's main opposition party. [...]

"It is now clear that Jeremy Corbyn has lost the support of the overwhelming majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party," Labour lawmaker Wes Streeting told Reuters.

"He's now just got to do the decent thing and accept he is not up to the job and resign with dignity so we can move on and draw a line under this sorry episode," Streeting said.

If the bitter-clinging advocates of the First and Second Ways had any dignity they'd all retire from the field. Mr. Corbyn wanted to drag Labour back to the party it was prior to Tony Blair.

Posted by orrinj at 7:09 PM


Why Americans Trust Clinton More Than Trump On Terrorism (Teo Armus, June 28, 2016, nATIONAL mEMO)

More Americans trust Hillary Clinton than Donald Trump to handle issues of terrorism and national security, a new ABC News/Washington Post poll found.

While Clinton has maintained an upper hand on this issue since November, her lead over Trump is up eight points against a similar poll on June 19 -- in no small part because of the two candidates' radically different responses to the shooting at Orlando's Pulse gay nightclub.

Indeed, as Clinton promoted gun control policies, Trump issued one of the most most xenophobic, Islamophobic speeches of his campaign to date.

Posted by orrinj at 7:00 PM


Obama Cautions Against 'Hysteria' Over Brexit Vote (Jessica Taylor, 6/28/16, NPR)

Ultimately, Obama said, he doesn't "anticipate that there is going to be major cataclysmic changes as a consequence of this."

"Keep in mind that Norway is not a member of the European Union, but Norway is one of our closest allies," Obama added. "They align themselves on almost every issue with Europe and us. They are a place that is continually supporting the kinds of initiatives internationally that we support, and, if over the course of what is going to be at least a two-year negotiation between England and Europe, Great Britain ends up being affiliated to Europe like Norway is, the average person is not going to notice a big change."

Posted by orrinj at 6:54 PM


Pharmacy Managers Unleash Big Data (Zachary Tracer, 6/27/16, Bloomberg Businessweek)

OptumRx was doing a routine analysis of a client's prescription-drug claims when it noticed something odd. The company's spending on acne medicine seemed high compared with those of other customers. Digging into the usage data for clues, the pharmacy arm of the health insurer, UnitedHealth Group, found that employees had been prescribed newer brand-name acne drugs that were, for the most part, combinations of older generic medicines. OptumRx began requiring patients to begin treatment with the cheaper remedies and switch to the pricier ones only if the others proved ineffective. Within six months, the 60,000-employee company had saved more than $70,000, OptumRx says.

Historically, pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) have been known more for their relentless supply efficiency than their tech chops. But with the easiest savings already in the past, OptumRx and rivals such as CVS Health and Express Scripts have begun mining their huge troves of prescription data in search of economies. "Lowering costs now means having to make really difficult decisions about having to cover one drug vs. another," says Walid Gellad, who heads the Center for Pharmaceutical Policy and Prescribing at the University of Pittsburgh. "They've had to become more sophisticated in how they make these decisions."

The only way to keep prices high is to keep consumers separate from the cost of consumption.

Posted by orrinj at 1:02 PM

Source: WalletHub

2016's Most Patriotic States (Richie Bernardo, Wallet Hub)
Posted by orrinj at 8:21 AM


House Benghazi report: Clinton was planning a trip to Libya before the attacks (Josh Rogin June 28, 2016, Washington Post)

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was planning to visit Libya in 2012, but those plans were upended when terrorists attacked the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi on Sept. 11 and 12 of that year, according to newly revealed testimony given to the House Select Committee on Benghazi, which is set to release its highly anticipated report Tuesday.

June 27, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 8:29 PM


Why so many of Israel's security hawks have become doves (Mazal Mualem, June 27, 2016, Al Monitor)

[W]hy do so many senior officers who devotedly served the state of Israel for decades, in the most sensitive and critical positions in the security establishment -- even those who had a hawkish worldview -- moderate politically during their time in the job? Is it logical that so many good people exposed to so much intelligence could be wrong? And what do they discover that causes them to change? 

We can safely assume that most leaders of the Shin Bet, Mossad and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) were not radical right-wingers when they started their service in the various security organizations -- not even Dagan, who was the head of the election-day headquarters for former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2002, when he ran for leadership of the Likud. 

Dagan, like most chiefs of staff and intelligence heads, was on the center-left politically. Historically, the vast majority of generals who entered politics found their home in Labor. The list is long: former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, and such military leaders as Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, Mordechai Gur, Ami Ayalon, Danny Yatom, Amram Mitzna and others. Outside the party arena, many of them identified and presently identify with diplomatic initiatives. 

The Likud has always suffered from a sense of inferiority over the stream of generals that flowed to Labor. That is why Sharon, an IDF general, was the pride of the Likud. Later he was joined by Gen. (res.) Yitzhak Mordechai, former chiefs of staff Shaul Mofaz and Moshe Ya'alon, and former Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter. They commanded great respect and admiration at all Likud field offices because of their pedigrees and were named defense minister at various periods (except for Dichter, who served as minister of public security).

What happened to them later? Sharon led the 2005 disengagement from Gaza and created a new centrist political framework in Kadima. Mofaz and Dichter joined him. Ya'alon, who came from Mapai origins and went the opposite direction to the Likud, left the party in May.

The prize-winning documentary film "The Gatekeepers," which came out in 2012, presented interviews with six former Shin Bet heads: Dichter, Peri, Ayalon, Yuval Diskin, Avraham Shalom and Carmi Gillon. They had seen the occupation at close hand and worked systemically to maintain it. They fought Palestinian terrorism and intifadas -- yet in the film, they said that they do not believe in solving the conflict by force. Isn't there something here to think about and discuss? Should we leave it at Bitan's insulting generalization that everyone is "leftist," dismissing their judgment? 

The director of the film, Dror Moreh, said in an interview with Haaretz that the idea for "The Gatekeepers" was hatched when he interviewed Dov Weissglass, once Sharon's chief of staff, for another movie. Weissglass told him that Sharon was greatly influenced by an article that ran in Yedioth Ahronoth in 2003, in which four Shin Bet chiefs warned, "If Sharon continues to run the country as he has until now, Israel will reach a dead end." Weissglass told Moreh that this article deeply touched Sharon, since the criticism came from inside the system, from the heart of the security establishment, the places that Sharon most respected. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:22 PM


Patients paying higher share of hospital bills (Robert Channick, 6/27/16, Chicago Tribune)

Patients, even those with employer-sponsored health plans, may face another condition after they are discharged from a hospital stay -- acute sticker shock.

Out-of-pocket hospitalization costs rose 37 percent from 2009 to 2013, with the average patient paying more than $1,000 per hospital visit, according to a study conducted by the University of Michigan.

Driven by an 86 percent rise in deductibles and a 33 percent increase in coinsurance -- the part of the hospital bill patients are expected to pay -- the out-of-pocket costs are rising faster than health insurance premiums.

The key to health care reform is making consumers bear the costs.

Posted by orrinj at 7:52 PM

MR. 30%:

Some Republicans buck (and duck) Trump (Catherine Rampell, June 27, 2016, Washington Post)

In one particularly revealing question, the poll asked Republicans and Republican-leaning independents how they think GOP leaders should respond when Trump says something they disagree with. Should these leaders speak out, or should they avoid criticizing the party's likely nominee?

Nearly two-thirds -- 62 percent -- said that party leaders should speak up and criticize Trump.

At first blush, this might seem surprising. Typically, after a party nominee emerges, there's pressure to circle the wagons and defend him, warts and all. Or at very least, to avoid weakening him. Those who do anything to hurt the party's November chances could be branded traitors to the cause.

An earlier Post poll, conducted in May, asked parallel questions of partisans about how confident they were that their party would come together in the name of defeating the opposing candidate in November. Among both Republicans and Democrats, strong majorities (at least 8 in 10) said they believed such defensive party unity was in the offing. The responses were similar in a comparable poll question asked in May 2008.

And yet now Republicans seem to be actively rooting against wagon-circling.

There are two likely reasons for this.

For one, the candidate's warts have grown bigger, uglier and potentially more cancerous.

Unlike predecessors John McCain and Mitt Romney, Trump has proudly and repeatedly insulted Hispanics, women, blacks, Muslims and other demographic groups that the party knows it needs to attract to have any chance of long-term survival. It's one thing to try to spin a secretly recorded comment about the mooching "47 percent," or an insensitive gaffe about "self-deportation"; it's another to defend remarks that most Americans deem racist, such as Trump's comments about a judge of Mexican heritage.

Posted by orrinj at 6:21 PM


Meet the Iranian Refugee Who's Running for Congress Despite the Trump Trolls (Sam Kestenbaum, June 27, 2016, Forward)

Anna Kaplan is a Jewish Iranian refugee who has been living in America for almost four decades. She's a councilwoman in Long Island, New York and on June 28 will run against five other candidates in the Democratic primary to determine who will face Jack Martins, the Republican candidates, this fall, when voters decide who will represent New York's third congressional district. [...]

A refugee herself, she has said that Donald Trump's rise -- and his anti-immigrant rhetoric -- hits especially close to home. She even recently found herself on the receiving end of anti-Semitic Twitter attacks, lobbed at her by what she says are Trump supporters.

Here are five things to know about Kaplan ahead of tomorrow's primaries. She could not be reached immediately for comment.

1. Growing up in Iran she experienced anti-Semitism -- and fled after the revolution.

Kaplan, in an interview with the website Lenny, said, "I think Iranian people are wonderful people, but there was anti-Semitism." Growing up, she said, she encountered religious prejudice. Even as a young girl, it was clear to her that her family was treated differently because they were Jewish.

She was born Anna Monahemi in the small city of Tabriz. She grew up in the capital Tehran. At 13, the Iranian revolution erupted and Kaplan fled the country. Her family ultimately settled in Jamaica Estates, Queens. Kaplan attended the Stern College for Women at Yeshiva University and Benjamin Cardozo School of Law.

2. Like many other Jews, she's been targeted by 'Trump bullies' online.

As a political refugee, Kaplan has said that she sees the rise of Donald Trump -- and his threatening rhetoric towards some immigrants -- as personally troubling. "If Donald Trump was in the White House and I was in Iran, and I wanted to come here, I might not be able to," Kaplan said. "When we start excluding certain groups, I think it's a very wrong path."

Kaplan was recently attacked online by what she calls Trump bullies. The online furor prompted her to make a video response, posted online with the hashtag #Iwillnotrun. She fled the Iranian revolution, a representative from her campaign explained, so she would not "run away" in the face of political bullying in America.

Posted by orrinj at 5:25 PM


Soccer With Vikings : As Iceland continues its Cinderella story at the Euros, Mark Franek reflects on six summers of semipro football in the country of northern lights and hidden folk. (Mark Franek, 6/27/16, Slate)

During his year with us David told a great many stories about life in Iceland, and in the meantime he helped lead the school soccer team to the state championship. At the end of the academic year, David invited me to Iceland for the summer to play soccer for the local club. David's father was a loyal supporter of Tindastoll, and David served as my first and last "agent," a role he played more out of gratitude for his year in America than talent selection. I was still single and in shape (only a few years out from a stint at a major Division I soccer program) and had nothing to do until September. So I jumped at the chance.

Saudarkrokur is tucked between a mountain and the mouth of a fjord. If Iceland were a clock the size of Ohio, Saudarkrokur would be about 11 p.m. (or, in the spot of Toledo). Nearly all of Iceland's 323,000 people live somewhere on the numbers. People travel inland primarily during the summer months, and then it's solely for adventure.

Each large town around the coast has its own team, distinct colors, and loyal supporters--and it's easy to imagine how these teams, to some degree, have replaced the warring Viking chieftains and their clans of a thousand years ago who often assembled on these same fields to test their bravery or settle a grievance over some ignominy that doesn't have to be imagined. Just pick up any one of the renowned Icelandic Sagas, which in some places read like an unadulterated, yet somewhat-fantastical 10th-century police report. From Egil's Saga:

One morning Thorstein awoke at sunrise and climbed a hill where he could see his neighbor's cattle on Thorstein's land once again. Thorstein found his neighbor Thrand sleeping on top of a bluff with his shoes off, and poked him awake with the handle of his axe: "I'm the owner of this land and the pastures belonging to your people are on the other side of the stream." Before Thrand could put on his shoes, Thorstein swung his axe hard and brought it down on Thrand's neck, leaving it dangling on his chest. After that, Thorstein gathered stones, covered Thrand's body, and went back to Borg.
Like most places identified in the Sagas, Borg is a real place. Later in the summer we will play a team from Borg (now called Borganes), and after the game a friend will take me to the presumed spot of Thrand's beheading, which is about half a mile out of town and just behind a row of moss-covered boulders. The boulders look psychedelic in the Arctic light, and you half expect to find Thrand's severed head lying nearby.

When you're traveling around the island, it's not long before you feel like you're a part of a grand cycle, as timeless as the fjords and mountains that seem to have been cut from and pounded into the land with help from Thorstein's ax. The irony is that Iceland is relatively new in geological time, one of the last islands to rise--literally, ooze out of the sea--the result of two tectonic plates (the North American and the Eurasian) moving ever so slowly apart. Iceland is home to spectacular geologic sights, from lava fields to geysers to waterfalls with whimsical names, such as Godafoss, waterfall of the gods.

The evening of the game against Thor, like all my summer nights in Iceland, the sun descends low on the horizon, and the temperature drops a few more degrees centigrade. But the fans hardly notice. They cheer and whistle as the men battle up and down the pitch. A little before 10 p.m., the grass still illuminated entirely by natural light, we finally fall to Thor, 1-0.

In the locker room after the game we nurse our pride as Thor celebrates another victory. A fierce chant erupts from our opponent's locker room a few paces down the hall. A thousand years ago we'd bury the dead and nurse our wounds. Tonight we throw our stinky uniforms in a pile and head off to the showers.

The place still smells like Gretar's fish oil.

Posted by orrinj at 5:20 PM


Students build electric race car that goes 0 to 60 m.p.h. in 1.5 seconds (Stephen Edelstein, JUNE 27, 2016, CS Monitor)

A group of Swiss students have built an electric car that can out accelerate even the quickest supercars.

The tiny electric car reached 100 kilometers per hour (62 mph) from a standstill in just 1.513 seconds during a run at Dübendorf Air Base, near Zurich.

It required only 100 feet to reach that speed.

Posted by orrinj at 4:41 PM


Russia and China: Friends Without Benefits? (STEPHEN SESTANOVICH, Jun 27, 2016, WSJ)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has just concluded a visit to Beijing, where, after announcing a few big-sounding energy deals, he said that Russia and China were "friends forever." These days everyone wants a good relationship with China, but Mr. Putin does so from a disadvantageous position. Russia is one of the few countries in the world with few friends besides China. (North Korea and Pakistan are other examples-anyone else?) I've argued before that when China is your only friend it's hard to have a mutually respectful relationship. Most matters will be resolved on Chinese terms, and Beijing can drive a hard bargain because you've got nowhere else to go. A plugged-in Chinese scholar once told me how his country's intelligence officials viewed Russia: "We think Putin has misjudged his power position in the world."

It's not that easy to be inferior to China.

Posted by orrinj at 2:27 PM


It's time to put Welsh independence on agenda - Leanne Wood (Steven Morris, 27 June 2016, The Guardian)

The leader of Plaid Cymru has called for the people of Wales to start discussing the possibility of the country becoming independent.

Leanne Wood said Brexit was an opportunity to break free from the UK - and though Wales voted overwhelmingly to leave the EU she argued that its citizens would think again if the country became independent.

Plaid has long advocated independence for Wales but seen it as a long-term aspiration rather than a short-term goal. Brexit has altered that.

Brexit was about self-determination.  It would have passed at any time the past 30 years, as Maggie understood and Tory elites feared.

Posted by orrinj at 1:54 PM


Is Hillary Clinton a neocon? (Trevor Timm, 27 June 2016, tHE gUARDIAN)

Another week, and another set of Republicans have endorsed Hillary Clinton. Is it because of existential threat of Donald Trump, or could it be because many of Clinton's potential policies conveniently line up with theirs?

Longtime Republican foreign policy stalwart and Iraq warmonger Robert Kagan became the latest neoconservative to endorse Clinton for president last week. He has even offered to host a fundraiser on her behalf, as Foreign Policy Magazine first reported on Thursday. Kagan has followed the likes of former Bush deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage and a slew of lower-profile officials in their endorsement of Clinton over Trump.

Now, it's entirely possible that these Republicans are endorsing Clinton because Trump is an unhinged maniac who has given people of all political persuasions plenty of reason to not want him anywhere near the levers of power. But here's the thing: the neocon love affair with Clinton started well before Trump was even in the discussion of Republican candidates, let alone the party's likely nominee.

Several neoconservatives have spent years gushing about Clinton's penchant for supporting basically every foreign war or military escalation in the last decade, including Kagan, who said in 2014: "I feel comfortable with her on foreign policy ... If she pursues a policy which we think she will pursue, it's something that might have been called neocon, but clearly her supporters are not going to call it that; they are going to call it something else."

A theocon would have been preferable, but you take what you can get...

Posted by orrinj at 1:35 PM


Hardly anybody wants to speak at Trump's convention : POLITICO reached out to more than 50 prominent Republicans. Few said they plan to attend the convention in Cleveland, let alone speak. (ALEX ISENSTADT 06/27/16, Politico)

With the convention less than a month away, POLITICO contacted more than 50 prominent governors, senators and House members to gauge their interest in speaking. Only a few said they were open to it, and everyone else said they weren't planning on it, didn't want to, or weren't going to Cleveland at all -- or simply didn't respond.

"I am not attending," said South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy, who is overseeing the high-profile congressional Republican investigation into Hillary Clinton's handling of the attacks on Benghazi. Gowdy, who said he was taking his family to the beach instead, hasn't gone to conventions in the past and didn't plan to now.

"I'm not," said South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford, a former two-term governor. "But hope you have a good Thursday!"

"Don't know," said Sean Duffy, a reality-TV-star-turned-Wisconsin congressman, "I haven't thought about it."

Florida Rep. Carlos Curbelo: "I won't be there."

The widespread lack of interest, Republicans say, boils down to one thing: the growing consensus that it's best to steer clear of Trump.

June 26, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 5:59 PM


Labour crisis: how the coup against Jeremy Corbyn gathered pace (Rowena Mason and Anushka Asthana, 26 June 2016, The Guardian)

The fireworks began at 9.59pm on Saturday when an article outing Hilary Benn as the chief plotter against Jeremy Corbyn was published by the Observer.

The Labour leader's aides scrambled on to a conference call to work out a plan to deal with the rebellion. It did not take long for Benn to be bombarded with a stream of messages from Katy Clark, Corbyn's political secretary, asking him about the truth of the story.

Shortly afterwards, Corbyn texted his shadow foreign secretary, the son of his political hero Tony Benn, directly to ask if they could speak.

During that calm call, Benn told his boss that he no longer had confidence in him to lead the Labour party and could not continue to serve in the shadow cabinet under him. The only thing he denied was having leaked details of the insurrection to the Observer. Corbyn sacked him straightaway.

It had not unfolded as either the plotters or the leadership team had expected, even though a small group of Labour MPs and advisers had been telling journalists for months to "expect movement" against Corbyn on 24 June.

Their plans had been based on the assumption that the UK would vote to remain, and hopes were not high that an overwhelming number of MPs would back a coup or that ousting him would be successful.

But Brexit changed the whole calculation, as many Labour MPs woke up on Friday furious with what they saw as Corbyn's lacklustre campaigning for remain and refusal to address the concerns of voters about immigration.

The ire was compounded by fear that huge numbers of Labour MPs would lose their seats if they fought a snap general election under Corbyn. By the end of Friday, several separate groups of MPs were involved in moves to get rid of their leader.

...failure to pretend passion for the EU is the least of his shortcomings.

Posted by orrinj at 5:07 PM


Fallujah Regained By Iraqi Forces After Five Weeks Of Fighting Against Islamic State Militants (CLARK MINDOCK, 06/26/16, IB Times)

The Iraqi city, which has been controlled by ISIS for about 2 1/2 years, was claimed by Iraqi forces after five weeks of battle that resulted in 1,800 dead militants. Clearing operations in the city are still ongoing, NPR reported.

Lt. Gen. Abdel Wahab al-Saadi, the commander of the anti-ISIS forces, praised the victory on state television during the weekend,  just a week after Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory in the city and said there was only relatively minor opposition left. The United States backed the Iraqi forces in efforts to push the terrorist group out.

Posted by orrinj at 3:50 PM


The UK Will Survive, but Europe Won't (Sławomir Sierakowski, 6/26/16, Project Syndicate)

Brexit should be seen as a punishment for events like the 2014 European elections, when it was evident, even before anyone voted, who would become the head of the EU commission, who would lead the EU parliament, and which of the parliament's factions would be the largest. This sense of a rigged game alienates citizens and leads them to reclaim their democratic dignity by casting protest votes for figures like Nigel Farage, the leader of the UK Independence Party, or Donald Trump. Of course, no one truly believes that Trump can win the US presidency. Likewise, no one, not even bookies, believed that Brexit was a real possibility.

How is the EU to survive the loss of a major member state at a time when it already must deal with ascendant populists, economic malaise, a refugee crisis, and terrorism? The UK, for its part, can do without the EU. The EU, however, cannot do without the UK.

Unlike the EU, Great Britain is an island, its language is spoken all over the world, and it has nuclear weapons. Its continental allies do not enjoy such advantages (only France is a nuclear power). There is nothing stopping Great Britain from becoming a second Switzerland. (It may even come to resemble Switzerland in shape if Scotland and Northern Ireland, which voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU, now leave the UK.)

Posted by orrinj at 3:46 PM


Immigration needs reform, not Trump's bigotry (Hillary Clinton, June 24, 2016, Arizona Republic)

Let's be clear: When Trump talks about forming a "deportation force" to round up and expel 11 million immigrants - he's talking about ripping apart families like Karla's and Josie's.

When he repeatedly suggests that a distinguished American judge's "Mexican heritage" means that he cannot do his job, it's the "textbook definition of a racist comment," to quote the Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.

When he praises local figures like Gov. Jan Brewer and Sheriff Joe Arpaio, he's endorsing their heartless and divisive policies. And when he speculates about ending birthright citizenship, he's suggesting undermining the Constitution and tearing American children away from the country they know and love.

Instead of building walls, we ought to be breaking down barriers. Our country has always been stronger when we lift each other up, not tear each other down. We're stronger together.

That's why, as president, I'll fight for comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to full and equal citizenship, starting in my first 100 days in office.  We should do everything we can to keep families together, better integrate immigrants into their communities, and help those eligible for naturalization take the last step to citizenship.

Posted by orrinj at 3:35 PM


New Post-ABC poll: Trump's June has been an utter disaster in every way (James Downie June 26, 2016, Washington Post)

When last month's Washington Post-ABC News poll showed Donald Trump leading Hillary Clinton 46 percent to 44 percent among registered voters, it was the third poll in a week to show the presumptive GOP nominee in a surprising lead. Many Democrats began to worry (or at least worry more openly) about the Clinton campaign. Now they can breathe a little easier: The June Post-ABC poll, out Sunday morning, shows Clinton leading 51 percent to 39 percent, a 14 point swing.

Just about everything that could have gone right for Clinton in the past month has. It's bad enough for the Trump campaign that he remains unable to improve his image: 70 percent of Americans are anxious about the prospect of a Trump administration, unchanged from six months ago. Sixty-four percent call Trump "not qualified" for the presidency, up six points from May. That may have something to do with the fact that 68 percent of voters agree that Trump's attack on Judge Gonzalo Curiel's Mexican-American background was racist.

Time for him to go.

June 25, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:39 PM


Former Bush Treasury secretary: 'I'll be voting for Hillary Clinton' (NOLAN D. MCCASKILL 06/24/16, Politico)

Paulson suggested that Trump's pledge to do for America what he's done for his businesses isn't a promise but rather a threat. "The tactics he has used in running his business wouldn't work in running a truly successful company, let alone the most powerful nation on Earth," he continued. "Every good businessman or -woman carefully analyzes all the available facts before making a decision. Trump repeatedly, blatantly and knowingly makes up or gravely distorts facts to support his positions or create populist divisions."

Paulson blasted Trump's business acumen, highlighting his bankruptcy filings, accusing him of exaggerating his wealth and arguing that his marketing and self-promotion are irrelevant to running a country. He also slammed the real estate mogul's divisive rhetoric, questioning how such a polarizing figure could unite the country.

"Simply put, a Trump presidency is unthinkable," he wrote, though he maintained that he plans to support conservatives in statehouses and Congress.

"They have a big job to do to reinvent and revitalize the Republican Party. They can do so by responding to the fears and frustrations of the American people and uniting them behind some common aspirations, while staying constant to the principles that have made our country great," he added. "When it comes to the presidency, I will not vote for Donald Trump."

Posted by orrinj at 4:43 PM


Dozens Of Suspected IS Militants Killed In Afghanistan (RFE/RL,  June 25, 2016)

Dozens of suspected Islamic State (IS) militants have been killed in fighting in eastern Afghanistan. 

At least 40 suspected IS fighters were killed in clashes with Afghan security forces on June 24 in the eastern province of Nangarhar, located along the volatile border with Pakistan.

These clowns even lose to Afghan, Iraqi, Libyan and Syrian security forces.

Posted by orrinj at 4:37 PM


'This Is Not My Party': George Will Goes from GOP to Unaffiliated (NICHOLAS BALLASY, JUNE 24, 2016, PJ Media)

"Make sure he loses. Grit their teeth for four years and win the White House," Will said during an interview after his speech at a Federalist Society luncheon.

Will said he changed his voter registration this month from Republican to "unaffiliated" in the state of Maryland.

"This is not my party," Will said during his speech at the event.

He mentioned House Speaker Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) endorsement of Trump as one of the factors that led him to leave the party.

Many experienced GOP strategists unwilling to work for Trump (STEVE PEOPLES. Jun. 25, 2016, AP)

From Texas to New Hampshire, well-respected members of the Republican Party's professional class say they cannot look past their deep personal and professional reservations about the presumptive presidential nominee.

While there are exceptions, many strategists who best understand the mechanics of presidential politics fear that taking a Trump paycheck might stain their resumes, spook other clients and even cause problems at home. They also are reluctant to devote months to a divisive candidate whose campaign has been plagued by infighting and disorganization.

"Right now I feel no obligation to lift a finger to help Donald Trump," said Brent Swander, an Ohio-based operative who has coordinated nationwide logistics for Republican presidential campaigns dating to George W. Bush.

"Everything that we're taught as children -- not to bully, not to demean, to treat others with respect -- everything we're taught as children is the exact opposite of what the Republican nominee is doing. How do you work for somebody like that? What would I tell my family?" Swander said.

Posted by orrinj at 12:17 PM


Blaming Muslims, at First, in Norway (As told to WILL BOAST JUNE 24, 2016,NY Times Magazine)

As I was hanging my clothes, I saw my neighbor down in his driveway. He was just coming home from work, and he looked up and saw me. And then he was shouting.

"You people, you come here and ruin our country!" he yelled. "Norway is peaceful, and now you're destroying it! Go home. Make your own country crap. Leave ours alone!"

Actually, he said a lot worse than that. He kept shouting and shouting. But I stayed quiet. I just went on hanging my clothes. My hands were shaking.

I went inside, sat with my roommates and told them what he said. We kept watching the television, scared and upset, wondering what would happen. Back in Kabul, I had a good life, family, friends, a community. I had published a book on the Taliban, condemning terrorism. That made me visible, a target. A gang kidnapped me, held me ransom, beat and tortured me. I escaped, and we went to the police. They arrested some of my kidnappers.

But the threats kept coming. The gang found my home. They killed my father, my brothers and my sisters. My mother and I fled. We moved in with some friends. But it wasn't safe for me to stay in Afghanistan. So I went to Norway to apply for asylum.

I was glad to have an apartment and roommates from home. But no one knew us in Kongsberg. They didn't care if we were educated or what we'd been through. That afternoon, my roommates and I just kept watching the TV, waiting for the police to come for us.

Suddenly, all the headlines changed. There had been another attack, on an island outside Oslo. A man shot more than 60 people, many of them children. They were saying it was the same man responsible for the bombing. A name came on the screen -- Breivik -- a Norwegian name. He had surrendered and confessed. My roommates and I were shocked. Everything that happened, to those children especially, was just too horrible.

Then there was a knock on the door. We didn't know if we should answer. But we thought, No, it's O.K. They know it wasn't a Muslim who did these attacks. I opened the door.

It was my neighbor. He was speaking very quickly, apologizing, telling me how ashamed he was for what he'd said. He was crying. This big, pale, redheaded Norwegian man who worked in an office and sometimes on his car on the weekends, he had tears all down his face. He hugged me. He insisted that my roommates and I come to his apartment that night for dinner.

I remember we had fish and potatoes, a very Norwegian meal. His daughter was very bright, very intelligent. Three years in Kongsberg, waiting for the final decision about my asylum application, and I had never spoken to this man or his family. From that day on, he opened his heart to my roommates and me.

Posted by orrinj at 11:53 AM


After Brexit, what? U.S. secessionists hankering for 'Texit'  (JON HERSKOVITZ, 6/26516, Reuters)

Emboldened by Brexit, U.S. secessionists in Texas are keen to adopt the campaign tactics used to sway the British vote for leaving the European Union and are demanding "Texit" comes next.

The citizen-driven vote in Britain can be a model for Texas, which was an independent country from 1836 to 1845, and its $1.6 trillion a year economy would be among the 10 largest in the world, said Daniel Miller, president of the Texas Nationalist Movement.

"The Texas Nationalist Movement is formally calling on the Texas governor to support a similar vote for Texans," the group said on Friday. The office of Texas Governor Greg Abbott was not immediately available for comment.

The group, which claims about a quarter million supporters, failed earlier this year to place a vote on secession on the November ballot but aims to relaunch its campaign for the next election cycle in 2018, buoyed by the British vote, Miller said.

"Texit is in the air," he said.

Calexit or Caleavefornia? Brexit lifts Golden State independence campaign (Valerie Richardson, June 25, 2016, The Washington Times)

Pro-independence Texans weren't the only ones energized by the vote by Brexit vote.

The California secession movement has been riding a wave of interest since Thursday's vote by the United Kingdom to leave the European Union. The campaign has already gained a Brexit-inspired nickname: Calexit

"We have a lot of people sending us messages and a lot of people want to find our online digital version of our independence referendum," said Louis Marinelli, who heads the Yes California Independence Campaign. "We have a lot of people who have joined our Facebook page, a lot of people who are talking about this issue on Twitter. The #Calexit hashtag for example has begun organically. There's another one called #Caleavefornia."

When small is beautiful : How big should a nation-state be? (The Economist, Dec 18th 2003)

OF THE ten richest countries in the world in terms of GDP per head, only two have more than 5m people: the United States, with 260m, and Switzerland, with 7m. A further two have populations over 1m: Norway, with 4m and Singapore, with 3m. The remaining half-dozen have fewer than 1m people. What do such variations imply about the link between population size and prosperity? [...]

One implication of this analysis is that, where the preferences of a country's people count, their country is likely to be smaller than it would otherwise be. Dictators typically suppress dissent, regional or ethnic. They see the benefits of size (and grab many of them); democracies are more conscious of its costs. So there are few recent examples of mergers between nation-states (North and South Yemen and the two Germanies are rare exceptions) but many of secession. The main reason for the resulting rise in the number of mini-countries is the shift from empire or dictatorship to self-determination, especially in the past quarter-century. "Borders need to satisfy citizens' aspirations," observe the authors.

However, the trade-off between the costs and benefits of size is affected by another factor: trade restrictions. The importance of economic size for prosperity depends crucially upon how open a country's economy is. Small countries that may not be viable in a world of trade restrictions can prosper when trade is liberal and markets are open. "Henceforth," say the authors, "one should expect economic integration and political disintegration to go hand in hand, in a mutually reinforcing process." 

It will be impossible to avoid the implications of the idea of self-determination on ourselves, nevermind the economic reality of how successful smaller state are.

Posted by orrinj at 8:24 AM


Officials: German hostage taker had no real firearms (Deutsche-Welle, 6/25/16)

The man who took over a cinema in western Germany carried only air guns and dummy grenades, German prosecutors have said. Police killed the 19-year-old while storming the scene. [...]

The attacker's weapons turned out to be air gun replicas made to look like real firearms, prosecutors said. The investigators found no live ammunition at the scene and the alleged hand grenades also turned out to be fake.
None of the hostages, who also included children, was hurt in the incident.

Sources within Germany's security forces have claimed the man acted alone and probably had mental issues.

After its own mass shootings, Germany beefed up gun control laws. The number of shootings dropped. (Erik Kirschbaum, 6/15/16, LA Times)

Germans are known to admire America and its freedoms, but they were horrified by the arrival of distinctly American-style school shootings in their backyard in Erfurt in 2002 and Winnenden in 2009. They have been equally as shocked by the shooting deaths by a lone gunman at a nightclub in Florida on Sunday and baffled by the United States' inability to stop the scourge.

Germans so universally condemned the loss of life after Erfurt and Winnenden that there was nary any protest when lawmakers unceremoniously imposed a draconian clampdown on guns in the wake of the shooting rampages that left 31 victims dead. 

Germany, where gun ownership had already been treated as a privilege rather than an inherent right, made it even harder to own a firearm. It is now the only country in the world where anyone younger than 25 has to pass a psychiatric exam before he or she is allowed to apply for a gun license. Anyone applying for a gun has to wait a year, pass rigorous tests and have a legitimate reason for owning a gun.

"The numbers of people killed in Germany by guns has been falling steadily for several years, and a large part of the reason for that is the tougher laws and diminished availability of guns," said Dagmar Ellerbrock, a history professor and authority on gun crime at Dresden's Technical University.

"In the 19th century, guns were really popular in Germany, and the situation was similar to the way it is in the United States now. But tough laws changed all that. On top of that, there has been widespread social repudiation of guns in Germany. Since World War II and the Red Army terror wave of the 1970s, guns have not been seen as anything masculine at all but rather reactionary and in a really negative light," Ellerbrock said.

Posted by orrinj at 8:16 AM


Autonomous Vehicles Shift into High Gear : Self-driving systems may have bugs but they are free from the myriad distractions and risk-taking behaviors that are the most common causes of crashes today (Dr Bernard Meyerson, June 23, 2016, Scientific American)

We are now on the cusp of an equally transformative technological shift in transportation: from vehicles driven by humans to vehicles that drive themselves. The long-term impact of autonomous vehicles on society is hard to predict, but also hard to overstate. The only certainty is that wherever this technology becomes ubiquitous, life will be different than it was.

Google and other companies have been testing self-driving cars for several years now, with good success. These autos process vast amounts of sensory data from on-board radars, cameras, ultrasonic range-finders, GPS, and stored maps to navigate routes through ever more complex and rapidly changing traffic situations without any human involvement.

Consumer use of vehicles with autonomous capabilities, however, is just beginning.  Adoption will proceed gradually, through the steady implementation of increasingly intelligent safety and convenience features in otherwise ordinary cars. Some models, for example, already offer hands-off parallel parking, automatic lane-keeping, emergency braking, or even semi-autonomous cruise control. Last October, Tesla Motors made available a software package that enables a limited form of self-driving operation for owners of its vehicles to download.

This trend is likely to continue as such technology matures and as legal and regulatory barriers start to fall. Half a dozen states have already authorized autonomous road vehicles, and more have plans to do so. Discussions are well underway among auto insurers and legislators about how to apportion liability and costs when self-driving cars get into crashes, as they inevitably will--although it is widely expected that these cars will prove to be much safer, on average, than driver-operated cars are today.

There is plenty of room for improvement on that front. In the United States, crashes and collisions claim more than 30,000 lives and cause some 2.3 million injuries annually. Self-driving systems may have bugs--the software that runs them is complicated--but they are free from the myriad distractions and risk-taking behaviors that are the most common causes of crashes today. In the near term, semi-autonomous safety systems that engage only to prevent accidents, but that otherwise leave the driver in charge, will also likely reduce the human cost of driving significantly.

Posted by orrinj at 8:09 AM


This vote shows that people do care about democracy (JEREMY GILBERT, 24 June 2016, Open Democracy)

If the left and our political leaders - above all the Labour leadership - do not come forward with loud and explicit demands for serious democratic reform in England and Wales, including radical devolution, an English parliament with real powers, conversion of the Welsh Assembly into a full parliament, Proportional Representation for the House of Commons, and a radical programme of participatory democracy in local government, then the people will not believe that we have any credible plan to end austerity or represent their interests in any other way.

Just proposing an economic programme - which is all Corbyn and McDonnell are talking about - will not work, because people will not believe that we will implement it. The left only captured the political mainstream in Scotland by attaching its economic and social programme to a radical programme of democratic reform. If we don't do the same then we will continue to sound like just another bunch of politicians making promises, and we will lose.

The residual vulgar Marxist belief that all this stuff doesn't matter, that all people care about is jobs and housing, is a huge problem here. 

...yet the elites in London thought they could deny it to their own people? This is what globalization (the End of History) consists of -- democracy, capitalism, protestantism.  Transnationalism never stood a chance.

Posted by orrinj at 8:05 AM


Solar panels have gotten thinner than a human hair. Soon they'll be everywhere. (David Roberts, June 23, 2016, Vox)

South Korean scientists have created solar PV cells that are 1 micrometer thick, hundreds of times thinner than most PV and half again as thin as other kinds of thin-film PV. (The research is in a paper just published in Applied Physics Letters.)

The cells are made with gallium arsenide as the semiconductor, "cold welded" directly onto a metal substrate, with no adhesive to make them thicker. Remarkably, they produce roughly as much power as thicker PV cells, though in testing, "the cells could wrap around a radius as small as 1.4 millimeters."

With cells this thin, solar PV can be integrated in all sorts of "wearables" -- clothes, glasses, hats, or backpacks with solar cells integrated, continuously feeding power to our portable electronics. More to the point, PV could be integrated into just about anything.

Posted by orrinj at 7:52 AM


THE ROMAN WAY : Rémi Brague explains why the Romans' inferiority before the Greeks was so important to European culture. (MAY 2016, spiked review of books)

review: One of your most important insights into the meaning of Europe is the centrality of 'la voie Romaine', and your idea of 'secondarité'. Could you explain how Rome's sense of its inferiority to Hellenic culture has proved so productive for the development of Europe?

Brague: I am not especially keen on the Romans of history. They built a ruthless empire, albeit one no worse than any other empire, and even better than some. But they did have the great merit of inventing law and a citizenship grounded not on race, language, family ties or whatnot, but on merely juridical principles. For me, however, their greatest merit consists in having realised they were no match for the cultural achievements of the Greeks, and then having the courage to sit at the Ancient Greeks' feet and learn. This provided Europe with a practical version of a theoretical truth: what is mine is not necessarily better than what comes from elsewhere. We have to be ready to accept foreign goods and to prefer them to our own traditions. Hence, we should be curious and keep an eye on other cultures that might have something to teach us. This same attitude was to be found and proved fruitful many centuries afterwards, when America was discovered, and when ancient languages of India, Egypt, Mesopotamia and so on, were unearthed and deciphered. All this happened earlier than the colonial adventure, and it happened independently from it. [...]

review: You have written about the expansion of Europe outwards, from a heartland to a realm of influence, of the remarkable success of what one could call European achievements in law and science, and, although non-European in origin, the development of Christianity as a global religion. Is there something universal about European culture?

Brague: Any foreign cultural product has a tendency to spread if it is considered to be better than its home-bred equivalents. This is almost a law of economy. The great inventions of the Middle Ages made European expansion possible. They came from remote China, like the magnet, gunpowder, the water-mill, etc. But they found in Europe a soil on which they could thrive and find new applications. For instance, whereas the Chinese used powder for fireworks, the Europeans used it for warfare and made guns.

Undoubtedly, there is, or was, something like a European dynamics, in contradistinction to more static cultures. The main sources of European culture - the Bible, Greek philosophy and Roman law - all have a claim to universality. [...]

review: Do you think the European Union builds on the cultural heritage of Europe?

Brague: First, let me belabour the obvious: The European Union is not the same thing as Europe. There is a symbol of sorts for this lack of coincidence: Switzerland. This small country is a small-scale image of Europe. Located in the very heart of Western Europe, it has three official languages and the bulk of its citizens belong to the two main denominations of Western Christendom. Yet, this emphatically European country doesn't belong to the European Union and hardly wants to join.

At the beginning, the original intention of the European construction was moral in nature: right after the Second World War, the founding fathers wanted to make a further conflict impossible. Putting coal and steel into a common pool would nip in the bud any economic cause of conflict. They didn't want thereby to maximise profit, but to ensure peace. As a matter of fact, peace did happen, but not thanks to the EU. It's the other way around: the EU was made possible by peace. And this peace was the result of the Marshall Plan and of the military superiority of the US over the Soviet Union.

In order better to describe the relationship that obtains between the EU and the cultural heritage of Europe, I'm afraid that the right phrase would not be 'building on', but rather 'preying on'. This implies that we, in the long run, destroy what we use, as parasites do. This destruction has recently taken a particularly acute form. I am struck by the rage with which some higher civil servants, in my country [France], act as if they wanted to weigh anchors from our past by doing away with the study of classical languages, by trying to get rid of the Biblical influence, and even by flatly denying that it ever happened.

The problem for Europe is, and always has been, that only the Anglosphere/Scandinavia adheres to that set of ideas. In the Long War we have faced off against the Franco/German preference for Socialism, Napoleonic Law, continental philosophy, nationalism and atheism.  There was never going to be a fit between the two in a single governing institution and there's no reason for the North to decline along with the South.
Posted by orrinj at 7:39 AM


Scotland's Sturgeon presses ahead with preparations for independence vote (Reuters, 6/25/16)

Scotland's devolved government is preparing to present legislation allowing a second independence referendum while continuing discussions on its place within the European Union, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Saturday.

"A second (Scottish) independence referendum is clearly an option that requires to be on the table, and it is very much on the table," she said in a live statement.

Posted by orrinj at 7:35 AM


Leave campaign rows back on key immigration and NHS pledges (The Guardian, 6/25/16)

The leave campaign has appeared to row back on key pledges made during the EU referendum campaign less than 24 hours after the UK voted for Brexit, after it emerged immigration levels could remain unchanged. [...]

[W]ithin hours of the result on Friday morning, the Ukip leader, Nigel Farage, had distanced himself from the claim that £350m of EU contributions could instead be spent on the NHS, while the Tory MEP Daniel Hannan said free movement could result in similar levels of immigration after Brexit.

Hannan said: "Frankly, if people watching think that they have voted and there is now going to be zero immigration from the EU, they are going to be disappointed."

Posted by orrinj at 7:23 AM


A private letter written by Margaret Thatcher reveals she would have campaigned for Brexit, claims Eurosceptic MP (Laura Hughes, 11 Feb 2016, Telegraph)

A private letter written by Margaret Thatcher reveals she would have campaigned to leave the European Union, according to the Eurosceptic Conservative MP who has released the note.

Sir Bill Cash MP has revealed the private correspondence he had with the former Prime Minister, in which she describes the EU project as "contrary to British interests and damaging to our Parliamentary democracy".

He says it is "inconceivable" Lady Thatcher would have supported David Cameron's current deal and that she gave him the letter to make public if there was ever any doubt over her views on the European Union.

The letter to Sir Bill was composed shortly after the European Union was established under its current name in 1993 following the Maastricht Treaty.

Lady Thatcher had stepped down and was no longer an MP in 1993, so was unable to vote.

However, in her note the former Prime Minister writes: "I understand it is being suggested in some quarters that I would have agreed to the Maastricht Treaty. May I make it clear that I would NOT have done so."

The roots of Euroscepticism : Why Britons are warier than other Europeans of the EU (The Economist, Mar 12th 2016)

What this history shows is that Britain has an essentially transactional relationship with the club. Membership has been evaluated in terms of costs and benefits, not as an emotional commitment. Moreover, as a latecomer, Britain has often found the EU's organisation and policies uncongenial. This was reflected in Margaret Thatcher's battles in the 1980s to cut the outsized British budget contribution.

Over the years the political base of British Euroscepticism has moved from left to right. In the early years Labour was the more suspicious party. In 1962 its leader, Hugh Gaitskell, warned that joining the common market would end 1,000 years of history. In 1975 Harold Wilson dealt with Labour splits over Europe by staging a renegotiation and putting the result to a referendum--a tactic remarkably similar to Mr Cameron's today. In the early 1980s, Labour was once again set on withdrawal.

The pivotal moment came in 1988, when the European Commission's president, Jacques Delors, promised the Trades Union Congress that Europe's single market would be buttressed by tougher labour and social regulations. This reinforced Thatcher's growing Euroscepticism, and led directly to her Bruges speech attacking excessive EU interference in the same year. Her political downfall two years later was triggered by her denunciation of Mr Delors's plans for closer EU integration and a single currency. This marked the point when the Tories replaced Labour as the party of Euroscepticism.

September 21 1988: Thatcher sets face against united Europe : PM's 'Gaullist' tirade shocks senior EEC officials (John Palmer, The Guardian)

The Prime Minister yesterday served notice on the rest of the European Community that her government would oppose tooth and nail any attempt to turn it into an economic and political union in which Britain might have to cede power to EEC institutions.

Mrs Thatcher chose the magnificent setting of the medieval Hall of Bruges to unfold the banner of a British 'Gaullism' in the face of those who want ultimately to see a united states of Europe.

The first reaction of commissioners and other senior EEC officials to Mrs Thatcher's speech was critical. "Frankly I am shocked. It was much more
negative than I had expected," one commissioner said.

Mrs Thatcher consciously followed in the footsteps of the late French President in asserting that the best way to build the European Community was "willing and active co-operation between independent sovereign states" - a
new version of De Gaulle's "Europe des Patries".

Dismissing the idea that the United States might be a model for the future of Europe - as some of the EEC's founding fathers believed - Mrs Thatcher launched a frontal assault on those within the community who want to take some steps towards that goal.

The Prime Minister launched a thinly disguised attack on the president of the EEC Commission, Mr Jacques Delors, who earlier this year said that, over the next few years, the European Community would become responsible for some
80 per cent of all legislation in the Twelve, during which time an "embryo" European government might emerge.

"It is ironic that just when those countries such as the Soviet Union, which have tried to run everything from the centre, are learning that success depends on dispersing power and decisions away from the centre, some in the community seem to want to move in the opposite direction," she declared.

"We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain, only to see them reimposed at a European level, with a European superstate exercising a new dominance from Brussels."

Posted by orrinj at 7:15 AM


Who Is a Jew? Maybe Not Woman Converted by Esteemed New York Rabbi (ISABEL KERSHNER, JUNE 23, 2016, NY Times)

The rabbi, Haskel Lookstein, is one of the most respected Orthodox rabbis in New York, where he has led Manhattan's Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun for decades, after taking over the pulpit from his father. He recently received an honorary doctorate from Israel's Bar-Ilan University in recognition for what it called "the influential role he has played in deepening Jewish values and heritage among American Jewry."

The case raises the question of whether Ms. Trump -- who said in a Vogue magazine interview last year that she and her husband were "pretty observant," keeping kosher and the Jewish Sabbath -- would be accepted as Jewish herself in all quarters in Israel.

More broadly, it illustrates a growing divide between Israel's increasingly strict ultra-Orthodox religious establishment and many Jews abroad over the age-old question of "who is a Jew" that has complicated Israel's relationship with the diaspora for decades.

The Israeli rabbinate, which controls Jewish marriage and most Jewish burial sites in the country, does not recognize non-Orthodox streams of Judaism like Reform and Conservative, with which the majority of affiliated American Jews identify. In rejecting Rabbi Lookstein's conversion and those of others in similar positions, the rabbinical authorities now risk alienating Jews abroad who practice modern Orthodoxy according to Halakha, or Jewish law.\

"Ten years ago, if an Orthodox rabbi in good standing performed a conversion, it would have been a given that it would be accepted here," said Rabbi Seth Farber, the founder of Itim, an Israeli organization that has been critical of the rabbinate and is pressing the case of Rabbi Lookstein's American convert.

He added, "I'd say this is unprecedented in Jewish history, that one group of rabbis rejects another."

Ex-Orthodox Feel Pushed From Their Communities -- But Still Cherish Being Jewish (Ari FeldmanJune 23, 2016, Forward)

Many formerly ultra-Orthodox and Modern Orthodox Jews who no longer hold the beliefs of their communities feel "pushed off the derech," yet still retain their sense of Jewish identity, a groundbreaking new study of the group has revealed.

A third of those surveyed have yet to physically leave their communities, and may maintain outward displays of religious observance while having "left" the community in their beliefs and private lives. When they do leave, over half the respondents reported feeling disconnected to any Jewish community, and nearly a quarter have trouble with dating, holding relationships, or finding a job.

The report surveyed 885 people who once identified (or currently reside in) Chasidic, Chabad, Yeshivish, Modern Orthodox, or other Orthodox communities. Many of these individuals now identify as Off The Derech, or OTD, and go to organized OTD Meetups or are members of OTD social media groups.

Other important factors cited by respondents included the treatment of women within ultra-religious communities and the widespread perception of contradictions, double standards, and hypocrisy. Contrary to widely held assumptions about those who leave Orthodox Judaism, only 2% of respondents cited the influence of the Internet or weak secular education as significant spurs to leaving .

June 24, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:04 PM


The tea party spirit crossed the Atlantic during the Brexit campaign :H British politics became Americanized. (Alex Massie June 24, 2016, Washington Post)

 This people's revolt represented, in many respects, the Americanization of British politics. The "leave" campaign's slogan -- its devastatingly effective slogan -- of "take back control" was positively Trumpian. Indeed, some of the same forces of alienation, discontent, economic insecurity and racial animosity that produced Trump in the United States have now hauled Britain out of the European Union. This past week's revolution, arguably the greatest political insurrection since the dawn of the democratic era, offers further evidence that some political trends recognize no borders or boundaries. It was more than just a political battle; it was a culture war, too. And it bore the hallmarks of the one that began in the United States 50 years ago.

The campaign, at its crudest, pitted the "people" against the "establishment," the powerless against the powerful. The "leave" side cast itself as a guerrilla insurgency against a complacent and out-of-touch governing elite. Like recent U.S. campaigns, this one was marked by a distaste for experts. There were shades of Barry Goldwater and the United States' 2010 tea party wave in this; shades, perhaps, of the Reagan revolution, too. Brexit might break everything, the thinking went, but unless things are broken, nothing can change. This is Year Zero now.

The referendum laid bare the fault lines in British society, and they turn out to be as stark as the divisions between red and blue America. Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to stay in Europe; England and Wales opted out. Within England, London -- cosmopolitan, liberal, wealthy -- voted for the status quo, but rural areas, from the sleepy shires to the rusting post-industrial towns of the north, chose to leave. In doing so, they revolted against more than just Brussels and the institutions of the E.U.; they delivered an Anglo-Saxon rebuke to London and Westminster (as Parliament is known), too. Only a quarter of members of Parliament came out for Brexit: The gap between the people and their representatives has never before, at least on an issue of this significance, been so wide. You do not speak for us, voters said, and we hold you in some contempt for your failure to represent, or even understand, our concerns. G.K. Chesterton's lines seem hauntingly appropriate: "Smile at us, pay us, pass us; but do not quite forget/For we are the people of England, that never have spoken yet." Now the people have spoken, and the whole world has heard their roar.

This is backwards: The American Revolution and Founding were English.

Posted by orrinj at 6:32 PM


 How this Colorado history teacher and 400 of her fellow delegates are planning to block Trump in Cleveland (Andrew Romano, June 24, 2016, Yahoo : Unconventional)

One week ago, the Washington Post reported that dozens of Republican convention delegates had hatched "a new plan" to block a stumbling Donald Trump in Cleveland by adding a "conscience clause" to the convention's rules.

As regular Unconventional readers know, there is a convincing case to be made -- and in his new e-book Unbound, Rules Committee member Curly Haugland of North Dakota makes it -- that Republican convention delegates are already technically free to nominate whomever they want in Cleveland, despite the impression that they are bound by the results of the primary votes in each state.

A conscience clause would make this freedom explicit by saying that every delegate is allowed to vote his or her conscience on the first ballot -- even if state laws or party rules say otherwise.

At first, this new "Dump Trump" faction was fairly small. Roughly 30 delegates from 15 states participated in a conference call last Thursday night. Since then, however, the unlikely campaign appears to have picked up steam. A second conference call on Sunday night attracted a claimed 1,000 participants, and this week, both the RNC and Trump have begun to fight back with delegate strategies of their own.

The group that started all this commotion calls itself Free the Delegates. Its founder -- and self-proclaimed "loudmouth" in chief -- is Kendal Unruh. She is a history teacher, a born-again Christian, a Rules Committee member, and a former Ted Cruz supporter from Colorado. On Thursday, she hopped on the phone with Unconventional to discuss how Free the Delegates came together, why she is "anybody but Trump" -- and what exactly she's planning to do in Cleveland.

Posted by orrinj at 6:30 PM


Donald Trump's Really Big Brexit Flip-Flop : The presumptive GOP nominee once said "we will have to leave borders behind and go for global unity." (DAVID CORN, JUN. 24, 2016, Mother Jones)

In early 2013, as part of its coverage of the Davos global conference, CNN's website asked Trump to contribute a column addressing the global financial crisis and Europe as an investment opportunity. It identified Trump as "one of the world's foremost investors." And in his article, Trump waxed on about the need for international economic interdependence. He wrote:

The near meltdown we experienced a few years ago made it clear that our economic health depended on dependence on each other to do the right thing.

We are now closer to having an economic community in the best sense of the term -- we work with each other for the benefit of all.

I think we've all become aware of the fact that our cultures and economics are intertwined... It's a time for working together for the best of all involved. Never before has the phrase "we're all in this together" had more resonance or relevance.

He summed it up this way: "We will have to leave borders behind and go for global unity when it comes to financial stability."

This was, he observed, particularly true regarding Europe:

Europe is a tapestry that is dense, colorful and deserving of continued longevity and prosperity. There are many pieces that must be carefully fitted together in order to thrive.

Our challenge is to acknowledge those pieces and to see how they can form a whole that works together well without losing any cultural flavor in the process. It's a combination of preservation along with forward thinking.

No surprise, Trump cited his golf course in Scotland as a perfect example of investment in Europe. But his larger message was that economic cohesion was necessary for global prosperity: "The future of Europe, as well as the United States, depends on a cohesive global economy. All of us must work toward [sic] together toward that very significant common goal."

Trump was clearly an advocate of European economic cooperation, noting, "we're all in this together." But that was before he became a candidate crusading against the "system" who smelled a shot-term political investment opportunity. So he has dumped that grand talk of global economic cohesion and embraced Brexit. After all, this allows Trump to promote his own agenda--and his golf course.

Posted by orrinj at 4:45 AM


The biggest threat of Brexit is not to the UK but to the rest of Europe (Simon Jenkins, 24 June 2016, The Guardian)

A silly question was asked and a silly answer was given. That is democracy. But so is leadership. As the good ship Tory government smashes on to rocks of its own devising, David Cameron has, perhaps inevitably, decided to desert the bridge for any refloat. He made a massive misjudgment, but it was one in which almost the entire British establishment has colluded.

They must all now perform a U-turn. They must behave as if Project Fear was overstated. Every muscle must be strained for a new relationship with Europe. Other leaders of the EU, fearing similar disintegrating pressures, must know they all have a vested interest in minimising the damage. The idea of "punishing" Britain will merely compound the stupidity and risk to European stability.

The immediate job is not to reflect on causes but to get down to work. The referendum is consultative. Procedures must be followed. For the time being, Britain remains a member of the European Union, but parliament must honour the government's commitment to the British people to adhere to their decision. Officially that takes two years, though in Europe anything can happen. The French government in 2005 contrived to disregard a popular rejection of the Lisbon treaty.

As some advocates of leave claimed, leave can mean many things. No one has an interest in exaggerating the harm. Britain will have to reach a deal, on trade and other things, that will be novel and peculiar whatever the cost. It is Cameron's parting duty to negotiate it. No one can have the slightest interest in his past threats of closed borders, collapsing trade and punishment budgets. The slate is wiped clean.

The biggest threat from this referendum is, in truth, not to Britain but to the rest of Europe, which is why the EU should think carefully about how to respond. It has been judged by this referendum and found wanting. Britain will not be the last to tell it so. Polls have shown between a quarter and third of people across Europe are now deeply hostile to the European project. The economies of southern Europe are in a Germany-induced lock-down. Brussels, and its German paymasters, are in trouble.

Brexit Will Be Britain's Fourth of July : The Leave campaign is winning, and it's obvious why. People are rebelling against the consolidation and concentration of state power. (Joel Kotkin, 6/22/16, Daily Beast)

The campaign to take the United Kingdom out of the European Union, widely known as "Brexit," is potentially on the verge of a huge victory Thursday despite overwhelming opposition in the media and among the corporate and political establishment. The outcome matters not just as an expression of arcane British insularity, but as evidence of a growing rebellion against the ever greater consolidation and concentration of power now occurring across all of Europe, as well as here in the United States.

In many ways, this rebellion's antecedents include our own revolution, which sought to overturn a distant, and largely unaccountable, bureaucracy. Like Lord North, George III's prime minister, today's Eurocratic elites spoke of obligations and fealty to the wisdom of the central imperium. What shocked the centralizers then, and once again today, was the temerity of the governed to challenge the precepts of their betters.

England is Anglospheric, not European.  

June 23, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:34 PM


Justices Against Drunk Driving (MATT FORD, 6/23/16, tHE aTLANTIC)

The U.S. Supreme Court outlined new parameters for testing suspected drunk drivers on Thursday, ruling that the Fourth Amendment allows warrantless breath tests but forbids warrantless blood tests.

"The impact of breath tests on privacy is slight, and the need for BAC [blood alcohol content] testing is great," Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the Court in Birchfield v. North Dakota and its consolidated cases.

Posted by orrinj at 7:28 PM


The racial profiling Trump so admires doesn't even work in Israel (Akiva Eldar, June 23, 2016, Al Monitor)

"What are you getting so upset about?" one of the young men asked me. "This is nothing. You should come here in the midday hours and see the line straggling through here."

A guard who overheard the conversation shrugged and said, "What can we do?" with just a hint of apology. "Those are our instructions."

Yisrael Katz, the minister of transportation and intelligence, doesn't think there's any reason to apologize for Jews screening other human beings on grounds of their racial background. He is even proud of it. "The Shin Bet security agency acts according to assessments of certain communities," the minister told members of the foreign press in response to Trump's remarks. "Anyone who thinks that you can ignore the need to locate and prevent threats for the benefit of the entire population, including the Arab one, is simply wrong."

Does screening really serve the fight against terror, or do the humiliation and discrimination sow hatred and alienation that generate fury and violence? Can Israel, as Trump said, serve as a success story of the racial screening model, or is the conservative millionaire perhaps like a doctor who prescribes medication that worsens the condition of his patient?

One answer can be found in the report of the Or Commission that investigated the October 2000 clashes between Israeli security forces and Arab Israeli citizens, in which 13 demonstrators were killed by police fire. "Humiliation during a security check, which has nothing to do with real needs, as well as an offensive attitude in the contacts of Arab citizens with run-of-the-mill Israelis," warned the commission headed by former Supreme Court Justice Theodore Or, "risk residues of burning affront that will not be easily erased."

Another answer came from Bernard Harcourt, a law professor at the University of Chicago, in a 2006 paper on the issue of racial profiling. He wrote that he had not found any empirical proof that its usefulness outweighs its contribution to terror attacks.

David Harris, a University of Toledo law professor considered one of the world's leading authorities on racial screening, holds that the use of racial profiling cannot contribute to maintaining public order, reducing crime and drug dealing or preventing terror attacks. According to Harris, racial and ethnic affiliation are very weak indicators for predicting a person's behavior and threat level. Among other data, Harris cites statistics according to which the use of racial profiling in the war on drugs and crime in the United States, where the targets are mostly black and Hispanic citizens, did not contribute to a drop in drug offenses, but rather to the social alienation of members of these minority groups. According to Harris, the same is true of the profiling at airports, where the targets are Arabs and Muslims.

Posted by orrinj at 7:08 PM


Fed's Kaplan drops call for near-term U.S. rate hike (Reuters, 6/23/16)

A top Federal Reserve policymaker on Thursday dropped his promise to advocate for a U.S. interest-rate hike soon, and suggested that current near-zero rates may not be stimulating the economy as much as thought. [...]

[Dallas Federal Reserve Bank President Robert Kaplan] used much of his speech to recap a growing body of research that suggests the Fed has less room than in the past to raise rates without putting unwanted brakes to the U.S. economic engine.

Evidence is growing that the so-called neutral rate has declined sharply. Fresh forecasts released last week show Fed officials now believe that a healthy U.S. economy can maintain full employment and stable prices with a policy rate of only 3 percent, well below the 4.25 percent rate they saw just four years ago.

"I am strongly persuaded by arguments that aging demographics in advanced economies, a decline in productivity growth and the continued emergence of the U.S. as a source of safe assets have all contributed to the decline in the neutral rate," he said.

The reality, of course, is that they had no room the last four times they hiked either, which is why the economy slowed every time.

Posted by orrinj at 4:56 PM


Trump's charity claims could violate fraud laws : He could be held liable if he failed to fulfill promises to donate proceeds from his book 'Crippled America.' (BEN SCHRECKINGER, 06/20/16, Politico)

The charity claims made their way into numerous news reports, social media posts and online reader reviews of the book. "Thank You For Donating Proceeds To Vet Charities!!!" reads the subject line of one review on Amazon. "Proceeds to charity GREAT BOOK!" proclaims another. [...]

"In general you can't promote a book by saying the benefits will go to charity when that's false, and that's where general consumer protection laws would come in," said Dan Kurtz, a former assistant attorney general of New York in charge of the state's Charities Bureau.

Kurtz added that Trump might also be subject to New York's charitable solicitation laws. Those regulations generally apply to instances where a business markets its goods as benefiting a particular charitable organization, but Kurtz said Trump's vaguer marketing claims arguably also fall under that law as well.

Kurtz said that the book's publisher, Simon & Schuster, might be "on the hook" as well for claims Trump made. A spokesman for the publisher declined to comment on the record.

"Crippled America" is not the only money-making venture that Trump has publicized as benefiting charity. He has also claimed that proceeds or profits from Trump University, Trump Vodka, "The Art of the Deal" and a Trump board game would benefit charity.

Promoting Trump Vodka in 2006, Trump told Larry King, "I'm giving the money to charity." But the only apparent donation related to Trump Vodka is a "few hundred dollars" given to a group supporting Walter Reed Hospital in connection with a specific promotion, as reported by CNN last month.

Trump marketed Trump University as a charitable venture and said he would give any money he made off of it to charity, but he has not given money from it to charity, as Time reported in November. Trump's lawyer told Time that the New York billionaire transferred the $5 million he made from Trump University, which is embroiled in multiple fraud lawsuits, back to the business when it landed in legal trouble.

Posted by orrinj at 4:50 PM


Trump's stumbles fuel convention delegate revolt : Staff shakeups and fundraising shortfalls have emboldened Trump's GOP critics to pursue a bid to block his nomination. (KYLE CHENEY and ALEX ISENSTADT 06/22/16, Politico)

Throughout Tuesday, as Trump's campaign sought to quash concerns about his anemic fundraising and decision to fire campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, anti-Trump delegates seized on glimmers of hope.

First, they snagged the endorsement of former U.S. Sen. Gordon Humphrey, who told POLITICO he'll work full-time to help encourage New England delegates to rebel against Trump and to connect his allies with mid-level GOP fundraisers who can sustain their push through the convention. Later, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker endorsed one of their preferred methods for stopping Trump: freeing all 2,472 Republican National Convention delegates to vote their conscience, rather than abiding by rules and state laws that bind them to support Trump.

"Delegates are and should be able to vote the way they see fit," Walker said, according to an Associated Press account.

At the same time, Saul Anuzis, a top adviser to Ted Cruz's former presidential campaign who has long dismissed attempts to unhorse Trump, floated the notion that a Walker/Cruz ticket would provide the only political mix to tempt conservative delegates away from Trump at the convention.

Delegates leading the stop-Trump efforts have largely been coordinated by New Jersey's Steve Lonegan -- a former Cruz adviser -- and Colorado's Kendal Unruh, a delegate serving on the convention's rules committee, a 112-member body that will set the terms of convention's nomination process. They've arranged two conference calls in the past week, including one on Sunday in which organizers claimed nearly 400 convention delegates and alternates participated. Another is scheduled for this weekend.

His defeat is going to be so comprehensive and humiliating you'd think he must want out.  Especially if he can whine about being betrayed.

Posted by orrinj at 4:44 PM


How technology made us hyper-capable - and helpless (Jonathan Coopersmith,  23 June 2016, The Guardian)

The smartphone in your hand enables you to record a video, edit it and send it around the world. With your phone, you can navigate in cities, buy a car, track your vital signs and accomplish thousands of other tasks. And so?

Each of those activities used to demand learning specific skills and acquiring the necessary resources to do them. Making a film? First, get a movie camera and the supporting technologies (film, lights, editing equipment). Second, learn how to use them and hire a crew. Third, shoot the movie. Fourth, develop and edit the film. Fifth, make copies and distribute them.

Now all of those tasks are solved by technology. We need no longer learn the intricate details when the smartphone programmers have taken care of so much. But film-makers are now freer to focus on their craft, and it is easier than ever to become a film-maker. Historically, technology has made us individually dumber and individually smarter - and collectively smarter. Technology has made us able to do more while understanding less about what we are doing, and has increased our dependence on others.

These are not recent trends, but part of the history of technology since the first humans began to farm. In recent decades, three major changes have accelerated the process, starting with the increasing pace of humans specializing in particular skills. In addition, we outsource more skills to technological tools, like a movie-making app on a smartphone, that relieve us of the challenge of learning large amounts of technical knowledge. And many more people have access to technology than in the past, allowing them to use these tools much more readily. [...]

A major downside of increased dependence on technologies is the increased consequences if those technologies break or disappear. Lewis Dartnell's The Knowledge offers a delightful (and frightening) exploration of how survivors of a humanity-devastating apocalypse could salvage and maintain 21st-century technologies.

Just one example of many is that the US Naval Academy just resumed training officers to navigate by sextants. Historically the only way to determine a ship's location at sea, this technique is being taught again both as a backup in case cyber-attackers interfere with GPS signals and to give navigators a better feel of what their computers are doing.

Posted by orrinj at 4:38 PM

THE YOUNG ARE HEALTHY (self-reference alert):

Leaving the Pediatrician? Not at 26 (JANE H. FURSE, JUNE 23, 2016, NY Times)

Lule Rault took a seat in the waiting room of Uptown Pediatrics on Park Avenue, across from several young mothers with babies in tow. A toddler played with the toys on the waiting-room floor.

"I felt like they might think I'm just another young mom or something," she said, "since I am so close to their age." But Ms. Rault, a 26-year-old medical student, was there this month for her own annual checkup. She has been a patient at Uptown Pediatrics since her own infancy. And she plans to remain so until she finishes her M.D. at Tulane University. At that point she will be 29.

She is not looking forward to the transition.

"I don't have to leave Dr. Murphy, do I?" she said in an interview by email. "I'm only 26!" And she is not Dr. Ramon Murphy's only patient long out of high school. "The last time I was there, he told me there was one patient older than me -- a boy."

A poll from the Pew Research Center last month found that for the first time in more than a century, young adults are more likely to live with their parents than with a partner or a spouse. So it should come as no surprise that many are perfectly happy to remain with their childhood physicians. The age at which patients leave the pediatric nest varies, depending on whether their doctors are trained to treat adolescents and young adult patients. Historically, that age has been 18 to 22. It seems to be moving up.

I had my pediatrician remove some stitches when I was 22 and didn't visit a doctor again until The Wife made me get a physical before we had kids, 13 years later.  He'd retired by then.

Posted by orrinj at 4:32 PM


The 'Anti-Business' President Who's Been Good for Business (Bloomberg Businessweek, 6/23/16)

BLOOMBERG BUSINESSWEEK: The stock market has tripled. Profits are very high. And yet you still have this label of being an anti-business figure. How do you look at that?

OBAMA: Well, first of all, toward the end of my second term, I think among the business community, there's maybe a greater acknowledgment, a less grudging acknowledgment, that we steered through the worst financial and economic crisis in our lifetimes successfully--certainly more successfully than many of our peers. We're now 10 percent above the GDP pre-crisis. In Europe, for example, they're just now getting back to even.

As you mentioned, the stock market, obviously, has come roaring back. But I think more relevant for ordinary folks, we've cut the unemployment rate in half. We've been able to have the longest [stretch of] consecutive months of private-sector job growth in our history. Biggest job growth since the '90s in manufacturing. The auto industry has come roaring back and is selling more cars than ever. We've doubled the production of clean energy. Our production of traditional fossil fuels has exceeded all expectations. We've been able to grow the economy, reduce unemployment, and cut the deficit by around three-quarters, measured as a percent of GDP. So it's hard to argue with the facts.

I think where the business community has traditionally voiced complaints about my administration is in the regulatory sector. And yet, if you look at the results--Dodd-Frank being a good example--it is indisputable that our banking system and our financial sector are safer and more stable than when I came into office. [....]

One of the reasons people are feeling left behind is free trade. Have you not done a good job of selling the benefits of trade to people who feel that this is something that's taking their jobs, taking away their future?

A couple of interesting things about trade. No. 1, the majority of Americans, surveys show, still favor free trade. It's just that those who are opposed feel it much more intensely. No. 2, there is no doubt that some of the trade deals of the past, and the way in which globalization occurred over the course of the last 40 years, has not always been to the U.S.'s advantage.

So you take the example of China's accession to the WTO [World Trade Organization]. From a geopolitical perspective, it was absolutely the right thing to do. And in fairness, nobody anticipated that China suddenly was going to be the engine of world manufacturing that rapidly. But there probably were some safeguards that could have been built to make sure that they weren't devaluing their currency unfairly, that they weren't engaged in the same state-owned enterprise subsidies and dumping that they were. Hopefully we've learned lessons from what happened there.

My argument with my friends in the union movement, for example--and I'm a strong union supporter--is if you're fighting that battle, you're fighting the last war. That you have to recognize that globalization is here to stay. That to keep one of the auto plants that have reopened and grown here in the United States operating at full capacity--they're relying on parts from all over the world, and trying to disentangle that is all but impossible. And our goal, then, should be to try to shape trade deals that raise standards everywhere. And that's what we've done with the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

I just came back from Vietnam. They're introducing measures in their constitution to recognize worker organizations that are independent from the government for the first time. The only reason they're doing that is because they wanted to be part of TPP.

If we simply pretend that trade will go away or that we can block it off, then China will set the rules for trade for the next 20, 30, 50 years. It sure won't be good for U.S. businesses. It won't be good for U.S. workers, and ultimately it won't be as good for workers in Vietnam or the people of Malaysia or other countries we're working with.

The last point I'd make on this is that the challenge from a perceptions point of view is that the benefits of globalization we take for granted. The costs are highly visible. You know, you can argue that one of the reasons inflation has been so low over the last two decades is because we're able to get a lot of stuff cheap from all around the world.

We take for granted that we can get a flatscreen TV really cheap, or that we get clothes that fit better and last longer than when I was a kid. You walk into J.Crew or the Gap, and it's a great improvement. I try to tell my kids, "You guys look a lot sharper than I did when I was your age, because we went to Sears, and it wasn't working the same way."

Posted by orrinj at 4:24 PM


The imperfect genius of Paul Ryan's entitlement overhaul (Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, June 23, 2016, The Week)

Poor Paul Ryan. He has basically spent his entire adult life working for one goal, which is to reshape the American welfare state along conservative lines. For awhile, it looked like the goal was closer than ever -- Republicans had both houses of Congress and most state houses, all it needed was the White House, and the Democrats were running their most unpopular candidate in a generation. And he, after unexpectedly landing in the House speaker's office, was going to be at the heart of it all.

And then Trump happened. That big, bloated, orange meteor that crashed right into the GOP and threatens to suffocate all non-aquatic life.

Well, Ryan is still sticking to his plan. He's going to spend 2016 putting together an agenda regardless of what the GOP nominee does, so that Ryan's priorities will be on the agenda.

Replace Trump with a Third Way governor, like Jeb, and you get a referendum on tax and entitlement reform, with the GOP on the side that consistently carries Anglosphere elections.

Posted by orrinj at 4:19 PM


Is Donald Trump struggling to find the green with his golf investments? (Tom Bergin,  June 23, 2016, Reuters)

A Reuters examination of them shows that Trump has likely lost millions of dollars on his golf projects. The analysis shows high costs and modest current valuations. Using conservative estimates of the amount Trump has spent, he may be breaking even or making modest gains; on higher estimates - based on what Trump has said he is spending - he's losing money. [...]

Only three Trump golf properties publish accounts - Turnberry; Trump International Golf Links Scotland, north of Aberdeen; and Trump International Golf Links Doonbeg in Ireland. All are loss-making, according to their latest filings.

Managers at all three said they were hopeful that the investment Trump has made in the sites will allow them to start to show a profit and that Trump expected them to deliver a return on his investment (ROI). In Turnberry, golfer Brad Hughes visiting from Orlando, said: "Trump has done an outstanding job. I played here 20 years ago and it's much better now. We paid £175 to play. That's around $250. It's well worth it for that quality. But will he get the ROI?"

Judging by past performance, Trump faces a challenge. Turnberry has only occasionally made a profit over the past 30 years. Revenue peaked at just under 16 million pounds in 2007, accounts for Turnberry's operating companies show.

So in total the analysis indicates Trump has spent about $1.1 billion. In return, he has received up to $200 million from property sales and other income, according to property records and golf analysts' estimates, and he owns a string of new or refurbished golf courses. What are they worth?

Reuters valued Trump's properties using several metrics. Golf consultants say clubs are typically sold within a range of 0.8 to 1.8 times turnover. Reuters used a multiple of 1.5 times turnover figures for the 12 courses, drawn from company accounts or Trump's election disclosures. Using estimates by real estate agents and other investors, the analysis added further amounts to reflect the fact that some of Trump's land is already designated for development. Further amounts were added to reflect that some Trump properties have trophy status, for which buyers might pay a premium.

On these calculations his golf courses are estimated to be worth $500 million to $600 million. This analysis suggests Trump could have lost hundreds of millions of dollars investing in golf.

"The figures indicate that those were bad investments," said John Griffin, professor of finance at the University of Texas at Austin, who has previously studied Donald Trump's wealth. He said that a typical listed property fund would have returned much more over the same period. By comparison Trump "seems to have lost half his investment," he said.

Posted by orrinj at 4:07 PM


US: Bahrain falls short on political, human rights reforms (RICHARD LARDNER, 6/22/16, Associated Press)

Bahrain has fallen short in implementing a series of political and human rights reforms, according to the State Department, undermining efforts to stabilize the tiny island kingdom after its Sunni-ruled government crushed Arab Spring protests five years ago.

The Christian/Shi'a axis' latest project.

Posted by orrinj at 3:59 PM


Split Supreme Court Halts Obama's Executive Action on Immigration (Blake Seitz, June 23, 2016, Free Beacon)

The Supreme Court halted implementation of President Obama's executive action on immigration on Thursday when it deadlocked 4-4 in the case United States v. Texas.

The executive action in question, laid out in a Department of Homeland Security memorandum in 2014, specified that certain illegal immigrants would not be prosecuted and deported from the country. These illegal immigrants would also become eligible for certain federal and state benefits, such as Social Security and Medicare.

...now he can do what W should have done; just grant a blanket pardon, which can't even be challenged in the courts.

Posted by orrinj at 1:25 PM


I helped start the Moral Majority. Trump is the opposite of what we wanted. (Michael Farris June 23, 2016, Washington Post)

Over the years, I've worked closely with many of the hundreds of faith leaders who trekked to Trump Tower on Tuesday to meet with presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump. I've opposed Trump, and wasn't invited. But even if I had been, I wouldn't have gone. I believe these pilgrims meant well, but I think their judgment about associating with Trump is troubling and unwise. In embracing this brazen man -- whether tacitly or overtly -- they appear to have forgotten the very premises on which the Moral Majority and the social conservative movement was founded.

His candidacy is the antithesis of everything we set out to achieve.

The first national meeting of the Moral Majority took place on a snowy day in February 1980. I was a young lawyer from Spokane, and attended as the newly minted Washington state director of Jerry Falwell's organization. We were moved by our beliefs. And if those of us who were gathered had been told, back then, that 36 years later our movement would embrace a candidate like Trump for president, our unanimous response would have been: "It will be a cold day in hell before that happens."

From Falwell, Tim LaHaye and other well-known pastors, we heard the message that Bible-believing Christians were not to be silent, nor the tools of any political party. We are conservative, yes. And yes, the Republican Party has been the home of political conservatives. But we were to stand for principle. We wanted leaders who were closely aligned with a biblical worldview on the issues of the day, and we also wanted leaders of good moral character.

We recognized, then and now, that no candidate is perfect, but we believed that there were certain lines which could not be crossed if evangelical support was to be forthcoming. If we say now that Trump has not crossed those lines, then we're saying those lines never truly existed.

Posted by orrinj at 1:21 PM


True: Fact-checking a single Donald Trump speech required 10 AP writers (Erik Wemple, June 22, 2016, Washington Post)

Want to know how much of the speech was pure nonsense? Just alight on this fact-check by the Associated Press. "Donald Trump's fierce denunciation of Hillary Clinton on Wednesday was rife with distortion," reads the first line of the fact-check. Among the statements that the AP faults are ones that tagged Clinton for: a misguided Iraq withdrawal date announcement (not "on her watch") and a misguided invasion of Libya (there was no invasion); launching Iran into Middle Eastern hegemony (such arguments came before Clinton's term as secretary of state); denying "all" requests for security upgrades for the U.S. diplomatic installation in Benghazi (not all were denied); wanting to spend "hundreds of billions" to resettle Middle Eastern refugees in the United States ("baffling," concludes the AP); accepting "$58,000 in jewelry from the government of Brunei when she was secretary of state" (gift went to the U.S. government); letting the U.S. trade deficit with China to go up by 40 percent (that's "more than double the actual increase"); a plan to "admit hundreds of thousands of refugees from the most dangerous countries on Earth, with no way to screen who they are, what they are, what they believe, where they come from" (actually, Clinton has advocated extensive screening); creating open borders in the United States (not). He also said that the U.S. was "the highest-taxed nation in the world" ("Closer to the opposite is true."); that Obamacare is killing jobs (job growth has been "solid" since Obamacare started); and that his tax plan would create "millions of new jobs and lower taxes for everyone" (not according to "most economists").

With all his falsehoods and distortions, Trump siphoned off a whole platoon of journalistic talent that could have been doing other things (like investigating Trump University, for example). Here's the tagline on the AP fact-check:

Associated Press writers Christopher S. Rugaber, Chad Day, Michael Biesecker, Eileen Sullivan, Alicia A. Caldwell, Jeff Horwitz, Nancy Benac, Matthew Lee, Jill Colvin and Cal Woodward contributed to this story.

Next time Trump approaches the podium, some enterprising -- and perhaps grandstanding -- broadcaster might consider airing only those parts that can be confirmed. It might be a short presentation.

Posted by orrinj at 1:16 PM


The Cheapest Kindle Gets Thinner, Lighter, and Speedier (Brian Barrett, 6/23/16, Wired)

IN THE TWO years since Amazon last updated its entry-level Kindle reader, the company has introduced not one but two ultra-luxe E Ink devices. Now, it's back to basics.

The new Kindle keeps the barebones $80 (with ads) price and 167 ppi of its predecessor, as well as the touchscreen and the weeks-long battery life. In fact, it's in most ways the same device. The difference that you'll notice right away is that it now comes in white; the one you'll notice after a few taps and swipes is that it now has twice the RAM of the 2014 model, meaning it should be quite a bit more responsive.

Otherwise, it's a little thinner and lighter, and a little more rounded, but you'd likely have to see them both side by side and stacked on top of one another to tell the difference. 

Posted by orrinj at 1:09 PM


Trump on Poor Fundraising: I'm Having More Difficulty With Republicans Than With Democrats (David Rutz, June 21, 2016, Daily Beacon)

Donald Trump said he is having more difficulties with fellow Republicans than with Democrats as he tried to explain his campaign's paltry fundraising numbers Tuesday on The Today Show.

In spite of having the Republican nomination effectively wrapped up in May, Trump raised only $3.1 million that month and ended May with just $1.3 million in cash on hand, which is less than some congressional campaigns. [...]

Democrat Hillary Clinton, while locked in a contentious primary fight with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) in May, raised $27 million that month and has $42 million in cash on hand according to FEC filings.

Posted by orrinj at 11:38 AM


U.S. jobless claims near 43-year low (LUCIA MUTIKANI, 6/23/16, Reuters)

The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell last week to near a 43-year low, suggesting labor market resilience even though hiring slowed sharply in May. [...]

The drop was the largest since February and left claims not too far from a 43-year low touched in March. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast initial claims falling only to 270,000 in the latest week.

Claims have now been below 300,000, a threshold associated with a strong job market, for 68 straight weeks, the longest streak since 1973.

The four-week moving average of claims, considered a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, fell 2,250 to 267,000 last week.

June 22, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 6:30 PM


Man Claiming to be Orlando Gunman's Lover Speaks Out (Alan Neuhauser, June 22, 2016, US News)

The man, who bore a disguise and went by the name "Miguel," said he met gunman Omar Mateen at an Orlando hotel as many as 20 times over a two-month period late last year.

Univision said the FBI confirmed meeting with Miguel, but the news agency could not independently verify the details of his story. Miguel said he believed that the shooting was prompted by Mateen's fear that he had contracted HIV during a sexual encounter with two Puerto Rican men. He said Mateen felt rejected by clubgoers at Pulse and that the motive for the shooting was "revenge."

"When I asked him what he was going to do now, his answer was 'I'm going to make them pay for what they did to me,'" Miguel told Univision.

Posted by orrinj at 6:25 PM


Low mortgage rates boost U.S. home sales to nine-year high (LUCIA MUTIKANI, 6/22/16, Reuters)

U.S. home resales rose in May to a more than nine-year high amid low mortgage rates, pointing to sustained housing market strength that should keep the economy on solid ground.

The fairly strong existing home sales report on Wednesday added to retail sales and international trade data in painting an upbeat picture of the economy in the second quarter. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:17 PM


The Weird World Of Expensive Wine (Oliver Roeder, 6/22/16, 538)

William Koch -- yes, one of those Kochs -- is giving a tour of his wine cellar when he asks the obvious question: "Did you see the wine bathroom?" he asked. "Wanna see it?"

It's an opulent cellar, replete with Roman mosaics, a Guastavino-style ceiling and a Dionysian bust. The bathroom is, one can't help but assume, where Koch and his guests unzip the flies of tailored Brioni suit pants and catch final glimpses of $1,000 bottles of Burgundy and Bordeaux, since metabolized and micturated.

But some of Koch's bottles will now meet different ends. Koch gave a tour of the wine bathroom for a promotional video ahead of the sale of more than 20,000 bottles from his cellar, at Sotheby's, in New York. The sale, which took place over three days last month, fetched $21.9 million, going down as one of the richest wine auctions in history.

I watched the sale's final day unfold, fascinated -- and a little dismayed -- by the wines fetching these handsome sums, where they came from, and where they were going. Questions like that are sparks a FiveThirtyEight writer is obligated to kindle.

Off I went in search of data, and I found it in the form of a juicy, dense spreadsheet containing 140,000 wines from 10,000 producers in 33 countries, and their prices. The data was sent to me by Peter Krimmel, the CTO of Vinfolio, a fine wine retailer. It's wide-ranging, assembled by the company using auction results from 12 major houses, including Sotheby's, representing "the vast majority of the fine wine auction market." For the 140,000 wines covered, it has data on the producer, year (the wine's vintage), bottle size, region, subregion, American Viticultural Area (where applicable), color (red, white or rosé) and price.

After quaffing the data, what I found was a high-end wine market, and a blockbuster auction, with notes of geography, chemistry, economics, culture and thousands of years of history -- with a detectable aroma of b[*******]t. Let's have a taste.

Posted by orrinj at 6:00 PM


To Be Fixed, Europe Needs a Wrecking Ball (David Ignatius, June 22, 2016, Washington Post)

 The most hopeful aspect of the Brexit debate is that most young British people seem to be instinctively European. They have grown up in a global economy where people move from job to job and country to country. A June 13 poll by ICM for the Guardian found that 56 percent of voters aged 18 to 34 want to remain in the EU, while just 39 percent favor leaving. By contrast, 55 percent of those over 65 favor withdrawal.

Other surveys make the same point: The older people get in Britain, the more they mistrust the EU. That's the biggest danger of the pro-Brexit campaign, beyond the economic damage it has risked. It would tie the country's future to the oldest, most conservative cohort of its population.

 The EU leadership in Brussels deserves its bad reputation. Lacking the instruments of real governance, the Eurocrats have nibbled around the edges with rules and regulations that imply a common destiny but leave to others the hard questions, such as border security and fiscal discipline.

 Germany sits uneasily atop this shaky enterprise. The Germans are lucky to have a chancellor who, no matter how wealthy and privileged her country may be, still acts like the Lutheran pastor's daughter who was raised in East Germany. Asked once what was distinctive about Germany, she gave this sturdy, if unlikely, answer: "No other country can build such airtight and beautiful windows." Her power comes in part from her ability to appear ordinary.

Europe is only beginning its process of change. A senior German official told me a few months ago that the strange thing about the Brexit vote was that "the best case and the worst case are so close together." What he meant was that Germany understands that Europe's institutions must change, regardless of whether Britain is in or out.

EU purists may still dream of a tighter federalism, but that would involve a surrender of national power that nobody, least of all the Germans or French, really wants. 

Huh?  So the older Britons are right; the EU is a mess and a bad deal.  But the younger Britons are the hope of the nation?

Posted by orrinj at 12:55 PM


The US is spending trillions less than expected on health care -- and uninsured rates are at an all-time low (Sarah Kliff, June 21, 2016, Vox)

The United States is spending trillions -- yes, trillions -- less on health care than government forecasters expected when Obamacare passed in 2010. [...]

Budgeteers will likely cheer the slower health cost growth. Less spending on health care means more money for the government to spend on other things like education or infrastructure.

But for individual consumers, slower health spending likely doesn't feel cheaper at all. In fact, it probably feels more expensive: One big way private insurers have held down costs is by asking consumers to pay a larger and larger chunk of their medical bills.

Deductibles and copays have steadily grown over the past decade. Separate research shows that patients use less health care when they have to pay more. Sometimes they cut out unnecessary care -- but patients will also skimp on the care they need, too.

...and it behaves like any other consumer good.

Posted by orrinj at 12:48 PM


Republicans Offer a Plan to Replace Obamacare (RUSSELL BERMAN, 6/21/16, The Atlantic)

The GOP plan would:

Expand health savings accounts
Offer refundable tax credits to subsidize the purchase of private health insurance and decrease dependence on employer-sponsored plans
Cap the tax exclusion for employer-provided health insurance
Allow people to purchase insurance across state lines
Provide $25 billion in funding for high-risk pools over 10 years
Devolve Medicaid to the states, either through a block grant or a "per capita allotment"
Partially privatize Medicare beginning in 2024 through a "premium support" option

...are the HSAs and the mandate the Right opposed.

Posted by orrinj at 12:36 PM


Where Americans Tip the Most (Tom Risen, June 22, 2016, US News)

Square analyzed data that it collected in January 2016 from the more than 2 million sellers using its Register mobile payment system in the U.S., which enable individuals or small businesses to accept credit card transactions for a small fee. Customers in New Hampshire tipped 17.1 percent of their transaction cost on average, making them the most generous Square users. South Dakota had the stingiest tippers, with an average tip left of 15.3 percent.

June 21, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 8:38 PM


Scott Walker Says GOP Delegates Should Feel Free to Depose Trump (Eric Levitz, 6/21/16, nEW yORK)

The stench of flaming refuse that hangs over the Trump campaign has a growing contingent of Republican delegates plotting a Cleveland coup. Their goal is to have the convention's Rules Committee pass a "conscience clause" that would allow delegates to unbind themselves if they feel a moral aversion to the candidate they're supposed to support. And Walker has emerged as a possible white-knight candidate, as some suggest that his early exit from the primary race makes him a less-divisive replacement.

On Tuesday, the governor gave the coup attempt his blessing.

"I think historically, not just this year, delegates are and should be able to vote the way they see fit," Walker told the Associated Press. The governor endorsed Ted Cruz ahead of the Badger State's primary, but had endorsed Trump after the real-estate heir secured the nomination. But he backed off that support following Trump's "Mexican heritage" fiasco. In March, Walker predicted, "[I]f it's an open convention, it's very likely it [the nominee] would be someone who's not currently running."

Posted by orrinj at 7:03 PM


In the USSR I was a Jew in a sea of Russians. In America, I am just me (Margarita Gokun Silver,  21 June 2016, tHE gUARDIAN)

My parents quit their two stable, engineering jobs; we left behind our apartment and everything we'd accumulated during our life in Moscow. We boarded the plane with two suitcases and $80 each. For my parents - much more sober than I was about the prospects of relocating to another culture, another language and another political system - the move was a gamble.

For me it was a dream. Not only was I leaving behind the constant stream of antisemitic slurs thrown either directly at me or printed in the Soviet press, but I was also discarding the notion that my future was tied to the engineering realm. In the USSR the profession of an engineer was the most accessible career path for Jews. There was no question in my parents' minds that I'd follow suit - just like they did and their parents did before them. And even though I hated engineering, there was no question in my mind either. I knew there wasn't much I could do about it.

On arrival to the United States I quickly learned that the sky was the limit. My US passport - unlike my former Soviet one - didn't list my ethnic origin. It didn't preclude me from entering professions deemed too dangerous to entrust to Jews. I went into a field that required me to travel abroad, a feat either never or rarely afforded to Jewish citizens in the USSR. No longer a Jew among a sea of Russians, I was now like everyone else. I was an American.

Posted by orrinj at 6:57 PM


California Republicans Headed for the Slaughterhouse (Martin Longman, June 20, 2016, Washington Monthly)

There are a couple of outliers, but the general consensus of the polls is that Donald Trump is going to get right around 33% of the vote in California. Maybe when all the undecideds are counted, he'll do slightly better than that, but it's still likely that when Election Day rolls around in November, Golden State Republicans will be looking at a party champion who is trailing by twenty points or more. It's hard to find a reason to drag yourself to the polls under circumstances like that.

Now, maybe a Republican might get motivated to vote in the governor's race, but there is no governor's race there this year. And, perhaps a good Senate contest might interest a conservative voter, but the only two people on the ticket in November in the race to replace Barbara Boxer are Democrats: Attorney General Kamala Harris and Rep. Loretta Sanchez. And check this out:

A USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll released this week found Harris leading Sanchez 47 percent to 22 percent. The survey also found that 64 percent of Republicans said they would not cast a ballot for either candidate in November.

Now, if there is no governor's race and the presidential race is a foregone conclusion (and don't forget that Californians will know how most of the country voted long before their own polls close) and 64% of Republicans have no intentions of casting a vote in the Senate race, then the only reason most California Republicans will have to show up at the polls is to cast a vote for their U.S. Representative and some state and local races.

Can you imagine the turnout challenge facing Republicans running for the House of Representatives this fall?

Trump wants to make the nation look like this for the GOP.

Posted by orrinj at 3:49 PM


Trump Is on the Verge of Losing Even Republicans (David A. Graham, 6/21/16, The Atlantic)

A CNN poll released on Tuesday shows that a stunning 48 percent of Republicans polled would prefer that the party dump Trump in favor of another candidate.

Posted by orrinj at 1:43 PM


Most Americans Are Eating Better (Steven Reinberg, June 21, 2016, HealthDay News) 

More than half of Americans were eating healthier in 2012 than they were in 1999, a new study finds.

In fact, the percentage of adults with poor diets dropped from 56 percent to 46 percent during that period. By 2012, people ate more whole grains, fruit, nuts, seeds and fish while cutting back on sugar-sweetened drinks, the researchers found.

Posted by orrinj at 1:33 PM


French, Iranian Carmakers Sign Joint Venture Deal (RFE/RL, June 21, 2016)

French carmaker Peugeot-Citroen (PSA) and Iran Khodro have signed a final joint-venture agreement in Tehran to produce vehicles in Iran.

The 50-50 venture is expected to invest 400 million euros ($450 million) over the next five years, PSA said in a June 21 statement. 

Posted by orrinj at 1:21 PM


Donald Trump's Campaign Is Nearly Penniless (DAVID A. GRAHAM  June 21, 2016, tHE aTLANTIC)

Donald Trump hates disclosure: He won't release his tax returns, asks volunteers to sign non-disclosure agreements, and fights the release of depositions. And looking at his most recent Federal Election Commission disclosure, it's not hard to see why. The report is brutal for the presumptive Republican nominee.

Trump closed May with just $1.3 million cash on hand. That's down from $2.4 million at the start of the month. The campaign raised just $5.6 million, even though the Trump campaign signed a major fundraising agreement with the Republican National Committee in the middle of the month, and spent $6.7 million. Hillary Clinton, by contrast, has $42.5 million on hand, up from $30.2 at the start of the month. She spent $14 million but raised $26.4 million. That doesn't include bodies like Priorities USA, a super PAC that is backing Clinton and has $52 million. Pro-Trump super PACs are far behind.

The Republican Party, which has picked up some functions Trump has dropped, raised around a third of what it did in May 2012. Over the same stretch in 2012, Mitt Romney raised $23.4 million and closed with $17 million cash on hand--during a period in the campaign in which he was already getting outspent by his opponents.

Posted by orrinj at 1:15 PM


Trump's campaign cycles $6 million into Trump companies (JULIE BYKOWICZ and CHAD DAY, Associated Press)

Donald Trump's campaign likes to keep it in the family.

When Trump flies, he uses his airplane. When he campaigns, he often chooses his properties or his own Trump Tower in New York City, which serves as headquarters. His campaign even buys Trump bottled water and Trump wine.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee has been on the campaign trail for a year now, and federal finance reports detail a campaign unafraid to co-mingle political and business endeavors in an unprecedented way -- even as he is making appeals for donations.

Through the end of May, Trump's campaign had plunged at least $6.2 million back into Trump corporate products and services, a review of Federal Election Commission filings shows. That's about 10 percent of his total campaign expenditures.

June 20, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:43 PM


Why Is There A Money Void At The Center Of The Trump Campaign? (John McQuaid, 6/19/16, Forbes)

Clinton had $30 million cash on hand at the end of the last reporting period; Trump, $2.4 million.

A man with $10 billion and a decent shot at the presidency ought to be able to free up substantial funds to do that - and to do anything to win. That's emphatically not happening. The Occam's razor explanation is that he's not worth $10 billion. However much he is worth, he appears not to possess the liquidity to conjure up the necessary $1 billion, or hundreds or even tens of millions, that a national campaign requires. Even a million is a stretch.

This might be OK if Trump were willing to raise money. After all, self-funding presidential campaigns are rare because they cost so much. But Trump doesn't appear to be willing to do the minimum required on this front either. He dislikes calling rich donors. He has said that he wants the Republican Party apparatus to take over the functions of a national campaign. This is insane, because the Republican Party has its own job to do. It's supposed to work concert with the nominee's national organization, and with down-ballot campaigns. So handing it this huge extra job, without the money to make it happen, will hurt not just Trump but the entire Republican slate.

Trump's campaign - and his entire business empire - have the feel of a Potemkin village, a brand without any material substance, a giant shell game. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:37 PM


IS expels Syria regime forces from Raqqa province, monitor says (AFP June 20, 2016)

The Islamic State jihadist group expelled Syrian regime troops Monday from the northern province of Raqqa in a lightning counter-offensive that killed 40 regime soldiers, a monitoring group said.

Posted by orrinj at 7:07 PM


Why was influential Iranian deputy minister replaced? (Arash Karami,  June 20, 2016, Al Monitor)

Many conservative sites and newspapers appeared surprised by the sudden change.

Conservative Mashregh News wrote that Abdollahian is "the perfect example of a revolutionary diplomat" and that Iran needs more diplomats like him so that the country "is not taken for a ride at the negotiation table." The glowing profile of Abdollahian questioned why he was removed when "for the first time diplomatic discussions on Syria and Yemen have become serious."

The Mashregh article also said that regardless of the change, Iran would continue its "Islamic resistance." The article was not critical of Ansari, writing that he "undoubtedly has capabilities worthy of respect, which he was shown previously."

"Since the start of the Syrian crisis, Abdollahian had a key role in implementing Iran's diplomacy in Syria and a number of times participated in negotiations to resolve the Syrian crisis in place of the foreign minister," wrote Javan newspaper, which is linked to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The paper warned that replacing him could have "different external signals."

According to Javan, when the rumors of Abdollahian's replacement first surfaced in April, a newspaper close to Lebanon's March 14 movement, Mustaqbal, welcomed the news, saying "it was a positive step in strengthening the relationship with Arab [countries]." The Javan article said that Ansari "is more inclined toward negotiations with the Syrian opposition," and that before he had an official position within the Foreign Ministry, he had "implicitly criticized Iran's approach in Syria."

Only the hardliners--here and there--are surprised by Iran's rapid moderation anymore.

Posted by orrinj at 6:56 PM


There Is No Donald Trump Campaign (Jamelle Bouie, 6/20/16, Slate)

To suggest the Trump campaign is hurt by Lewandowski's departure is to assume a campaign exists. The truth is, there is no Donald Trump campaign.

This isn't a matter of metaphysics; I mean this in a literal sense. Consider campaign staff. At this point in a presidential cycle, the presumptive nominees of both parties have begun to construct a field operation meant to identify supporters, train volunteers, and prepare for the tough work of bringing voters to the polls. By the time Mitt Romney entered June--after extinguishing Rick Santorum's challenge from the right--he had more than a dozen offices open in Ohio and at least 89 paid staffers for his national campaign. By November, Romney had opened nearly 300 offices nationwide and employed more than 400 people. Team Obama invested even more in offices and personnel, with nearly 800 field locations and over 900 paid staffers.

How much staff has Donald Trump hired? At last count, the Trump campaign has roughly 30 staffers nationwide. By comparison, Team Clinton has hired 50 people in Ohio alone. Even if it's still early in the cycle, a typical campaign would have several senior staff members in place in most, if not all, contested states. Trump has close to none. And while the Republican National Committee has people on the ground in swing states and other vital areas, they're focused on the entire ticket. Trump needs dedicated, professional help and he doesn't have it. He seems to be waiting until July, at the earliest, to determine hiring and placement.

What about advertising? Paid television is part and parcel of modern campaigning and can have real--albeit temporary--effects on the race. In their book The Gamble: Choice and Chance in the 2012 Presidential Election, political scientists John Sides and Lynn Vavreck fnd that, all things equal, a candidate airing one additional ad per capita over an opponent gains an advantage of almost 1 extra point in public polling, compared with a market where candidates are at parity in advertising. Likewise, a candidate with two additional ads per capita gains two extra points compared with the baseline.

Posted by orrinj at 5:20 PM


Supreme Court Boosts the States' Right to Control Guns (Eric Pianin, June 20, 2016, Fiscal Times)

By refusing to hear a Second Amendment challenge to a Connecticut gun law, the Supreme Court delivered an important and timely victory on Monday to gun control advocates who are now pressing their case on Capitol Hill. The law was passed originally in the wake of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre of two dozen young children and adult educators.

The High Court let stand Connecticut's stringent state law making it a crime to purchase or sell semi-automatic, military-style rifles with high-capacity magazines, such as the AR-15s and AK-47s. Those rifles are comparable to the weapon used by Omar Mateen, the homegrown terrorist and self-proclaimed ISIS supporter who shot and killed 49 people and wounded 53 others at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida June 12.

Posted by orrinj at 4:50 PM


Globalization Gets a Bum Rap, But Foreign Investment in U.S. Hits a Record High (WILLIAM MAULDIN, Jun 20, 2016, WSJ)

[T]he weakness on the international scene is actually helping the U.S., whose slow-but-steady economic growth helps makes a better investment case than many other big countries can offer, especially when low energy costs and other potential benefits are factored in.

"I don't mind being America's pitchman," Mr. Obama told the SelectUSA Investment Summit in Washington on Monday. "In seven months or so, I'll be on the job market," he said. "I'm going to get on LinkedIn."

For years, the administration has been working to spur investment in the technology-heavy manufacturing in select hubs around the country, and the White House announced a new initiative on smart sensors on Monday.

Nearly 70% of foreign investment in 2015 flowed to manufacturing in 2015, the Commerce Department said in a report released Monday.

"President Obama and Secretary [Penny] Pritzker deserve a lot of credit for making global investment an economic priority by creating SelectUSA," said Nancy McLernon, president of the Organization for International Investment, which represents international companies that do business in the U.S. "Unfortunately, as recent actions here in Washington demonstrate, some policymakers have not yet connected the dots between the goals of job creation that we all share and the implications of the policies they choose to pursue."

One in seven U.S. private-sector jobs is tied to foreign investment, according to a report released Monday from the OFII.

And global demographics will only accelerate this in coming decades.

Posted by orrinj at 4:46 PM


The Real 'Woman Card' : Anti-feminist stereotypes traditionally lobbed at politically ambitious women now legitmately apply to Donald Trump. (Peter Fenn, June 20, 2016, US News)

We are seeing a very serious role reversal in the Clinton-Trump race. The very criticisms that men unfairly hurled at politically ambitious women are now actually true about Trump. The old stereotypes and attack lines for women have suddenly become part and parcel of who Donald Trump really is:

Who is the most emotional, off-the-wall, candidate? Donald Trump.

Who is shrill and flailing at his rallies? Donald Trump

Who has little knowledge or understanding of the issues confronting the country? Easy one, Donald Trump.

Who lacks basic competency in governing? Donald Trump, hands down.

Who routinely makes statements that lack credibility, don't rely on facts and depend on his "mood" at the time? Yup, Donald Trump.

Posted by orrinj at 4:42 PM


Iran Warns Bahrain Over Top Shi'ite Cleric (Radio Liberty, June 20, 2016)

A senior Iranian military figure has warned Bahrain's government of armed struggle after the Sunni-ruled kingdom's most prominent Shi'ite cleric was stripped of his citizenship.

In a June 20 statement, Bahrain's Interior Ministry accused Ayatollah Isa Qassem of using his position to "serve foreign interests" -- an apparent reference to Shi'ite Iran -- and promote "sectarianism and violence."

The cleric has backed protests led by Bahrain's Shi'ite majority for greater civil and political rights.

The majority gets to rule.

Posted by orrinj at 4:36 PM


The Widespread Slowdown in Health Spending Growth Implications for Future Spending Projections and the Cost of the Affordable Care Act ( McMorrow S, and Holahan J, June 2016, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation)

The United States is on track to spend $2.6 trillion less on health care between 2014 and 2019, compared to initial projections made right after the 2010 passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Posted by orrinj at 4:26 PM


Trump's Economic Plan Would Be a Disaster for the US Economy: Moody's (Rob Garver, June 20, 2016, Fiscal Times)

A detailed analysis by a team led by Moody's chief economist Mark Zandi found that the Trump economic plan would be disastrous for the U.S. economy, leading to a prolonged recession and causing slower growth, higher unemployment and declining asset values. [...]

His trade policy appears to involve tearing up existing and prospective trade deals and slapping tariffs on many imports. His immigration plan would slash the number of new workers coming into the U.S., something economists almost universally agree is a bad thing.

"Quantifying Mr. Trump's economic policies is complicated by their lack of specificity," Zandi's team wrote. "The publicly available information is not sufficient to fully quantify all of his proposals."

However, working with the Trump team and making certain assumptions outlined in the report, they modeled what they expect would happen if Trump's proposals were fully implemented. It's not a pretty picture.

"[T]he economy will be significantly weaker if Mr. Trump's economic proposals are adopted," the report says. "Under the scenario in which all his stated policies become law in the manner proposed, the economy suffers a lengthy recession and is smaller at the end of his four-year term than when he took office.

"By the end of his presidency, there are close to 3.5 million fewer jobs and the unemployment rate rises to as high as 7%, compared with below 5% today. During Mr. Trump's presidency, the average American household's after-inflation income will stagnate, and stock prices and real house values will decline."

Posted by orrinj at 4:11 PM


The NRA Won't Defend Donald Trump's Gun Comments After Orlando (INAE OHJUN. 20, 2016, Mother Jones)

High-ranking officials from the National Rifle Association are distancing themselves from Donald Trump's latest remarks about the Orlando mass shooting, in which the presumptive Republican nominee for president said that club-goers should have been armed--a situation Trump said would have been a "beautiful sight."

"No one thinks that people should go into a nightclub drinking and carrying firearms," NRA lobbyist Chris Cox told ABC's This Week on Sunday. "That defies common sense. It also defies the law. It's not what we're talking about here."

Posted by orrinj at 4:04 PM


Self-driving cars could flip the auto insurance industry on its head (James F. Peltz, 6/20/16, LA Times)

The auto insurance industry faces upheaval in the next 25 years as the migration to autonomous safety features -- and ultimately a self-driving car -- shifts more of a car's accident risk from the driver to the vehicle, analysts said.

The number of accidents is expected to drop sharply because currently more than 90% of accidents are caused by driver error. That could lower insurance bills for consumers. The U.S. market for personal auto insurance policies, which currently generates $200 billion in premiums a year, could shrink substantially, some experts predict.

"There are going to be dramatic changes," said Joe Schneider, a managing director at KPMG who's part of the accounting firm's task force studying the issue.

Posted by orrinj at 3:57 PM


Kerry calls cable urging US Syria strikes 'very good' (AFP, June 20, 2016)

The US State Department has already said the dissident mid-level staff will not face retribution for speaking out, and on Monday their boss Kerry appeared to signal support for their views.

Asked at a public event for college students whether he had read the dissenting memo, which was leaked to the press last week, Kerry said: "Yes. It's very good. I'm going to meet with them."

Posted by orrinj at 1:33 PM


Wal-Mart brand red wine named one of the best in the world (Sarah Whitten, 16 Jun 2016, CNBC)

If you want to drink one of the best wines in the world, it's going to cost you -- $6.

A Chilean wine sold exclusively at British supermarket chain, Asda, a subsidiary of Wal-Mart, was awarded a platinum "best in show" medal from the Decanter World Wine Awards, according to The Independent.

Posted by orrinj at 1:24 PM


I, Donald (Matthew Meyer JUNE 19, 2016, The Chronicle Review)

The ancient Greeks, however, were less ambivalent about the threat narcissism poses to democracy -- and one figure in particular deserves close comparison with Trump. In The History of the Peloponnesian War, Thucydides narrates the decline of Athenian democracy at the hands of Alcibiades, the Athenian general and playboy. In Plato's Republic, a regime ruled by benevolent philosopher kings undergoes a steady decline until democracy finally breeds a narcissistic tyrant -- left unnamed in the text, though the allusions throughout suggest that it is Alcibiades.

Robert Garland, a classicist at Colgate University, has recently argued that Trump and Alcibiades are a lot alike. Both were born into positions of privilege and power -- Trump the son of a wealthy businessman, Alcibiades the nephew and ward of Pericles, the ruler of Athens. As children, both loved to fight and win. As an adult, Alcibiades excelled as a military general, while Trump supposedly mastered the art of the deal. Both are known for boasting of their sexual exploits, and both show little loyalty to anything beyond themselves. Indeed, Alcibiades is said to have wanted his name and influence to extend to everything. The parallel to Trump -- with his Trump Plaza, Trump Tower, Trump Entertainment Resorts -- could not be more evident.

In his account of the Peloponnesian war, Thucydides contrasts the statesmanship of Pericles, which contributed to Athenian greatness, with the narcissism of Alcibiades, which led to Athenian demise. Thucydides, however, suggests that Pericles' regime planted the seeds for the emergence of a figure like Alcibiades. Just as Ronald Reagan arguably furthered American empire by unleashing the greed of the Gordon Gekko '80s, Pericles prudently excited and then channeled the private ambitions of the populace toward Athenian greatness. When it came time to rule, Alcibiades, animated by the same self-regard that characterized the people under Pericles, used politics not as a means to advance Athenian greatness but rather to further his own.

...is how much he's going to hate us all for rejecting him.

June 19, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 5:04 PM


Donald Trump praises Israel's racial profiling, calls for same in US (JTA, June 19, 2016)

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump suggested that the United States use racial profiling like Israel to prevent mass attacks like the one in Orlando.

"Well I think profiling is something that we're going to have to start thinking about as a country," Trump told the CBS news show "Face the Nation" on Sunday in a telephone interview. "Other countries do it, you look at Israel and you look at others, they do it and they do it successfully.

...presumably Anglos get to be the Chosen People?

Posted by orrinj at 4:54 PM


Longshoreman, Philosopher, Mystery : a review of Eric Hoffer: The Longshoreman Philosopher  by Tom Bethell (DANIEL J. FLYNN, Universtity Bookman)

Was Eric Hoffer an author or a character? "After 1965, Hoffer became a public figure," Bethell writes. "Before 1934, he is a mystery figure." Hoffer, despite a Germanic accent, claimed an American nativity story; and despite once listing 1898 as the year of his birth, later maintained a 1902 birth date. book cover imageEven these basic "facts" about the author of The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements can't be truly believed. He certainly lived in Franklin Roosevelt's America, detailing life in a Works Progress Administration camp, filling out a Social Security form, and registering for the draft in 1942. But no birth certificate, baptismal document, report card, passport, driver's license, or any other documentation verifies Hoffer's existence prior to the late 1930s.

In a TMI-age when Twitter, Facebook, and reality television make private business the public's business, it is almost unfathomable that an American could leave no trace of his first four decades to the government, the press, or researchers. Given CBS featuring Hoffer in two one-hour primetime specials in the late 1960s, and a heavily publicized summit with President Lyndon Johnson on the White House's South Lawn, the obscurity of the famous author's origins is especially baffling. Bethell theorizes that Hoffer was an illegal alien who fabricated a colorful yarn to cover his shady entry. That is certainly as plausible as anything Hoffer claimed of his early years.

What readers have found most enigmatic about Hoffer has been his dual worker-author personality. For a quarter-century, he spent several days a week loading and unloading cargo on the docks of San Francisco. In his off hours, he engaged in ambulatory thinking in Golden Gate Park, scribbled ideas in pocket-sized notebooks, and absorbed weighty hardbacks, which "he sometimes broke . . . apart for easier handling and threw away the carcasses." That mythic worker-thinker that Nathaniel Hawthorne sought to channel at Brook Farm became realized in the Stevedore Socrates. An awestruck Bethell wonders, "Was there any precedent for this in the life of the nation?"

Hoffer's life was a mix of confusing contradictions and clear ideas. The anti-Communist supporter of the Vietnam War loyally served a union led by Communist Harry Bridges, who, Bethell points out, disloyally returned the favor by blocking any mention of the union's most famous and most unusual member in organizational periodicals. The unschooled autodidact found a sinecure at the University of California-Berkeley, epicenter of all that he railed against in the 1960s. The lifelong Democrat's first taste of fame came from the unabashed boosterism of The True Believer by Dwight Eisenhower; his last stemmed from Ronald Reagan awarding him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Affiliated with neither a political movement nor a "little magazine," Hoffer remains difficult to pigeonhole. As Bethell explains of the gregarious loner: "He had the courage to stand alone."

Whereas Hoffer's life perplexes, his writing doesn't leave much room for interpretation. The big man conveyed big ideas. His small books exuded a weariness of intellectuals seeking to sow disorder by ordering the lives of others, movements whose mass absorbed its individuals, and revolutionary transformations that unleashed havoc on societies the way hormonal changes wreak chaos in juveniles. His efficient, epiphany-inducing prose communicated directly without tedious qualifiers hedging his thoughts. He may have spoken with a German accent. He did not write with one. His books betrayed neither an opaque Germanic tone nor the journeyman English characteristic of newcomers. His style owed much to the accessible epigrammatic flair of Pascal, Montaigne, La Rochefoucauld, and other French thinkers. If this style seemed alien to his American readership, it is largely because his influences had become alien to those under his influence. Hoffer's interest in broad enduring questions--change, fanaticism, intellectuals--without reference to fleeting issues ensured that his audience would long outlive him.

...is Hoffer's True Believer.  

Posted by orrinj at 4:45 PM


Dump Trump? Paul Ryan leaves door open to Republican convention revolt (Dan Roberts, 19 June 2016, The Guardian)

After a week in which the presumptive nominee appalled many colleagues with his reaction to a shooting massacre in Orlando, House speaker Paul Ryan made clear he would not try to obstruct any rebellion against Trump by delegates in Cleveland.

"They write the rules, they make the decisions," he told NBC's Meet the Press. "All I want to make sure is to make sure it is done above board, clearly, honestly and by the rules."

Political parties are not suicide pacts.
Posted by orrinj at 4:40 PM


Trees lining California streets are worth an extra $1 billion a year (Clayton Aldern, Jun 16, 2016, Grist)

It's not easy to price a tree, but a group of researchers from the U.S. Forest Service and U.C. Davis have tried to do exactly that.

Working with a dataset of about 900,000 trees that line California's public streets, the group sought to place a dollar value on the services those trees perform, which include "energy savings, carbon storage, air pollutant uptake, and rainfall interception."

All told, the researchers estimate the trees contribute about $1 billion annually -- nearly $111 per tree for each of the state's 9.1 million street trees.

They found that the trees are worth $839 million annually alone based on the value they add to property, by providing more privacy and better views.

Trees help us fight climate change, too. The study values their carbon-storage abilities at $10 million each year and their energy savings (from the shade they provide) at $101 million. Between carbon sequestration and emissions reductions from energy savings, the state's street trees avoid nearly 600,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions annually, which is like removing 120,000 cars from the road.

Trees also take pollutants like ozone and particulate matter out of the air -- adding another $18 million to the tally.

Cities were a mistake.

Posted by orrinj at 4:33 PM


Clean skies ahead? NASA unveils electric plane. (Nicole Orttung, JUNE 19, 2016, CS Monitor)

NASA just released designs for a plane that will test cutting-edge, zero-emission airplane propulsion technology. Scientists with the space agency say they hope their designs will accelerate innovation of more efficient and environmentally friendly aircrafts amid market pressures and government regulators that all point in the same direction: Airlines cannot continue to grow and pollute at current levels.

"The general aviation-sized X-57 will take the first step in opening a new era of aviation," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said when NASA unveiled plans for the zero-emission experimental plane on Friday.

Posted by orrinj at 7:14 AM


Donald Trump Threatens to Self-Fund Campaign if GOP Support Wavers (ALEXANDRA JAFFE and HALLIE JACKSON, 6/19/16, NBC News)

Donald Trump on Saturday claimed most of the money he's been collecting at his recent fundraisers is going to the Republican Party, but also threatened to cut the GOP off if support from the party wavers.

Trump's poll ratings in a historic hole  : With most voters viewing him as 'strongly unfavorable,' his image is harder to repair than Hillary's. (STEVEN SHEPARD 06/17/16, Politico)

Trump is setting modern records for political toxicity -- at least for a major-party candidate this far out from an election. Seventy percent of Americans surveyed in an ABC News/Washington Post poll out this week had an unfavorable opinion of Trump, up 10 points over the past month. The poll showed Trump's favorable rating cratering at 29 percent, down from 37 percent last month.

The numbers were similar in a Bloomberg Politics poll: Trump's favorable rating is just 31 percent, with 66 percent viewing him unfavorably. That's only marginally better than in March, when 29 percent viewed Trump favorably, and 68 percent had an unfavorable opinion.

Gallup's latest figures show Trump at 31 percent favorable/63 percent unfavorable - significantly worse than Clinton's 41 percent favorable/54 percent unfavorable.

Those high unfavorables extend to the battleground states: A Marquette Law School poll out Wednesday found 64 percent of Wisconsin voters view Trump unfavorably -- compared to only 26 percent who have a favorable opinion of him.

But it's not just the overall unfavorable numbers -- it's the intensity of the antipathy toward Trump, and the lack of enthusiasm for him. In the ABC News/Washington Post poll, 56 percent of respondents had a "strongly unfavorable" opinion of Trump, compared to just 15 percent who had a "strongly favorable" opinion. In the Bloomberg poll, 51 percent had a "very unfavorable" opinion of Trump, with only 11 percent having a "very favorable" opinion.

Voters with a strongly unfavorable opinion are "obviously more difficult to move than people who are undecided or just unfavorable," said Quinnipiac University pollster Peter Brown. "The stronger the dislike, the more difficult it is to change that person's view."

June 18, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 9:01 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:09 PM


Fight Against ISIS: Iraqi, Syrian Forces Make Major Gains (TIM MARCIN, 06/18/16, IB Times)

Iraqi forces advanced farther into the city Saturday, seizing a hospital as fighting continued, the Associated Press reported. Officials said Iraqi forces now control 80 percent of Fallujah. Thousands of people who had been trapped inside the city have managed to flee, according to the Times.

Meanwhile, U.S.-backed Syrian forces advanced Saturday to the western entrance of the ISIS-held city of Manbij, Reuters reported. The news agency cited sources. The city is the last remaining territory held by the extremist militants along the Syria-Turkey border. The forces are now a little over a mile from the city's center. There's been a major offensive on the city since the end of May, but until Saturday forces had been held out of Manbij. 

Posted by orrinj at 9:30 AM


Amazon is just beginning to use robots in its warehouses and they're already making a huge difference (Ananya Bhattacharya, June 17, 2016, Quartz)

The "click to ship" cycle used to be around 60-75 minutes when employees had manually to sift through the stacks, pick the product, pack it, and ship it. Now, robots handle the same job in 15 minutes, according to a Deutsche Bank note published Tuesday (June 14) based on Amazon's metrics.

These robots are not only more efficient but they also take up less space than their human counterparts. That means warehouse design can eventually be modified to have more shelf space and less wide aisles. At the end of the third quarter of 2015, Amazon was using 30,000 Kiva robots across 13 warehouses. Each Kiva-equipped warehouse can hold 50% more inventory per square foot than centers without robots. In turn, the company's operating costs have been sliced by 20%--or almost $22 million--per warehouse.

If Kiva robots are dispatched to the rest of the 110 Amazon warehouses, the tech giant could save almost $2.5 billion, according to Deutsche Bank. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:56 AM


Donald Trump Will Be Buried in an Electoral Avalanche : Recent presidential elections have been close, but this is the man to lose bigly. (JEET HEER, June 17, 2016. New Republic)

Clinton, whatever her flaws, is a mainstream politician who has a proven ability to raise huge amounts of money and enjoys broad support within her party. Despite the lingering frustrations of many Bernie Sanders's supporters being reluctant to support her, Clinton's recent upsurge in polling shows that she is already consolidating Democrats behind her.

Trump won't have a solid Republican coalition behind him. When he became the presumptive Republican nominee six weeks ago, he briefly began consolidating Republican support, but that effort has now stalled and indeed is fraying, with two major party figures--Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois and Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin--backtracking from their earlier endorsements. As Kirk tweeted on June 7, "Given my military experience, Donald Trump does not have the temperament to command our military or our nuclear arsenal." 

Far from pivoting to the center and uniting the party around him as a normal candidate would do, Trump has spent the first big sprint of his campaign alienating the Republican elite by continuing with his overt racism (as in his attacks on Judge Gonzalo Curiel and renewed calls to ban Muslim immigrants), and engaging in conspiracy-mongering (suggesting that President Obama is asympathizer of Islamic terrorism).

Trump has the awesome task of running a national campaign with nothing more than his own political instincts and small staff of bootlickers who have shown no ability to reign in his worst tendencies.
Trump's manic, narcissistic, and immature response to the Orlando massacre has been a key turning point--or, looked at another way, a final straw. Just as Republican elites were learning to live with Trump, so long as he kept his promise to act more "presidential," he's now made it clear that he'll continue to be the same old Trump the world has known for decades. The result is that elected Republican officials are starting to un-endorse Trump or say they won't back his presidential bid. Republican governors in Maryland, Michigan, and Massachusetts have all said they won't vote for Trump.

Unable to work with the RNC and most elected officials, barely on speaking terms with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, the country's most powerful Republican office-holder, Trump has to face the awesome task of running a national campaign with nothing more than his own political instincts and small staff of bootlickers who have shown no ability to rein in his worst tendencies. The results have been chaotic, in terms well described by Josh Marshall in Talking Points Memo:

There's a Politico story out today about how the RNC gave him the names of twenty big GOP donors to call. He got bored or frustrated and stopped after calling three. And this comes after deciding that he actually doesn't need to raise a billion dollars.

Almost every day since he clinched the nomination almost six weeks ago has been a surreal tour through Trump's damaged psyche--the insecurities, silly feuds, the mix of self-serving lies and attacks on people he's supposed to be courting or justifying a supposed refusal to do things he finds himself actually unable to do (raise a billion dollars). More than anything he's attacking almost everyone but the person he's running against--and that, not terribly effectively.

The sheer shambles of Trump's campaign is difficult to overstate, and stands in sharp relief to the professionalism of the Clinton team. It's not just that Trump has no ground game or data analysis, but that he doesn't even see the need for them. Clinton, on the other hand, has inherited the legendary Obama team of 2008 and 2012, the undisputed modern masters of national campaigning. As Karl Rove wrote on Thursday, Trump doesn't even have an ad strategy, while Clinton is already hammering away at him with ad buys in swing states. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:13 AM


Dads just want to spend more time with their families (Chloe Pfeiffer, 6/17/16, Business Insider)

[T]he Pew Research released "6 facts about American fathers" on Wednesday, with updated information from its 2014 post on the topic - and the results are pretty heartening.

Not only are more and more fathers staying home with their kids, but 57% of dads say that fatherhood is central to their identity; 54% report that parenting is rewarding all of the time; and 46% say they find it enjoyable all of the time.

The data also shed light on the growing convergence of men's and women's roles in the workplace and home. Fewer dads than ever before are their family's sole breadwinner - only about a quarter of families are supported only by the father; about two-thirds are dual-earning.

Over the years fathers have also been spending more time at home - they've more than doubled their time spent doing chores and tripled their time with their children since 1965. At the same time, women have increasingly joined the workforce, now making up almost half of the US labor force.

As women work more and men want to spend time with their family, an increasing number of parents are finding it hard to balance their work and their family - 60% of women and 52% of men say it is very or somewhat difficult to balance the two. And half of the fathers surveyed said they think they're spending too little time with their kids.

Posted by orrinj at 8:06 AM


Semi-Automatic Weapons Without A Background Check Can Be Just A Click Away (TASNEEM RAJA, 6/17/16, NPR)

"With recent events and political environment, these weapons will be harder to get a hold of." "This is what your AR-15 dreams it could be when it grows up." "I can meet ... near the FL Mall in Orlando or any other time." "Cash is king."

These classified advertisements for semi-automatic weapons were listed this week on Armslist, a website where anyone can advertise a firearm they'd like to sell, and anyone can contact a seller with an offer to buy. The site is legal. But there's no way to know whether buyers and sellers who meet through Armslist are following federal, state or local background check rules.

We wanted to see how many semi-automatic firearms -- defined here as handguns and rifles able to rapidly fire a large number of bullets, one shot per trigger pull, without having to reload -- can be currently found on Armslist, and how quickly new listings appear. This provides a window into the difficulty of regulating access to a type of weapon frequently used in mass shootings. [...]

Our data analysis shows that semiautomatic weapons comprised at least 1 in 4 firearms listed on Armslist in the days following the Orlando shootings.

Posted by orrinj at 8:01 AM


Donald Trump digs himself deeper and deeper into a racist hole (S.E. Cupp, 6/07/16, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)

In a Washington Post/Univision poll, 8 out of 10 Latinos viewed Trump unfavorably. I guess, despite his taco bowl tweet, they didn't like being called rapists and criminals after all. Weird.

Trump has blown his cover. He knows his language is bigoted, and that Hispanics like Curiel are likely offended by it. But he's made the calculation that winning white men is more important.

That might not turn out too well. He will need a full 70% of white male voters to have a shot at winning, a larger percentage than any Republican has ever won before. Even David Duke probably can't help Donald turn out that many.

So in case there were any disaffected white guys who hadn't heard Trump's pitch that President Obama is Kenyan, that Jews are good negotiators, that women who confront him are "bimbos," that Hillary Clinton is "disgusting" for using the bathroom, and that all Muslims should be banned, he's tripling down on his white-man outreach, telling his surrogates to run with the judge attacks.

A few weeks ago, his campaign chairman Paul Manafort told the Huffington Post that Trump wasn't considering any women or minorities for vice president. Trump has openly bashed a number of the GOP's most influential Hispanics and women, including Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, making it likely only a white man would take the job anyway.

Trump wouldn't be the first to run a campaign explicitly for white guys. The No Nothings ran anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic candidates to appeal to Protestant men, with platforms to bar immigrants from city jobs and keep Chinese people from testifying against white men in courts.

Following his 1958 defeat in the Democratic primary for governor of Alabama, George Wallace, previously endorsed by the NAACP, became a segregationist. When asked why, he said, "You know, I tried to talk about good roads and good schools and all these things that have been part of my career, and nobody listened. And then I began talking about n-----s, and they stomped the floor."

Posted by orrinj at 7:01 AM


West Coast Marines under investigation for alleged threat to gay bars (Jeff Schogol, 6/16/16, Marine Corps Times)

Two active-duty Marines are under investigation in connection to a social media post purportedly threatening to attack gay bars following Sunday's deadly mass shooting in Florida.

The California-based I Marine Expeditionary Force launched a command investigation after a photo surfaced on social media showing a corporal in uniform holding a rifle with his finger near the trigger. The words "Coming to a gay bar near you!" appear at the bottom of the photo.

Posted by orrinj at 6:40 AM


How Israel stays a 'well-regulated militia' with so many guns around (JTA, 6/18/16)

One of the first things visitors to Israel notice is the ubiquity of young people with automatic weapons. Yet Israel suffers the tiniest fraction of the mass killings the United States does. Daniel Gordis, writing last year in a Bloomberg column, reported that Americans are 33 times more likely to kill each other with guns than Israelis. How is that possible?

The answer is couched in that front seat the Egged bus driver kept empty for a soldier. 

It may not be immediately obvious, but the Israelis you see armed on the beach or at the cafe are just as subject to the army hierarchy and its regulations as they would be if they were on the front line or a base.

Calev Ben-David  wrote an op-ed this week about the differences between gun use in the US and Israel. He noted that just 4 percent of guns in Israel are not military issue.

This means that the use of 96 percent of guns is governed by army rules of conduct. As a soldier, you're answerable to a military tribunal if you break army rules and use a gun without orders -- or if you fail to use a gun when you're under standing order to do so. For example, if a terrorist boards the bus you're being forced to stay awake on.

The training Israeli soldiers receive also helps keep gun violence down. When Gabby Giffords, the Jewish congresswoman from Arizona, was shot in 2011, an armed passerby recalled later to his own horror that he nearly opened fire on the folks who were restraining the gunman.

Donald Trump's assertion that a club full of armed French concertgoers would have headed off last year's Bataclan massacre is belied by the chaos engendered when shooters lack training - not just in proper shooting of the weapon, but in identifying when and where it is safe to shoot.

The careful use of guns in Israel is about being answerable to a hierarchy, beyond being answerable to the law. This is the opposite of the "right to bear arms" in the American ethos. There is no "right" to bear arms in Israel -- there is a duty to bear arms, according to strict regulations.

Other than the carrying them around constantly, this is what the 2nd allows for.

June 17, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 4:26 PM


Trump battleground plan relies on skeptical GOP leaders (THOMAS BEAUMONT and STEVE PEOPLES, Jun. 17, 2016, AP) 

His campaign riled by infighting and Republican revolt, Donald Trump is working to address a battleground state staffing shortage that highlights his reliance on a skeptical GOP establishment.

The New York billionaire has slowly begun to add paid staff in a handful of swing states -- Wisconsin and Iowa, among them -- even as campaign officials concede the presumptive presidential nominee has little desire or capacity to construct the kind of massive national operation that has come to define modern-day White House campaigns. Trump plans instead to depend upon the national Republican Party to lead state-based efforts on his behalf, while Democrat Hillary Clinton has had an army of staff dedicated specifically to her campaign in general election battlegrounds for months. [...]

The campaign estimates it currently has about 30 paid staff on the ground across the country.

Posted by orrinj at 4:21 PM


Germany hosts Iran FM, belying vow not to normalize ties (RAPHAEL AHREN, June 16, 2016, Times of Israel)

Germany's foreign minister on Wednesday welcomed his Iranian counterpart for a bilateral meeting in Berlin, seemingly defying Chancellor Angela Merkel's earlier commitment to not normalize relations with Tehran as long as the regime refuses to recognize Israel's right to exist.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier hosted Mohammad Javad Zarif at a castle belonging to the Foreign Ministry outside Berlin, in what marked the first time Germany hosted the Iranian top diplomat for bilateral talks.

According to Germany's Foreign Ministry, the two men discussed Iranian-German relations, regional issues such as the civil war in Syria, and the implementation of the nuclear deal six world powers struck with Iran last year. After their discussion, Steinmeier hosted Zarif at an iftar dinner to break the fast of Ramadan at Villa Borsig.

Posted by orrinj at 12:59 PM


What an AR-15 Can Do to the Human Body (Sarah Zhang, 6/17/16, Wired)

Compare the damage an AR-15 and a handgun can do to the human body: "One looks like a grenade went off in there," says Peter Rhee, a trauma surgeon at the University of Arizona. "The other looks like a bad knife cut." [...]

The bullet from an AR-15 does an entirely different kind of violence to the human body. It's relatively small, but it leaves the muzzle at three times the speed of a handgun bullet. It has so much energy that it can disintegrate three inches of leg bone. "It would just turn it to dust," says Donald Jenkins, a trauma surgeon at University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. If it hits the liver, "the liver looks like a jello mold that's been dropped on the floor." And the exit wound can be a nasty, jagged hole the size of an orange.

These high-velocity bullets can damage flesh inches away from their path, either because they fragment or because they cause something called cavitation. When you trail your fingers through water, the water ripples and curls. When a high-velocity bullet pierces the body, human tissues ripples as well--but much more violently. The bullet from an AR-15 might miss the femoral artery in the leg, but cavitation may burst the artery anyway, causing death by blood loss. A swath of stretched and torn tissue around the wound may die. That's why, says Rhee, a handgun wound might require only one surgery but an AR-15 bullet wound might require three to ten.

Posted by orrinj at 12:55 PM


Posted by orrinj at 12:48 PM


Step Into the Huge Factory Forging America's Fancy New Trains (Jack Stewart, 6/17/16, Wired)

"The idea of being able to connect downtown Miami to Fort Lauderdale in 30 minutes"--which is more like a 50-minute drive, even without traffic--"really changes the way that we think people are going to move about," says Michael Reininger, Brightline's president. His line will be the first express, intercity service in the US to run without any public funding.

To acquire the necessary trains for that vision, Brightline turned to Siemens, whose 600,000-square foot factory produces many of the streetcars, light rail, metros, and high- and low-speed trains running across the US. Brightline's speed may not match European standards, but the carriages will be familiar to anyone who has taken a rail trip on the continent. Company execs looked there for inspiration on how to improve the US rail experience, as well as at the problems with American trains. "A lot of smart people said these are things that always bugged us, and in the next generation of trains we need to fix them," says Michael Cahill, president of Siemens Rolling Stock.

That translates to things like extra-large "picture windows" that align with each seat for the best views. Passengers get access to Wi-Fi (which is promised to be the actually useful high-speed variety), tons of power outlets, and reclining seats. To accommodate those traveling with children and luggage as well as older, mobility-impaired passengers--demographics that make up a large part of the anticipated Florida ridership--the trains offer wide aisles and overhead luggage storage.

The drivetrain is one of the latest available--a Cummins diesel-electric locomotive. The 42,000 pound powerplant's 16-cylinder engine operates purely as a electric generator. 42 miles of cable feed electric motors for movement, as well as for the lights (and laptops) in the passenger carriages. This efficient configuration means the engine meets the Federal Railroad Administration's tough Tier IV clean air standards.

Posted by orrinj at 10:46 AM


Iraqi special forces enter center of IS-held Fallujah (Associated Press, 06.17.16)

An Iraqi commander says special forces have entered the center of Fallujah city, taking over a government complex after intense fighting with Islamic State group militants.
Commander Haidar al-Obeidi, of the special forces, tells The Associated Press Friday that the forces are now besieging the nearby central hospital.

Posted by orrinj at 10:32 AM


An unlikely savior emerges to help endangered Republicans: George W. Bush (New York Times, June 16, 2016)

In the weeks since Trump emerged as the party's presumptive presidential nominee, Bush has hosted fundraisers for two Republican senators and has made plans to help three more. Among them are Sens. John McCain of Arizona, who was one of Trump's earliest targets of derision, and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire.

Friends say the former president is deeply bothered by Trump's campaign message, especially his derogatory remarks about Muslims and immigrants. At the event with McCain, Bush stressed the importance of preserving the Republican-held Senate as a "check and balance" on the White House, suggesting that such a check was needed, whether the next president is Trump or Hillary Clinton.

Bush announced through a spokesman last month that he would not support Trump's candidacy and would not attend the Republican convention in Cleveland next month. His father, former President George H.W. Bush, and his brother Jeb Bush, who was defeated and ridiculed by Trump in the primary, also are staying away. [...]

"President Bush believes that it's critical to keep the Senate in Republican hands," said Freddy Ford, Bush's spokesman, who confirmed the heightened activity. "He is actively helping some senators in tight races who are strong leaders and share timeless conservative values."

The fundraisers held by Bush are expected to generate hundreds of thousands of dollars for the candidates, in total.

Next week, he will appear at a fundraiser for Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri. And similar events are being planned for Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Rob Portman of Ohio.

Posted by orrinj at 10:26 AM


51 U.S. Diplomats Urge Strikes Against Assad in Syria (MARK LANDLER, JUNE 16, 2016, ny tIMES)

 More than 50 State Department diplomats have signed an internal memo sharply critical of the Obama administration's policy in Syria, urging the United States to carry out military strikes against the government of President Bashar al-Assad to stop its persistent violations of a cease-fire in the country's five-year-old civil war.

The memo, a draft of which was provided to The New York Times by a State Department official, says American policy has been "overwhelmed" by the unrelenting violence in Syria. It calls for "a judicious use of stand-off and air weapons, which would undergird and drive a more focused and hard-nosed U.S.-led diplomatic process."

There's so little left of ISIS that attention can safely turn back to regime change.

June 16, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 6:27 PM


GOP-led Congress votes down measure to bar immigrants from military (Christina Beck, JUNE 16, 2016 , CS Monitor)

The Republican-led US House of Representatives voted down an amendment to the annual defense spending bill that would have prevented illegal immigrants from enlisting.

Posted by orrinj at 6:21 PM


Donald Trump Accused of Using His Charity as a Political Slush Fund  (Tim Mak, 6/16/16, Daily Beast)

The Trump Foundation, Donald Trump's nonprofit organization, is under fire for allegedly operating as more of a political slush fund than a charity. The foundation is accused of violating rules prohibiting it from engaging in politics--prompting ethics watchdogs to call for public investigations.

On numerous occasions this year, Trump's campaign work and his foundation work have overlapped--putting himself at risk for penalties and his charity at risk of being shut down.

It's the latest example of Trump courting controversy: not merely through inflammatory rhetoric, but also through private dealings that raise serious legal questions--all of which indicate how he might govern if elected president of the United States. [...]

[I]n key early primary states this year, Trump handed out Foundation checks to charities at campaign rallies. This also calls into question "whether the foundation provided the campaign with an illegal in-kind contribution by providing services for what was a campaign event. Under the campaign finance laws... providing anything of value to a campaign for free or at less than fair market value is a contribution to the campaign," said Larry Noble, the general counsel at the Campaign Legal Center.

And in 2013, the Trump Foundation donated $25,000 to a political organization supporting Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi--an action the foundation is prohibited from taking, and which it failed to report on its disclosures.

Posted by orrinj at 3:30 PM


Why lone wolves fail (Daniel L. Byman | June 16, 2016, Brookings)

Because lone wolves like Mateen are not usually trained, they often fail, and even when they succeed, they are less lethal than "professional" terrorists. The post-9/11 record of plots in the United States shows most of the would-be terrorists to be bumblers. The contrast with the attackers in Paris in 2015, Madrid in 2004, and London in 2005 is striking. In each of these attacks al-Qaida- or Islamic State-linked attackers, working together, bombed and shot their victims, leading to 130, 191, and 52 deaths, respectively. Compare that with the three worst jihadist attacks in the United States in that period: Orlando, San Bernardino, and the 2009 Fort Hood shooting, where a total of 76 people died.

Sustaining the attacks is another problem. In Orlando and San Bernardino, the terrorists died in shootouts with the police. In Boston, the terrorists successfully shut down the city with a primitive bomb at the marathon. But rather than conducting more attacks, leaving town, or otherwise preparing for the next round of mayhem, they went out to party with friends. This tactical amateurism diminishes not only the death count of these attacks, but also their terror value.

Often the targets lone wolves pick are less strategic and symbolic, reflecting their personal agendas more than those of the group. The jury is still out as to why Mateen chose the Pulse nightclub for his murders, but the San Bernardino attack occurred during the office Christmas party at a community health center where one of the killers worked. San Bernardino is a city few in the world had heard of, hardly an iconic choice like Paris, London, or Madrid. The Islamic State can still brag about killing its enemies, but the cachet of shooting patrons of an LGBT nightclub or office party is low.

Undisciplined attackers can also embarrass a group or a cause. The white supremacist movement, for example, had to contend with Timothy McVeigh's bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. The attack that killed 168 people not only struck a symbol of what McVeigh believed to be an oppressive federal government, it also killed 19 children and three pregnant women. It was tough to portray McVeigh's cause as heroic after that.

Suspect in MP killing described as quiet, polite and reserved (Helen Pidd North, 16 June 2016, The Guardian)

Jo Cox is believed to have been gunned down by her own constituent, a jobbing gardener little known beyond the Yorkshire estate on which he lived.

But police were last night probing claims that the suspect, named locally as Thomas Mair, 52, had dangerous political affiliations, following witness accounts that he shouted "Britain first" as he launched the fatal assault on Thursday afternoon.

Rather few of us who oppose transnationalism will be claiming that this incident shows us a core truth about our faith in sovereignty.

Posted by orrinj at 3:27 PM


Trump's relationship with RNC sours (KENNETH P. VOGEL, ELI STOKOLS and ALEX ISENSTADT, 06/15/16, Politico)

Donald Trump is relying heavily on the Republican Party to bolster his skeletal operation, but his campaign's relationship with the Republican National Committee is increasingly plagued by distrust, power struggles and strategic differences, according to sources in both camps.

In recent days, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus has privately grumbled that his advice doesn't seem welcome with Trump, according to one RNC insider. Other party officials have expressed frustration that Trump's campaign is trying to take too much control over a pair of fundraising committees with the party while adding little to the effort, according to campaign and party officials familiar with the relationship.

While Trump had promised Priebus that he would call two dozen top GOP donors, when RNC chief of staff Katie Walsh recently presented Trump with a list of more than 20 donors, he called only three before stopping, according to two sources familiar with the situation.

Posted by orrinj at 3:22 PM


Republican Governors Kasich, Hogan Say They Will Not Vote For Trump: 'I Just Can't Do It' (Germania Rodriguez, June 16, 2016, National Memo)

Two more names join the list of prominent Republican governors who are not supporting their presumptive nominee, Donald Trump. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Ohio Gov. John Kasich announced on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, that they've hopped on the #NeverTrump train.

Posted by orrinj at 3:17 PM


Dump Trump! (Michael Brendan Dougherty. June 16, 2016, The Week)

Have you noticed Donald Trump isn't bragging about his poll numbers anymore?

With Trump down 12 points to Hillary Clinton in the latest Bloomberg poll, all of the clever-dick theories about the strength and momentum of the Trump campaign are disintegrating one after the other. There is no evidence that Trump is changing the configuration of the electoral map. There is no evidence that he is bringing in a huge new bloc of previously disaffected voters -- instead it's just the opposite. The theory that a terrorist attack would help Trump? Refuted when his polls continued to tank after the most deadly mass shooting in American history. Even the core "Trump voters," non-college-educated white men, are turning on him. In a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, 53 percent of them rated Trump unfavorably. Trump has to do light years better than Mitt Romney among this group to win. He's failing, and he's failing faster than any major party nominee in modern history.

The Republican Party should seek to deny him their nomination in Cleveland. Even if it means a messy convention fight in prime time. Even if it hobbles the nominee that eventually replaces Trump.

Their nominee is already hobbled, because he is Trump. Since Hillary Clinton secured the Democratic nomination, it turns out that it was not just a few right-leaning ideologues and scribblers who think Donald Trump is unfit to be president. A significant portion of the GOP's traditional coalition simply will not let Trump represent them.

...save the brand.  Of course, he's pretty likely to just create some pretext to quit in order to avoid the historic humiliation he's headed for.

Posted by orrinj at 2:58 PM


Why Iran still doesn't trust Russia on Syria (Abbas Qaidaari, June 15, 2016, Al Monitor)

The Iranian defense minister, Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehghan,] also commented on the temporary cease-fires in Syria, especially in Aleppo, saying, "We agree to a guaranteed cease-fire that does not lead to terrorists building up their powers." Dehghan was referring to a May 7 attack in which members of the anti-Assad coalition Jaish al-Fatah attacked the village of Khan Tuman south of Aleppo, killing 13 Iranian officers and taking several more captive. More importantly, members of the Iranian Green Berets, who were also present on this front, suffered serious loses and had to retreat from their positions. The May 7 incident was the biggest attack on Iranian forces in the country so far, and Iran suffered its greatest human losses since it became involved in the war in Syria.

After the Khan Tuman incident, many Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) strategists who had previously welcomed the Russian military presence in Syria began to express doubt and worry about Moscow's objectives in fighting alongside Iranian, Lebanese and Syrian forces. These strategists and others in Iran who oppose Russia's military presence in Syria now argue that Moscow has no reason to pay a heavy price for only Tehran to reach its objectives, and so Russia must be pursuing its own objectives in Syria without informing Iran.

As such, the media landscape in Iran, previously one of complete trust regarding the Russian presence in Syria, suddenly became dominated by silence and deep skepticism. Political and military officials also started having doubts regarding Russia's objectives in Syria. The administration of President Hassan Rouhani knows full well that the Syrian war has been very costly to Iran's economy, and is therefore not interested in maintaining the status quo. On the other hand, the most important strategic objective of Iran in Syria is keeping open the land-based arms-supply lines from Iran to Iraq, Syria and Lebanon that are at present almost completely cut off. So far, leaving aside the human and political expenses, Tehran is on the whole estimated to have since 2011 spent $9 billion to $15 billion in Syria alone to achieve this goal. This is while Iranian officials are not 100% confident about Russia's objectives -- and also Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's determination to fight for his stated objectives. 

Several important political and field developments over the past two months have made Iran more suspicious of its Russian strategic partner. These developments include a reported secret agreement between Russia and the United States regarding the Free Syrian Army, Russia accepting the cease-fires without informing Iran and Lebanon and a temporary halt in Russian airstrikes against the moderate Syria opposition and Jabhat al-Nusra.

Iranian interests do not converge with Putin's or Assad's.

Posted by orrinj at 2:49 PM


Russ Feingold Leads in Wisconsin -- and he May Have Donald Trump to Thank (Nathan Guttman, June 16, 2016, Forward)

Can Donald Trump help a Jewish candidate in a tight U.S. Senate race?

Russ Feingold, a three-term senator who lost his Wisconsin seat in 2010, has found Trump's controversial statements a useful tool in his effort to win back his seat.

Directing his criticism at incumbent senator Ron Johnson, Feingold took issue at his rival's support for Trump despite the presumptive nominee's racially-charged rhetoric. "Sen. Johnson said that if Trump said or did anything that 'crossed a line,' he'd have to withdraw his support for the Republican nominee," Feingold's spokesman Michael Tyler said earlier this month, following Trump's accusations against a judge of Mexican heritage who had ruled against him in the Trump University lawsuit. "It's clear from his response that racist comments from Trump don't rise to that level for Sen. Johnson."

And at least so far, this line of campaigning seems to be working for Feingold. A new Marquette poll published Wednesday shows the Jewish former senator from Middletown holds a steady, albeit small, lead over Johnson, an Oshkosh businessman. Among registered voters Feingold leads by 5% but his advantage increases to 9% when the poll zoomed in on voters likely to actually participate in the elections.

Trump is such an awful candidate that he is defying historic numbers and making the GOP do worse among likely than registered voters, which had always been our strength.  Basically, if you care enough to vote you care enough to vote against him.

Posted by orrinj at 2:40 PM


Family of AR-15 Inventor Eugene Stoner: He Didn't Intend It for Civilians (TONY DOKOUPIL. 6/16/16, NBC)

"Our father, Eugene Stoner, designed the AR-15 and subsequent M-16 as a military weapon to give our soldiers an advantage over the AK-47," the Stoner family told NBC News late Wednesday. "He died long before any mass shootings occurred. But, we do think he would have been horrified and sickened as anyone, if not more by these events."

Posted by orrinj at 2:34 PM


Post-Islamic State Iraq should be split in three: top Kurdish official (MAHER CHMAYTELLI AND ISABEL COLES, 6/16/16, Reuters)

Once Islamic State is defeated, Iraq should be divided into three separate entities to prevent further sectarian bloodshed, with a state each given to Shi'ite Muslims, Sunnis and Kurds, a top Kurdish official said on Thursday.

Iraqi troops have expelled Islamic State from some cities the militants seized in 2014, and are advancing on Mosul, the largest city under IS control. Its fall would likely mean the end of the group's self-proclaimed caliphate.

But even if Islamic State was eliminated, Iraq would still be deeply divided. Sectarian violence has continued for years and a power-sharing agreement has only led to discontent, deadlock and corruption.

Masrour Barzani, head of the Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) Security Council and son of KRG President Massoud Barzani, said the level of mistrust was such that they should not remain "under one roof".

"Federation hasn't worked, so it has to be either confederation or full separation," Barzani told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday in the Kurdish capital Erbil. "If we have three confederated states, we will have equal three capitals, so one is not above the other."

The Sunni Arabs have yet to demonstrate that they warrant a state of their own.  Even their civil war is being won for them by the Shi'a/Christian/Kurdish alliance.

Posted by orrinj at 2:29 PM


Guess who's shopping at dollar stores? Well-to-do millennials (SRUTHI RAMAKRISHNAN AND SIDDHARTH CAVALE, 6/16/16, Reuters)

Victoria Marin, a 35-year old author and educator], whose gross annual family income is about $150,000, said she would initially feel awkward about shopping at dollar stores.

That perception, however, changed in the past few years for thousands of shoppers like her as a shaky economy added a good dose of prudence to household budgets.

"As years passed and my family grew, I realized I could buy the same items at a dollar store for a fraction of the price," said Marin, whose family of six lives in upstate New York.

Marin is among a growing band of affluent millennials who prefer spending less on everyday stuff and splurging on big-ticket items like cars and homes.

They do not need to shop at dollar stores, which sell products mostly priced between $1 and $10, but are increasingly choosing to do so, a move that is reshaping the fortunes of many retailers.

June 15, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 PM


Police: Man had gun rigged for fast firing, explosives ready (AMANDA LEE MYERS and TOM DAVIES, 6/15/16, Associated Press)

An Indiana man who said he was headed to a gay pride event in California had a loaded assault rifle with magazines rigged to allow 60 shots to be fired in quick succession, plus 15 pounds of chemicals mixed and ready to explode, authorities said. [...]

Friends in Indiana described Howell as a gun enthusiast with a short temper. In October, he twice was accused of pulling a gun and making threats, once against his then-boyfriend and once against a neighbor.

Posted by orrinj at 3:56 PM


U.S., India, Japan Begin to Shape New Order on Asia's High Seas (GORDON FAIRCLOUGH, June 15, 2016, WSJ)

From the waters of the Philippine Sea this week emerged a partial outline of Washington's vision for a new Asian maritime-security order that unites democratic powers to contend with a more-assertive and well-armed China. [...]

Washington and Tokyo have long cooperated closely on defense. And the U.S. has been working to deepen strategic ties with India and to encourage New Delhi to play a more active role, not just in the Indian Ocean, but in the Pacific as well, as China's rise shifts the regional balance of power.

Posted by orrinj at 3:52 PM


Southern Baptists and the Confederate Flag (Russell Moore, June 14, 2016)

It's not often that I find myself wiping away tears in a denominational meeting, but I just did. The Southern Baptist Convention voted overwhelmingly to repudiate the display of the Confederate Battle Flag. This conservative evangelical denomination gathered together just miles from Ferguson, Missouri, to stand together against one lingering divisive symbol.

To understand the significance of this, one must note the "Southern" in "Southern Baptist Convention." This doesn't speak to geography; there are SBC churches in all fifty states. It speaks to history. The Southern Baptist Convention was formed in 1845, over a controversy about appointing slaveholders as missionaries. The SBC was wrong, and more than wrong. The SBC of 1845, and for many years after, was in open sin against a holy God, and against those who bear his image.

Posted by orrinj at 1:38 PM


Is Trump Losing the GOP? (JEFF GREENFIELD June 14, 2016, Politico)

[I]n a speech riddled with misleading and flatly false statements, Donald Trump ranted incoherently Monday about the need to toughen his Muslim immigration ban, even though the Orlando shooter was born in New York City 29 years ago (at a time when Afghan emigres like his parents were fighting on America's side against the Soviet Union). In a TV interview, Trump suggested that the president of the United States was in some undefined way sympathetic to the murderous intentions of Islamic terrorists. And in the hours immediately after the massacre, he tweeted a self-congratulatory message about his prescience.

All of it served to punctuate miserably the many doubts that had unfolded the previous weekend in a spectacle never before seen in our nation's politics. The Republican Party's last nominee for president, Mitt Romney, hosted a gathering of hundreds of Republican conservatives in Park City, Utah, devoted to assailing his successor, Donald Trump. Romney's former running mate, Paul Ryan, the once-revered speaker of the House, was grilled for supporting the candidate whose recent remarks the speaker himself called "a textbook case of racism." In another speech, a recent GOP nominee for governor of California--Meg Whitman--explicitly compared the nominee to Hitler and Mussolini.

What was so remarkable about these and other acerbic remarks made at Romney's gathering of GOP donors and business people was that they came from inside the party Trump will soon lead into battle. And they stem from doubts not about Trump's policies, but about his fundamental fitness for the office. Dan Senor, former Romney adviser and Bush White House national security aide, even said that Trump's comments about Obama suggest "there should be serious concern" about sharing classified information with Trump--information presidential nominees regularly receive.

Posted by orrinj at 1:35 PM


Iran announces deal worth billions to buy up to 100 Boeing aircraft (Saeed Kamali Dehghan, 15 June 2016, The Guardian)

Iran has announced that it has reached a deal worth billions of dollars with Boeing for the purchase of as many as 100 airplanes, in what would be a historic business agreement with the US. 

Abbas Akhondi, the minister for roads and urban development, was quoted by local media as saying that Iran had already struck the deal which is aimed at renovating the country's ageing air fleet after years of sanctions.

Posted by orrinj at 1:31 PM


Just 6 Percent of Chest Pain Cases in ER Are Life-Threatening: Study (Randy Dotinga, 6/15/16, HealthDay News) 

Americans who develop chest pain often rush to the hospital, where they're treated with urgency. A new study suggests, however, that less than 6 percent of these patients suffer from life-threatening conditions such as a heart attack.

Posted by orrinj at 1:12 PM


Obama meets Dalai Lama in spite of China protest (Reuters, 6/15/16)

U.S. President Barack Obama met the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, at the White House on Wednesday in spite of a warning by China that this would damage diplomatic ties, a White House official said.

35 Years Ago: When Ford Snubbed Solzhenitsyn (Paul G. Kengor, 9/07/10, Vision & Values)

With Solzhenitsyn in town to speak to the AFL-CIO, he was literally down the block from the White House. It was an opportune time for Ford to meet with him. Conservatives, from Republicans like Ronald Reagan, Jack Kemp, and Jesse Helms, to anti-communist Democrats like Scoop Jackson, urged the president to do so.

Ford refused. [...]

Ronald Reagan was so upset that he challenged Ford for the Republican presidential nomination the next summer. The Solzhenitsyn snub was one of the final straws for Reagan.

Posted by orrinj at 1:06 PM


Former Amb. McFaul: U.S.-Russia Relations at Lowest Point Since Cold War (Morgan Chalfant, June 15, 2016, Free Beacon)

Michael McFaul, the former U.S. ambassador to Russia, said Tuesday that relations between the United States and Russia are "worse than at any time since the Cold War."

They'll get worse as Russia fades even further into insignificance.

Posted by orrinj at 1:01 PM


Iceland Popular among Likeable US Tourists (EYGLÓ SVALA ARNARSDÓTTIR, June 14, 2016, Iceland Review)

More tourists from the US than any other nation visited Iceland in May, or 26.2 percent of the 124,000 foreign tourists who departed from Keflavík International Airport last month, according to the Icelandic Tourist Board. This is an increase by 12,296 US tourists compared to May 2015.

US tourists are popular among Icelanders, particularly Icelandic sales people, as RÚV discovered. "They are great, almost without exception. They are always in a good mood and wanting to chat," commented Stefanía Bergsdóttir, who works in 66°North on Bankastræti in downtown Reykjavík. Apparently, US tourists are also keen shoppers.

Posted by orrinj at 12:55 PM


7 in 10 Americans Now Dislike Donald Trump (Eric Levitz, 6/15/16, New York)

Donald Trump isn't good at this. More than a month after becoming the GOP's presumptive nominee, the mogul's approval numbers are in free fall. The latest Washington Post-ABC News poll finds Trump's favorability falling 8 points to a piddling 29 percent, while the percentage of Americans holding an unfavorable view of him has increased by 10 to 70 percent.

It's not just that Trump has alienated every single Hispanic in the United States -- although he nearly has, with 89 percent of the demographic disapproving of the Republican nominee. The mogul's negative ratings have also jumped by double digits in the last month among liberals, conservatives, Republican women, Democratic men, independents, and even non-college-educated whites.

The latter are supposed to be the core of Trump's support.

Posted by orrinj at 12:34 PM


Did Islamic State's Claiming of the Orlando Shooting Come Out Too Soon? (The Associated Press, Jun 14, 2016)

[M]ateen's messy life shows the hazards for an extremist group that hinges its credibility on its faith. Pulse customers have described him as a regular at the gay nightclub, someone who drank heavily and could be disruptive when intoxicated. Islamic State has reserved one of its most gruesome methods of killing for suspected gays -- throwing them to their death from rooftops. Alcohol is banned in the group's territory, and anyone caught with it gets whipped, lashed or fined.

"ISIS is under pressure, hence more willing to take the risk of being proven wrong," said Michael Horowitz, a senior analyst with the Levantine Group, using an alternative acronym for the group. "By blindly claiming Mateen... ISIS loses control over the narrative, a control that has been a top priority for the group thus far."

Already, there was a backlash on Twitter following reports that Mateen was probably a closet gay who drank alcohol. Critics ridiculed the image of a homosexual Islamic State "soldier." Some colored the black ISIS flag with rainbow colors.

The Right can't discuss the case honestly because it interrupts their "every Muslim is a threat" narrative; the Left can't because it interrupts their "gay is the new normal" narrative.  Meanwhile, he was just a deeply disturbed individual, as all the evidence shows, no different than James Wesley Howell.

Did internalised homophobia spark Orlando nightclub attack? (Jasmine Taylor-Coleman, 6/15/16, BBC News)

[A]s more information emerges about the killer's history, a more complicated picture is developing. Witnesses said Mateen had visited the Pulse club as a guest several times over the past three years and interacted with men on gay dating apps. His ex-wife, Sitora Yusufiy, told CNN it was possible he had hidden feelings about being gay.

It has led experts to question whether the gunman was spurred on - at least in part - by a powerful self-loathing about his own sexuality. Could he have been driven to hate and hurt others because he hated himself?

"Although it is not common, it's not unheard of for people to be violent to other people who are LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) as part of overcompensating for something that they are struggling with themselves," says Genevieve Weber, who has specialised in counselling people affected by internalised homophobia and now teaches counselling at Hofstra University in New York.
"It's could be part of the notion, 'If I differentiate myself enough, I can't be gay'."

Posted by orrinj at 12:26 PM


The Islamic State of Decline: Anticipating the Paper Caliphate  (Cole Bunzel, 6/15/16, Jihadica)

It is still too early to predict the collapse of the Islamic State, but it is telling that the group's own media, which usually keep to a narrative of unstoppable progress and battlefield success, have begun signaling decline. Last week, an editorial in the most recent issue of the Islamic State's weekly Arabic newsletter, al-Naba' ("News"), well captured this new outlook. Titled "The Crusaders' Illusions in the Age of the Caliphate," it offers a grim view of the future, both for the Islamic State and for those seeking to destroy it. I provide a full translation below.

Much of the editorial echoes the downbeat sentiments expressed by the Islamic State's official spokesman, Abu Muhammad al-'Adnani, in his recent audio statement of May 21 of this year. While in that statement 'Adnani was sure to project a measure of confidence, remarking that the Islamic State is "becoming stronger with each passing day," some of his comments betrayed the starker reality of a caliphate under siege. This was clear in the following queries: "Do you think, America, that victory will come by killing one or more leaders?" "Do you reckon, America, that defeat is the loss of a city or the loss of territory?" Responding to his own questions, 'Adnani declared that killing the Islamic State's leaders would not defeat the greater "adversary"--the group itself--and that taking its land would not eliminate its "will" to fight. Even if the Islamic State were to lose all its territories, he said, it could still go back to the way it was "at the beginning," when it was "in the desert without cities and without territory." The allusion here is to the experience of the Islamic State of Iraq, which between 2006 and 2012 held no significant territory despite its claim to statehood. For this reason it was derided as a "paper state." 'Adnani is thus suggesting that even if defeated the Islamic State could take refuge in the desert, rebuild, and return anew.

The editorial in al-Naba' emphasizes the same themes. Like 'Adnani's speech, it suggests that the Islamic State could soon degenerate into a paper caliphate bereft of its land and leadership.

The simple fact is that it could never be a state because that would just ease target acquisition.
Posted by orrinj at 12:20 PM


What makes the AR-15 an assault weapon (The Economist, Jun 14th 2016)

ON JUNE 12th Omar Mateen killed 49 people and injured 53 with a 9mm handgun and a semi-automatic gun called the Sig Sauer MCX, an AR-15-style rifle trumpeted by its manufacturer as "the first true mission-adaptable weapon system" which "eclipses everything that came before it". Despite having been under FBI investigation in 2013 and 2014, Mr Mateen faced no obstacles when buying these weapons in the days before he walked into Pulse, a gay nightclub, in Orlando, Florida, and sprayed revellers with bullets. Many commentators are wondering anew why such a dangerous weapon is freely available for civilian purchase. The AR-15 has been the gun of choice in several other recent mass shootings, including the killing of 14 people attending a holiday party last December in San Bernardino, California; the murder of 12 in a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado in 2012; and, later that year, the slaughter of 26 children and staff members at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) muses that the "AR" could stand for "America's rifle", as the AR-15 is the nation's most popular long gun, with as many as 10m units in circulation. People gravitate to the AR-15 for hunting, sport shooting and self-defence, the NRA says, because "it is customisable, adaptable, reliable and accurate" as well as lightweight and easy to modify. Whereas its fully-automatic military cousin, the M16, shares its looks, the AR-15 shoots only one round per trigger-pull. It is thus a misnomer, gun-rights advocates say, to call the AR-15 a military-style "assault rifle", a term that has been in use since Nazi Germany introduced the Sturmgewehr in 1944 (which in turn inspired the Soviet AK-47). Unlike fully automatic rifles, which can fire 750 to 900 rounds per minute and are available only to the armed forces, the AR-15 and its kin (sold by the millions to the general public) can muster only about 45 to 60. But as the Orlando tragedy showed, this circumscribed capacity can still be highly lethal.

June 14, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 8:26 PM


Why The AR-15 Assault Rifle Used In Orlando Is So Common In Mass Shootings (CLARK MINDOCK AND CARLA ASTUDILLO, 06/14/16, IB Times)

Nine days ago, Mateen, who had been investigated by the FBI on two occasions, walked into a gun store near his home in Port St. Lucie and bought an AR-15 assault-style rifle. The next day, he came back and picked up a Glock 17 pistol. Last Thursday, he returned for large magazines of ammunition so he could fire multiple rounds. Wielding the weapons just a few days later, Mateen entered the Pulse nightclub and opened fire, killing 49 people over a few hours and wounding even more as law enforcement personnel scrambled outside to respond to and stop the carnage.

While assault rifles aren't used as frequently in everyday gun crimes as other types of weapons, they are responsible for some of the highest death tolls in mass shootings.

The AR-15 assault-style rifle is a modified version of the weapon used by many American troops overseas. One such rifle can cost about $1,200, commonly hold about 30 rounds in a magazine and be accurate as far as roughly 500 yards. A single pull of its trigger results in just one bullet exiting the firing chamber, unlike its military counterpart, the fully automatic M-16. Although AR-15s are commonly called assault rifles, the technical definition of that term implies a fully automatic weapon that can spray numerous bullets per trigger pull.

The AR-15's large magazines and the speed with which they can be exchanged make the rifle a go-to weapon for civilian shooters looking to spray a room with bullets. In fact, it was used to inflict massive damage by all the assailants in the mass shootings at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando Sunday; the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California, last December; the Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon; and the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

Posted by orrinj at 8:18 PM


News coverage of campaign greatly aided Trump and hurt Clinton, study finds (David Lauter. 6/14/16, LA Times)
News coverage of the early months of the presidential campaign strongly boosted Donald Trump's bid and put Hillary Clinton at a disadvantage, according to a new study from Harvard that is likely to add to the heavy volume of complaints that the media aided Trump's rise.

From the time he announced his run in mid-June 2015 to the end of the year, Trump received about one-third of all coverage of the Republican race among 17 candidates, according to the study by Harvard's Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy that examined all stories on the campaign from eight major television and print news outlets, including The Times.

And although Trump has loudly objected since early in his campaign to coverage he deemed unfair - he announced Monday that he was banning the Washington Post from his campaign events, the latest in a line of more than half a dozen organizations to be frozen out - his coverage during 2015 was overwhelmingly favorable, the study found. 

Donald Trump bans Washington Post from officially covering his campaign (Associated Press, 14 June 2016)

Donald Trump's presidential campaign has revoked credentials provided to the Washington Post after the presumptive nominee deemed their coverage of the election race "inaccurate".

Trump wrote on his Facebook page: "Based on the incredibly inaccurate coverage and reporting of the record setting Trump campaign, we are hereby revoking the press credentials of the phony and dishonest Washington Post."

Posted by orrinj at 8:06 PM


Has ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi been killed in US air strike? Reports say he has died in Raqqa but no confirmation from coalition  (CHRIS SUMMERS, 14 June 2016, dAILY Mail)

ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has reportedly been killed in a US air strike in Raqqa. 

His death, reported by the respected Turkish daily Yenis Safak, would be a major blow for the jihadists and comes only days after 49 innocent people were killed in an Orlando nightclub by a man pledging allegiance to ISIS. 

Today? Tomorrow?  Just a matter of timing.

Posted by orrinj at 7:37 PM


Orlando Gunman Was Gay, Says Former Police-Academy Classmate (Claire Landsbaum, 6/14/16, New York)

When Omar Mateen -- a 29-year-old security guard -- opened fire at Pulse nightclub in Orlando on Sunday, killing 49 people and wounding 53, it wasn't his first time at the club. In fact, according to at least four regular patrons, Mateen had visited the club several times before, and one -- Chris Callen, a drag queen who performs at Pulse under the name Kristina McLaughlin -- said Mateen had been going there "for at least three years."

Additional reports suggest Mateen had created profiles on multiple gay-dating apps: Grindr, Jack'd, and Adam for Adam, to name a few. And a former police-academy classmate of Mateen's said he believed Mateen was gay and had asked him out on a date. "We went to a few gay bars with him, and I was not out at the time, so I declined his offer," the classmate told the Palm Beach Post. He went on, "He just wanted to fit in and no one liked him. He was always socially awkward."

The Heavily Armed Man Arrested on His Way to the L.A. Pride Parade Has Been Charged With a Bunch of Crimes (Jen Kirby, 6/14/16, New York)

It's unclear what Howell's motives were when police stopped him, but he was lugging an arsenal that could have done some serious harm: three assault rifles, 30-round magazines, a Taser, a black hood, a security badge, a knife, handcuffs, and five gallons of gasoline. He also had a 25-pound container of "Shock-Shot," an explosive often used at gun ranges to blow up targets. Santa Monica detectives wrote in a statement that the "amount of explosives in the container would have posed a grave danger" if they were set off either intentionally or accidentally.

Police discovered him after a Santa Monica resident reported that a man had been knocking on a neighbor's door and window around 5 a.m. Sunday. Howell, who is reportedly bisexual, was an "explosive" person, according to an ex-boyfriend who said he didn't know why Howell had gone to California. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:33 PM


Bahrain suspends main Shiite opposition party amid crackdown (JON GAMBRELL, Jun. 14, 2016, AP)

Bahrain suspended the country's largest Shiite opposition group in a surprise court hearing Tuesday, intensifying its crackdown on dissent five years after Arab Spring protests rocked the island kingdom.

In a speech Monday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, said at least 250 people lost their citizenship in Bahrain in recent years "because of their alleged disloyalty to the interests of the kingdom."

Rights groups say Bahrain refused to allow activists to leave the country to attend the Geneva conference where al-Hussein spoke. The raids appear to have been timed to serve as a snub of the U.N. meeting.

Tuesday's court decision shows Bahrain "is bulldozing its civil society," said Sayed Ahmed al-Wadaei, the director of advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy.

"Bahrain is only reforming itself into a state of silence and terror," al-Wadaei said in a statement.

Posted by orrinj at 7:25 PM


Sad! : These three campaign gurus for Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have had some time to reflect on their loss to The Donald.  And do they ever have stories to tell. (Interview By Sam Stein, 6/14/16, Huffington Post)

When you enter an election, you have a carefully laid plan about how you're going to win it. At what point in the cycle did you realize that plan was meaningless?

Danny Diaz (Jeb Bush's campaign manager) 

A D.C. fixture whose biggest successes have been for moderate Republicans. He helped elect Mark Kirk to the Senate in Illinois and Susana Martinez to the governor's mansion in New Mexico.

I appreciate your starting with me. [laughs] Right after Labor Day, we understood that it was going to be a really, really difficult race for us, despite the advantages that we had. It was persistent in the survey work just the level of unhappiness, anger and disaffection among voters.

Jeff Roe (Ted Cruz's campaign manger) 

He is often described as one of the sharpest minds in Republican politics, the next Karl Rove.
Labor Day was about the time we knew, too.

Really? That seems early.


So we did 5,000 calls a night from the day we got in the race to the day we got out. We had a continual analytic program. And you could tell from early on that Trump had a floor. He was always going to have 25 to 30 percent of liberal-to-moderates, he was going to have 25 to 30 percent of somewhat conservatives, he was going to have 25 to 30 percent of very conservatives.

Alex, what about for you?

Alex Conant (Marco Rubio's communications director) 

He's a well-regarded communications hand who cut his teeth in the George W. Bush administration before heading over to the RNC. He also ran press for Tim Pawlenty in 2012.

Well, we were a lot later than that. We knew that Trump was going to be strong going into the holidays, but it wasn't until after he beat us in Nevada that we felt he was more likely than not to be the nominee.

Let's go back to the moment Trump descended his beautiful gilded escalator at Trump Towers to announce his candidacy. Did you honestly recognize him as a threat?


I was skeptical. Like a lot of people, I didn't even know if he would qualify for the first debate. I didn't know if he would be willing to file the FEC financial disclosures, or if the networks would take him seriously enough to allow him to be on the stage.

I had the editor of a major news outlet tell us that for every candidate who enters the race, they do five stories, including a deep dive on their background and a fact-check of their speech. But they weren't doing that for Trump because they didn't take him seriously. They just viewed it as publicity. And that was how I thought about his candidacy as he came down the escalator.


If you took a cursory look at his record, the positions and stances he had taken, and lined those up against where conservative voters are, it was hard to see how those two lines connected at the outset.

Jeff, what was your polling telling you at the very beginning?


We do our polling a little bit different. We always had a continual, rotating "consider score."A consider score measures whether a respondent will consider a candidate for the office they are seeking. When Trump got into the race, I think he was at a 28/58 favorable/unfavorable rating. And he was earning about 3 or 4 percent in the overall ballot. But his consider score matched his favorable rating, which never happens. Your consider score should be in between your favorable and your ballot.Ben Carson, on the other hand, had a huge favorable number, but few people seriously considered voting for him for president. So, out of the gate, the race became about him or not him.

June 13, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 6:28 PM


Ex-wife of suspected Orlando shooter: He was 'disturbed,' would 'express hate toward everything' (Catherine Garcia, June 12, 2016, The Week)
After a few months, "I saw his instability and I saw he was bipolar and he would get mad out of nowhere," Yusufiy said. "That's when I started worrying about my safety."

She said she was physically abused by Mateen, and he didn't let her speak with family. They realized something was wrong, Yusufiy said, and "they rescued me from the situation." She filed for divorce after four months and moved to New Jersey, leaving Mateen in Florida. She says she cut off all ties with her ex-husband and his family and last spoke with him seven years ago. Yusufiy said Mateen wanted to be a police officer, and would train with friends who were already cops. He had a "history with steroids," and "did follow religion," she said, and "would get in his tempers and would express hate toward everything." 

Posted by orrinj at 6:25 PM

Support for SSM by Religious Affiliation copy

Posted by orrinj at 4:47 PM


Australia data shows gun controls a huge success 20 years after mass shooting (BYRON KAYE AND WAYNE COLE, 4/28/16, Reuters)

Australia on Thursday marked the 20th anniversary of a mass shooting which led to strict gun controls that have in turn led to a huge decline in gun murders, undermining claims in the United States that such curbs are not the answer.

The chances of being murdered by a gun in Australia plunged to 0.15 per 100,000 people in 2014 from 0.54 per 100,000 people in 1996, a decline of 72 percent, a Reuters analysis of Australian Bureau of Statistics figures showed.

In 1996, Australia had 311 murders, of which 98 were with guns. In 2014, with the population up from about 18 million to 23 million, Australia had 238 murders, of which 35 were with guns.

It was the April 28, 1996, shooting deaths by a lone gunman of 35 people in and around a cafe at a historic former prison colony in Tasmania that prompted the government to buy back or confiscate a million firearms and make it harder to buy new ones.

The country has had no mass shootings since.

The figures directly contradict assertions of most leading U.S. presidential candidates who have either questioned the need to toughen gun laws or directly denounced Australia's laws as dangerous.

Let's face it, the Left and Right enjoy wallowing in these incidents so much they don't want to stop them.
Posted by orrinj at 4:40 PM


To really improve the lives of Syrian refugees, Turkey and the world must cooperate better (Kemal Kirişci | June 9, 2016, Brookings)

The Syrian crisis is now in its sixth year. Half of Syria's population is now either an internally displaced person or a refugee. Frontline countries are now hosting close to five million refugees. Turkey, which has taken in more than 2.8 million Syrians, is by far the largest recipient. Instability in Iraq has displaced another quarter of a million people into Turkey, joining an ever-growing number of asylum seekers from countries around the world. [...]

To avoid refugees getting locked into a permanent state of dependence on handouts or becoming alienated from the rest of society--both of which are likely to generate security challenges--integration is the only way forward. Turkey has already taken a step in the right direction by opening up its labor market to Syrian refugees. The right to legal employment is an important step, but it is not enough: refugees will need skills training and education on Turkish language and culture, and the Turkish leadership needs to develop new strategies for job creation. Recent studies estimate that less than one third of school-age children in Turkey have access to proper schooling. More worrisome, many are reportedly exposed to informal radical Islamist education. This does not bode well for the prospect of helping these children become productive members of society. It also makes them attractive targets for those trying to recruit more people into their crime or terrorism networks. 

Meeting these two major challenges to integration--employment and education--requires greater cooperation with the international community. More concerted action at the international level is needed to mobilize funds and implement capacity-building programs that can support Turkey's efforts. This should be accompanied by a robust global resettlement program for refugees--possibly resembling the Comprehensive Plan of Action for Indochinese Refugees between 1988 and 1996--who are particularly vulnerable, such as single-mothers with children, the elderly, and those with particularly difficult medical conditions. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:32 PM


The 'Emperor' Has No Clothes (KARINA ORLOVA, 6/09/16, Americamn Interest)

A sanctioned friend of Vladimir Putin, the businessman Arkady Rotenberg, has frozen construction on the Kerch channel bridge, due to a lack of financing. Forbes Russia reports the contracting company, Rotenberg's Stroygazmontazh, did not receive a scheduled money transfer from the budget and doesn't have the capital to continue constructing the bridge that would connect annexed Crimea to its new homeland's terra firma. [...]

A story has been circling around Moscow for some time, sourced to people inside the Kremlin: After the sanctions were announced, Vladimir Putin is said to have met with his businessman friends and promised them that he would compensate them for losses incurred from Western sanctions.

Russia's President has been doing his best to help his friends out, but the source of funding that has allowed him to do so might be drying up soon. RBC asked a number of Russian economists how soon Russia's Reserve fund would be exhausted. 14 out of 32 economists assume it might happen as soon as 2017. They conclude that if oil prices keep at around $40-50 per barrel, by the beginning of next year there will be no more than 1.1 trillion rubles ($16.6 billion) in the Fund. And if oil prices don't come back to over $50, by the end of next year, Russia's Reserve Fund might be emptied completely.

Which would be amusing enough, but what makes it even better is that Putin is using what little he has left on fighting ISIS for us.
Posted by orrinj at 4:27 PM


Belgian hospitals introduce robot receptionists (AFP June 13, 2016)

Pepper is taking up reception duties at hospitals in Ostend and Liege, where he was unveiled at the Centre Hospitalier Regional La Citadelle on Monday.

Standing 140 centimeters (4 ft 7 in) tall and equipped with wheels under his white frame, Pepper can recognize the human voice in some 20 languages and detect if he is talking to a man, woman or child.

In Liege the robot helper, who costs about 30,000 euros ($34,000), will for the moment remain in the hospital's reception area.

But at the AZ Damiaan hospital in Ostend, he can accompany visitors to the department they are looking for, said Raphaël Tassart of Belgian firm Zora Bots which developed the software inside his robot brain.

Robots like Pepper, whose components come from Asia but are assembled in France, have already been tested in Japanese shops and a few large French malls, generally carrying out retail functions.

Posted by orrinj at 4:20 PM


Trump's Personal Jesus (ROD DREHER • June 9, 2016, American Conservative)

Did you read the transcript of Cal Thomas's interview with Donald Trump? You should. Especially these parts:

CT: My grandparents used to play a parlor game. It went like this: Tell me who you are without telling me your name or what you do. We have seen your tough exterior, but who are you at your core and what is your basic philosophy and worldview?

DT: I am a person who grew up with two wonderful parents and a wonderful family and a person who has done well in life. I went to great schools. Wharton School, a lot of great places. Education is very important. I think I understand education. I think I can straighten out our mess in education. And I'm a person who has, to a certain extent, redefined where I should be. I started off in Brooklyn and Queens and I wasn't supposed to come to Manhattan. My father didn't want to go to Manhattan for me, and I came to Manhattan and I have done a great job in Manhattan. And then I wrote a best-seller and I wrote numerous best-sellers. I wrote 'The Art of the Deal' and numerous other books. Some were number one best-sellers. I guess 'The Art of the Deal' is the best-selling business book of all time. I had a TV show called 'The Apprentice' and it's one of the most successful reality shows in the history of television. And now I'm doing something else.

He doesn't even pretend that there's anything to him other than worshiping himself. There's no there there, just ego. I know this is not exactly news, but it still astonishes me that he can't even fake it.

...the hard part is why other Republicans are bowing down.

Posted by orrinj at 4:06 PM

#NEVERTHEASSCLOWN (profanity alert)

The Jerk's Political Moment (Aaron James, JUNE 12, 2016, The Chronicle Review)

Sitting there on a table, several feet from where the 2016 Michigan GOP primary winner was holding forth, the meats were just beautiful. For the first time in world history, an election victory was accepted with an infomercial, presenting a delicious, I mean really terrific array of "Trump steaks," which were once sold at the Sharper Image. The winner also touted Trump water bottles, Trump wine, even a "Trump magazine" (a wealth-porn glossy actually called The Jewel of Palm Beach). He neglected to mention that some of the products weren't especially successful. (For some reason steaks just didn't sell at the Sharper Image.) But because Mitt Romney had questioned Donald Trump's business acumen a few days earlier, and because it's a sore topic, like the size of his fingers, Trump hoped to reassure us that he definitely was a businessman and totally knew what he was doing.

This is truly funny, but Trump doesn't seem to see it. He doesn't see that his claim of being a brilliant businessman might invite the question of whether selling steaks for $50 a pound (he even touted the high price) at the Sharper Image was a sound business proposition. (Jerry Levin, former CEO of the Sharper Image, has said, "We literally sold almost no steaks.") Plus he was so serious. Oblivious and very serious. Behold the ass-clown, who is telling the joke but somehow not in on it.

"For the showman, all is pretense for entertainment rather than for deception." The ass, among types of persons, is slow to understanding. Perhaps he's dull, stubborn, entrenched in his position, or just plain stupid. The clown, by contrast, seeks to entertain an audience with playful pretending or comedic exaggeration, with sharp sensitivity to what others find amusing or delightful or shocking. Putting these two types together, there is such a person as an ass-clown, someone who seeks an audience's enjoyment while being slow to understand how it views him.

Posted by orrinj at 2:27 PM


Orlando shooter was a would-be cop with history of domestic violence (Nicholas Nehamas, Kyra Gurney, David Ovalle and Julie K. Brown, 6/13/16, Miami Herald)

Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old security guard from Fort Pierce, was on the FBI's radar since at least 2013 when acquaintances _ at least one of them a former law enforcement officer _ warned authorities that he was prone to violence, made unspecified threats and seemed to have radical Islamic ideas.

Mateen, a would-be cop who never made it through the police academy, had no criminal record, but had a history of domestic violence and was investigated by the FBI twice, including two years ago when he was linked to another Fort Pierce man who killed himself in a terrorist bombing in Syria. [...]

Mateen called 911 just prior to the massacre and pledged his allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State, and ISIS later claimed responsibility for the attack. There was no evidence, however, directly linking him to the radical Islamic group.

The gunman's father, Seddique Mateen, told NBC news that his son's rampage was not motivated by religion, but by homophobia. The elder Mateen said his son had recently visited Miami and became upset after seeing two men kissing in public at Bayside Marketplace. [....]

The imam said Mateen was into bodybuilding and had been training to be a police officer, but didn't make it through the academy. He believed that Omar's father sold life insurance.

Mateen worked security for a private company, G4S, at the PGA Village in Palm Beach County, where he was known for his cursing, diatribes and verbal slurs toward gays and African-Americans, said Gilroy, the former co-worker.

Posted by orrinj at 2:21 PM


Support of Trump Hurting Republican Senators   (Jim Williams, Public Policy Polling)'

New Public Policy Polling surveys of five major U.S. Senate races find that wide swaths of voters say that incumbent Republican Senators support for Donald Trump makes them less likely to vote to re-elect them, and that the Senators should take steps to un-endorse the presumptive Republican nominee. Key findings from the survey include: -
Pluralities or majorities of voters in each of the five states say that the Senator's support of Trump makes them less likely to vote for them - including 44% of voters in Arizona, 47% in New Hampshire, 43% in Ohio, 40% in Pennsylvania and 45% in Wisconsin. -
Among independent voters 57% say they're less likely to vote for John McCain in Arizona because of his support of Trump, 51% are less likely to vote for Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire, 36% are less likely to vote for Rob Portman in Ohio, 42% are less likely to vote for Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania, and 46% are less likely to vote for Ron Johnson in Wisconsin. Also in Arizona, fully 61% of Hispanics say they're less likely to vote for John McCain due to his support for Trump. -

Posted by orrinj at 2:16 PM


OCCUPIED TERRITORY : The Republican élite struggles over whether to resist Trump or capitulate. (Ryan Lizza, 6/13/16, The New Yorker)

Governor Chris Christie, of New Jersey, another of Trump's opponents early in the campaign, has transformed himself into a sort of manservant, who is constantly with Trump at events. (One Republican told me that a friend of his on the Trump campaign used Snapchat to send him a video of Christie fetching Trump's McDonald's order.)

June 12, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 5:09 PM


It's the Ideas, Stupid : Review: Deirdre McCloskey, 'Bourgeois Equality' (Ian Lindquist, June 12, 2016, Free Beacon)

Some astonishing facts: the average human living before 1800 "could expect to make, earn, and consume" about $3 per day. Today, the average Afghan and the average Liberian--residents of two of the poorest countries in the world--spend $33 per day, adjusted for exchange rates and inflation. In the emerging economy of Brazil, real per-person income is "about the same as it was in the world-beating United States in 1941, or in the still-recovering postwar Britain in 1959." And the average per-person daily income in "well-off free-trade democracies," which are home to one-sixth of the world's population, is about $100. In fact, worldwide, "[i]ncome now is thirty to one hundred times more than our ancestors could manage...."

Since 1800, the world has witnessed unprecedented economic growth. In her new book Bourgeois Equality, economic historian Deirdre McCloskey explains that while many have sought to explain this growth as a function of the accumulation of capital, it is much better understood as a function of the "expanding ideology of liberty and dignity that inspired the proliferating schemes of betterment by and for the common people." This liberty and dignity led to what McCloskey calls the Bourgeois Deal, which led in turn to this Great Enrichment.

Posted by orrinj at 11:34 AM


USA's Copa América has been revived by their glorious, bloody defense (Aaron Timms, 12 June 2016, The Guardian)

It's hard to shake the sense that Klinsmann remains a tactically naive manager, but momentum often matters more than tactics in tournament football, and there's little doubt the US now have momentum on their side. Besides, the German got his tactics right last night: he made Bobby Wood the fulcrum of the attack - a logical formation change in light of the Hamburg-bound striker's demonstration against Costa Rica of how lethal he can be when playing centrally - and tucked Clint Dempsey in behind, with Gyasi Zardes and Alejandro Bedoya encouraged to get wide and run fast.

Paraguay, needing a win to survive in the tournament, had promised to attack and take chances in the first half, and attack they did. But this was a plan that played directly into the home team's hands, because it allowed the US to settle into the rapid, counter-attacking pattern that fits them best. Dempsey's goal - created by lightning work down the left flank by Zardes - exemplified the merits of this approach going forward, but it wouldn't have worked without a solid defensive shield.

And Saturday night, if anything, was about the defense. The pivotal moment of the contest was not Zardes's assist, neat as it was, but John Brooks's block on Miguel Almiron after the Paraguayans, in the 10th minute, broke with three men against two. Brooks celebrated the block like a goalkeeper celebrating a penalty save, and with good reason: it set the tempo for the match, a minor classic of the defensive genre whose defining feature was not what got created in the final third, but what got snuffed out. Too often football observers, in their rush to be wowed by the artistry of players further up the pitch, overlook the talents of defenders. Let not these arch-miserabilists, these professional rejecters whose contributions are measured in the negative (shots blocked, passes intercepted, chances killed), be overlooked. Last night the US's were magnificent.

Protecting a slim lead, the US needed discipline in the second half. Instead, they got a man sent off. In a sense this made life simpler for the home team, because it allowed them to jettison whatever ambition they might have had to extend their lead and focus, instead, on pure, bloody defense.

With his job on the line he's jettisoned all the nonsense about playing a style that ill suits us and reverted to the defense and counter-attack that exploits our spirit, size, speed and fitness advantages. He's become Bob Bradley.

Posted by orrinj at 11:22 AM


Could Libertarian Gary Johnson Play the Spoiler in November? (Eric Pianin, June 12, 2016, Reuters)

Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, the nominee of the Libertarian Party, has wasted little time making a mark in the presidential campaign. And so far, at least, his third-party candidacy appears to be playing to the advantage of former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee.

Johnson, of course, has no chance of winning the election and at best will appear on the ballot in just 32 of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. But in a tough general election campaign in which Clinton and presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump both suffer from historically high negative ratings among voters, Johnson has the potential of playing spoiler or kingmaker by mustering even a modest showing among libertarians and disaffected Republicans and Democrats.

Hillary should only debate if he's on stage too.

Posted by orrinj at 8:45 AM


Americans' Total Wealth Reaches Record High (Kerry Close,  June 9, 2016, Money)

Total wealth reached a record high of $88.1 trillion in the first quarter of 2016, according to a report from the Federal Reserve released Thursday. Increasing home values bolstered the collective net worth of Americans and offset stock market dips at the beginning of the year, the Wall Street Journal reported. A $498 billion increase in residential real-estate values propelled the wealth increase, while the overall value of equities declined by $160 billion.

While assets like stocks and bonds are held disproportionately by the wealthiest U.S. households, homes are more broadly owned by middle-income households. Since nearly two-thirds of Americans own homes, an increase in home prices has helped many middle-tier households.

W, the Fed, Congress and the UR will never get the credit they deserve for saving the economy in 2008.  Consider what the US economy was like 8 years after the Crash of '29:

The lessons of 1937 (Christina Romer, Jun 18th 2009, The Economist)

The recovery from the Depression is often described as slow because America did not return to full employment until after the outbreak of the second world war. But the truth is the recovery in the four years after Franklin Roosevelt took office in 1933 was incredibly rapid. Annual real GDP growth averaged over 9%. Unemployment fell from 25% to 14%. The second world war aside, the United States has never experienced such sustained, rapid growth.

However, that growth was halted by a second severe downturn in 1937-38, when unemployment surged again to 19%. The fundamental cause of this second recession was an unfortunate, and largely inadvertent, switch to contractionary fiscal and monetary policy. One source of the growth in 1936 was that Congress had overridden Mr Roosevelt's veto and passed a large bonus for veterans of the first world war. In 1937, this fiscal stimulus disappeared. In addition, social-security taxes were collected for the first time. These factors reduced the deficit by roughly 2.5% of GDP, exerting significant contractionary pressure.

Also important was an accidental switch to contractionary monetary policy. In 1936 the Federal Reserve began to worry about its "exit strategy". After several years of relatively loose monetary policy, American banks were holding large quantities of reserves in excess of their legislated requirements. Monetary policymakers feared these excess reserves would make it difficult to tighten if inflation developed or if "speculative excess" began again on Wall Street. In July 1936 the Fed's board of governors stated that existing excess reserves could "create an injurious credit expansion" and that it had "decided to lock up" those excess reserves "as a measure of prevention". The Fed then doubled reserve requirements in a series of steps. Unfortunately it turned out that banks, still nervous after the financial panics of the early 1930s, wanted to hold excess reserves as a cushion. When that excess was legislated away, they scrambled to replace it by reducing lending. According to a classic study of the Depression by Milton Friedman and Anna Schwartz, the resulting monetary contraction was a central cause of the 1937-38 recession.

It would have been better for us to have bailed out debtors directly, rather than banks, and the Fed could still return us to a slowdown by raising rates, but the differences from 1937 to 2016 are instructive.

Posted by orrinj at 8:35 AM


Latinos And American Identity In A Time Of Trump: A Postcard From El Paso (EYDER PERALTA, 6/12/16, NPR)

About four blocks from the border, I stopped to talk to Berta Aceves. She owns a little store that sells pretty much everything -- used air conditioners, ball gowns, toys.

I asked her if she considered herself American.

I could tell she was taken aback by the question. But she smiled politely and after a bit of silence, she said: "I have an American passport."

Aceves said that Trump's words hurt. More than 30 years ago she crossed the Rio Grande, got her papers in order and she worked hard to start a business and get her kids through college.

She said she was angry that Trump would question her American identity.

"It's probably easy for him to say those things," she said. "Because he didn't have to struggle to become an American."

Just across the street from her store, I met historian David Romo in a neighborhood known as the Ellis Island of the borderlands.

"Being Mexican American is one of the oldest ways of being an American," Romo said.

What he means is that all of the Southwest was once Mexico. Hispanics have been in this country from the very beginning and the history of casting them as the other is long and storied. Trump, he said, is not the first to do that and neither is he the first to conflate Mexicans with Mexican-Americans.

Romo knows that from personal experience.

He said after he graduated from Stanford University, he came back to El Paso thinking he was "a big shot." Of course, it didn't take long before a Border Patrol agent asked him to declare his citizenship.

"I was frustrated," he said. "I didn't talk back to the border patrol."

But he refused to answer the question and he said the agent put him in a chokehold.

"So, it doesn't matter what papers you have, what your level of education is," he said.

Romo says he tries not to let those indignities make him angry. Instead, he's focused on history. He likes to remind the American people, for example, how in the past the United States has rounded up millions and shipped them over the border.

It happened in the '30s and '40s after the Great Depression, when Hispanics were accused of taking jobs from Americans. The same thing happened again in the '50s when President Dwight D. Eisenhower launched what he termed "Operation Wetback."

It's a part of U.S. history that's not well documented. But we know it was deadly and historians estimate that hundreds of thousands of American citizens were also rounded up.

"Rage isn't enough," Romo said. "We have to go back to the roots. We need to have a deeper understanding so that history doesn't repeat itself."

Posted by orrinj at 8:29 AM


I tried the plant-based meat that Google wanted to buy and I never want to eat a 'real' hamburger again (Jillian D'Onfro, 6/12/16, Business Insider)

Environmentalists have described beef consumption as the "new SUV" for its effects on climate change and I've heard the horror stories about livestock mistreatment.

But... every so often I still find myself caving to the craving for a juicy cheeseburger or beef burrito.

That's why Impossible Food's mission struck me immediately.

"We're making meat for uncompromising meat lovers, but with a fraction of the environmental impact," founder Patrick Brown explained on stage at Vox Media's recent Code Conference.

The secret: Plant burgers that look, smell, sizzle, and taste like beef.

So do can these patties really replace the real thing, especially for someone who enjoys meat? Here's what I found in my first taste test:

Posted by orrinj at 8:23 AM


Donald Trump Thinks He Can Win California (He Can't) (Jim Newell, 6/12/16, Slate)


 Ali Vitali ✔ @alivitali
Trump source in room tells me Trump made a gen elex map pitch to the group. Mentioned NJ ("right, Chris?!"), CA, PA, MD as in play.
1:59 PM - 9 Jun 2016 · Manhattan, NY, United States
  149 149 Retweets   150 150 likes

Only one of those states, Pennsylvania, can be understood as "in play." The others are not, and California and New Jersey are also money holes. You can't even use the "well, we'll at least force Clinton to defend there" justification in any of these states. Clinton does not have to defend there. She can watch from Ohio as Donald Trump burns through all of his, the RNC's, and Republican donors' money--although it's hard to imagine that these donors will be inclined to give Trump money after he told them he plans to spend it in California.

There is something about Trump's personality that makes him believe he needs a marquee media-centric state like California. He probably doesn't see the typical Republican strategy of cleaning up in the South and the Plains as "flashy" enough for his brand. He'll think he has to win California because it's large and beautiful and he owns great properties there, terrific views, some of the best land in the world, really, like you wouldn't believe.

Posted by orrinj at 8:15 AM


U.S. Consumer Sentiment Fell Slightly in June (BEN LEUBSDORF,  June 10, 2016, WSJ)

Friday's report also showed that expectations for future inflation continued to slip in June. Expected inflation over the next year was 2.4%, unchanged from May. But expected inflation five years out was 2.3%, down from 2.5% the prior two months and hitting the lowest level in the survey's history.

U.S. inflation has undershot the Federal Reserve's 2% annual target for the past four years, though broad price gauges have firmed in recent months as the damping effects of falling oil prices and a rising dollar began to fade.

Fed officials, who will begin a two-day policy meeting on Tuesday, have signaled they want to see stable expectations to bolster their confidence that price growth will strengthen further in the coming months and years.

In a speech on Monday, Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen noted that "some survey measures of longer-term inflation expectations have moved a little lower over the past couple of years," alongside a more marked decline in market-based measures.

"If inflation expectations really are moving lower, that could call into question whether inflation will move back to 2% as quickly as I expect," Ms. Yellen said.

The Dollar Store Goes Digital (Fortune,   JUNE 12, 2016)'

While retail stores are shuttering, dollar stores are still growing. But they've done little to innovate over the years. That's where Hollar comes in. The startup has brought the dollar store online, and so far, they're seeing great success - a million visitors a month and $1 million in monthly sales in April.

It turns out, the thrill of shopping at a dollar store isn't just about physically picking through bins and store shelves looking for a gem-scrolling through endless items online is pretty fun too.

"The recession has accelerated [the dollar store] industry," David Yeom, Hollar's CEO told us. "Frugality is here to stay, but people want the simplicity of online ordering."

Posted by orrinj at 8:09 AM


CIA chief expects release of 9/11 documents to clear Saudi Arabia (Reuters, 6/12/16)

CIA chief John Brennan said on Sunday he expects 28 classified pages of a U.S. congressional report into the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States to be published, absolving Saudi Arabia of any responsibility. [...]

"The 9/11 commission looked very thoroughly at these allegations of Saudi involvement ... their conclusion was that there was no evidence to indicate that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually had supported the 9/11 attacks," he added.

The Sa'uds need to be held to account for Wahhabism generally, not 9-11 specifically.

Posted by orrinj at 7:37 AM


Forget strippers, the modern stag party wants art and wine tasting : Loutish behaviour loses its allure for men who marry later and want a less cliched experience (Gareth Rubin, 12 June 2016, tHE gUARDIAN)

Ten young men sit with canvases and charcoal pencils, deep in concentration as they attempt to sketch the life model kneeling in front of them. Their pictures are bold, stark and wholly lacking in artistic merit. It's an unusual stag party.

But then stag parties are changing. Out are boozy nights filled with strip clubs and heaving bars, and in are activities such as life drawing workshops, treasure hunts, cookery classes and historical city tours. The traditional stag do could soon be a thing of the past.

The groom-to-be at this particular party in a Norwich hotel is Paul Clifton, a 33-year-old insurance underwriter. "This is something of a new experience for me," he says. "I am genuinely not very good. But I'm trying my best. I wanted to do something different, and I knew that with Paul as my best man, that's what we would be doing."

His best man is Paul Lees, 31. "There's a pressure these days to do something different and this is something unusual for a group of boys," he says. "I wouldn't say the traditional stag weekend boozing didn't appeal at all but some of us are married with kids and it's not really us."

The model, Esther Bunting, 39, posing nude, says she sits for many stag parties. "I've been a life model for many years but the stags have only started in the last few years and I really enjoy them."

It's a big change. Britain's largest stag celebrations company, Chilli Sauce, which sends hundreds of thousands of men on stag weekends each year, says that only 30% of its bookings now involve alcohol or strip clubs, down from 50% in 2011. And those that do involve drinking have changed.

Posted by orrinj at 7:25 AM


Long Strange Trip of Dock Ellis (Patrick Hruby, 8/24/12, ESPN.com)

It was a Friday. That much is certain. June 12, 1970. Three years after psychedelic Pied Piper Timothy Leary invited America to "Turn on, tune in and drop out." Four years before Richard Nixon's resignation marked an inglorious denouement to the counterculture era. The middle of things. A purple haze. The perfect moment for the first and only known no-hitter in major league history pitched under the influence of lysergic acid diethylamide, thrown by the first and only player in major league history to inspire both a biography penned by a future American poet laureate and a seminal article in High Times.

Six hours earlier, Ellis had been in Los Angeles, nursing a hangover, dazed and confused, enjoying what he thought was his day off.

Two hours later, he would be standing on the mound at San Diego Stadium, throwing baseballs he couldn't always feel, in the general direction of batters he didn't always see, trying very, very hard not to fall over.

He was 25 years old, a right-handed starter for the Pittsburgh Pirates, armed with a big curveball and a bigger mouth, a tall, chubby-faced kid who ran like a fawn. Clubhouse cutup. Media antagonist. Iconoclastic cultural badass. In the words of a teammate, "not afraid of nothing."

The Pirates were in town to play the San Diego Padres, starting their first West Coast trip of the season. That, too, is certain. The rest is a matter of memory, largely Ellis', imperfect and addled, culled from interviews, articles and books. The club arrived on Thursday, an off day. Ellis rented a car. Dropped a tab of acid. Drove north to his hometown, Los Angeles. He showed up at the home of Mitzi, the girlfriend of an old childhood buddy, Al Rambo.

"Dock," Mitzi asked, "what's wrong?"

"I'm as high as a Georgia pine," he said.

The two drank screwdrivers. Smoked marijuana. Talked through the night. Eventually, Ellis fell asleep. Possibly for an hour. Probably less. Around noon -- maybe earlier -- he took another dose of LSD.

Meanwhile, Mitzi flipped through a newspaper.

"Dock, you better get up," she said. "You gotta go pitch!"

"What are you talking about?" he said. "I pitch tomorrow."

Mitzi gave him the sports page. Ellis scanned the newsprint. Padres-Pirates. Doubleheader. Friday. Today. Game time: 6:05 p.m. Game 1 starter: Ellis, D.

"Oh, wow," he said. "What happened to yesterday?"

June 11, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 9:54 PM


Undocumented Valedictorian Takes Down Trump In Epic Speech (Willa Frej, 6/10/16, The Huffington Post)

Larissa Martinez, who will go to Yale on a full ride this fall, chose her graduation speech at McKinney Boyd High School in Dallas to make her bold statement.

"I am one of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the shadows," she said, to cheers from the crowd.

Her speech followed a similarly brave statement from Mayte Lara Ibarra of Austin, Texas, last week. Lara became a viral sensation after tweeting photos from her own high school graduation, touting her high GPA, her full ride to University of Texas Austin -- and the fact that she is undocumented.

Martinez moved to Texas on a tourist visa in 2010 with her mother, who was trying to escape an alcoholic and abusive husband.

"We just flew over here with luggage and a lot of dreams," she told WFAA on Wednesday. 

Martinez said she's been waiting seven years for her citizenship application to be processed.

"The most important part of the debate and the part most often overlooked is the fact that immigrants, undocumented or otherwise, are people too," Martinez said. "People with dreams, aspirations, hopes and loved ones. People like me."

And referencing presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's extreme immigration policies, she told the crowd last Friday that "America can be great again without the construction of a wall built on hatred and prejudice."

Posted by orrinj at 6:52 PM


How Donald Trump Bankrupted His Atlantic City C[*****]s, but Still Earned Millions (RUSS BUETTNER and CHARLES V. BAGLI, JUNE 11, 2016, NY Times)

His audacious personality and opulent properties brought attention -- and countless players -- to Atlantic City as it sought to overtake Las Vegas as the country's gambling capital. But a close examination of regulatory reviews, court records and security filings by The New York Times leaves little doubt that Mr. Trump's c[*****] business was a protracted failure. [...]

But even as his companies did poorly, Mr. Trump did well. He put up little of his own money, shifted personal debts to the c[*****]s and collected millions of dollars in salary, bonuses and other payments. The burden of his failures fell on investors and others who had bet on his business acumen.

Posted by orrinj at 5:41 PM


5 numbers that mattered this week (STEVEN SHEPARD, 06/11/16, Politico)

The Fox News poll also laid bare two of Trump's most significant, basic weaknesses: Voters don't think he has the knowledge or temperament to be president.

The poll findings are striking: Nearly six-in-10 voters surveyed said Trump doesn't have "the knowledge to serve effectively as president." Just 38 percent believe he does.

Trump scored even worse on whether he has "the temperament to serve effectively as president": Only a third believe he does, and 62 percent said he doesn't.

Those are remarkable numbers for the presidential nominee of a major political party, and they are in stark contrast to Clinton. Majorities said she has the knowledge (70 percent) and temperament (60 percent) to serve as president.

...that 33% number seems where Trump is likely to finish.

Posted by orrinj at 3:55 PM


Romney says may vote for Libertarian Gary Johnson, who is rising in polls (AP AND TIMES OF ISRAEL, June 11, 2016)

Former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said Saturday he would not vote for presumptive nominee Donald Trump in the general election in November and would consider voting for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.

Posted by orrinj at 3:28 PM


Rise of Populist Right Doesn't Signal Demise of Globalization : Opposition to immigration, not economic anxiety, fuels populist movements across rich countries (GREG IP, June 8, 2016, WSJ)

Right-of-center populists in continental Europe, advocates for a British exit from the European Union, and Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for U.S. president, derive their backing less from a broad backlash against globalization than from one specific facet of it: immigration, which arouses anxieties that are racial and cultural, not just economic. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:36 PM


God Save the Marks? (WILLIAM KRISTOL, 6/20/16, Weekly Standard)

Republican leaders now know they've been played for marks. They've awakened to the con. They no longer believe Donald Trump's boast that "I can be more presidential than anybody"--which, as Matt Bai puts it, is like marrying a compulsive philanderer and believing him when he says, "I can be a totally faithful husband. You wait." But surely there's no need to wait any longer. After all, Trump himself said last week, "You think I'm going to change? I'm not changing."

So the question is whether Republicans who've been gullible marks will change their ways. Paul Ryan has been a politician of great integrity. Is he going to continue to deceive himself that integrity is consistent with supporting Trump? John McCain has always prided himself on putting country first. Is he going to continue to try to convince himself that the well-being of the country is consistent with his Trump endorsement? Marco Rubio has spoken movingly about the American dream. Is he going to continue to close his eyes to Donald Trump's assault on American principles?

And what about all the other Republican leaders who've been accommodating and justifying and excusing Donald Trump? Republicans have defended the rule of law against President Obama's executive overreach. Is it less endangered by Donald Trump's demagogic assault on Judge Gonzalo Curiel? Conservatives have powerfully made the case against identity politics. What purer instance of identity politics have we seen than Trump's attack on a judge solely because of his parents' country of origin? Dan Coats, the retiring Republican senator from Indiana and a decent and principled man, stood up Wednesday at the Republican senators' private lunch and delivered an eloquent denunciation of Trump for his remarks about Judge Curiel. Why not make the same set of remarks in public?

Posted by orrinj at 8:56 AM


Mitt Romney says Donald Trump will change America with 'trickle-down racism' (Teddy Schleifer, 6/11/16, CNN)

Mitt Romney suggested Friday that Donald Trump's election could legitimize racism and misogyny, ushering in a change in the moral fabric of American society.

The 2012 Republican nominee, who has openly opposed Trump's candidacy, went further than he has before in outlining to CNN's Wolf Blitzer how the country's character would suffer in a Trump White House. Trump's rhetoric has caused even some other Republicans to label him a racist, and Romney said he would not be able to paper over his incendiary remarks.

"I don't want to see trickle-down racism," Romney said in an interview here in a suite overlooking the Wasatch Mountains, where he is hosting his yearly ideas conference. "I don't want to see a president of the United States saying things which change the character of the generations of Americans that are following. Presidents have an impact on the nature of our nation, and trickle-down racism, trickle-down bigotry, trickle-down misogyny, all these things are extraordinarily dangerous to the heart and character of America."

Posted by orrinj at 8:47 AM


Trump dumps presidential style repeatedly calling Elizabeth Warren 'Pocahontas' (Ben Jacobs,  11 June 2016, The Guardian)

After giving two speeches with teleprompters this week, Trump returned to his unscripted style in a rally in Richmond, Virginia on Friday. In a barely one-third-full arena, he repeatedly called Elizabeth Warren "Pocahontas", attacked former rival Jeb Bush and complained "New York City is going with the Norwegian form of education". [...]

Trump, who has vocally tried to appeal to Bernie Sanders supporters, probably set his efforts back by referring to the Vermont senator yet again as "Crazy Bernie". He also yet again expressed his confidence that he can win California in a general election, relating a conversation with an unnamed friend who told him "every liberal in Los Angeles will vote for you".

The presumptive Republican nominee also returned to familiar themes with his pledge to build a wall on the Mexican border, a topic which went unmentioned in his Tuesday night victory speech after winning the last five Republican presidential primaries. Trump said of his signature initiative "it's going to be a very beautiful wall, as beautiful as a wall can be".

PISA rankings within OECD

Posted by orrinj at 7:29 AM


REVIEW: Edmund Burke: A Genius Reconsidered by Russell Kirk (George Panichas, 6/11/16, Imaginative Conservative)

Early on in his book, then, Kirk etches out the Burke we need to know, the "Burke [who] has obtained his immortality not for what he did, but for what he perceived," or as Kirk writes with eloquent perspicacity:

Foreseeing a sack of the world by the forces of Chaos and old night, Burke en­deavored to save the best of the tradi­tional order within the barricades of in­stitution and philosophy. He was the first conservative of our time of troubles. He labored to safeguard the permanent things, which have converted the brute into the civil social man. In modern poli­tics, the task of saving begins with Burke.... In the citadel of tradition and prescrip­tion, Burke keeps vigil.

Kirk centers his major attention on "the four great struggles" of Burke as an eighteenth-century man of affairs and political visionary: his unsuccessful effort to achieve conciliation with the American colonies; his role in the Rockingham Whigs' contest against the domestic power of King George III; his sixteen-year prosecution of Warren Hastings, the Governor-General of India; and his unyielding resistance to Jacobinism, the "armed doctrine" of the French Revolution. The chapters Kirk devotes to these struggles are eminently clear and thorough in detail, and contain excellently selected passages from Burke's writings and also from some of his most discerning expositors. Kirk's discussions are judicious and always instructive. The picture we get of Burke is never one-sided or eclectic or twisted, but multifaceted and comprehensive. The need to maintain a balance between liberty and order, for Burke, is always in evidence, as it should be, in Kirk's ac­count. Avoiding extremes that end in antinomian tendencies and actions was for Burke of uppermost importance, or as he declared in his Letter to the Sheriffs of the City of Bristol (April 3, 1777), his words having special import in our time: "The extreme of liberty (which is its abstract perfection, but its real fault) obtains nowhere, nor ought to obtain anywhere; because extremes, as we all know, in every point which relates ei­ther to our duties or satisfactions in life, are destructive both to virtue and enjoy­ment."

In particular Kirk's long and thought­ful chapter on "India and Justice" holds important lessons for modern-day read­ers insofar as Burke, in his particular indictment of British rule, was to ex­press principles of justice that are uni­versal in their application. Prescription, tradition, moral habit, and custom must point the way if inner and outer corrup­tion is to be curbed and if anarchy is to be averted. Hastings and other English­ men, Burke charged, were exploiting the Indian peoples to the ruin of India and the violation of principles of morality, which go beyond geographical frontiers. Burke himself considered his prosecution of Warren Hastings to be the best work of his life. "Let not this cruel, dar­ing, unexampled act of publick corrup­tion, guilt and meanness," Burke wrote a year before his death, "go down to a posterity...without its due animadver­sion.... Let my endeavors to save the Nation from that shame and guilt, be my monument; The only one I ever will have." Kirk's well-wrought discussion certainly honors Burke's "endeavor" and deepens and illuminates its larger significance.

Indeed, as Kirk stresses, Burke's en­tire life was one long endeavor to avert or to contain the ravages of revolution in the American colonies, in the civil order of Britain, in India, Ireland, France, and the whole of Europe. To save humane civilization from anarchy was Burke's dominant motive in his actions and writings. Revolutions, he knew, and as Kirk calls to our attention, have a way of devouring their children. For Burke, in fact, the anti-Catholic Gordon Riots of 1780, as he himself observed mob vio­lence in London, alerted him to what can take place in a society in which fanatic ideologues seek to fulfill their agenda. "Amid the smoke of half-ruined London, he knew," as Kirk states, "that the anony­mous and faceless tyranny of the revolu­tionary mob was a worse thing than even the most unfeeling despotism.... He set his face against the revolutionaries like a man who finds himself suddenly beset by robbers." Reflections on the Revolu­tion in France (1790), Kirk reminds his reader, is the work of a prophet who discerned the shaking of the founda­tions of European civilization with all the seismic aftershocks.

Posted by orrinj at 6:58 AM


Labour's next great battle : The Labour leader and his Shadow Chancellor like to present a united front. But John McDonnell is manoeuvring for the top job (Alex Wickham, 11 June 2016, Spectator)

If the rise of Corbyn was hard for outsiders to understand, it would be even more mystifying if a man with McDonnell's baggage were to lead the Labour party. A lecturer at Brunel University recalls that as a student he was a Trotskyite. 'Anyone thinking today that he was a hard, humourless and determined left-winger would recognise the John who was our student at Brunel,' he says. A long-term friend says in his defence: 'John may have been [a Trot], but it was 40 years ago when he was a teenager.'

McDonnell infamously praised the 'bombs and bullets' of the IRA, though his links to Irish republicanism › go deeper than words. A party grandee shares a curious tale from the 1980s. The story goes that McDonnell used to frequent a working men's club in Camden which was known as a hub of IRA activity at the time. He was said to be so pally with the republicans who drank there that it allegedly led to him being given the nickname 'The Quartermaster'. The joke among local Labour figures was that he was so involved he must have had his own quasi-military rank. His spokesman does not deny he was a regular visitor, but says: 'It may have been a nickname for him as he was resourceful and in charge of budgets at the GLA.'

McDonnell's opposition to the peace process was troubling even for Sinn Fein. Sources in both Ireland and the Labour party recall senior Shinners pleading with Tony Blair's government to keep McDonnell quiet because his rhetoric was discouraging hardliners from accepting a deal. 'An assembly is not what people have laid down their lives for over 30 years,' McDonnell told An Phoblacht, Sinn Fein's newspaper, in 1998. DUP Westminster leader Nigel Dodds warns: 'If we think Corbyn is bad, McDonnell is a much more sinister character with a much deeper attachment to violent Irish republicanism. For those who stood by democracy during the Eighties and Nineties and tried to work for a peace process, there would be extreme anger at the idea of this man becoming leader of the Labour party.'

A Labour MP who represents a seat bombed by the IRA despairs: 'What am I supposed to say when people who had family members killed by the IRA come up to me and say, "Your shadow chancellor said the bombs and bullets of the IRA were a good thing"? How can I tell them to vote for the Labour party?'

Just as opposition to the Third Way politics of W and Jeb has forced the GOP into its nativist thickets, so too has opposition to the Third Way of Tony Blair forced Labour back to its Marxist roots. Politics throughout the Anglosphere is always the same : the most Third Way party wins while the other party savages itself.

Posted by orrinj at 6:49 AM



There is a body of research suggesting that public opinion moves in a direction consistent with public policy--especially on morality policy issues. Policy changes grant certain issues greater legitimacy with the general public. For instance, many public opinion surveys showed that support for legal abortion increased sharply between 1972 and 1974, as a result of the Roe v. Wade decision.

But a Gallup poll released last month suggests that this is not happening today with same-sex relations and doctor-assisted suicide (scroll down for the relevant data). Along with some life issues (abortion and embryonic stem-cell research), these issues have declined slightly in acceptability (by two to four percentage points) in the past year. With the exception of same-sex relations, all of these issues have been fairly stable since 2001, when Gallup first began asking Americans annually about the moral acceptability of a range of social policy issues.

Posted by orrinj at 6:35 AM


Coalition air strikes, Turkish artillery kill 31 Islamic State members in Syria: media (Reuters, 6/10/16)

U.S.-led coalition jets and Turkish artillery killed 31 Islamic State militants in Syria, the local Dogan News Agency reported on Saturday, without saying when the attacks occurred.

The Turkish army fired howitzers at 33 targets in northern Syria to take out Islamic State weapon systems as the militants prepared to shell sites across the Turkish border, Dogan said.

All against the Salafi.

Posted by orrinj at 6:21 AM

THINK OF THE CHILDREN (self-reference alert):

Ryan grilled at Romney summit, where a CEO compares Trump to Hitler (Philip Rucker and Dan Balz June 10, 2016, Washington Post)

Campbell Brown, a former CNN anchor and founder of the education news site the74.org, moderated the session with Ryan and grilled him about his decision. She told him that her young son, who knows and admires Ryan, came into the bedroom the morning after he had announced his support for Trump dismayed by the news.

How would you explain this to a child? Brown asked Ryan. The speaker appeared uncomfortable. [...]

One of the toughest questions for Ryan came from Meg Whitman, the chief executive of Hewlett-Packard and a longtime friend of Romney's who helped bankroll a Republican anti-Trump super PAC this spring. Whitman asked Ryan how he could endorse someone with, in her judgment, such poor character and whose campaign has been based on personal attacks and division. According to two people present, Whitman said Trump is the latest in a long line of historic demagogues, explicitly comparing him to Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini.

This is the first election our kids have really followed--the older two are 17 and 19--and they're distraught that they have to root for Hillary.

4-in-10 GOP insiders want to derail Trump at the convention (STEVEN SHEPARD 06/10/16, Politico)

[W]ith just six weeks to go until the GOP convention, more than a third want to see the party throw out those rules, unbind the delegates and allow them to choose a different candidate. For many of them, it isn't as much about winning this year's election: Trump as the nominee, they believe, represents an existential threat to the party.

"Trump's continued descent into madness is dragging the GOP down with him," said a Florida Republican, who like all respondents, completed the survey anonymously. "A convention switchup would be great politics and save the GOP."

"If the GOP wants to survive, it must find some way to open the rules for abstention, or some other unbinding process so that delegates can save the party from the historic defeat it faces under the banner of Donald Trump," an Iowa Republican added. "One average teleprompter speech, given this past Tuesday, isn't going to suddenly change Donald Trump into an aspirational, magnanimous leader. He is what he is: a bully through and through, one that takes the low road at every opportunity. Someone who doesn't understand or care about policy. And lest we forget, a racist."

Posted by orrinj at 6:14 AM


First look: Rail cars for new Florida passenger train (Trevor Hughes, 6/10/16, USA TODAY)

Taking shape inside a factory here are the the privately run trains that will soon carry millions of Floridans and visitors to the Sunshine State as they zip between Miami and Orlando.

The Brightline service, scheduled to begin initial service between Miami and West Palm Beach in a year, is the first privately run and operated passenger rail system launched in the United States in 100 years. Operating with no public dollars, Brightline will compete with both private cars and airlines as it races at up to 125 mph along the 235-mile route.

Brightline will expand to the Orlando airport in 2018, depending on how quickly the company can built a new station there. The ride from Miami to Orlando will take about three hours, and Brightline will offer an integrated car service to pick up and drop off passengers so they don't have to drive to or from the stations, smoothing visits to Orlando-based Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando.

Brightline officials say they're targeting a wide variety of travelers, including Millennials who are increasingly likely to avoid driving and who grew reading about Harry Potter's Hogwarts Express and Thomas the Tank Engine.

June 10, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 8:12 PM


Japan Moves to Lure More Foreign Workers (PETER LANDERS and  YUKA KOSHINO,  June 8, 2016, WSJ)

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government is easing the path for foreign workers, with new policies that include a pledge to deliver the world's fastest permanent-residency cards for skilled migrants.

Posted by orrinj at 8:07 PM


Libyan forces claim port in Islamic State stronghold of Sirte (Reuters, 6/10/16)

Forces aligned with Libya's unity government said on Friday they had taken control of the port of Sirte, making further gains in Islamic State's North African stronghold.

Brigades largely composed of fighters from Misrata advanced this week to the perimeter of Sirte's city center, after launching a counter attack against Islamic State last month and driving the militant group back along the coastal road between the two cities.

The brigades are part of an operation backed by Libya's U.N.-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), which arrived in Tripoli in March and has been gradually working to establish its authority.

Posted by orrinj at 8:00 PM


Republican leaders who support Trump are modern-day Neville Chamberlains : With the rise of Trump, the party obsessed with the lessons of appeasement is now replicating his same exact mistakes. (James Kirchick June 9, 20/16, Washington Post)

To be sure, Trump is not Adolf Hitler. But he is the most unabashedly authoritarian presidential nominee in American history, and the most openly racist major-party candidate since Alabama Democratic Gov. George Wallace ran on a segregationist platform in 1964. Indeed, one has to reach back nearly two centuries to the presidency of Andrew Jackson to find a historical analogue to Trump. Jackson was a populist, a conspiracy theorist and an ethnic cleanser the way that Trump -- who pledges to deport 11 million Mexicans and vows to ban Muslims from entering the United States -- aspires to be.

Trump's unique unfitness for the presidency was apparent early in the primary process and has nothing to do with mundane policy matters (though his lack of knowledge about even the most basic government functions should itself be grounds for disqualification). His cruel mockery of a physically disabled New York Times reporter at a campaign rally last fall was absolutely chilling. Trump's refusal to disavow the endorsement of the Ku Klux Klan should have immediately invalidated him in the minds of decent people, regardless of their politics. No other candidate has earned such open and unabashed support from the rancid throng of American neo-Nazis.

Don't take it from me that Trump represents an unparalleled threat not just to American democracy but world peace. Listen to erstwhile Trump opponent and now supporter Marco Rubio. During the heated primary campaign, Rubio famously said that we could not turn over "the nuclear codes of the United States to an erratic individual." Rubio, who has since endorsed Trump, is no less correct in his assessment today than he was when he originally made it four months ago, meaning that his partisanship is greater than his patriotism. For what disagreement with Hillary Clinton could Rubio possibly have that would rise above the existential? Is the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee's plan for universal pre-kindergarten education so offensive to limited-government sensibilities that it's worth risking nuclear war to see it stopped?

Trump's hesitant defenders insist that America's system of checks and balances will restrain his authoritarian impulses. "I still believe we have the institutions of government that would restrain someone who seeks to exceed their constitutional obligations," McCain said in his tepid endorsement of Trump. "We have a Congress. We have the Supreme Court. We're not Romania." Never mind the pathetic spectacle of McCain -- who refused to exploit the Jeremiah Wright controversy in his campaign against Obama in 2008 -- succumbing to Trump, a man who mocked his five years in Vietnamese communist captivity while referring to his own draft-dodging sexual escapades of the time as his "personal Vietnam." When your argument in favor of a candidate is that Congress and the Supreme Court will prevent him from behaving as a tin-pot dictator, then perhaps you should reassess your position. For can anyone sincerely deny that, were it not for those checks and balances, Trump would rule in the mold of a Hugo Chávez?

When I covered the former Soviet Union for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, I never imagined that the political lexicon of places like Belarus and Kyrgyzstan would be applicable to my own country. Yet now I find terms like "strongman," "ethnic violence" and "political instability" slipping into my copy.

Today's Vichy Republicans also fail to comprehend, or choose to ignore, how Trump's victory will legitimize bigotry in the American political process. Five decades after passage of the Civil Rights Act, Trump's presence in the race has already normalized, in the form of his proposed Muslim ban, an explicitly unconstitutional religious test for entry into the country and, in his racist attack on Judge Gonzalo Curiel, ethnic tests for federal appointments. With its impending nomination of Trump, the GOP will transform from the party of racial equality, women's suffrage and global American leadership into a rump, ethno-nationalist faction promoting religious and ethnic loyalty tests, misogyny and the unraveling of the American-led liberal world order.

Since conservatives are usually so quick to make Hitler analogies, they should be more forbearing when the parallel does not put them in a positive light.

To be fair to Chamberlain and the Germans, Hitler wasn't Hitler until he got the opportunity.

Posted by orrinj at 7:55 PM


Movie written by algorithm turns out to be hilarious and intense : For Sunspring's exclusive debut on Ars, we talked to the filmmakers about collaborating with an AI. (Annalee Newitz - Jun 9, 2016, Ars Technica)

Ars is excited to be hosting this online debut of Sunspring, a short science fiction film that's not entirely what it seems. It's about three people living in a weird future, possibly on a space station, probably in a love triangle. You know it's the future because H (played with neurotic gravity by Silicon Valley's Thomas Middleditch) is wearing a shiny gold jacket, H2 (Elisabeth Gray) is playing with computers, and C (Humphrey Ker) announces that he has to "go to the skull" before sticking his face into a bunch of green lights. It sounds like your typical sci-fi B-movie, complete with an incoherent plot. Except Sunspring isn't the product of Hollywood hacks--it was written entirely by an AI. To be specific, it was authored by a recurrent neural network called long short-term memory, or LSTM for short. At least, that's what we'd call it. The AI named itself Benjamin.

Knowing that an AI wrote Sunspring makes the movie more fun to watch, especially once you know how the cast and crew put it together. Director Oscar Sharp made the movie for Sci-Fi London, an annual film festival that includes the 48-Hour Film Challenge, where contestants are given a set of prompts (mostly props and lines) that have to appear in a movie they make over the next two days. Sharp's longtime collaborator, Ross Goodwin, is an AI researcher at New York University, and he supplied the movie's AI writer, initially called Jetson. As the cast gathered around a tiny printer, Benjamin spat out the screenplay, complete with almost impossible stage directions like "He is standing in the stars and sitting on the floor." Then Sharp randomly assigned roles to the actors in the room. "As soon as we had a read-through, everyone around the table was laughing their heads off with delight," Sharp told Ars. The actors interpreted the lines as they read, adding tone and body language, and the results are what you see in the movie. Somehow, a slightly garbled series of sentences became a tale of romance and murder, set in a dark future world. It even has its own musical interlude (performed by Andrew and Tiger), with a pop song Benjamin composed after learning from a corpus of 30,000 other pop songs.

The jobs of the Brights are even easier to replace with machines because you don't have to teach them any dexterity.

Posted by orrinj at 6:48 PM


Why I'm running for president (Gary Johnson,  June 10, 2016, CNN)

[A]merica may finally be ready for a presidential candidate who believes in the free market, but rejects crony capitalism. They may be ready for a candidate who actually governed a border state...and DOESN'T believe that a Great Wall is a substitute for immigration reform that today's politicians cannot summon the courage to enact.

Of course, I finished my second term as governor of New Mexico more than a decade ago -- back in 2003. And when I left office, I was done.

I had been elected governor when everyone said I didn't have a chance. A businessman who had never sought or held elected office, running as a Republican in an overwhelmingly Democratic state. My prospects for success were dismissed by pretty much everyone.

But I worked hard, and told New Mexicans what I would do if elected: Reduce the size of the government, cut taxes and apply businesslike common sense to the job of governing. My state elected me, I did what I said I would do, and they re-elected me by an even bigger margin. After that second term, I walked away to resume what was -- and is -- a pretty good life.

Posted by orrinj at 6:35 PM


Nightmare in the workers paradise (Tim Tzouliadis, 8/02/08, BBC)

At the height of the Depression, several thousand American emigrants left New York on the decks of passenger liners waving goodbye to the Statue of Liberty, bound for Leningrad.

Over 100,000 Americans had applied for jobs working in brand new factories in Soviet Russia, ironically built for Stalin by famous American industrialists such as Henry Ford.

Those American emigrants who entered the "workers' paradise" were certain that they were leaving the misery of unemployment and poverty behind them. They considered themselves fortunate.

Their optimism would prove to be short-lived. Most were stripped of their American passports soon after their arrival.

Considered suspect by Stalin's paranoid totalitarian state, the foreigners were swept away in the Terror.

The American jazz clubs, the baseball teams, and the English-language schools set up in cities across the USSR, would quickly vanish with them.

Posted by orrinj at 6:22 PM


The world wants to pay America to use the dollar. We should let them. (Ryan Cooper, June 10, 2016, The Week)

[T]he U.S. is not an ordinary country, as economist J.W. Mason explains in a brilliant paper for the Roosevelt Institute. Our trade deficit is in large part a result of the fact that the dollar is used as the world's reserve currency -- and that gives the U.S. a much larger capacity to carry a trade deficit. Essentially, the world wants to pay us to use dollars. We should let them.

I have written before about John Maynard Keynes' idea to construct an institution to manage international currency and trade. He would have created an entirely new currency, the "bancor," which would be used only to settle international accounts and keep any deficits or surpluses from becoming too large.

This idea was not adopted, so the dollar has become the de facto international reserve currency in bancor's stead. It's not as good as bancor would have been, but it's far superior to the gold standard. The dollar is stable, backed by the world's biggest economy and most powerful military, and above all can be created in arbitrary quantities (as opposed to being dug up out of the ground). There is also no sign that the euro is replacing the dollar in this capacity -- unsurprising, given the eurozone's endless economic chaos and idiotic design.

But dollars being the international medium of exchange -- as Mason points out, 87 percent of foreign currency exchanges involve the dollar and some other currency, and dollars are 64 percent of foreign exchange reserves -- means a huge demand for dollar-denominated assets. This has actually increased in recent decades, as financial deregulation led to large cross-border capital flows and thence to repeated balance of payments crises, prompting developing countries to build up huge reserve hoards to protect against predatory speculation.

All that demand for dollars means consistent upward pressure on the dollar's exchange rate -- which makes American exports uncompetitive and imports cheaper. That, in turn, weakens the American economy as dollars are spent on goods and services from other countries -- by quite a lot. The trade deficit was $37 billion in April, or 2.7 percent of GDP. That represents hundreds of thousands of potential jobs.

However, any attempt to reduce the trade deficit is going to be met with countervailing policy by other nations that need dollar assets. They will implement austerity and tight money to slow their economy and reduce imports and restore the previous balance of trade. In short, if America tries to cut its trade deficit, the likely result is just a slowing of the world economy as a whole, and little if any improvement in the U.S. trade position.

So what should America do? Instead of trying to export our way to prosperity, we should embrace the responsibilities and opportunities of controlling the global reserve currency. Foreigners need dollar assets: Let's give them some.

The Peace Dividend and shrinking US debt are the main threat to the world economy.

Posted by orrinj at 6:17 PM


Trump Isn't Winning Enough White Voters (Harry Enten, 6/10/16, 538)

[T]he evidence so far suggests Trump isn't taking advantage of that possibility. Four years ago, using a similar method to Cohn's, I argued that Mitt Romney could win with a lower percentage of whites in 2012 than many thought. Of course, Romney didn't pull it off; just because something is possible doesn't mean it will happen. And polls show Trump isn't in a stronger position than Romney to pull in enough white voters to win.1

Trump has trailed Hillary Clinton in every national poll for roughly the last three weeks. He's led in only three of 34 polls since knocking Ted Cruz and John Kasich from the race in early May. In fact, the only two pollsters who had Trump ahead and have released a more recent poll (Fox News and Rasmussen Reports) now show him trailing by 3 and 4 percentage points, respectively.

One big reason Trump is trailing -- by an average of 4 to 6 percentage points, depending on which aggregator you use -- is because, despite all the bluster, he isn't doing any better than Romney did among white voters. According to Cohn's estimate, based on pre-election surveys, Romney beat President Obama by 17 percentage points among white voters. To win, Trump would need to improve on Romney's margin by a minimum of 5 percentage points if the electorate looked exactly the same as it did in 2012 and every other racial group voted in the same manner as it did in 2012. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:00 PM


Emails in Clinton Probe Dealt With Planned Drone Strikes (ADAM ENTOUS and  DEVLIN BARRETT,  June 9, 2016, WSJ)

State Department officials told FBI investigators they communicated via the less-secure system on a few instances, according to congressional and law-enforcement officials. It happened when decisions about imminent strikes had to be relayed fast and the U.S. diplomats in Pakistan or Washington didn't have ready access to a more-secure system, either because it was night or they were traveling.

Emails sent over the low side sometimes were informal discussions that occurred in addition to more-formal notifications through secure communications, the officials said.

One such exchange came just before Christmas in 2011, when the U.S. ambassador sent a short, cryptic note to his boss indicating a drone strike was planned. That sparked a back-and-forth among Mrs. Clinton's senior advisers over the next few days, in which it was clear they were having the discussions in part because people were away from their offices for the holiday and didn't have access to a classified computer, officials said.

The CIA drone campaign, though widely reported in Pakistan, is treated as secret by the U.S. government. Under strict U.S. classification rules, U.S. officials have been barred from discussing strikes publicly and even privately outside of secure communications systems.

The State Department said in January that 22 emails on Mrs. Clinton's personal server at her home have been judged to contain top-secret information and aren't being publicly released. Many of them dealt with whether diplomats concurred or not with the CIA drone strikes, congressional and law-enforcement officials said.

Several law-enforcement officials said they don't expect any criminal charges to be filed as a result of the investigation, although a final review of the evidence will be made only after an expected FBI interview with Mrs. Clinton this summer.

One reason is that government workers at several agencies, including the departments of Defense, Justice and State, have occasionally resorted to the low-side system to give each other notice about sensitive but fast-moving events, according to one law-enforcement official.

Given what we know about the hacking of State Department servers, hers were probably the most secure emails in the chain.

Posted by orrinj at 12:14 PM


Can Gary Johnson possibly find mainstream appeal? (Shikha Dalmia, June 10, 2016, The Week)

[T]he 2016 election -- which pits a stupid candidate from the Evil Party against an evil candidate from the Stupid Party -- presents a potential third-party challenger with a real opportunity. But to capitalize on it, Johnson will have to present himself as a credible alternative to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump whom voters can take seriously. He needs to do more.

The Week's Michael Brendan Dougherty lamented that the Libertarian Party's 2016 nominees are "super qualified but entirely unappealing." Likewise, Washington Examiner's Tim Carney commented that conservatives looking for a plausible third-party alternative shouldn't turn to the libertarian ticket because it has decided to run "against conservatives more than for liberty." Indeed, noted Carney, Johnson and Weld seem to be signaling, "We don't need those backward Christian Right bozos as much as we need you MSNBCers." The Federalist's David Harsanyi echoed similar sentiments.

Apart from the fact that Johnson and Weld are both pro-choice -- Johnson moderately and Weld strongly -- what triggered this widespread angst on the right was Johnson's comment that he would be fine with legally requiring Catholic bakers to service gay weddings. Freedom of conscience is a bedrock Libertarian tenet and a key reason why many serious religious believers gravitate toward Libertarianism -- notwithstanding the common perception of it as a secular philosophy that believes in laissez faire economics and morality. Hence, Johnson's concession on religious liberty is without a doubt troubling for many Libertarians as well as conservatives.

Purity is not possible in politics. But Johnson has to be principled if he wants to hang onto his natural constituency while expanding his appeal to other voters. His gay wedding cake capitulation will alienate religious Libertarians without gaining any MSNBCers, the vast majority of whom are already in the tank for Hillary.

No doubt, what's really driving Johnson is a desire to avoid tripping up like Sen. Rand Paul, who drew withering criticism several years ago when he expressed qualms to Rachel Maddow about the 1964 Civil Rights Act's ban on private racial discrimination. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:09 PM


What Is America's Legacy? : How Hamilton reimagines the Founding. (ALISSA WILKINSON, JUNE 2016, Books & Culture)

Last night I watched Broadway stars perform a ditty about Colonial-era rules for dueling in a mixture of Filipino Tagalog and English. I witnessed the seductive crooning of a tune of temptation in the style of Billie Holiday. I watched, rapt, a performance of "Laurie's Song," from Aaron Copland's opera The Tender Land, belted out in a tiny dressing room. I watched a freestyle rap performance about tax policy and the presidency take place in the White House's Rose Garden. I heard a song outlining the origin story of an American Founding Father transmuted into a tale of a vengeful, murderous barber, then witnessed the same song rewritten to detail the origin story of Batman.

I am newly aware of Jonathan Edwards' ties to the early days of Princeton University. I now know that one of the men who fought in the Revolution was the gloriously named Hercules Mulligan. I have learned the origins of our American practice of openly campaigning for political office. This week I subjected my students to three hours' worth of discussion of Fredric Jameson, Henry Jenkins, and a Broadway musical. For four months, I have listened to the same album on repeat during my daily commute. This winter, I ponied up half a month's rent for a pair of Tuesday night tickets, seats nestled into the corner of the very last balcony row. Every morning, before I rise, I enter the online lottery and hope to snag another pair.

By now you may have guessed: I am part of a group of people known collectively as Hamilfans or, more often, #Hamilfans, those who willingly watch and listen to most anything related to Lin-Manuel Miranda's Broadway hit Hamilton: An American Musical. I am not given to joining fandoms, but of this one I am not ashamed, because in Hamilton there exists enough richness to fuel a college course or a historical treatise. Hamilton is a show about America's founding, of course--and, as historian Gordon S. Wood explained in the New York Review of Books, a remarkably accurate one: "Of course Miranda had to move some people and things around and exercise some artistic license to fit some events together," Wood writes. "But he doesn't seem to make any unintentional mistakes." And yet, as a friend put it to me, Hamilton somehow also manages to be a musical about everything: contemporary convergence culture, race, slavery, suffrage, media old and new, myth, transgression, grace, forgiveness, grief, idealism, pragmatism, the role of friendship in politics, and much more.

The show also marks a new way of regarding the nation's founding, particularly among young people struggling to make sense of their country's history and present condition. In Christianity Today, Jessica Gibson, writing about the show's vast and active fandom among her peers on the Millennial-favored social networking platform Tumblr, explained that "[e]ssentially, it became a massive communal history class. . . . There is a clear 'before Hamilton' and 'after Hamilton' when it comes to conversations about America. . . . I would never have called it, but there are posts out there now defending George Washington's Christianity as a good and necessary value for our first president to have had. People who have built up an attitude that puts them in opposition to traditional ideas about government are now getting excited about the type of politician they would normally despise."

"Hamilton fans are going back and reconciling themselves to their own history in ways they didn't have the chance to before," Gibson writes. "It's crazy and uncharacteristic, but my peers have found in Hamilton a reason to be patriotic."

Pity the poor professoriat that spent the last few decades trying to convince students and readers we should not be enamored with our Founding.
Posted by orrinj at 10:42 AM


McConnell: Donald Trump 'Doesn't Know a Lot About the Issues' : The Senate GOP leader says he is still "comfortable" with Trump at the top of the ticket but doesn't rule out rescinding his support. (Betsy Fischer, Tammy Haddad,  Steven T. Dennis, June 10, 2016, Bloomberg)

In an extraordinarily frank interview with Bloomberg Politics' Masters in Politics podcast, McConnell, who is on a book tour touting his autobiography The Long Game, also expressed broader concerns about the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

"He needs someone highly experienced and very knowledgeable because it's pretty obvious he doesn't know a lot about the issues," McConnell said.  [...]

But his attacks on ethnic groups and fellow Republicans need to end, the lawmaker said.

"I object to a whole series of things that he's said--vehemently object to them. I think all of that needs to stop. Both the shots at people he defeated in the primary and these attacks on various ethnic groups in the country." [...]

McConnell pointed to his wife, former U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, as the kind of voter Republicans need to appeal to.

"She's a first-generation immigrant who came here at age 8 not speaking a word of English--a woman on top of it--an accomplished woman on top of it," he said. "Those are the kind of women voters that Republicans need to appeal to. Minorities, women."

June 9, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 10:09 PM


What's Trump hiding by refusing to release his tax returns? Here are some ideas. (Editorial Board, June 9, 2016, Washington Post)

The Post reported in April that Mr. Trump claimed to have given $102 million to charity over the past five years, but that none of the donations his campaign listed appeared to have come from the candidate's personal funds. Instead, he had his golf courses give away rounds for charitable raffles and other such things, and he had others fund his charitable foundation. Many of the recipients, meanwhile, appeared to be connected to his business and political interests.

Last month we learned that Mr. Trump did not give the $1 million donation he promised veterans during a highly publicized February campaign event until Post reporter David A. Fahrenthold started asking questions months later. Now the Huffington Post is raising questions about whether he donated proceeds from the sale of his book "Crippled America: How to Make America Great Again," as he promised to do. Neither the Huffington Post nor we could get an answer from the campaign.

It is possible that Mr. Trump has donated more than the public record suggests. A major reason the public does not know is that a key piece of evidence is missing: Mr. Trump's tax returns. Unlike every other major presidential candidate in modern times, he has declined to release them. Theories abound as to why. One is that they would show that he does not make as much money as he boasts. Another is that he might pay little or nothing in taxes. Yet another is that Mr. Trump simply is not generous, despite his assurances otherwise.

Posted by orrinj at 7:34 PM


Russell Moore to Justice Conference: Don't be Silent on Unborn, Sexuality, and Hell (Chelsen Vicari, 6/08/16, Juicy Ecumenism)

Too often, Moore said, Christians are tempted to solely focus on the social issues that their peers or "tribe" approve. "When I'm speaking to people in my tribe of conservative confessional evangelicalism," explained Moore, "I often have to say you are pro-life, and rightly so, but because you recognize the image of God and the humanity of God in the unborn child and in his or her mother, you must also recognize the humanity and dignity of God in people who might not be politically popular with you right now: with prisoners, with refugees, with immigrants. And that works the other way too."

The bulk of Moore's discussion urged his audience to recognize the dehumanizing of the unborn as equally unjust as the dehumanizing of other vulnerable groups more popular among younger Christians. "There are other justice-oriented Evangelicals who sometimes are very willing to speak out, rightly so on these issues of trafficking and racial injustice, but who are afraid to speak up on the issue of abortion..."

"If we are unwilling to speak to what is happening not only in our country but around the world with the dehumanizing of children because they are hidden with the wounding that takes place with women and men and societies by an industry that promises people an easy fix," said Moore. "Then we will empower injustice and we will also signal to the rest of the world if you can just get the oppressed small enough and hidden enough and politically powerless enough, we will have nothing to say.

Moore's comments were indeed a change in tone for the Justice Conference. Last year, evil was discussed largely in terms of white supremacy. But Moore pointed out that evil also looks like America's abortion giant, Planned Parenthood. He encouraged his young listeners "to be the people to stand up to Planned Parenthood and say there are no unloved women and there are no unwanted children" and to recognize women in crisis are being sold "a violent so-called solution to their problem and they're being told that all of this will happen in anonymity and with no consequences as an industry works to create both a supply and demand for this violent act."

Apart from the sanctity of life, Moore briefly touched on Christian sexual ethics. He noted some Evangelicals are "afraid to speak up on a biblical view of issues of human sexuality because they're afraid that somehow that means they will be associated with people in polyester somewhere that they don't want to be like. How cowardly."

After this particular comment came an audible "wow" from somewhere on the other side of the sanctuary.  Among the chatty youth group I had been sitting among all morning, there was a moment of shocked silence. Then came snarky murmurs soon afterwards.

Undeterred by my youth group friends' murmurs, Moore continued, "If we are silent about what the Scriptures and 2,000 years of Church history has taught us about human sexuality and what it means to be right with God and what it means for children to grow up with both a mother and a father, if we are silent at any of those points then we're really not the justice people, we're really not Gospel people. We're just people who are protecting our platforms and we're just choosing on which one to stand."

Posted by orrinj at 7:20 PM


Hillary Clinton Has Been the Subject of More Negative Media Coverage Than Any of the Other Candidates : And the least positive coverage too. (Lisa Wade, 6/9/16, Pacific Standard)

Vox recently released the following figure illustrating the results of an analysis by social media analytics company Crimson Hexagon. Excluding neutral stories, it shows the percentage of positive and negative media coverage for the final five candidates in the presidential primary. Hillary Clinton has received the most negative coverage and the least positive coverage.

Maybe Donald Trump Isn't A Master Of Media (Warren Henry, JUNE 8, 2016, The Federalist)

To be sure, Trump's celebrity status was a major factor in securing the GOP's presidential nomination. Along the way, his notoriety attracted an estimated $2.4 billion in free television coverage, 91 percent of which was positive, according to media analytics firm mediaQuant. Notably, while Trump's television coverage was most positive throughout the primary season, it was not much more so than the ratings given to other candidates. Crimson Hexagon, a social media software analytics company, similarly concluded in a study that Trump received a mix of positive and negative print coverage similar to that of other major candidates--about the same as Democrat Bernie Sanders.

Trump occasionally received special treatment, such as being allowed to conduct television interviews by phone. In this way, Trump exploited television's hunger for ratings, as the threat (stated or unstated) of losing access to Trump interviews represented a prisoner's dilemma or collective action problem not unlike that Trump's GOP rivals faced. This advantage, however, was marginal compared to the sheer volume of coverage he received, which largely drowned out Trump's rivals.

The Donald's near-universal name identification, combined with saturation television coverage, arguably made him the establishment candidate to casual, "somewhat" conservative voters. The Republican Party had a deep bench in 2016, but the only candidate who could have possibly competed with Trump for the establishment position in terms of name identification and branding was Jeb Bush. Yet not even the Bush dynasty could raise $2.4 billion. Moreover, Bushworld never realized Jeb's brand was not marketable in 2016 due to lingering buyer's remorse over his brother's presidency. Trump realized it and ruthlessly exploited it--but that was not a media skill.

As a result, television outlets got their ratings and Trump (barring a catastrophe) got the Republican nomination. Looking at the world through a Trumpian lens, who got the better end of that deal? The media was able to charge what Rush Limbaugh might call confiscatory ad rates for events like the GOP debates, and the television channels got their infotainment. Trump is nothing if not entertaining. But that $2.4 billion in free media, while making Trump more popular with Republicans, made him less popular with everyone else.

As this starts to balance out the numbers will get really ugly. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:05 PM


Poll: Phillie Phanatic More Qualified to Be President Than Donald Trump (DAN MCQUADE, JUNE 8, 2016, Philly Mag)

Public Policy Polling, a liberal-leaning polling firm that was judged the most accurate in 2012, recently polled Pennsylvania voters. And PPP found that citizens of the Keystone State find the Phillie Phanatic to be more qualified to be president than Donald Trump.

It wasn't all that close, either: Forty-six percent of Pennsylvania voters surveyed said the Phillie Phanatic was more qualified to be president than Trump, with 40 percent saying they felt Trump was more qualified than the giant, green fuzzy mascot who doesn't talk. Fourteen percent said they weren't sure. Weren't sure.

Mr. Met would pummel both.

Posted by orrinj at 7:00 PM


Nanobots are waiting in the wings to cure cancer and clean up ocean pollution (JURICA DUJMOVIC, 6/09/16, MaRKET wATCH)

Nanobots fight cancer

A team of scientists from Israel's Bar-Ilan University started human trials including drug-delivering nanobots in early 2016. The bots are made of the specially folded DNA that serves as a vessel for cancer-treating drugs. Unlike chemotherapy and radiation therapy, which cause damage to healthy and cancerous cells alike, DNA nanobots attack selectively and precisely.

Only when they encounter a cancerous cell (and they can recognize 12 types) do they open up and release their payload, maximizing efficiency, while greatly reducing the damaging effect of the drug on the surrounding tissue.

To repair the cancer-induced tissue damage, nanobots can connect, forming physical bridges from one end of the damaged tissue to the other, guiding the regeneration process across enlarged area. This feature could be used expedite the healing of muscle tissue, as well as the possible reparation of the spinal cord.

Red blood cells 2.0

These nanorobots, dubbed "respirocytes" by theorist Robert Freitas, could beat your regular blood cells at their own game. Within their spherical shell, they would hold 236 times more of the pressurized oxygen and carbon dioxide, transferring them from lungs to tissue, and vice versa. If red blood cells would be replaced by respirocytes, you'd become almost superhuman.

How so? On a single breath, you could dive for hours or run at top speed for 15 minutes. A heart-attack victim could survive for hours, enabling him to reach the hospital in time for treatment.

These artificial red blood cells are still very much in the realm of theory. It will take quite some time before we can see the first prototypes.

Microrobots help during eye surgery

Using a complex electromagnetic system called "OctoMag," scientists at ETH Zurich have been able to steer a microrobot with five degrees of freedom. Guided by nonuniform magnetic fields, the microrobot is capable of traversing the intraocular space and performing delicate retinal procedures with minimum damage caused to the surrounding tissue.

Posted by orrinj at 6:57 PM


Not doing it: Fewer high school kids are having sex (MIKE STOBBE, 6/09/16, AP)

The troubles with kids these days ... are not as common as they used to be. U.S. teens are having a lot less sex, they are drinking and using drugs less often, and they aren't smoking as much, according a government survey of risky youth behaviors.

"I think you can call this the cautious generation," said Bill Albert, spokesman for the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

Among a decline in several risky behaviors, a sharp decline in sexual activity stood out to researchers.

Posted by orrinj at 6:51 PM


Donald Trump once backed urgent climate action. Wait, what? (Ben Adler and Rebecca Leber, Jun 8, 2016, Grist)

As negotiators headed to Copenhagen in December 2009 to forge a global climate pact, concerned U.S. business leaders and liberal luminaries took out a full-page ad in the New York Times calling for aggressive climate action. In an open letter to President Obama and the U.S. Congress, they declared: "If we fail to act now, it is scientifically irrefutable that there will be catastrophic and irreversible consequences for humanity and our planet."

One of the signatories of that letter: Donald Trump.

Also signed by Trump's three adult children, the letter called for passage of U.S. climate legislation, investment in the clean energy economy, and leadership to inspire the rest of the world to join the fight against climate change.

"We support your effort to ensure meaningful and effective measures to control climate change, an immediate challenge facing the United States and the world today," the letter tells the president and Congress. "Please allow us, the United States of America, to serve in modeling the change necessary to protect humanity and our planet."

Posted by orrinj at 6:47 PM


Modi And The Budding US-India Alliance (Tunku Varadarajan, 6/08/16,  Wall Street Journal)

President Obama had things other than India on his mind in his first term. But in his second term, Mr. Obama made up for his neglect of the land Bush had won over, courting New Delhi so ardently that U.S.-India relations will also count as that rarity in the Obama presidency, an indisputable foreign-policy achievement.

Posted by orrinj at 1:59 PM


USA TODAY exclusive: Hundreds allege Donald Trump doesn't pay his bills (Steve Reilly, 6/09/16, USA TODAY)

During the Atlantic City c[*****] boom in the 1980s, Philadelphia cabinet-builder Edward Friel Jr. landed a $400,000 contract to build the bases for slot machines, registration desks, bars and other cabinets at Harrah's at Trump Plaza.

The family cabinetry business, founded in the 1940s by Edward's father, finished its work in 1984 and submitted its final bill to the general contractor for the Trump Organization, the resort's builder.

Edward's son, Paul, who was the firm's accountant, still remembers the amount of that bill more than 30 years later: $83,600. The reason: the money never came. "That began the demise of the Edward J. Friel Company... which has been around since my grandfather," he said.

Donald Trump often portrays himself as a savior of the working class who will "protect your job." But a USA TODAY NETWORK analysis found he has been involved in more than 3,500 lawsuits over the past three decades -- and a large number of those involve ordinary Americans, like the Friels, who say Trump or his companies have refused to pay them.

At least 60 lawsuits, along with hundreds of liens, judgments, and other government filings reviewed by the USA TODAY NETWORK, document people who have accused Trump and his businesses of failing to pay them for their work. Among them: a dishwasher in Florida. A glass company in New Jersey. A carpet company. A plumber. Painters. Forty-eight waiters. Dozens of bartenders and other hourly workers at his resorts and clubs, coast to coast. Real estate brokers who sold his properties. And, ironically, several law firms that once represented him in these suits and others.

Trump's companies have also been cited for 24 violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act since 2005 for failing to pay overtime or minimum wage, according to U.S. Department of Labor data. That includes 21 citations against the defunct Trump Plaza in Atlantic City and three against the also out-of-business Trump Mortgage LLC in New York. Both cases were resolved by the companies agreeing to pay back wages.

In addition to the lawsuits, the review found more than 200 mechanic's liens -- filed by contractors and employees against Trump, his companies or his properties claiming they were owed money for their work -- since the 1980s. The liens range from a $75,000 claim by a Plainview, N.Y., air conditioning and heating company to a $1 million claim from the president of a New York City real estate banking firm. On just one project, Trump's Taj Mahal c[****] in Atlantic City, records released by the New Jersey C[*****] Control Commission in 1990 show that at least 253 subcontractors weren't paid in full or on time, including workers who installed walls, chandeliers and plumbing.

The actions in total paint a portrait of Trump's sprawling organization frequently failing to pay small businesses and individuals, then sometimes tying them up in court and other negotiations for years. In some cases, the Trump teams financially overpower and outlast much smaller opponents, draining their resources. Some just give up the fight, or settle for less; some have ended up in bankruptcy or out of business altogether.

Posted by orrinj at 1:52 PM


Just How Bad an Election Night Was It for California Republicans? (ADAM NAGOURNEY and JENNIFER MEDINA, JUNE 8, 2016, NY Times)

ADAM NAGOURNEY: Jenny. So, it might have gotten overlooked in the late-breaking Democratic presidential contest here (why, oh why, does it take California so long to count votes?), but this was not a good night for the California Republican Party. Or I guess I should say, once again, this was not a good night for the California Republican Party.

Coming into this contest, the Republican Party in California -- you know, California, the state of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger -- did not control a single statewide office. In the contest you covered last night, to replace Senator Barbara Boxer (a Democrat), a Republican did not even make it to the runoff. And the winning campaign Donald Trump ran for the Republican presidential nomination, with its emphasis on battling illegal immigration and his challenge to the "Mexican" judge, is pretty much the stuff of nightmares for moderate California Republicans who have been trying to fashion a party that can appeal to the changing demographics of this state. Just how badly did the Republicans do in the Senate race?

JENNIFER MEDINA: I think it's fair to say: Downright terrible.

For the first time in a century, no Republican will be on the ballot for the state's Senate seat. No Republican even approached 10 percent of the total vote, and the top three combined received less than a million votes.

Now Trump is trying to do to the American voter what Pete Wilson did to the California.
Posted by orrinj at 1:47 PM


Bad news for Trump? Up to one-third of Tuesday's GOP votes went to people who had already quit (Scott Martelle, 6/09/16, LA Times)

Donald Trump, who apparently dislikes anything that he can't see in a mirror, won only two-thirds to three-quarters of the vote in four of his five primaries Tuesday. And that's after everybody else quit.

It's not quite like losing an election to a dead candidate (looking at you, John Ashcroft), but it's pretty remarkable nonetheless. In four states with Republican primaries on Tuesday, a quarter to a third of Republican voters favored people who are no longer running over the guy who has already clinched the party nomination. That doesn't bode well for the GOP in the fall.

In California, John Kasich picked up 11% of the vote, and Ted Cruz got 9%, with Trump - running against suspended campaigns of those former rivals - winning 75% of the vote. It was similar in Montana, but Trump fared even worse in New Mexico (71%) and South Dakota (67%).

June 8, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 6:06 PM


'Islamic State' loses ground in Syria and Libya (Deutsche-Welle, 6/08/16)

The US-backed Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance is prepared to enter the northern Syrian town of Manbij, a spokesman said on Wednesday.

The SDF made inroads in the past week by advancing to the outskirts of Manbij, where it aims to dislodge the "Islamic State" (IS) militant group in control of the city.

Iraqi troops have advanced on the IS-held city of Fallujah. Militarily speaking, victory appears to be in sight. But new challenges await.

"Any moment that we want to enter it, we can. But because of the presence of civilians ... we are being cautious about entering the city," Manbij Military Council's Sharfan Darwish told Reuters news agency. [...]

Meanwhile, the Libyan government captured military barracks used by the militant group as they advanced towards their coastal stronghold Sirte.

"Our forces are in full control of Tagreft barracks and military engineers are inspecting the zone to clear anti-personnel mines," the forces of the Government of National Unity (GNA), the UN-backed unity government, said in a statement.

Posted by orrinj at 5:57 PM


America First: Trump doubles down on a term that makes many Jews queasy (Uriel Heilman, June 8, 2016, Jewish Telegraph)

After Trump used the term "America First" in late April to describe his policies, the Anti-Defamation League sent him a letter urging him to drop the historically tainted slogan -- speaking for Jews and others who remember it as the name of the isolationist movement championed by a notorious anti-Semite to keep the United States out of World War II.

But in a speech Tuesday night following his victories in the last six state primaries, the presumptive Republican nominee for president made clear he's not about to take the ADL's advice and abandon the slogan.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 PM


Trump's Mormon problem: 'That's not how we roll in Utah' (Dan Cox, 6/07/16, Yahoo Politics)

Many Mormons see frightening parallels between Trump's attacks on Muslims today and their own fraught history. Joseph Smith, the religious community's founding prophet, was murdered by an anti-Mormon mob, and at one time, "you could kill Mormons just like you could kill deer," Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said in a recent interview with NPR. During the 19th century, some attacks on Mormons were officially sanctioned by the U.S. government. President Rutherford B. Hayes sought to limit the immigration of Mormon converts coming to the U.S. from Europe. Quin Monson, a professor of political science at Brigham Young University and co-author of Seeking the Promised Land: Mormons and American Politics, says "any Mormon that is even somewhat knowledgeable about Mormon history has respect for the ideals of religious freedom and feels empathy for religious minorities that are treated similarly."

That history is an important reason why Mormons are much more sensitive to Trump's attacks on Muslims than another traditionally conservative religious constituency: white evangelical Protestants. A 2013 PRRI survey found that two-thirds (67 percent) of white evangelical Protestants believe that Islam is at odds with American values and way of life, a view shared by only 37 percent of Mormons. The majority (54 percent) of Mormons reject the notion that there is something fundamentally un-American about the Muslim faith.

Posted by orrinj at 3:51 PM


America has 5.8 million job openings, matches all-time high (Patrick Gillespie, 6/08/16, CNNMoney)

America has a record number of job openings.

In April, there were 5.78 million job openings, according to Labor Department data published Wednesday. That matches the all-time high set in July 2015.

The openings are across a range of industries. Manufacturing, trade and transportation each had posted north of 46,000 jobs.

Posted by orrinj at 3:47 PM


Posted by orrinj at 3:40 PM


Donald Trump's bad week just got worse: His first endorsed candidate got destroyed (Amber Phillips June 7, 2016, Washington Post)

On Saturday, Donald Trump tried something different and endorsed his first congressional primary candidate: GOP Rep. Renee Ellmers (N.C.). Ellmers was facing off with conservative and tea party groups who endorsed her opponent, a fellow Republican incumbent, when Trump decided to intervene.

While Trump spent the last few days dealing with a party deeply critical of his "racist" (Paul Ryan's words) comments about a "Mexican" ( Trump's words) judge, Ellmers bragged about Trump's endorsement and hoped it would spur some late enthusiasm for her campaign.

It didn't. On Tuesday evening, Ellmers became the first Republican congressional incumbent to lose a primary in 2016. (The first congressional incumbent to lose was a Pennsylvania Democrat who is under indictment.) And she not only lost; she got blown out by Rep. George Holding. She trails by about 30 points with 95 percent of precincts reporting.

Posted by orrinj at 3:30 PM


Southern Baptist leader: Donald Trump a 'lost' soul who must repent (David Gibson, June 5, 2016, RNS)

"My primary prayer for Donald Trump is that he would first of all repent of sin and come to faith in Jesus Christ," Moore told David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network in a video posted Friday (June 3). "That's my prayer for any lost person."

Moore, who as head of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention is the denomination's chief policy spokesman, has been one of the most stalwart evangelical critics of Trump.

Moore has for months blasted what he sees as Trump's boorish behavior and character flaws, and last month he ramped it up with pointed comments in an op-ed in The New York Times and an appearance on "Face the Nation."

Trump's campaign was "reality television moral sewage," he told "Face the Nation," and in the Times he criticized Trump's followers -- many of whom are Moore's fellow evangelicals -- for using racist "threats and intimidation" tactics. [...]

Speaking to CBN's Brody, Moore said he would also pray that a conversion for Trump -- who says he is a Christian -- would translate into a change in his public policies in terms of "the principles of justice" and the "American constitutional framework."

Moore added that would also mean a change "not only in terms of the way in which he (Trump) is changing the moral character of people, including the people that are supporting him and getting on the bandwagon, having had to excuse things that they've never had to excuse before."

Posted by orrinj at 3:24 PM


Cuban: Trump will 'have to grovel' for cash (NICK GASS 06/08/16, Politico)

The billionaire entrepreneur and Dallas Mavericks owner tweeted that the presumptive Republican nominee will tone down his rhetoric because he "doesn't have the cash to fund his campaign" and "needs to appease donors."
Trump, he said, "will have to grovel for that cash" from donors "and will."

Posted by orrinj at 1:39 PM


ISIS Executes Dozens Of Alleged Spies After Commander's Death In Airstrike, Rights Group Says (SUMAN VARANDANI, 06/07/16, IB Times)

The Islamic State group has killed several of its own fighters accused of spying, media reports said Monday. The extremist group executed 21 fighters after one of the group's commanders was killed in a coalition airstrike.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reportedly said that the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, began hunting for suspects after the death of a militant commander named Abu Hayjaa al-Tunisi, who was reported to have been killed in a strike March 30 in Syria.

"There were executions carried out by ISIS against its own people, accusing people of contacting the international coalition," Rami Abdurrahman, head of the London-based group, reportedly said. "Those executions were carried out in April, and also May, in regard to the assassination of Abu Hayjaa al-Tunisi."

Even they want in on killing Salafi.

Posted by orrinj at 1:23 PM


Latinos see a brighter financial future, despite hurdles (Octavio Blanco, 6/08/16, CNNMoney)

According to the report, 81% of Latinos said they expect their personal finances to improve in the next year. That's up significantly from the 67% that felt that way in 2011 and much more optimistic than the 61% of the general public who said they expect their finances to improve in the upcoming year.

But it's Millennials who are the most optimistic, with 90% of Latinos below the age of 30 reporting that they expect their finances to get better in the next year.

"This is important because Millennial Latinos make up a large part of the Latino adult population, about 40% -- much larger than the 20% proportion that Millennials make up in the overall U.S. population," said Mark Hugo Lopez, director of Hispanic research at the Pew Research Center and one of the authors of the report.

Posted by orrinj at 1:19 PM


Ronald Reagan's Son: My Dad Wouldn't Support Trump (Claire Landsbaum, 6/08/16, New York)'

"No one in our family would vote for Trump tomorrow," he told one user. "He's an embarrassment." To another he said, "My father would be saying, 'I didn't leave the GOP; the GOP left me.'"

Posted by orrinj at 1:02 PM


Modi wants deeper U.S.-India security relationship (PATRICIA ZENGERLE AND MEGAN CASSELLA, 6/08/16, Reuters)

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for a closer security relationship between his country and the United States on Wednesday, in an address to the U.S. Congress stressing the importance of the warm relationship between the two countries.

"The fight against terrorism has to be fought at many levels. And the traditional tools of military, intelligence or diplomacy alone would not be able to win this fight," Modi told a rare joint meeting of the Senate and House of Representatives.

"We have both lost civilians and soldiers in combating it. The need of the hour is for us to deepen our security cooperation," Modi said.

June 7, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:33 PM


In shot at Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton is correct about tariffs' role in Great Depression (Louis Jacobson, June 6th, 2016, Politifact)

During a speech in which she attacked Donald Trump's foreign policy ideas as "dangerously incoherent," Hillary Clinton reached back almost nine decades to make a Great Depression-era analogy.

Clinton said she understood voters' concerns about the negative impacts of free trade agreements -- a big driver of Trump's electoral success so far. Still, pursuing large tariffs against such trading partners as China and Mexico -- as Trump has suggested -- would be dangerously misguided, Clinton argued.

"I understand a lot of Americans have concerns about our trade agreements," Clinton said. "I do, too. But a trade war is something very different. We went down that road in the 1930s. It made the Great Depression longer and more painful." [...]

Douglas Irwin, a Dartmouth College economist and author of Peddling Protectionism: Smoot-Hawley and the Great Depression and Trade Policy Disaster: Lessons from the 1930s, said Clinton was "astute" in distinguishing between putting the brakes on future expansion of free trade, as Trump and Clinton have both at times advocated, and actually reversing established trade agreements by imposing new tariffs, as only Trump has suggested.

"Protectionism did not cause the Great Depression, but I think saying it made it longer and more painful is actually quite well put," Irwin said.

Irwin said there was "no real reason" to impose such tariffs, and that it was mainly done for "domestic political reasons." In fact, President Herbert Hoover is said to have signed the law only reluctantly, over the spirited objections of many economists.

After the tariffs were enacted, other countries, including Canada, retaliated against the United States by establishing a preferential trade bloc with Great Britain and other countries, thus hurting U.S. exports.

"Other countries also used trade restrictions and protectionism as beggar-thy-neighbor policies to help their domestic economies during the worldwide slump," Irwin said. The problem, Irwin said, was that "if every country tries this strategy, everyone worse off since one country's imports are another country's exports. World trade reduced significantly, and since trade barriers are easy to impose and hard to relax, the problem festered for some time."

Posted by orrinj at 7:25 PM


Sen. Mark Kirk retracts his endorsement of Donald Trump (The Week, 6/07/16)

Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk has announced he "cannot and will not" support Donald Trump for president, according to a statement released Tuesday. Kirk, who said last month he would support Donald Trump if he was the Republican nominee, decided to retract his endorsement of the mogul due in part to his comments regarding Mexican-American judge Gonzalo Curiel.

Posted by orrinj at 6:25 PM


Wind sweeping down the plain? Use it. (Monitor's Editorial Board JUNE 7, 2016, CS Monitor)

The state leads the nation in the percentage of its electrical power produced by the wind, some 31 percent. It generates more than 6,000 megawatts from these turbines (enough to supply nearly 1.5 million homes), making it the nation's No. 2 wind-generating state behind Texas.

And more is on the way. A proposed $3.6 billion project by a single private utility aims to build 1,000 more turbines that would help to pump wind energy up to 40 percent of the state's electrical needs. A report from the American Wind Energy Association and the Wind Energy Foundation goes even further, saying that by 2030 wind could produce 100 percent of the state's electricity and still have enough left over to supply surrounding states.

Posted by orrinj at 6:18 PM


After Airbus, Iran edges toward historic Boeing deal (TIM HEPHER, 6/07/16, Reuters)

Iranair is discussing a historic aircraft purchase with Boeing, potentially matching an order for over 100 jets from Airbus, but obstacles to both deals need to be resolved so that last year's accord to lift sanctions can be honored, its chairman said.

The Iranian flag carrier is also talking to Boeing about providing support for its aging fleet following the deal between Tehran and six major powers to ease economic sanctions in return for curbs on Iran's nuclear activities.

Posted by orrinj at 6:13 PM


Ryan Says Trump Comments on Judge Are Racist (ERICA WERNER and MARY CLARE JALONICK, 6/07/16, Associated Press)

House Speaker Paul Ryan said Tuesday that Donald Trump made the "textbook definition of a racist comment" in saying an American-born judge isn't qualified to preside over a case because of his Mexican heritage.

"I regret those comments he made. Claiming a person can't do their job because of their race is sort of like the textbook definition of a racist comment," Ryan said at a news conference. "I think that should be absolutely disavowed. It's absolutely unacceptable."

Posted by orrinj at 4:13 PM


Trump's left-leaning gamble on foreign policy (Marc A. Thiessen, June 7, 2016 | Washington Post)

If you believe in American engagement in the world, Clinton effectively argued, I am your only choice.

Meanwhile, Trump is running to Clinton's left on global affairs in an effort to win over Sen. Bernie Sanders's (I-Vt.) supporters. He believes he can lock in the GOP's growing isolationist/non-interventionist minority, while expanding his support on the left by echoing the policies and even the language of the Democratic socialist on foreign affairs.

Trump responded to Clinton's speech by declaring "I'm the one that didn't want to go into Iraq, folks, and she's the one that stupidly raised her hand to go into Iraq and destabilize the entire Middle East." And he declared last month: "Her decision to go in -- and this was her baby, Libya -- was a disaster." That's indistinguishable from Sanders, who proudly says: "I voted against the war in Iraq . . . Secretary Clinton voted for that war. She was proud to have been involved in regime change in Libya."

Trump is also campaigning on a promise to pull back from the Middle East so that we can spend the money here at home. "We have spent $4 trillion trying to topple various people," Trump says. "If we could have spent that $4 trillion in the United States to fix our roads, our bridges and all of the other problems, our airports and all of the other problems we have, we would have been a lot better off -- I can tell you that right now." This is, almost verbatim, what Sanders says: "We are spending $4 trillion on war in Iraq -- by the way helping to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure -- when what we should be doing is investing that money in our bridges, our roads, our sewer systems, our wastewater plants."

Trump is running to Clinton's left on international trade, never failing to point out that her husband signed the North American Free Trade Agreement. "NAFTA . . . has been a total disaster for the United States and has emptied our states -- literally emptied our states of our manufacturing and our jobs," Trump recently declared, echoing Sanders, who declares that Clinton voted "for virtually every trade agreement that has cost the workers of this country millions of jobs."

Posted by orrinj at 4:09 PM


Kurdish militants exacting highest-ever toll on Turkey (Alexander Christie-Miller,  JUNE 7, 2016, CS Monitor)

A car bomb that struck the heart of Istanbul this morning, killing 11, has underlined how the violence once limited to Turkey's Kurdish-populated southeast is now casting a shadow over the whole country.

Today's bombing of a police bus was the third terrorist attack in Istanbul this year, and hit close to popular tourist spots, such as the Grand Bazaar. While no group has claimed responsibility, the attack bears hallmarks of Kurdish separatists, who have launched a wave of similar strikes in recent months.

Posted by orrinj at 4:06 PM


Scientists Create Algorithm That May Help Capture The First Real Image Of A Black Hole (AVANEESH PANDEY, 06/07/16, IB Times)

A team of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's artificial intelligence laboratory and the Harvard University revealed Monday that they had developed an algorithm that may allow us to actually "see" black holes.

"We would never be able to see into the center of our galaxy in visible wavelengths because there's too much stuff in between," Katie Bouman, an MIT graduate student in electrical engineering and computer science who led the development of the new algorithm, said in a statement. "A black hole is very, very far away and very compact. It's equivalent to taking an image of a grapefruit on the moon, but with a radio telescope. To image something this small means that we would need a telescope with a 10,000-kilometer diameter, which is not practical, because the diameter of the Earth is not even 13,000 kilometers."

The algorithm, which the researchers call Continuous High-resolution Image Reconstruction using Patch priors, or CHIRP, will essentially fill in the gaps in data collected by radio telescopes spread across the surface of the planet -- thereby mimicking one giant telescope -- in order to create an image of the black hole. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:01 PM


Drones emerge from shadows to become key cog in U.S. war machine (JOSH SMITH, 6/07/16, Reuters)

[1]5 years after a drone first fired missiles in combat, the U.S. military's drone program has expanded far beyond specific strikes to become an everyday part of the war machine.

Now, from control booths in the United States and bases around the Middle East, Afghanistan and parts of Africa, drone crews are flying surveillance missions and providing close air support for troops on the ground.

"In the wars we fight, this is the future," said drone pilot Lieutenant Shaw, as he stood in a hangar at the Air Force's drone base in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar.

Crews spoke to Reuters on condition that only their first names and rank be used to identify them.

The increased use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in a wide range of battle applications comes as the United States looks to reduce the number of soldiers fighting abroad.

The cost of crusading just keeps dropping.

June 6, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:40 PM


Islamic State fighters 'dress as women' to flee Fallujah (TIMES OF ISRAEL AND AFP June 7, 2016)

Islamic State fighters are once again reported to be fleeing an area under siege -- by dressing up as women.

The semi-official Iranian Fars News Agency said on Monday that Iraqi security forces had arrested "a large number" of IS fighters as they hid among civilian refugees fleeing from Fallujah, an Islamic State bastion now being contested by Iraqi troops.

Posted by orrinj at 6:59 PM


Bailing On Common Core Tests Is Costing States Millions (Blake Neff, 06/06/2016, dAILY cALLER)

[M]ore than 20 states chose to quit their testing consortia between 2012 and today, and have instead tried to go it alone on tests once again.

But now, the decision to go it alone on standardized tests is looking like it may be a much bigger problem than most states expected. Getting new standardized tests doesn't eliminate problems, it turns out, and in some cases it may just prolong them.

Tennessee was a member of PARCC until the summer of 2014, when the Common Core backlash caused the state legislature to abruptly cancel its contract and pull out. Instead, the state crafted a five-year, $108 million contract with Measurement Inc. to administer the new TNReady exam.

But Measurement's attempts ended in catastrophe. It experienced a nearly system-wide outage of its online testing platform earlier this year, forcing an emergency switch to pencil-and-paper tests. In April, Tennessee simply canceled the testing contract entirely, sending the whole process back to the drawing board. The cancellation also forced the state to suspend testing for students in grades 3-8, meaning they will be unable to measure academic progress for those students this year. It had to sign an emergency $18 million contract with Pearson Education just to grade its outstanding tests.

Tennessee's difficulties aren't unique. Indiana, one of the few states to actually repeal Common Core, has had issues as well. It pulled out of PARCC in 2013, and instead opted to overhaul its old ISTEP standardized tests. The revised test generated hostility from educators, so this spring lawmakers voted to torpedo it completely and create a third, brand-new test from scratch that will be used starting in 2018. Indiana's vacillation has been expensive; while PARCC would have cost the state about $12 million per year, the revised ISTEP cost $24 million last year and $16 million for 2016 and 2017.

Indulging wingnuttery is seldom cheap.

Posted by orrinj at 6:26 PM


Hillary Clinton Hasn't Tipped Her Hand on Corporate Tax Rate (RICHARD RUBIN, June 6, 2016, WSJ)

Mrs. Clinton's approach on the rate cut could be strategic. If she is elected president, it could be a bargaining chip for her promised legislative push for infrastructure spending in early 2017. Republicans would face a choice of working with her or waiting at least four more years for a shot to make major tax changes.

"A Clinton presidency would lay down principles and set up the walls within which the debate would occur," said David Brown, deputy director of the economic program at Third Way, a center-left think tank. "There is a lot of flexibility within that principle."

Posted by orrinj at 5:58 PM


Posted by orrinj at 3:32 PM


Texas Congressman to Trump: Shove Border Wall "Up Your (***)" (Abby Livingston June 6, 2016, Texas Tribune)

Vela notes in the letter that he agreed with Trump on some policies, like improving veterans care, addressing Mexican drug cartels and deporting criminal felons who are in the country illegally. But then he savages Trump for his rhetoric on those of Mexican descent and his promise to build a wall on the southern U.S. border.

"While you would build more and bigger walls on the U.S.-Mexico border, I would tear the existing wall to pieces," Vela wrote. "Why any modern-thinking person would ever believe that building a wall along the border of a neighboring country, which is both our ally and one of our largest trading partners, is frankly astounding and asinine."

Vela then defended U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel, the judge overseeing litigation related to Trump's education enterprise, Trump University, with fraud. Trump has questioned Curiel's capacity for fairness based on his Mexican heritage. Curiel was born in Indiana.

Vela then pointed out that his own family lineage in the United States goes back farther than Trump's paternal grandfather.

"Before you dismiss me as just another 'Mexican,' let me point out that my great-great grandfather came to this country in 1857, well before your own grandfather," he wrote. "His grandchildren (my grandfather and his brothers) all served our country in World War I and World War II. His great-grandson, my father, served in the U.S. Army and, coincidentally, was one of the first 'Mexican' federal judges ever appointed to the federal bench."

Posted by orrinj at 3:27 PM


Airbus A380: The Death Watch Begins (Richard Aboulafia, 6/06/16, Forbes)

Last week saw an astonishing moment of frankness from the A380's biggest customer. Tim Clark, President of Emirates, told Bloomberg that not only had discussions on a new re-engined A380neo version of Airbus's 525-seat jet "kind of lapsed," but that his "main concern is that they stop producing the plane."

This was the first intimation that sudden death is a possibility for the troubled super jumbo. And the numbers highlight this risk.

Posted by orrinj at 3:21 PM


Trump doubles down on Hispanic judge amid furor (DOINA CHIACU, 6/06/16, Reuters)

On Monday, Senator Jeff Flake expressed alarm.

"If this doesn't change we're in for big trouble," the Arizona Republican said on MSNBC. "I hope to be able to support the nominee. I certainly can't now," said Flake, whose state has a large percentage of Hispanics.

A former rival for the Republican presidential nomination, Ohio Governor John Kasich, called on Trump to apologize to Curiel, who was born in Indiana to Mexican immigrant parents.

"Attacking judges based on their race (and/or) religion is another tactic that divides our country," Kasich wrote on Twitter. "More importantly, it is flat out wrong."

BuzzFeed pulls out of $1.3M advertising deal with RNC over Donald Trump (HADAS GOLD, MIKE ALLEN and ALEX SPENCE, 06/06/16, Politico)

BuzzFeed has pulled out of an advertising agreement with the Republican National Committee over objections to Donald Trump's rhetoric.

The buy was for $1.3 million, a source close to BuzzFeed told POLITICO. The source said that the main consideration was the site's employees - that BuzzFeed could not countenance "having employees make ads, or working at the company and having our site promoting things, that limit our freedom and make it harder for them to live their lives."

Posted by orrinj at 3:12 PM


The (((echo))), explained (Matthew Yglesias June 6, 2016, Vox)

If you read Twitter recently, you'll have noted that a wide range of figures have changed their Twitter names to incorporate a series of parenthesis. The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg, for example, is now (((goldberg))) and we've also got Center for American Progress President (((Neera Tanden))) and Politico finance writer (((Ben White))). Even the internet satire account formerly known as Fake Jeff Jarvis has gotten in on the game, referring to itself as Prof. (((tronc))) combining the parenthesis fad with a joke about the publisher of the Chicago Tribune and the LA Times renaming itself tronc.

These renamings are themselves a response to an exciting new trend on the alt-right, a mostly online movement of mostly white nationalists who've gained new prominence largely thanks to Donald Trump's campaign. They've taken to identifying Jewish individuals and what they see as Jewish-controlled institutions by surrounding their names with parenthesis -- a typographical convention known as an echo. An alt-right article or tweet, for example, might refer to this as a (((Vox))) explainer written by Matt (((Yglesias))) to signify that its author is Jewish despite a not-very-Jewish name and also that Vox, like many American media establishments, features a number of Jewish writers and editors that is disproportionately high relative to Jews' presence in the overall American population.

The echo's popularity online signifies both the alarming increase in vocal and visible anti-Semitism associated with the Trump campaign and also, in a practical sense, its limits. The echo is spreading so widely as a self-ascription both because Jews themselves are adopting it as a gesture of defiance and reappropriation, and because non-Jews are adopting it as a gesture of solidarity designed to undermine the implicit threat.

Posted by orrinj at 1:23 PM


Donald Trump Does Not Have a Campaign (BENJY SARLIN, KATY TUR and ALI VITALI, 6/06/16, NBC)

Donald Trump is a candidate without a campaign - and it's becoming a serious problem.

Republicans working to elect Trump describe a bare-bones effort debilitated by infighting, a lack of staff to carry out basic functions, minimal coordination with allies and a message that's prisoner to Trump's momentary whims.

"Bottom line, you can hire all the top people in the world, but to what end? Trump does what he wants," a source close to the campaign said.

He's never run anything well, a campaign would be an odd place to start, nevermind a country.

Posted by orrinj at 1:13 PM


Zen and the art of trolling Trump : Mellow Libertarian Gary Johnson isn't running for president -- he's running to be America's bodhisattva in chief. (GLENN THRUSH 06/06/16, Politico)

"Well, no, I don't think [Trump] represents smaller government!" Johnson told me during a taping of POLITICO's "Off Message" podcast. "I mean, just what he's talking about when it comes to immigration, in a state that's 50 percent Hispanic, are doors not going to be knocked on in New Mexico, my door included? But when they get to my door, gee, I'm white, so -- well, but maybe we'd better check your basement or your attic to make sure that you're not harboring any illegal immigrants. ... Absolutely, it's racist. When he calls Mexicans murderers and rapists, that is incendiary."

Despite his pitch for Bernie Sanders' voters -- and his claim that he's gunning for Trump and Hillary Clinton voters with equal fervor -- it's clear which candidate harshes his mellow most. Johnson has mildly negative things to say about Clinton ("The answer to everything is just bigger government"), bon mots for Bernie ("We come to a T in the road when it comes to economics, but on the social side we're simpatico"), but it's his former party's presumptive nominee who clearly offends his live-and-let-live sensibility. And he speaks about Trump's pledge to evict 11 million undocumented immigrants -- the core of his victorious primary campaign -- with the bitterness born of serving two terms as Republican governor of New Mexico, the state with the highest proportion of Hispanic residents in the nation, at 42 percent.

Johnson's keystone position on immigration -- open borders and open arms for Mexican working families -- is a nonstarter for the vast majority of Republicans (and most Democrats, for that matter). But his response to Trump is as visceral as it is rooted in policy: He's known Latino friends on both sides of the New Mexicco-Arizona border who have been targeted by Arizona's restrictive 2010 immigration law.

"They've got a sticker on their back of their window of their car, 'I'm an American,'" he said. "They have resigned themselves to carry their papers. It's just the way it is, is what they say. That is deeply offensive to me, as an American, that an Iraqi war veteran who is Hispanic, is out for a job, and he doesn't have his papers, and he's close to the border, and somehow he's going to get rounded up."

Until recently, Johnson was an electoral curiosity -- and the Libertarian convention in Orlando last month that selected Johnson and running mate Bill Weld had a not-ready-for-Disney vibe, featuring a striptease by a candidate for party chairman who made up in girth what he lacked in eloquence. By contrast, Johnson is a serious, even studious semi-outsider in the Jerry Brown mold -- and like Brown he likes to live in the political shadowlands of fringe/not-fringe. "We're fringe, totally," he says of himself and Weld, the former moderate Republican governor of Massachusetts -- ambiguously. "We're fringe? Come on."

June 5, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 9:10 PM


#NeverTrump Republicans have a new choice: Johnson-Weld could be most politically experienced third-party ticket ever. (David Boaz, 6/03/16, USA Today)

You'd think the #NeverTrump Republicans would shout "Hallelujah!" Yet they've been strangely quiet. Here are two former Republican governors, both re-elected in a Democratic state and a swing state, both with a record of accomplishment. And most specifically for the #NeverTrump crowd, both men of good character who are fit for public office and have thought seriously about public policy.

True, they're not conservatives. They're libertarians. Or at least libertarian-ish, as some more radical members of the Libertarian party grumbled. They both supported gay marriage even before many Democrats. Johnson wants to legalize marijuana -- Weld supports legalization for medical use -- both want to rethink the failed drug war.They're pro-choice. And perhaps most galling to some conservatives and neoconservatives, Johnson wants a new foreign policy that rejects endless war and futile attempts at "nation-building."

Still, compared with the erratic and dangerous Trump and the self-proclaimed "government junkie" Clinton, the Johnson-Weld ticket seems like a no-brainer for principled conservatives and Republicans. They believe in limited constitutional government. They want to cut taxes, spending and regulation and eliminate unnecessary agencies. They support free trade and liberal immigration policies. They would be less likely to expand and abuse executive power than either Clinton or Trump. And if they can raise money, get serious media attention and make an impact in the polls, they can ensure that there's still a political space for Americans who believe in less government and more freedom.

Posted by orrinj at 8:57 PM


US-backed fighters close in on IS Syria bastion Manbij (DELIL SOULEIMAN June 6, 2016, AFP) 

US-backed fighters advanced Sunday to within five kilometers (three miles) of the Islamic State group's stronghold of Manbij in northern Syria, threatening a crucial jihadist supply line.

The assault by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) adds to the pressure on IS as it faces another offensive by Russian-backed regime troops in its bastion province of Raqqa and in Iraq.

Posted by orrinj at 7:36 PM


GOP Fears Trump Could Revive Racial Politics of Past (Rebecca Berg, June 05, 2016, RCP)

Last week, Trump appeared to set a new marker with his rhetoric, when he publicly and repeatedly questioned Judge Gonzalo Curiel's fitness to oversee a civil case against Trump University. His "Mexican heritage," Trump explained in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, presented "an absolute conflict."

"He's a Mexican," Trump said in another interview. "We're building a wall between here and Mexico." Curiel, a son of Mexican immigrants, was born in Indiana.

Trump's remarks immediately raised red flags among legal scholars and Republicans. In an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell saw stark similarities to Goldwater's candidacy and its long-term effect on support for the GOP.

The 1964 election "did define our party, for at least African-American voters, and it still does today," McConnell said. "That was a complete shift that occurred that year, and we've never been able to get them back. So I think it was a defining moment for Republicans."

"Do you worry at all that your nominee now, Donald Trump, will do to Latino voters what Barry Goldwater did to African-American voters?" Tapper asked.

"I do," McConnell said. "I do."

Posted by orrinj at 7:22 PM


Five undisputed facts about Clinton's emails (Lanny Davis, 05/31/16, The Hill)

First, the former secretary of State did nothing illegal by having a private email system. The department's Office of Inspector General (OIG) pointed to "policies" that were violated but cited no laws that were violated and said these policies were inconsistently applied and need to be further clarified in the future.  

Second, Clinton was not trying to hide her use of her own private email address. In fact, 90 percent of all the emails she sent went to State Department employees with a state.gov email address, which she thought, mistakenly, would be automatically preserved on the department's email server. How could she be seeking to hide her use of a private email address if she sent her private email to so many people at State? 

Third, no email received or sent by Clinton was labeled at any level of classification. Multiple references in the media and in the right-wing blogosphere to Clinton emails containing "classified" information all refer to post-facto opinions -- what could be accurately called classification by hindsight. State Department experts disagreed with many of those opinions.

Fourth, according to the OIG, there is no evidence that Clinton's private server was ever successfully hacked. In other words, all the dire and dark warnings from partisan Republicans about the secretary of State risking the nation's security by using a private server are, in fact, all speculation -- based on no facts whatsoever.  

Fifth, as pointed out by the inspector general, there was ample precedent for the use of private emails for official and private business, from Colin Powell to senior aides for Condoleezza Rice. 

Posted by orrinj at 2:14 PM


Muhammad Ali pleaded for Daniel Pearl's life, father recalls' (JTA, June 5, 2016)

When Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was kidnapped by Islamic extremists in January 2002, the most famous American Muslim of the day, Muhammad Ali, pleaded publicly for his release and life.

"I appeal to you to show Daniel Pearl compassion and kindness," Ali implored Pearl's abductors, who would behead the journalist in Pakistan after nine days of captivity, although his fate would not be known for another three weeks.

"Treat him as you would wish all Muslims to be treated by others," entreated Ali, who died Friday at 74. "Daniel should not become another victim of the ongoing conflict. It is my most sincere prayer that Daniel Pearl be permitted to return safely to his family. May Allah have mercy on us all."

Posted by orrinj at 11:52 AM


Posted by orrinj at 11:29 AM


Patience and Open Ears : Ted Gioia demystifies jazz. (Paul Beston, June 3, 2016, City Journal)

These misgivings came flooding back as I read Ted Gioia's How to Listen to Jazz. Gioia, an esteemed jazz critic and historian, and a pianist, addresses his book to general readers and listeners. Many, he knows, have struggled with jazz. He hears it all the time: people don't "get" jazz; they think that it's music for intellectuals, not regular people; they don't know where to begin. Not to worry, says Gioia. "Most of the jazz idiom," he writes, "is accessible to anyone willing to approach it with patience and open ears."

How to Listen to Jazz is really two books. The first is an engaging, accessible attempt to explain what's happening inside the music and how to train one's ears to hear it better. "The first thing I listen for," Gioia writes, "is the degree of rhythmic cohesion between the different musicians in the band. . . . In the great jazz bands, you can hear the individual members lock together rhythmically in a pleasing way that involves an uncanny degree of give-and-take, but with a kind of quirkiness that resists specific definition." He suggests listening to amateur bands to hear their lack of cohesion, and then comparing their performances to those of the masters.

Gioia also explains the structure of jazz songs, about 95 percent of which, he says, follow a three-part structure of theme, variation (solos), and theme. He maps out jazz classics like Jelly Roll Morton's "Sidewalk Blues," Duke Ellington's "Sepia Panorama," and Charlie Parker's rendition of "Night in Tunisia," breaking them down into sections of bars--32 bars, 16 bars, 12 bars--and notating what's happening in each one instrumentally. He encourages readers to play the songs with these "listening maps" in front of them. These frameworks prove useful in understanding how what sounds like a free-flowing performance is actually intricately constructed.

What made jazz different, a new art form, Gioia tells us, was the way that "American musicians of African ancestry" in New Orleans "split open" the formal structures of Western music, which had been based on "a system of notes--of discrete tones, tuned in scales with twelve subdivisions." African music, by contrast, "drew on infinite gradations of sound, and not just twelve notes in a scale." Jazz musicians did this by adapting the "bent notes" of the blues, by which Gioia means "those tones that wavered and swooped and refused to accept the constraints of conventional musical notation."

The second part of How to Listen to Jazz builds on the vocabulary Gioia has established to chronicle, briefly, the evolution of the music and its many styles--from New Orleans Jazz, Chicago Jazz, and Harlem Stride to Bebop, Hard Bop, Free Jazz, and today's hybrids--and to steer listeners to choice samples of each. Another chapter assesses major innovators, from Armstrong, Ellington, and Coleman Hawkins to Parker, Davis, Coltrane, and Ornette Coleman. Here, too, Gioia makes listening recommendations, but he also offers readers sometimes novel ways of approaching an artist's work--for example, singing, or at least humming, along to Parker's saxophone, to get a sense of its rhythmic structure. His "listening strategies" vary widely depending on the artist, but all share his conviction that we need to develop an aptitude for listening above all. Appreciation is enhanced by technical knowledge but not dependent on it.

Gioia is so confident that newcomers can appreciate jazz in part because he believes that objective benchmarks of evaluation exist, and that, in the case of jazz, we can listen for fundamental "building blocks" such as rhythm, dynamics, pitch and timbre, and phrasing. This view puts him at odds with more theoretical critics who claim that subjectivity is the only aesthetic standard. Nonsense, says Gioia: "Understanding jazz (or any other form of artistic expression) can never be reduced to personal whim or some flamboyant deconstructive manipulation of signifiers but always builds on a humble realization that these works impose their reality on us. . . . and in this manner can be distinguished from escapism or shallow entertainment, which instead aims to adapt to the audience, to give the public exactly what it wants. We can tell that we are encountering a real work of art by the degree to which it resists our subjectivity." In this one passage, Gioia manages to push back against both highbrow and lowbrow wrongheadedness.

One of the things that has made the Anglosphere so hostile to intellectuals is our faith that Beauty is objective. If it doesn't sound good it isn't.

Posted by orrinj at 10:45 AM


Newt Gingrich Rips Trump for Racial Comments About Judge's Mexican Heritage (Madeleine Weast, June 5, 2016, Free Beacon)

Gingrich, who has been looked at as a potential Trump running mate, responded by saying his comments were "inexcusable."

"No. This is one of the worst mistakes Trump has made. I think it's inexcusable," Gingrich said. "He has every right to criticize a judge, and he has every right to say certain decisions aren't right, and his attorneys can file to move the venue from the judge. First of all, this judge was born in Indiana. He is an American, period. When you come to America, you get to become an American, and Trump, who has grandparents who came to the U.S., should understand this as much as anybody."

Gingrich then ripped Trump for not acting like a potential leader of the United States, saying the primary season was over.

"If a liberal were to attack Justice Clarence Thomas on the grounds that he's black, we would all go crazy," Gingrich said. "Every conservative would say it was wrong and it was racism. Trump has got to, I think, move to a new level. This is no longer the primaries. He's no longer an interesting contender. He is now the potential leader of the United States and he's got to move his game up to the level of being a potential leader."

Trump: Muslim judge might not be fair to me either (KYLE CHENEY 06/05/16, Politico)

Quizzed by CBS' John Dickerson in an interview that aired Sunday on "Face the Nation," Trump said he'd have similar concerns about a Muslim judge.

"It's possible, yes. Yeah. That would be possible, absolutely," he said.

"Isn't there sort of a tradition though in America that we don't judge people by who their parents were and where they came from?" Dickerson replied.

And Trump countered again, "I'm not talking about tradition -- I'm talking about common sense, OK?"

Neither the Right nor the Left cares about tradition, the other 60% of us do.

Posted by orrinj at 10:39 AM


Trump's verbal attacks on judge worry conservative legal scholars (MARK SHERMAN, 6/05/16, AP)

His comments are bringing overwhelming disapproval from politicians and lawyers in his own Republican Party. On Friday, House Speaker Paul Ryan said of the statements about the judge: "It's reasoning I don't relate to, I completely disagree with the thinking behind that."

And conservative legal scholars say Trump's statements reinforce their worries that he seems to think he can do whatever he wants and disregard rules and conventions that constrain other political candidates.

"The concern is that he would act unbounded in the presidency, in a way that doesn't follow the law," said John McGinnis, a Northwestern University law professor.

Criticism of the Supreme Court and the rest of the federal judiciary has been a regular feature of recent Republican presidential campaigns, including proposals to strip federal judges of lifetime tenure and reduce the budgets of liberal-leaning courts.

Those ideas, though, did not single out judges or focus on race, ethnicity or religion.

"Here it's just about Trump," said Case Western Reserve University law professor Jonathan Adler.

More troubling, Adler said, is that the recent comments seem to fit a pattern of intemperate remarks Trump has made during the campaign.

"He said he would give military officers unlawful orders and expect them to comply," Adler said, referring to Trump's claim that the military would follow his orders to torture suspected terrorists. Trump has since backed off on that.

"He has repeatedly given indications he has no appreciation for the rule of law," Adler said.

Posted by orrinj at 7:11 AM


A Guaranteed Income for Every American : Replacing the welfare state with an annual grant is the best way to cope with a radically changing U.S. jobs market--and to revitalize America's civic culture (CHARLES MURRAY, June 3, 2016, WSJ)

First, my big caveat: A UBI will do the good things I claim only if it replaces all other transfer payments and the bureaucracies that oversee them. If the guaranteed income is an add-on to the existing system, it will be as destructive as its critics fear.

Second, the system has to be designed with certain key features. In my version, every American citizen age 21 and older would get a $13,000 annual grant deposited electronically into a bank account in monthly installments. Three thousand dollars must be used for health insurance (a complicated provision I won't try to explain here), leaving every adult with $10,000 in disposable annual income for the rest of their lives.

People can make up to $30,000 in earned income without losing a penny of the grant. After $30,000, a graduated surtax reimburses part of the grant, which would drop to $6,500 (but no lower) when an individual reaches $60,000 of earned income. Why should people making good incomes retain any part of the UBI? Because they will be losing Social Security and Medicare, and they need to be compensated.

The UBI is to be financed by getting rid of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, Supplemental Security Income, housing subsidies, welfare for single women and every other kind of welfare and social-services program, as well as agricultural subsidies and corporate welfare. As of 2014, the annual cost of a UBI would have been about $200 billion cheaper than the current system. By 2020, it would be nearly a trillion dollars cheaper. [...]

A key feature of American exceptionalism has been the propensity of Americans to create voluntary organizations for dealing with local problems. Tocqueville was just one of the early European observers who marveled at this phenomenon in the 19th and early 20th centuries. By the time the New Deal began, American associations for providing mutual assistance and aiding the poor involved broad networks, engaging people from the top to the bottom of society, spontaneously formed by ordinary citizens.

These groups provided sophisticated and effective social services and social insurance of every sort, not just in rural towns or small cities but also in the largest and most impersonal of megalopolises. To get a sense of how extensive these networks were, consider this: When one small Midwestern state, Iowa, mounted a food-conservation program during World War I, it engaged the participation of 2,873 church congregations and 9,630 chapters of 31 different secular fraternal associations.

Did these networks successfully deal with all the human needs of their day? No. But that isn't the right question. In that era, the U.S. had just a fraction of today's national wealth. The correct question is: What if the same level of activity went into civil society's efforts to deal with today's needs--and financed with today's wealth?

Good so far as it goes, but it should begin at birth, everyone should be defaulted into an HSA and means-testing should begin no later than age 50.

June 4, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 6:59 PM


The eight ingredients that created the Swedish model (Anders Kallstrom, 31 May 2016, The Local)

6. Few conflicts

We want to agree. Consensus is a Swedish virtue. The parties of the labour market negotiate when they disagree, rather than going on strike. Swedish companies still have very loyal co-workers. Trade unions are these days often just as much partners as opposition to company bosses. [...]

8. Long-term thinking

Owners and managers have historically aimed to create their life's work which is meant to be at its best when they themselves leave behind their active lives, rather than peaking just before the publications of each monthly and quarterly financial statements. The state of the actual financial accounts has been determined by that which is left behind. Swedish capitalism is still dominated mainly by long-term owners, even though the threat of short-termism is all the more often "breathing down their necks".

This is how we founded the Sweden we know today and it is, in essence, according to these principles that Sweden must continue to develop. These eight points are, as I see it, the basic elements of the Swedish model.

Which party or parties may then take credit for founding this model? The Social Democrats were founded in 1889. The Moderates in 1904. The Centre Party in 1913. The Left Party in 1917. The Liberals in 1934. The Christian Democrats in 1964. The Green Party in 1981. The Sweden Democrats in 1988. They were all born several decades after the Swedish model was established. They came into power far later. All parties have therefore rather inherited the Swedish model.

Inherited from whom? Well, credit for the Swedish model falls to the Swedish people, who have been doing so many things right for so long. That is why Sweden - regardless of government or parliament majority - is almost always one of the best performing countries in the world. When the government, as it is now, is a bit shaky, Sweden simply turns on its 'autopilot' in the form of the Swedish model.

The real achievement is to sustain such conformity with diverse populations, as we have in the Anglosphere.

Posted by orrinj at 6:50 PM


Norway to ban new sales of gas-powered cars by 2025 (BRYAN CLARK, 6/04/16, Next Web)

According to a new report from Dagens Næringsliv, a Norwegian newspaper, Norway's four main political parties have come to an agreement to ban the sale of gas-powered (diesel or petrol) by 2025.

Posted by orrinj at 4:53 PM


Tesla driver caught snoozing at the wheel while car was on autopilot (BRYAN CLARK, 6/04/16, Next Web)

A Tesla Model S driver was seen grabbing some z's while the car eeked its way through slow-moving traffic. If this doesn't make you want an autonomous car, nothing will.

The unidentified driver was taking advantage of Tesla's rather robust autopilot system that uses 13 ultrasonic sensors to help the car change lanes, manage speed, avoid obstacles and even part themselves.

Posted by orrinj at 4:11 PM


The Benghazi Committee's Dead End (THE EDITORIAL BOARD, JUNE 3, 2016)

After running a congressional oversight committee like a Republican opposition research shop for more than two years, Representative Trey Gowdy appears to be gearing up for the finale. Democrats on the Select Committee on Benghazi expect that a final report will drop soon, just as Hillary Clinton appears poised to clinch the Democratic nomination.

If things had gone his way, Mr. Gowdy, a former federal prosecutor, would have found a way to torpedo Mrs. Clinton's presidential ambitions. After all, Republican lawmakers have admitted that this is precisely what they set out to do.

But things have not gone well for Mr. Gowdy, who has run the investigation with the dexterity and grace of a blindfolded toddler swinging at a piñata. Having pored over reams of documents, grilled Mrs. Clinton in an 11-hour session in October and hauled in more than 100 people for interviews, the Republicans seem to have come up with nothing.

Posted by orrinj at 4:03 PM


The Outsized Life of Muhammad Ali (DAVID REMNICK, 6/04/16, The New Yorker)

Cassius Clay lived in a modest house on Grand Avenue, a relatively pleasant street with other black families, not in "Smoketown," the poorer black neighborhood in southwest Louisville. It was middle class, "but black middle class, black Southern middle class, which is not white middle class at all," Toni Morrison told me when I was working on a book about Ali. (As an editor at Random House, Morrison had worked on Ali's autobiography, "The Greatest.") Cassius was named for a nineteenth-century Kentucky abolitionist and military commander who inherited forty slaves and then freed them when he came home from the war in Mexico. He was, for a while, Abraham Lincoln's emissary to Russia, but he soon returned to Kentucky to work again for the abolitionist cause. Cassius--the boy, the fighter--was told stories about his great-grandfather who was raised on the abolitionist's farm, "but not in a slave capacity. No, sir!," as Clay, Sr., Ali's father, once said.

Louisville, when Cassius was growing up in the nineteen-forties and fifties, was a Jim Crow city. American apartheid. Not quite as virulent as in Jackson or Mobile, but plenty bad. At movie theatres like the Savoy, whites sat in the orchestra, blacks in the balcony; most other theatres were for whites only, and so were the stores downtown. There were white schools, white country clubs, white businesses. Blyden Jackson, a black writer from Louisville, who was in his forties when Clay was growing up, wrote, "On my side of the veil everything was black: the homes, the people, the churches, the schools, the Negro park with Negro park police. . . . There were two Louisvilles and, in America, two Americas." It was a childhood in which Cassius saw his mother turned away for a drink of water at a luncheonette after a hard day of cleaning the floors and toilets of white families. These were daily scenes, the racial arrangements of Louisville.

Cassius's father was a man of thwarted dreams. He distrusted whites, and felt he was prevented from becoming a painter of canvasses rather than of signs and billboards. He drank too much, and his bitterness sometimes tipped into chaos. He was, one of Ali's friends said, the source of a great deal of pain in the family. His mother, Odessa, was usually the object of Cassius, Sr.,'s fury and fists, and she was the boy's comfort. Odessa was the first to know that her son was hyperverbal and quick with a left hand. As she once recalled, "He was always a talker. He tried to talk so hard when he was a baby. He used to jabber so, you know? And people'd laugh and he'd shake his face and jabber so fast. I don't see how anybody could talk so fast, just like lightning. And he never sat still. He was in the bed with me at six months old, and you know how babies stretch? He had little muscle arms and he hit me in the mouth when he stretched and it loosened my front tooth and it affected my other front tooth and I had to have both of them pulled out. So I always say his first knockout punch was in my mouth."

As an athlete and as a performer, Clay learned from, and copied, a multitude of sources: the braggadocio of the professional wrestler "Gorgeous" George Wagner, the footwork and boxing style of Sugar Ray Robinson. But no public figure affected him more deeply than Emmett Till, a boy from Chicago, who, on a visit to family in Money, Mississippi, was murdered for the alleged sin of "reckless eyeballing." The story was that Till, who was fourteen, dared to call a white cashier "baby." A few days later, white men turned up at the house where he was staying, dragged him out of his bed, shot him in the head, tied barbed wire attached to a bulky cotton-gin fan around his neck, and threw his corpse in the Tallahatchie River. The horror that Cassius experienced looking at the pictures of Till's brutalized face in the pages of Life and the black press helped convince him of the limits of his possibilities as a black kid in the South.

"There wasn't nothing to do in the streets," he told one writer, recalling his own stunted growing up. "The kids would throw rocks and stand under the streetlights all night, running in and out of the juke joints and smoking and slipping off drinking, nothing to do."

At Central High, Cassius's marks were so bad in the tenth grade that he had to withdraw and then come back and repeat the year. A career in professional football or basketball seemed to require college, and that, he felt, wasn't going to happen. Boxing was the path. He daydreamed in class, shadowboxed in the hallways. He trained at first in the gym of a local police officer named Joe Martin and, even as a teen-ager, he showed uncommon skill. He was incredibly disciplined even then, waking at dawn and running through Chickasaw Park. And the preternatural confidence was there from the start. He was The Greatest practically before he entered the ring. Even in those days, Clay was using doggerel verse, like a pugilistic Ogden Nash, to predict an opponent's demise: "This guy must be done / I'll stop him in one." At school assemblies, he got up in front of the student body while the friendly principal, Atwood Wilson, introduced him as the "next heavyweight champion of the world! This guy is going to make a million dollars!" He struggled in class, finding it hard to read a book, but he was intelligent, absorbing things through other means. As an aspiring fighter, he tore through Golden Gloves competitions, leading his mentor, Wilson, to say, "The truth is, the only thing Cassius is going to have to read is his I.R.S. form, and I'm willing to help him do it."

But, while he eventually became an Olympic champion, he did not so much impress boxing writers as bewilder them. Even A. J. Liebling, the finest of all boxing writers, and no one's idea of a reactionary or a hack, was confounded by the young man's loose-limbed style. Clay's refusal to exchange punches with his opponent in the traditional manly fashion, his way of dancing, of circling an opponent, flashing lacerating jabs that came lashing up from the hip . . . this was not proper, somehow.

At the 1960 Rome Olympics, Clay won the gold medal with a victory over a lumbering opponent from Poland. Liebling offered only qualified praise. "Clay had a skittering style, like a pebble scaled over water," he wrote. "He was good to watch, but seemed to make only glancing contact. It is true that the Pole finished the three-round bout helpless and out on his feet, but I thought he had just run out of puff chasing Clay, who had then cut him to pieces."

Even after Clay turned pro, Liebling never quite warmed to him. Witnessing Clay's battle with a persistent heavyweight named Doug Jones, Liebling focussed less on Clay's narrow decision and more on his bragging before and after his bouts. He called Clay "Mr. Swellhead Bigmouth Poet." Others called him Gaseous Cassius. Pete Hamill, another white liberal who would eventually come to adore the fighter, wrote in the New York Post, "Cassius Clay is a young man with a lot of charm who is in danger of becoming a dreadful bore."

Posted by orrinj at 11:07 AM


Transforming the bush: robots, drones and cows that milk themselves : Rural Australia is being progressively hollowed out of its people. Will it be reduced to a vast mechanised place of scant human habitation? (Paul Daley, 3 June 2016, The Guardian)

Two commercial models of FutureDairy have been operating since 2012 on large-scale Australian dairy farms, one in Tasmania and the other in Victoria. About 36 other commercial farms in Australia employ the smaller-scale robotic technologies of other innovators to do what has hitherto been the backbreaking manual and, later, semi-automated, work of dairy farmers for well over two centuries.

While the name FutureDairy is freighted with prescience for an era yet to be reached, it is, in fact, already arriving and transforming the economies and lifestyles of the early adopters. Its positive implications for dairy production are no less profound for animal welfare and, of course, for the wellbeing of the dairy farmer - a person who, almost invariably, endures the unforgiving rigidities and relentless physical work of milking cows by virtue of birth rather than choice.

No less acute or obvious are the potential ramifications for the dairy farm labourer. On a conventional Australian dairy farm the rule of thumb is one human for about 100 cattle. So, a farm with 400 cows would probably employ four people, nearly three-quarters of whose time is spent milking (the rest would be dedicated to feeding, feed production and animal welfare).

But at FutureDairy each of the cows, once in the dairy yard, moves on to one of 16 milking points on the rotary platform. As the platform gently turns, robotic arms wash the teats and attach the cups. The milk is extracted, the teats disinfected and the cups flushed. About eight minutes later the cow steps off the revolving platform and into a yard, where it receives a feed reward before being allowed into fresh pasture. Each cow is identified by a dongle around its neck that electronically records and transmits the time and volume of its last milking.

Sensors on the drafting gates that separate the dairy yards from the pasture automatically read each cow's data. Those who've been milked too recently are sent back to pasture instead of on to the robotic milker.

The farmer can control all this remotely: checking yields and production mechanics on an iPad and needing to attend the dairy only in case of a malfunction, after an automated phone call or text.

Not a single person needs to touch a cow during any 24-hour milking cycle.

Posted by orrinj at 11:01 AM


Donald Trump Represents Republicans' Baser Feelings (RICH LOWRY June 3, 2016, National Review)

A central insight of the Trump campaign was captured in the philosophy inculcated in the salespeople of Trump University: "You don't sell products, benefits or solutions -- you sell feelings."

Emotion is feminine; thought masculine.

Posted by orrinj at 9:54 AM


Why Some of the Smartest Progressives I Know Will Vote for Trump over Hillary (YVES SMITH June 01, 2016, Politico)

To be sure, not all of my Sanders-supporting readers would vote for Trump. But only a minority would ever vote for Clinton, and I'd guess that a lot of them would just stay home if she were the nominee. Many of my readers tend to be very progressive, and they have been driven even further in that direction by their sophisticated understanding of the inequities of Wall Street, especially in the run-up to and the aftermath of the financial crisis, when no senior executives went to jail, the biggest banks got bigger, and Hillary paid homage to Goldman Sachs. True progressives, as opposed to the Vichy Left, recognize that the Clintons only helped these inequities along. They recognize that, both in the 1990s and now, the Clintons do not and have never represented them.

The Clintons are Third Way; Trump is Second.  Opponents of neo-liberalism should vote for him.

Posted by orrinj at 9:48 AM


Khomeini's grandson says there is more to Islam than hijab (Arash Karami, June 2, 2016, Al Monitor)

During the two-hour interview, Hassan Khomeini was mostly invited to discuss his memories of the final years of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's personal life, and his religious and political views. However, Hassan Khomeini took the opportunity on a few occasions to present his own views on controversial domestic issues.

"When we say piety, we say the hijab, prayers, fasting, non-mixing between unrelated men and women -- these are certainly parts of religion but religion is not only this," said Hassan Khomeini when asked about his grandfather's contribution to religion and its importance for Iranians today. "Religion is the rights of the people. Religion is fighting oppression. Religion is that one institution that must not take away someone's rights. Religion means that everyone can speak freely. Religion means that there is no poverty in society."

When asked by the interviewer to discuss how Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was aware of the people's demands, Hassan Khomeini, without mentioning the name of former President Mohammad Khatami, discussed the media ban on the Reformist politician. "Today you realize you cannot prevent someone's words from reaching people," he said. "Meaning you cannot ban someone's images, ban them from speeches or ban someone from speaking to someone else. In reality this is mocking ourselves." Many believe that Khatami's position on the 2009 contested presidential elections caused his media ban. However, the popular former president is still influential; his video-recorded message urging Iranians to vote for Reformist candidates in the February parliamentary election was one of the most popular of the election period.

Posted by orrinj at 9:01 AM


'Star Wars' Is Really About Feminism. And Jefferson. And Jesus. (Cass R. Sunstein, 5/31/16, Bloomberg View)

Anakin Skywalker is the product of a virgin birth. He has no human father. He turns out to be a Christ-like figure, dying for humanity's sins, which he incarnates and symbolizes. Star Wars is an imaginative reconstruction of Jesus's life, in which the Jesus figure is the sinner -- unable to resist Satan until the very end, when he sacrifices everything for his child, and symbolically for all children.

In Star Wars, it is the promise of immortality (for his loved ones) that turns out to be Satan's apple. That's how Emperor Palpatine, the saga's serpent, seduces Anakin, convincing him to give up his very soul. So there's a Faustian bargain here as well. But in sacrificing his own life, Anakin defeats the great tempter -- and gets his soul back in the process. Loving his son and killing Satan, he restores peace on earth. It's no accident that the word peace appears in the crawl in both "A New Hope" and "The Force Awakens." And Christ is of course the Redeemer.

It's too bad Lucas was such an inept storyteller.  Particularly appalling was when he wandered into that mitochlorion (or whatever) storyline, which essentially posited a master race.

Posted by orrinj at 8:53 AM


Democracy Is Nothing To Fear, Taiwan Tells China On Tiananmen Anniversary (REUTERS, 06/04/16)

On the anniversary of China's bloody crackdown on student-led protests in and around Beijing's Tiananmen Square, Taiwan's new president told China on Saturday that democracy is nothing to fear.

Tsai Ing-wen said in a Facebook post on the 27th anniversary that Taiwan could serve as an example to China.

Tsai said in the run-up to Taiwan's elections earlier this year she had seen people from from China, as well as the Chinese territories of Hong Kong and Macau, mixing with crowds in Taiwan.

"These many friends, after experiencing things for themselves can see that in fact there's nothing scary about democracy. Democracy is a good and fine thing," wrote Tsai, who took office last month. 

Indeed, Taiwan has a GDP per capita of $39+k, higher than that of Germany.  The PRC has one of $9+k, lower than Tunisia.  Of course, Taiwan had the benefit of the fascist interlude, while China got stuck with communism.

Posted by orrinj at 8:48 AM


Is Iranian parliament warming up to Rouhani? (Rohollah Faghihi, June 3, 2016, Al Monitor)

[T]he hard-liners' applause and jubilation may not be real, as it is crystal clear that Larijani is the last person they ever wanted to see as speaker. In fact, the number of hard-liners in parliament is now so low that they had no option but to back Larijani. If they had at least 120 members of parliament among their ranks, they would have certainly rather chosen someone such as hard-line parliamentarian Mehdi Zolnour. 

In fact, Larijani is the least favored candidate among hard-liners. Proof of this lies in their interruptions of one of his speeches and throwing shoes at him at a meeting only two years ago. In addition, Larijani has consistently been a target of hard-liners in past years over his support for Rouhani and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. For instance, Hossein Shariatmadari, editor of Kayhan newspaper, publicly slammed Larijani for backing the nuclear deal. Moreover, in 2012, Morteza Agha-Tehrani, the secretary-general of the influential hard-line Endurance Front, said, "We are completely against choosing Larijani as parliament speaker."

Less than a week before the speakership vote, on May 23, prominent hard-liner and former member of parliament Rouhollah Hosseinian revealed the hard-liners' intentions for backing Larijani, "If we had a figure who had the grounds for gaining the votes for the speakership, we would have chosen him. Thus, currently, we don't have anyone, and we have to back Larijani for the first year," Hosseinian said.

In the speakership vote, Reformist Masoud Pezeshkian and moderate Ali Motahari -- who won 158 and 133 votes, respectively -- were elected as Larijani's deputies.

In the voting, Pezeshkian and Motahari, whose names were both on the List of Hope, had two main rivals: hard-liners Hamid-Reza Haji Babaei and Mohammad Dehghan.

It should be noted that Motahari's victory was a big blow to the hard-liners, who consistently criticize him harshly over his repeated public speeches in favor of the release of Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, the two 2009 presidential candidates who have been under house arrest since 2010. In this vein, the two hard-line newspapers Kayhan and Vatan-e-Emrooz kept silent after Motahari's election as deputy speaker, as if no election had taken place at all.

Most of all, the May 29 election showed several important development related to parliament. After months of speculation about who has the majority, it is now clear that pro-Rouhani parliament members -- consisting of both Reformists and moderates -- are the majority and that the hard-liners are the minority. Additionally, the chief winner of the speakership vote appears to be Rouhani, while the losers -- despite much analysis to the contrary -- are the hard-liners, not Aref.

Posted by orrinj at 8:43 AM


Orthodoxy and Right-Wing Extremism Go Hand-in-Hand in Israel -- Pew Study Explains Why (Naomi Zeveloff, May 31, 2016, Tablet)

Why are Israeli Orthodox Jews more attracted to politically extremist views than their non-Orthodox fellow citizens?

The question is not a provocation. It's one that grows out of a new analysis of data from the Pew Research Center's study in March showing that nearly half of all Israeli Jews want Arabs expelled from their midst.

To obtain a finer-grained understanding from the Pew survey of just who in Israel holds the most hard line exclusionary positions, Steven M. Cohen, a professor at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, created an "exclusivity index." The index, which Cohen devised for the Forward, combines data from two questions on the Pew survey: whether Israeli Jews agree -- and if so, how strongly -- that "Arabs should be expelled or transferred from Israel," and whether "Jews deserve preferential treatment in Israel."

The results did not reveal secular Israeli Jews, or Hilonim as they are termed in Hebrew, as being invariably moderate on these questions; some 70% in this group -- which makes up 40% of the country's population -- support preferential treatment for Jews over other Israeli citizens. But among the one-third of Israel's Jewish population who define themselves as either ultra-Orthodox (Haredi) or religious (Dati), Cohen found, "as many as 95% believe that 'Jews deserve preferential treatment in Israel.'"

On the question of expelling Arabs from the state, the divide is even clearer. According to Cohen's breakdowns, two-thirds of the Orthodox public supports the idea with just one third against it. "In contrast, we have almost the reverse among secular Israeli Jews," he said: "37% in favor and 63% opposed."

...but as soon as the Cold War was won we made them change their regime.

Posted by orrinj at 8:38 AM


How to Avoid Fake Wines at Auction (Jeannie Cho Lee, 6/04/16, Forbes)

I was thrilled to be invited to a rare tasting of a vertical of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti including a 1950 La Tache in magnum in Paris. I asked my French host, "What is the provenance of these bottles?" He looked at me as though I was asking about the color of his underwear. "This bottle is over 60 years old, of course we don't know," he replied.

Quietly, I noted several American strip labels on the bottles of some of these wines indicating that these bottles had been sent to the US and found its way back to France. Others had the mark of various auction houses on the back of the bottles. Although we were enjoying these wines in France, these wines had clearly traversed the world before returning to its home country! I examined the cork and noted all were original and none were re-conditioned (topped up with younger wine and the old cork replaced with a new one). I was surprised that even in Paris I was the only one at a table of 12 wine lovers who cared so much about a wine's origin.

An incident similar to this occurred in Hong Kong recently. My generous host wanted to open a 1959 Chateau Margaux for a small group of friends. He loved this wine and over the years had accumulated 18 bottles at auction, a few bottles at a time from different sources. No one asked about the wine's provenance but my Chinese host who is not only a great collector but an excellent taster, insisted on opening three bottles before he found one that he felt was genuine. He whispered to me that he thought the first two that he opened were fakes. He was very nonchalant and exclaimed, "What can you do? Enjoying old wines means taking risks."

Very few wine lovers will bring up the possibility of fake or potentially fake wines because we don't want to question or embarrass the host. But it is becoming a growing problem as fake wines that circulate among fine wine merchants and auction houses are clearly finding their way into Asian collectors' cellars. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:20 AM


Posted by orrinj at 8:04 AM


Pro-government and rebel forces launch separate attacks on 'IS' in Syria (DEutsche-Welle, 6/04/16)

Both the Syrian army and US-backed rebels have launched fresh attacks against 'Islamic State' (IS) fighters. President Bashar al-Assad's forces may have made significant gains in one of the group's main strongholds.
Al-Assad's forces entered the "Islamic State" (IS) stronghold of Raqqa province on Saturday, the same day US-supported fighters opened a new front against the terrorist group in an area close by.

The advance is the first time government forces have managed to breach the boundaries of Raqqa province since 2014, when IS first emerged as a major threat in the region.

Aided by Russian airstrikes, which pounded areas in Hama province, along the border with Raqqa, government forces were able to reach the edge of Raqqa on Friday night. Forces are aiming to secure control of the Tabqa dam, the country's largest, some 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Raqqa city.

The capital of the province, also called Raqqa, is the de-facto capital of IS and remains a key target for those seeking to destroy the group.

Iraq forces gain ground from IS west of Fallujah (AFP June 4, 2016)

Iraqi forces gained new ground from the Islamic State group Saturday in a key area west of the jihadist bastion of Fallujah, security sources said.

Fighters from the army, the police and from the Hashed al-Shaabi -- a paramilitary organization dominated by Tehran-backed Shiite militias -- entered the centre of Saqlawiya.

The town lies around 10 kilometers (six miles) northwest of Fallujah and control of the rural area around it is key to cutting off the city which Iraqi forces are trying to retake.

June 3, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:11 PM


Trump Repeats, And Specifies, Racist Rant Against Trump U. Judge (Matt Shuham, June 3, 2016, National Memo)

In an interview taped Friday for Sunday morning's The Lead with Jake Tapper, Donald Trump repeated the racist comments he has made at various campaigns stops this week about the federal judge presiding over two lawsuits filed by former students of Trump University.

"He's a Mexican. We're building a wall between here and Mexico," Trump said of U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel. He continuously referred to Curiel as Mexican, even though Curiel was born in East Chicago, Indiana, in 1953.

Evangelicals Must Not Bear the Mark of Trump (Michael Gerson, June 03, 2016, Washington Post)

Support for Trump involves a massive, disorienting shift, especially given the reputation of the religious right. It is, well, unexpected for evangelicals to endorse a political figure who has engaged in creepy sex talk on the radio, boasted about his extramarital affairs, made a fortune from gambling and bragged about his endowment on national television.

But the tension runs much deeper. Evangelicals are not merely choosing a certain political outcome. They are determining their public character -- the way they are viewed by others, and, ultimately, the way they view themselves. They are identifying with a man who has fed ethnic tension for political gain; who has proposed systemic religious discrimination; who has dramatically undermined the democratic values of civility and tolerance; who has advocated war crimes, including killing the families of terrorists; who holds a highly sexualized view of power as dominance, rather than seeing power as an instrument to advance moral ends.

In legitimizing the presumptive Republican nominee, evangelicals are not merely accepting who he is; they are changing who they are. Trumpism, at its root, involves contempt for, and fear of, outsiders -- refugees, undesirable migrants, Muslims, etc. By associating with this movement, evangelicals will bear, if not the mark of Cain, at least the mark of Trump. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:41 PM


Killer Whale Culture Shapes Their Evolution (Nathaniel Scharping, June 3, 2016, Discovery)

When it comes to evolution in modern humans, environmental pressures have almost all been accounted for -- instead of adapting our bodies we can come up with technological solutions that work just as well. But our culture, the shared set of activities, behaviors and beliefs that define our lives, still provides a degree of variation that could serve to imprint itself on our bodies in the long term.

Culture extends to other animals, too. Social groups often display patterns of behavior unique to their subset of the population, and these behaviors are passed down to subsequent generations. Conducting research in killer whales, or orcas, researchers have now discovered that certain elements of their culture have exerted evolutionary pressure on the whales, altering their genes in concordance with specific behaviors.

Posted by orrinj at 4:17 PM


Storage sunrise: Solar battery makers eye take-off as prices fall (MELANIE BURTON AND BYRON KAYE, 6/03/16, Reuters)

When Frances Miao put solar panels on the rooftop of her three-storey home in the Sydney suburb of Hunters Hill, the emergency doctor planned to wait five years before spending more on battery storage.

But with payments falling for feeding any unused energy back into the power grid, Miao decided to double down on her investment with a battery so she can use more of the electricity she generates.

Energy giants such as Panasonic, Tesla and Samsung SDI are targeting Australia as a test ground for battery storage, betting that more consumers in the country with the world's highest rate of rooftop solar panels will rush to batteries as prices fall from current levels around A$10,000 ($7,200) for an average home.

Posted by orrinj at 3:49 PM


China's Forgetting the Keys to Success (Michael Schuman, 6/02/16, Bloomberg View)

China is arguably the valedictorian of Asia's MBA program. When Deng Xiaoping ditched the radical economics of Mao and steered China into the global economy beginning in the early 1980s, he borrowed liberally from programs and policies that had earlier ignited rapid growth in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore. The student quickly outshone the teachers, riding an export-led, investment-heavy strategy to years of double-digit growth.

Now, however, China's President Xi Jinping appears to have misplaced his textbooks. Rather than continuing to heed the experiences of Asia's tiger economies, he's ignoring critical lessons at his -- and China's -- peril.

Probably the key truism to emerge from the region's postwar boom is that if countries are to grow quickly, development must subsume all other priorities. Former South Korean President Park Chung Hee, who launched his country's economic ascent, put it best when he wrote: "In human life, economics precedes politics or culture."

But all the others did then liberalize politics and culture.
Posted by orrinj at 3:44 PM


Iran finds new port partner in India  (Alireza Ramezani, June 2, 2016, Al Monitor)

Among the many delegations that have visited Iran since the Jan. 16 lifting of nuclear-related sanctions, India has been among the few that have managed to actually secure a major economic deal with the Islamic Republic.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi signed 12 agreements, including a deal to develop Chabahar -- a port city on the Gulf of Oman -- shortly after he paid an official visit to Iran in late May. India committed to immediately invest about $500 million in the Iranian free trade zone, while it also vowed to spend an additional $20 billion to develop the port city with roads and railroads running inland to the north.

Expressing satisfaction with the agreement, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called it a "political and regional" deal that could connect India through a "reliable route" to landlocked Afghanistan and Central Asia.

Posted by orrinj at 3:36 PM


Fed's Evans sees case for deferring U.S. rate hikes for years (DAVID MILLIKEN AND ANDY BRUCE, 6/03/16, Reuters)

Chicago Fed President Charles Evans called into question the likelihood of a U.S. interest rate hike this summer, saying he saw a "reasonable case" for delaying higher borrowing costs until core inflation reaches the Fed's goal of 2 percent.

Posted by orrinj at 3:29 PM


Israel's Real Enemy Isn't Iran or the Palestinians. It's the Idea of Crisis Itself. : Steeped in constant anxiety, Israeli leaders, left and right, offer no real vision for the future (Liel Leibovitz, June 2, 2016, The Tablet)

The most important news story out of Israel last week had nothing to do with Moshe Ya'alon's resignation as minister of Defense, or the controversial appointment of Avigdor Lieberman in his stead, or any of the other political reindeer games that regularly frustrate and amuse Israelis. Instead, it was a brief report that was forgotten as soon as it was published: Because of budgetary constraints, the Israel Defense Forces cannot afford to replace asbestos-ridden parts used in tanks and armored personnel carriers, putting the men who serve in these vehicles at risk of exposure to known carcinogens outlawed elsewhere in the country.

Don't expect anyone to resign over this outrage anytime soon. Don't hold your breath waiting for pundits to pontificate on national TV about ministerial responsibility, and don't wait for politicians to deliver speeches promising change. In Israel these days, serious indignation is reserved only for the one true topic worthy of attention: The Crisis, a perpetual feeling of imminent doom that dominates the hearts and minds of leftists and rightists alike.

If you're one of the few who still vote for the ultra-liberal Meretz, or among the thinning crowd that supports whatever the old Labor party is called these days, or even a supporter of the Willy Wonka of Israeli politics, Yair Lapid, your version of The Crisis is as follows: Consumed by constant war, Israel is sliding into fascism, with strongmen ever ascendant and with the foundations of democracy shaken daily by the goose-stepping of the nationalists and the religious. If you're anywhere on the right, you take the same constant war as your point of departure but worry instead about the Palestinians, the Iranians, the Lebanese, the Syrians, and any number of neighbors wishin' and hopin' to bring the Jewish experiment with self-governance to a swift and bitter end.

Invisible from both these viewpoints are the soldiers in the asbestos-ridden tanks; the young Arab women and children in Umm al-Fahm, pushed by stupid neglect right into the arms of Islamic fundamentalists; the barely functioning police; the medical interns who are struggling with 26-hour shifts when their colleagues in Europe and America typically work between 12 and 16 hours at a time; the students down south who, unlike their peers in wealthier communities elsewhere in Israel, are repeatedly falling behind in math and other core subjects; the 150,000 toddlers who attend unsupervised day-care centers and receive abysmally unhealthy lunches; the residents of Jerusalem, many of whom are Arabs or fervently Orthodox Jews, more than half of whom are currently unemployed; the tens of thousands of Arab and Bedouin children in the Galilee and the Negev who benefited from three mobile libraries that the Ministry of Culture, for some reason, chose to shut down; and many other victims of tiny domestic dramas, all unseen, all eclipsed by The Crisis.

Posted by orrinj at 3:19 PM


Father of judge Trump keeps blasting for 'Mexican' ancestry has lived in U.S. longer than Trump's mother (Jeva Lange, 6/03/16, The Week)

[I]t turns out, the judge might be even more American than Trump is -- at least if you measure by the years their families have lived in the country.

U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel was born in Indiana, the son of a Salvadorian immigrant who arrived in the U.S. in the 1920s and went on to become a citizen and a steelworker, Talking Points Memo reports. Trump's mother, Mary Anne MacLeod, arrived in the United States from Scotland in 1930 -- and didn't become a U.S. citizen until 1942.

Except that Trump and his ilk measure by race.
Posted by orrinj at 3:15 PM


Clinton's Best Asset, Trump's Biggest Liability: Experience (Justin McCarthy, 6/03/16, Gallup)

Hillary Clinton holds double-digit advantages over Donald Trump in Americans' views of the two candidates' experience to be president, ability to work with both parties in Washington and likability. [....]

These data, collected May 18-22, also find that Clinton has a slight edge in views of the candidates' ability to manage the government effectively and whether they care about the needs of people "like you." Americans are about equally likely to say Clinton and Trump have strong moral character and to say they are honest and trustworthy, though fewer than four in 10 say these apply to either candidate. On the other hand, nearly equivalent majorities of Americans view each candidate as being able to get things done.

More than six in 10 Americans say Clinton has the experience it takes to be president (62%) -- twice as many as say this about Trump (31%). In fact, experience is Clinton's greatest overall strength from among those tested in the poll, and it is Trump's single weakest attribute.

Most adults also believe Clinton can get things done (56%), while about half say she would work well with both parties in Washington (51%) and that she is a strong and decisive leader (51%).

Posted by orrinj at 12:23 PM



The second time that Gertrude Chandler Warner published "The Boxcar Children," a tale of four orphaned adventurers named Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny, the year was 1942, and the book was so successful that it erased Warner's first version, published by Rand McNally in 1924 (with a hyphen in its title: "The Box-Car Children"), from public memory. For the 1942 version, the story line and personalities of the main characters remained largely unchanged, but Warner abbreviated the text for younger readers, scrubbing it down to the simplicity of a fable--the vocabulary of the second edition was deliberately limited to six hundred words. The book has never gone out of print, and it became the foundation for more than a hundred and fifty sequels, a dedicated museum in Connecticut, and, two years ago, an animated film.

Warner wrote the first nineteen of those sequels, in which the Boxcar Children solve mysteries, herself; all the rest have been ghostwritten. But it's that 1942 book that people remember, partly because it provides the children's origin story, and partly because the appeal of the series can be traced to the beguiling tale that the first book tells, about work and family and life's rewards. Work, especially: "The Boxcar Children," one realizes upon rereading it, is an odd sort of capitalist parable, in which children without parents re-create the division of labor that, in the nineteen-forties, would become increasingly associated with a popular vision of the American nuclear family. [...]

Given that the more popular version of the story was published in 1942, it is tempting to tie the book's bread-and-tin-cups aesthetic to the Depression. But as Michelle Ann Abate, an associate professor of literature for children and young adults at the Ohio State University, argues in a recent paper, the early twenties, when the original manuscript was written, provide the more relevant context: the children's temperance is reactionary, a rebuke to excess and hedonism. And it has been such ever since. There remains something mildly and even pleasurably heretical about the way the Boxcar Children locate the outer limits of amusement in decorous productivity--the way that, for them, there's no better use of total independence than perfectly mimicking the most respectable behaviors of adults. They earn money, do chores when no one's watching ("The children could hardly wait to put the shining dishes on the shelf"), and engage in none of the mischief that other literary children take to when left to their own devices. Even Francie Nolan spent her pennies frivolously. Almanzo Wilder ate all the sugar. Henny, from "All-of-a-Kind Family," stained her dress with tea.

None of that for the Boxcar Children, who are so Puritan that Henry worries, out loud, that building a pool on Sunday would be amoral--before Jessie justifies the activity by saying that the pool will help them keep clean. 

Posted by orrinj at 11:09 AM


What's next in Western Sahara dispute after death of Polisario leader?  (Habibulah Mohamed Lamin, June 1, 2016, Al Monitor)

The death this week of longtime Polisario Front Secretary-General Mohamed Abdelaziz provoked waves of mourning, condolences from international leaders and speculation about the Western Sahara independence movement's next steps. [...]

Abdelaziz was a founding member and the third secretary-general of the Polisario Front, the independence movement launched in 1973 by the indigenous Sahrawi people of Western Sahara in their dispute with Morocco. He served as head of a battalion, and then gradually became a chief of the first military district of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), which is considered a stronghold of the Polisario-controlled part of Western Sahara. Abdelaziz succeeded Alwali Mustafa Sayad as secretary-general in 1976. Since then, he had also been re-elected as president of the SADR in exile.

His term saw many changes, from becoming a founding member of the African Union to the cease-fire brokered by the United Nations in 1991. Despite the anger that has been spreading among young Sahrawis eager to take up arms again, Abdelaziz managed to keep the fight for self-determination peaceful. [...]

During Abdelaziz's leadership, the Polisario Front achieved what is known as a state within another. In the harsh desert area around Tindouf, the front established an administrative center for the refugee camps in what is known as Rabuni, where the front operates more than 13 ministries. The camps have legal and court systems. 

Said Al Jafri, who lives in the El Aaiun camp, works as a broadcaster for Sahrawi national radio. He told Al-Monitor how much he admired Abdelaziz. "I consider him a revolutionary hero who sacrificed his whole life for an independent Sahrawi state," he said.

It is apparent that the deceased president has a strong support base not only in the camps, but also in the Moroccan-occupied territories of Western Sahara. Ahmed Ettanji is a human rights activist who favors an independent Western Sahara. "President Mohamed Abdelaziz was a source of inspiration, a colleague and a leader. His death was hard on us, but the Sahrawi case is a cause of [many] generations, and we will continue fighting for our right of self-determination," he told Al-Monitor.

Abdelaziz has always been known for his backing of human rights activism in Western Sahara. He has always repeated in his most famous speeches, "Human rights activists are our weapons that we must always take care of."

Now there is speculation about who will succeed the independence movement's leader. Khatri Adouh, president of the Sahrawi National Council (the SADR parliament) and one of Abdelaziz's closest friends, was appointed interim Polisario Front leader. The front ordered a 40-day mourning period before an exceptional congress is held to elect the next chief, and that congress will be the first in the front's history without a presumptive winner.

Many in the camps think Brahim Ghali, the head of the Polisario's political secretariat and former SADR ambassador to Algeria, will become the front's president, though that will be determined in the upcoming election. Ghali is a member of one of the oldest diplomatic corps in Africa. The first generation is still ruling the liberation movement, but that may be changing, as a 32-year-old minister of youth and sports was recently elected.

Posted by orrinj at 10:58 AM


Generation revolution: how Egypt's military state betrayed its youth (Rachel Aspden,  2 June 2016, The Guardian)

Ruqayah crouched behind a sandbag wall, blinking away the sweat running into her eyes. The sun was directly overhead and the acrid smell of burning plastic stung the back of her throat. Shouts and screams rose thinly over gunfire, helicopter rotors and the rumble of armoured bulldozers.

It was the middle of August 2013, soon after the Eid feast that marks the end of Ramadan, and the security forces were clearing the huge protest camps at Rabaa and al-Nahda squares in central Cairo. Their tens of thousands of inhabitants were demonstrating against the removal of the president, Mohamed Morsi, in a military coup at the beginning of July. Beside Ruqayah huddled another teenage girl and a young man, pressed as close as they could get to the rough hessian of the sandbags. To the side, sprawled on the concrete with blood pooling around them, lay the bodies of two men who had been shot dead by police snipers.

"Don't move until I tell you. Then, run," the man told the two girls. Ruqayah nodded silently and waited, closing her eyes, clasping the other girl's hand, for the brief silence that meant the shooters were reloading. She knew to bend double and run in zigzags to make herself a harder target. When she opened her eyes she saw other people - adults, teenagers and small children - crouching in the angle of walls, against cars, behind rough barricades of paving stones, anything that would protect them from the gunfire coming from the square and the snipers on the rooftops around them. Then one man, bearded and strongly built, stood up and spread his arms wide in defiance, facing the square.

"I won't crawl," he shouted. "Allahu Akbar!" Ruqayah squeezed her eyes shut again, but she heard his skull shatter as the sniper's bullet struck.

"Now!" the young man told them and they dashed behind him, weaving left and right, for the shelter of a side street. Ruqayah was just 15, wiry and fleet, but the other girl was older and heavier. A bullet caught her in the leg and she fell as Ruqayah watched in horror. The girl crawled the last metres to them, leaving a trail of blood.

Six weeks earlier, on 30 June, hundreds of thousands of people had marched in Egypt's major cities, demanding the resignation of their president. The Muslim Brotherhood's candidate, Mohamed Morsi, had been elected only a year earlier, in a run-off with a pro-army candidate, with 52% of the vote. At first, the anti-Morsi marches seemed like an echo of the popular demonstrations that had unseated the dictator Hosni Mubarak after three decades in power. The protesters even chanted the slogans of the 2011 revolution - "Leave, leave!", "The people demand the fall of the regime!". A movement named Tamarod (Arabic for "rebellion"), which had organised the protests, claimed to have gathered 22 million signatures for its petition demanding that Morsi resign and that a fresh presidential election be held. But while Tamarod appeared to be a grassroots organisation - its volunteers lining Cairo's roads to collect signatures from drivers - behind the scenes, it was backed by powerful old‑regime figures in business and the military who wanted the president and the Muslim Brotherhood gone.

It was the neocons' Tiananmen Square.

Posted by orrinj at 10:53 AM


U.S. Houses Are Still Getting Bigger (JEFFREY SPARSHOTT, Jun 2, 2016, WSJ)

Americans want bigger houses. Or at least that's what they're getting.

The median size of a new single-family house was 2,467 square feet last year, the biggest on record, according to Census Bureau data out this week.

With all that floor space, homes are 61% larger than the median from 40 years earlier and 11% larger than a decade earlier.

And we spend a smaller percentage of our income on them.

Posted by orrinj at 10:45 AM


Diner Owner Who Offers 'Dictator Obama' Breakfast Special Pleads Guilty In WELFARE FRAUD Case (Eric Owens, 06/03/2016, Daily Caller)

The owner of an upstate New York diner who became famous earlier this year for his "Dictator Obama" breakfast special has pleaded guilty to swindling the state government out of over $23,000 in welfare assistance.

The Tea Party is just older, whiter, Americans afraid their welfare checks will go to the coloreds.

June 2, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:37 PM


In Ottoman holdover, Israel doubles down on marriage restrictions (AMANDA BORSCHEL-DAN, June 2, 2016, Times of Israel)

The Jewish state is one of the few places in the world where it is illegal -- with a potential jail term of two years -- for Jewish couples to marry as they wish.

This was confirmed on Wednesday when a proposed law amendment which would decriminalize marriages performed outside the auspices of the Israeli chief rabbinate was shot down in a 32-25 vote in the Knesset. [...]

"If getting married halachically was made into a criminal act in any other country, we would fight it as anti-Semitism. But here in Israel, where absolute power has absolutely corrupted, hundreds -- perhaps thousands -- of young couples are forced to break the law in order to practice Judaism," said Itim's Farber.

Posted by orrinj at 7:23 PM


Hispanic RNC official reportedly resigning due to Trump (The Week, June 1, 2016)
The Republican National Committee's director of Hispanic media is stepping down later this month, after previously telling RNC aides she was uncomfortable working for Donald Trump.

Posted by orrinj at 7:16 PM


GOP senators look to soothe South Korea amid Trump bluster (ELI STOKOLS, 06/01/16, Politico)

Three Republican senators are reassuring U.S. allies in Asia and looking to mitigate the damage they believe Donald Trump is doing to important trans-Pacific relationships, further evidence that when it comes to the GOP's presumptive nominee and America's most critical allies, politics no longer end, so to speak, at the water's edge.

Posted by orrinj at 7:12 PM


The EU hasn't settled the 'German question'. It's reopened it (Charles Moore, 6/02/16, Spectator)

'No one can seriously deny that European integration brought an end to Franco-German conflict and has settled the German question for good,' wrote Niall Ferguson in the latest Sunday Times. I hesitate when confronted by such an assertion by such a learned professor. But I think I would seriously deny it, or at least seriously question it. Surely what brought an end to Franco-German conflict was the utter defeat of Nazi Germany. European integration was a symptom of that end, not its cause. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:06 PM


Sorry Bernie: Scandinavia Isn't Socialist. You Must Be Thinking of France (Dylan Pahman, 6/01/16, Acton)

 In Sanders the Occupy Wall Street movement of 2011 has finally found a plan: democratic socialism, as Bernie put it, "like Denmark, like Sweden and Norway."

Unfortunately for Sanders, few if any of his policies would get us what the Scandinavians have -- which isn't really Socialism. In fact, it's not even close.

Denmark, Iceland, Sweden, and Norway all rate in the same category as the United States ("Mostly Free") on the Heritage/Wall Street Journal 2016 Index of Economic Freedom. The Fraser Institute's 2015 Human Freedom Index even places Denmark, and Sweden in their top 10, well above the U.S. at 20th place.

Indeed, in his trip to the U.S. last November, Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen insisted that the Nordic Model is not socialist. "Denmark is far from a socialist planned economy," he said. "Denmark is a market economy." If Danish capitalism is what the senator really meant by democratic socialism, I might have even voted for him in the Michigan primary! But alas, it isn't.

Sanders' policy proposals tell a different story. As Will Wilkinson of the libertarian Niskanen Center put it, "If you want Danish levels of social spending, you need Danish middle-class tax rates and a relatively unfettered capitalist economy." Bernie has pledged not to raise taxes on the middle class. Instead, he wants to soak the rich. France tried that and found that, as it turns out, the rich can afford to move. Ever since the repeal of their short-lived and insane 75 percent top marginal income tax rate in 2012, many wealthy French are still migrating, contributing to a general "wealth drain."

Bernie Sanders wants more regulation (again, like they have in France) when what he needs to achieve his Nordic dream is less. Even the left-leaning Progressive Policy Institute has recently recommended liberalizing international trade, reducing regulation, and lowering corporate and income taxes -- all things that Sanders opposes. Thus, Bernie wants what the Danes have, but he wants to get it through French policies. Shouldn't he expect French results instead?

Posted by orrinj at 6:37 PM


Could a millionaire businessman save Iraq's Sunnis? (NED PARKER, 6/02/16, Reuters)

Dubai-based Khanjar says he offers an alternative: a federation in which Sunnis, Shi'ites and Kurds could all run their own parts of the country without formally breaking it up. A Sunni federal region would win billions in investments from Gulf Arab states and Turkey, Khanjar and partners in his alliance said.

Last week, Khanjar, a native of the embattled Sunni city of Falluja, announced in a televised address that he was forming a delegation to investigate "extrajudicial killing," the "demolishing and looting of property" and other alleged human rights violations by Shi'ite militia there.

"The Iraqi government is granting a political cover to militias and consistently denies the systematic violations of human rights" Khanjar said.

The government has consistently denied any involvement by state forces in killings or abductions and said it actively works to arrest criminal gangs behind such actions.

Over the past year, the six-foot-tall tycoon, flanked by a gaggle of aides and British private security contractors, has made a series of trips to northern Iraq. He limits himself to Kurdistan, because, he says, his life is in danger from Islamic State and Iranian-backed forces in other parts of the country.

He is also paying $65,000 a month to a Washington, D.C.-based lobbying firm run by former Clinton White House officials to promote his cause in the United States.

Iraq's ruling Shi'ite leaders deride him as a destabilizing opportunist. Jabbar al-Abadi, a member of parliament from the Prime Minister's Dawa party, described Khanjar's push for Sunni autonomy as "an invitation to tear Iraq apart."

They are tribes, not a nation.

Posted by orrinj at 6:32 PM


Fed swimming against global tide of easier rates (JAMIE MCGEEVER, 6/02/16, rEUTERS)

As the Federal Reserve prepares the ground for another interest rate hike, most other central banks are moving in the opposite direction. And the divergence is widening.

No fewer than 53 central banks have eased monetary policy since the start of last year, almost all by lowering rates. Indeed, the pace of policy easing nearly everywhere is accelerating even as the Fed nears its second hike of the cycle.

Posted by orrinj at 6:28 PM



A new business called Replica Wines claims to produce "master forgeries" of well-known wines, deploying a throng of chemical instruments and a huge flavor database to blend near-identical versions of the wines from different grapes.

Ava Winery, meanwhile, takes a different approach, bypassing grapes entirely, and going straight for the molecules -- combining flavor chemicals with ethanol and water to reproduce the experience of wine, without replicating the process.

Posted by orrinj at 6:02 PM


The U.S. dollar is stronger than it's been in 13 years. That's bad. (Jeff Spross, June 1, 2016, The Week)

You may have heard that the U.S. dollar is quite strong again. That sounds good, right? "Strong" is generally a positive adjective, after all.

Well, not so fast. Because if the dollar is strong, something else must be weak. So whether a "strong" dollar is a good thing or not depends on some context.

A "strong" versus "weak" dollar is all about how much the dollar is worth compared to other currencies, as measured on international currency exchange markets.

Currencies are essentially futures.  America has one.  Others don't.

Posted by orrinj at 5:56 PM


EU eyes return as Iran's first trade partner (Maysam Bizaer, 6/02/16, Al Monitor)

The European Union's foreign policy chief has stated that the 28-member bloc once again wants to become Iran's biggest trading partner. "We are the ones that used to be Iran's first partner on the economic fields, on trade, investment, and we want to be back to that," Federica Mogherini told Tasnim News Agency during her one-day trip to Tehran on April 16.

Posted by orrinj at 5:12 PM


Anti-Immigration Environmental Group Behind Paul Ryan Attack Ad (Lachlan Markay, June 2, 2016 , Free Beacon)

A dark money group that blends environmentalism, population control advocacy, and anti-immigrant sentiment is running attack ads against House Speaker Paul Ryan in the Wisconsin Republican's district. [...]

The CAPS ad illuminates a frequently overlooked connection between environmental and anti-immigration policies and the activists behind them. The group is one of several advancing restrictive immigration policies under the banner of conservation and natural resource preservation.

June 1, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 10:06 PM


This Haitian West Point cadet's dream of becoming a pilot is now a reality (Catherine Garcia, May 27, 2016, The Week)
As a child growing up in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, 2nd Lt. Alix Schoelcher Idrache was fascinated by the U.S. forces he saw conducting humanitarian missions, in awe of their technology, military hardware, and Chinooks. He says he didn't dare dream that one day, he'd be among their ranks.

"People where I'm from don't grow up to be pilots, right?" he told a military reporter. "You don't just say I'm going to be a pilot and make it happen. There's no aviation, there's no helicopters, no flight schools. There's none of that." Idrache, 24, ended up proving himself wrong -- on May 21, seven years after immigrating to the United States, he graduated from West Point as the top physics student. In July, he will enter the Army Aviation Center for Excellence at Fort Rucker, Alabama, going in as the recipient of the Brigadier General Gerald A. Counts Memorial Award for earning the highest rating in physics.

Idrache's joy at being a West Point graduate was immortalized by a photographer at the ceremony, who captured Idrache's tear-stained face right before the graduates threw their caps.

Posted by orrinj at 6:38 PM


ESPN 30 for 30 (with respect, instead of a smirk) takes on faith, virginity and the NBA (Terry Mattingly, Get Religion)

[T]his brings me to a recent 30 for 30 short entitled, "A.C. Green: Iron Virgin." That's the YouTube at the top of this post, but click here to go to the ESPN page dedicated to this film. You will want to check out the short commentary by director Isaac Feder, as well.

ESPN has not posted a major story, or transcript, linked to this project. Thus, it is rather hard to walk GetReligion readers through the specifics of what works in this short. Here is the online summary:

He played in a record 1,192 consecutive NBA games. As a power forward for the Los Angeles Lakers, he won three NBA championships. But what made A.C. Green truly distinctive was the courage of his convictions. As this ESPN 30 for 30 Short points out, Green was a devout Christian who maintained his virginity throughout his 16 years in the NBA, nine of them spent in the tempting, hedonistic atmosphere of Los Angeles. That didn't stop him from being a fierce, passionate competitor on the court. It just meant that he was someone who, as teammate James Worthy says, "could stay strong and not be broken." It was only after he retired after the 2000-01 season that Green got married.
In all, Green played in 1192 straight NBA games - a feat the NBA all but ignored.

One of the more memorable scenes in "Iron Virgin" is Green taking an elbow to the mouth and then need to retrieve one of his teeth from the court surface. He kept playing.

And, oh yes, Green was in the locker room of the Showtime Lakers during the same era that led - in one way or another - to one of the most poignant and important human stories of that era, which would be Magic Johnson having to walk away at the height of his hoops power due to AIDS.

One of the only weaknesses in this documentary is the absence of Johnson's voice. One man (backed by the great David Robinson of the San Antonio Spurs and others) was a voice for sexual abstinence before marriage. Magic made it clear in many of his statements that abstinence was a courageous choice, but not one that he was strong enough to make. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:27 PM


Online speech backers' newest fear: Trump (NANCY SCOLA, 06/01/16, pOLITICO)

Congressional Republicans and Silicon Valley are racing to pass legislation to combat nuisance lawsuits against online speech -- before a litigious President Donald Trump gets a chance to veto it.

Tech companies and GOP lawmakers have found common cause in trying to make it harder to sue people for what they say online, inspired by cases such as a Virginia carpet cleaner's attempt to punish the writers of negative Yelp reviews. But while the anti-lawsuit crusade meshes with Republicans' traditional dislike of trial lawyers, supporters fear it will collide with Trump's fondness for litigation against his critics -- including his real or threatened suits against a Miss USA contestant, a rapper who used his name in a YouTube video, a journalist who questioned his net worth and former GOP primary rival John Kasich.

So the bill's supporters are pushing to get the legislation passed while Barack Obama is still president.

"Obama will sign this. I don't think Trump will," said Texas Republican Rep. Blake Farenthold, a lead sponsor of the anti-lawsuit bill -- who also happens to support Trump's White House bid. While he praises Trump as a deal-maker who can get things done in Washington, he says the prospect of the billionaire's nomination is "why I'm pushing to get it done" before Congress leaves for its fall recess.

Posted by orrinj at 6:07 PM


USMNT: GET EXCITED FOR COPA AMERICA (Will Leitch, 6/01/16, Sports on Earth)

 In soccer, the U.S is not a superpower; we are those scrappy underdogs trying to challenge the established empires. It is far more enjoyable to watch a nation attempt to channel its resources to build something lasting than to watch established powers simply try to hold on to their status. Would you rather be a fan of the U.S. team or, say, England, in which every game appears to be a national referendum on self-loathing? We are the up-and-comers. And we are never the up-and-comers. To use the term I coined a couple of years ago, it's hipster patriotism. It's being a fan before it was cool to be a fan.

Plus: Find me anything -- anything -- that unites this country anymore. Then watch people from all across the United States, people who will all be screaming at each other this November, lose their damned minds when John Brooks scored his famous goal in the 2014 World Cup.

Yeah: I want that jones again.

Thus, we come to now. On Friday night, the United States will kick off the Copa America Centenario in Santa Clara, California, against Colombia. The Copa America is not the World Cup -- it's just because of the Centenario anniversary that the U.S. gets to compete in this tournament at all -- but it's the best thing going until we get there, and it's being played in the United States. This is the United States measuring itself against some of the best teams in the world, from Brazil to Argentina to even Mexico. There aren't that many massive soccer tournaments for the U.S. to play in. Next to the World Cup, this is as big as it gets. Even our coach says, "This is the real deal."

The most fun thing about the USMNT as its first game approaches is that, for the first time since the last World Cup, it's actually giving its fans some reason to hope. After the disastrous Gold Cup last year -- in which the U.S. lost to Jamaica in the semifinals in Atlanta, a game I attended and a game that probably assures the USMNT is never coming to Atlanta again -- and then a loss to Mexico to miss out on going to the Confederations Cup in Russia next year, coach Jurgen Klinsmann has taken relentless fire. Critics, with some justification (though you should of course never criticize the USMNT, ever ever ever you traitors), hammered Klinsmann for not embracing young players, for some questionable tactics, for trying to change the American soccer culture too dramatically, for being aloof and inflexible. It didn't help when the team stumbled in early 2018 World Cup qualifying, including a loss to Guatemala last March that put the team in legitimate danger of missing out on Russia.

An easy 4-0 win over Guatemala just a few days later got the train back on track, but it's the friendlies in preparation for the Copa America that have everyone -- OK, me -- so excited. A 3-1 win over Puerto Rico with a threadbare squad told us nothing, and the USMNT looked lousy in the first half against Ecuador. But then something clicked, in large part because Klinsmann finally started giving his kids a chance, notably Bobby Wood, Darlington Nagbe and, most thrillingly, Christian Pulisic. The team immediately looked more energetic and structured -- while still relying on old stalwarts like Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones -- and ended up winning 1-0. The real fun came against Bolivia, a game the USMNT dominated in a 4-0 victory. The best part of that one was the final goal, scored by Pulisic, the first USMNT goal for the 17-year-old who, after playing for Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga, has a chance to be the great USMNT superstar hope we've all been waiting for.

Posted by orrinj at 6:02 PM


Libertarian VP Candidate Dispels Clinton Email Scandal In 20 Seconds (Matt Shuman, June 1, 2016, National Memo)

 "You can't indict somebody if there's no evidence of criminal intent, and I don't see any evidence of criminal intent."

And he would know. In addition to serving from 1991 to 1997 as governor of Massachusetts, Weld was previously a U.S. attorney and former chief of the Department of Justice Criminal Division under Ronald Reagan -- the very official who would have been making decisions about major cases like this one, along with the attorney general.

Posted by orrinj at 4:11 PM


How serious is Russia's military threat? (The Week, May 29, 2016)

Even the top Pentagon brass -- who are using Putin's buildup to argue for greater funding -- don't believe American military supremacy is in jeopardy. The U.S. still spends nearly seven times more on defense (about $600 billion) than Russia ($84 billion), and has 19 aircraft carriers to Russia's one. And NATO has four times Russia's military power. Under treaties signed by recent presidents, including George W. Bush and Barack Obama, the two sides have approximate nuclear parity, but the U.S. has hundreds of nondeployed warheads in storage, and Russia does not. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:06 PM


The Trumps: 'An Incestuous Intertwining with Organized Crime'  (Steve Villano, May 31, 2016, National Memo)

The list of the Trump family's -- both Fred Trump, who left his son $200 million dollars and a legacy of lying about his wealth and businesses, and Donald's -- ties to organized crime, or "Mob-Nobbing" as Wayne Barrett aptly named it in his book Trump: The Deals & the Downfall, reads like a Who's Who of Mafioso in the New York/New Jersey/Philadelphia Metropolitan Areas over the past 45 years. Here are just a few of the law-breaking luminaries or their mob-fronted companies, who can easily be found in Barrett's book, who either did business with the Trumps, served as their partners (secret or otherwise), or made labor or building problems go away in exchange for cash:

Manny Ciminello; construction contractor, racketeer, tied to S & A Concrete;
Paul Castellano; head of Gambino Mob; secret owner of S & A Concrete;
Fat Tony Salerno; head of Genovese Mob; secret owner of S & A Concrete;
S & A Concrete; Mob-front concrete company, run by Nick Auletta; built Trump Tower and Trump Plaza;
Willie Tomasello; Fred Trump's partner on Beach Haven; Genovese associate;
Nicky Scarfo; Atlantic City/Philadelphia Crime Boss; Cleveland Wrecking Co;
Cleveland Wrecking Company; mob-front demolition co., hired by Trump;
Wachtel Plumbing; mob-front co.; hired by Trump in Atlantic City & NYC;
Teddy Maritas; mobbed-up head of Carpenters Union; NYC Trump contract;
Circle Industries; Maritas' mobbed up Drywall Co; Trump hired, NYC;
John Cody; mobbed-up head of Teamsters Local 282; jailed for racketeering; bragged that "Donald liked to deal with me through Roy Cohn."
Nick Auletta: President of S & A Concrete, mob-controlled cement company;
Joe DePaolo; President of Dic Underhill Co; company with alleged mob connections; helped build Trump Village with Fred Trump;
Danny Sullivan; partner in SSG, Inc; deal-making arm of Scarfo Mob, negotiated with Trump on land in Atlantic City;
Kenny Shapiro; scrap-metal dealer, partner SSG; principle financier for Scarfo's Philadelphia Crime Organization.

Writing in Politico just last week, David Cay Johnston, a Philadelphia Inquirer reporter whose book Temples of Chance: How America Inc. Bought Out Murder Inc. to Win Control of the C[***]o Business carefully details Trump's ties with organized crime, stating:

"No other candidate for the White House this year has anything close to Trump's record of repeated social and business dealings with mobsters, swindlers, and other crooks. Professor Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian, said the closest historical example would be President Warren G. Harding and Teapot Dome, a bribery and bid-rigging scandal in which the interior secretary went to prison. But even that has a key difference: Harding's associates were corrupt but otherwise legitimate businessmen, not mobsters and drug dealers."

The torrent of thugs, terrible people, and mob-front businesses Trump and his father were involved with going back more than 45 years permeates every present-day action Donald Trump takes. 

...to be that mobbed up and still not make money.....

Posted by orrinj at 3:37 PM


Donald Trump's Doral golf course set to lose WGC event to Mexico City (Ewan Murray, 1 June 2016, The Guardian)

Donald Trump's grip on high-profile golf events is to be significantly loosened, with the PGA Tour on the verge of confirming the first World Golf Championship event of the year will no longer be played at the US presidential candidate's Doral venue. The tournament, formerly the WGC-Cadillac Championship, is expected to move to the outskirts of Mexico City from 2017.