July 31, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 10:19 AM


A Reason for Optimism : Americans across the economic spectrum are consuming more than they used to. (ROBERT VERBRUGGEN • July 25, 2016, American Conservative)

New research from the economists Bruce D. Meyer and James X. Sullivan lays out the data. Bottom line: consumption inequality is less dramatic than income inequality, and there's no shocking upward trend. What's more, Americans across the economic spectrum are consuming a lot more than they used to. (The final paper is forthcoming, but you can see an early version of it here.)

Here's a chart from the paper depicting "90/10" inequality, referring to the well-being of the 90th and 10th percentiles. By the authors' various consumption measures, the well-to-do are only about four times better off than the struggling--as opposed to seven times if we use after-tax income (the top line). And consumption inequality has actually fallen since the recession.

Source: Meyer and Sullivan (forthcoming)

The authors also present basic consumption numbers for 1980 and 2014 that are adjusted for inflation. As shown in this chart calculated from their data, by every measure, families in every quintile saw their consumption rise at least 50 percent.


Consumption isn't necessarily a "better" measure of well-being than income, but it has many advantages. For one thing, incomes can fluctuate wildly from year to year as people lose jobs or experience financial windfalls, while consumption tends to be steadier. For another, income among the poor tends to be wildly underreported, thanks to a rising tendency of people not to acknowledge the money they receive from safety-net programs.

We won the war on poverty.

Posted by orrinj at 10:09 AM


Why 'Parsifal,' a Wagner opera on the power of religion, is so relevant today : Bayreuth stage director Uwe Eric Laufenberg talks about festival scandals and his production on opening day, July 25.  (Deutsche-Welle, 7/30/16)

This piece basically focuses on the religion of Christianity. On one hand, the grail knights in "Parsifal" inhabit a realm of charity, empathy and sympathy, and they come to the aid of the needy. Then there's the other side: a crucified God, blood rituals and military symbolism.

I believe that Wagner wanted to bring out the factors of benevolence and mystery in this work. Not to openly criticize religion, but to enable one to experience it. That's interesting in our own times of widespread religious fundamentalism - but also in times of a Pope Francis, who has been de-emphasizing the institutional side of the Catholic Church and stressing the factors of mercy, grace and benevolence.

It's always been pertinent to ask: What are religions doing, and are they allowing themselves to be abused for ideological purposes? What do they really stand for?

"Parsifal" is a five-hour musical drama with very little plot or action. The characters are mainly allegorical figures. Then everyone is redeemed in a happy ending. Isn't all that quite a challenge to put in scene?

If you just consider the text, "Parsifal" is difficult, yes. You need the music. It explains so much in detail, and you have to get a sense of that. Such is the case with the happy ending. Wagner knew this would be his last work. At the final uncovering of the Holy Grail, the violins soar upwards, the harmonies become clearer, and everything finally dissipates into nothingness. It's like a final breath, the utopia of a dying man, as it were - a very beautiful, holy, peaceful utopia.

Posted by orrinj at 10:02 AM


How sun, salt and glass could help solve our energy needs (Kit Buchan, 31 July 2016, sCIENTIFIC aMERICAN)

High in the stark Nevada desert, a couple of hundred miles north-west of Las Vegas, is the shimmering circular mirage of Crescent Dunes. Ten thousand silvery glass panes, each measuring 115 square metres, surround a tall central tower, which stands like a twinkling needle in the featureless landscape around it. Resembling a fabulous alien metropolis, Crescent Dunes is in fact a highly sophisticated, mile-and-a-half-wide solar power plant - "the next generation in solar energy", according to Kevin Smith, one of the project's founders.

The glass panes, which comprise a combined area of more than a million square metres, are not photovoltaic (PV) panels like those installed on rooftops and in solar farms worldwide. Instead, they are simply vast, multifaceted mirrors, which track the course of the sun like heliotropic plants. This field of mirrors harnesses and concentrates the blazing Nevada sunshine, directing it precisely towards the top of the central tower.

"The difficulty with photovoltaic is that it's intermittent," says Smith, who is CEO of Crescent Dunes's parent company, SolarReserve. "When the sun goes down, you're done." Engineers have long sought methods of storing solar energy - in water, in batteries, in fluid-filled "parabolic troughs" - but Smith claims that Crescent Dunes demonstrates "the world's most advanced energy-storage technology", known as molten-salt storage.

The central tower secretes a reservoir of potassium and sodium nitrate - about 25,000 metric tonnes of it - heated in advance to 288°C, at which temperature the mixture is a clear, water-like liquid. This is circulated in narrow, thin-walled tubes, rising dramatically in temperature when exposed to the fearsome, concentrated sunlight at the top of the tower. "We heat it to 560°C," says Smith, "it flows back down the tower and we capture it in a large tank."

The molten salt efficiently maintains the heat and when the energy is required, it is converted to electricity through a conventional steam turbine. This set-up allows Crescent Dunes to provide power to 75,000 Nevada homes long after the sun has set and even, if necessary, 24 hours a day.Smith believes that concentrated solar power (CSP) is not simply a substitute for photovoltaic panels but a potential competitor to conventional fuels. "It's really an alternative to fossil fuel or even nuclear. You couldn't power a city with just PV and wind, but you could with CSP, because of the storage capacity." SolarReserve is already developing cheaper, higher-capacity installations and planning to build similar solar plants in South Africa, Chile and China.

Posted by orrinj at 9:56 AM


PJ O'Rourke says blame the elites for Trump and Brexit - and vote for Clinton (Brigid Delaney, 30 July 2016, Guardian)

Crumpled, rumpled, charming, chaotic, funny, clever, O'Rourke is best known for his humourous political books: Give War a Chance (1992), Republican Party Reptile (1987) and Parliament of Whores (1991).

His prime decades were the freewheeling 80s and the boring, peaceful, Clintonesque 90s. At 68, his humour is that of a Waspy, Connecticut Benny Hill ("A woman should dress to attract attention. To attract the most attention, a woman should either be nude or wearing something as expensive as getting her nude is going to be"), which puts him on the wrong side of history.

But history has thrown a bit of a curveball - as history is wont to do. His beloved Republican party is in the hands of a "reptile", the Tories in Britain are sealing themselves off from the sort of worldly, globe-trotting mindset that O'Rourke has always shared, and the whole notion of conservatism is being remade by fear.

In this febrile, uncertain world, O'Rourke also finds himself in the weird position of endorsing a Democrat: Hillary Clinton.

"It's the second-worst thing that can happen to this country," he said of her potential presidency in May. "But she's way behind in second place. I mean, she's wrong about absolutely everything, but she's wrong within normal parameters."

Of Donald Trump, he has said: "I mean, this man just can't be president."

Posted by orrinj at 9:50 AM


Harmless Secrets (Fred Kaplan, 7/31/16, sLATE)

The fact is neither side has much to worry about. Even if Clinton put a transcript of the briefing on her personal server or Trump repeated every word of it to Vladimir Putin himself, little harm would be done.

That's because, according to former senior intelligence officials who have helped prepare them in the past, these briefings contain no material classified higher than Secret. And, as anyone familiar with such matters knows, nothing very sensitive is revealed in documents marked Confidential or Secret.

Retired Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, former director of the CIA and the NSA, told me in an email that these briefings are "very generalized treatments" designed to give nominees a broad-brush view of the global threats as the intelligence community sees them. Hayden and three other former senior intelligence officials said that, as a matter of policy, these briefings contain no details about ongoing military or intelligence operations. The director of national intelligence, currently James Clapper, prepares the briefings, though the president can set further limits on what they can and cannot reveal.

In the 2008 election, Barack Obama and John McCain were members of Senate committees that routinely received classified material. For that reason, their briefings were held at a level of Top Secret. Yet even so, President George W. Bush instructed then-Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell not to reveal anything about operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Bush also told McConnell that, while briefing Obama, he should brief only Obama. This was in keeping with another rule about these briefings: The nominee's aides cannot attend them unless they already have security clearances. One former senior intelligence official said in an email, "The pre-election secret clearance for the two persons running for office is inferred by virtue of a major party having nominated them as their candidates. Staff members have to earn a clearance the old-fashioned way."

The harm comes from keeping things secret in the first place.  It prevents testing what the government thinks it knows in the marketplace of ideas.

Posted by orrinj at 7:43 AM


Being Unfit May Be Almost as Bad for You as Smoking (GRETCHEN REYNOLDS  JULY 27, 2016, NY Times)

The data set, prosaically named the Study of Men Born in 1913, involved exactly that. In 1963, almost 1,000 healthy 50-year-old men in Gothenburg who had been born in 1913 agreed to be studied for the rest of their lives, in order to help scientists better understand lifetime risks for disease, especially heart disease.

The men completed baseline health testing in 1963, including measures of their blood pressure, weight and cholesterol, and whether they exercised and smoked. Four years later, when the volunteers were 54, some underwent more extensive testing, including an exercise stress test designed to precisely determine their maximum aerobic capacity, or VO2 max. Using the results, the scientists developed a mathematical formula that allowed them to estimate the aerobic capacity of the rest of the participants.

Aerobic capacity is an interesting measure for scientists to study, because it is affected by both genetics and lifestyle. Some portion of our VO2 max is innate; we inherit it from our parents. But much of our endurance capacity is determined by our lifestyle. Being sedentary lowers VO2 max, as does being overweight. Exercise raises it.

Among this group of middle-aged men, aerobic capacities ranged from slight to impressively high, and generally reflected the men's self-reported exercise habits. Men who said that they seldom worked out tended to have a low VO2 max. (Because VO2 max is more objective than self-reports about exercise, the researchers focused on it.)

To determine what impact fitness might have on lifespan, the scientists grouped the men into three categories: those with low, medium or high aerobic capacity at age 54.

Then they followed the men for almost 50 years. During that time, the surviving volunteers completed follow-up health testing about once each decade. The scientists also tracked deaths among the men, based on a national registry.

Then they compared the risk of relatively early death to a variety of health parameters, particularly each man's VO2 max, blood pressure, cholesterol profile and history of smoking. (They did not include body weight as a separate measure, because it was indirectly reflected by VO2 max.)

Not surprisingly, smoking had the greatest impact on lifespan. It substantially shortened lives.

But low aerobic capacity wasn't far behind. The men in the group with the lowest VO2 max had a 21 percent higher risk of dying prematurely than those with middling aerobic capacity, and about a 42 percent higher risk of early death than the men who were the most fit.

Poor fitness turned out to be unhealthier even than high blood pressure or poor cholesterol profiles, the researchers found. Highly fit men with elevated blood pressure or relatively unhealthy cholesterol profiles tended to live longer than out-of-shape men with good blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Posted by orrinj at 7:33 AM


U.S.-backed forces now control 40 percent of IS-held city of Manbij: monitor (Reuters, 7/31/16)

U.S.-backed forces now control 40 percent of the Islamic State-held Syrian city of Manbij after advances in the last day that secured them key areas inside the city near the Turkish border, a monitor said on Sunday.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Syria Democratic Forces (SDF), with the support of air strikes, had seized much of the eastern part of the besieged city after slower advances in recent weeks mainly in the western sector.

Isil leaders begin to flee Mosul as US-backed Iraqi army closes in on jihadists' biggest stronghold (Josie Ensor, 31 JULY 2016, The Telegraph)

Khaled al-Obeidi, the country's defence minister, said he had intelligence that senior figures in the Islamist group have already begun to leave ahead of an offensive planned for September. 

"Many Daesh families and leaders in Mosul have sold their property and sneaked out towards Syria, and a segment even tried to sneak out towards (Iraq's Kurdish) region", he said, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil).

With as many as two million residents, Mosul is the group's de facto capital in Iraq and the biggest city under its control anywhere across its self-proclaimed caliphate.

Posted by orrinj at 7:10 AM


If you have ever walked in a forest of giant sequoias and redwood trees, you remember how you were immediately mesmerized by their height, natural beauty, and distinctive appearance. Now expand your mind. Look up at those trees and imagine an architectural concept for a grand cathedral. The realization of that concept is the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia, Barcelona's top tourist attraction, with over 3 million visitors annually. 

In mid July, my husband and I were fortunate to be among those millions. Our visit to the Sagrada Familia moved us profoundly, perhaps more than any famous European church that we have ever seen.

Only after reading The Basilica of the Sagrada Familia, a book that I purchased at the gift shop, did I gain more insight into Gaudi's mindset while he was creating his masterpiece. Gaudi was a "geometrist," according to the authors -- -- Carles Buxadé i Ribot, Josep Gómez Serrano, and Ramon Ferrando Rios, who have been working on the project for more than 25 years -- and "at the same time, [the Sagrada] is also the result of painstaking observation of nature, which, as the architect himself said, was always his teacher."

That explains why, when you look up in awe at the great columns of the Sagrada Familia, you see that they are slightly tilted, not straight. By design, they vary in diameter, like trees in a forest. With nature "always his teacher," Gaudi observed how light changes and is reflected differently throughout the day. He then mimicked nature. And so, depending on the hour and season of your visit, the colors, patterns, and hues shining on the "trees" are always changing.

Even better is Hallgrímskirkja in Reykjavik, right down to the statue of Leif Erikson that America gave them to celebrate the 1,000th anniversary of the All Thing.

Posted by orrinj at 6:51 AM


Bipartisan backlash for Trump after questioning Khan family (LISA LERER and JONATHAN LEMIRE, 7/31/16, Associated Press)

Ghazala Khan has said she didn't speak because she's still overwhelmed by her grief and can't even look at photos of her son without crying.

Trump also disputed Khan's criticism that the billionaire businessman has "sacrificed nothing and no one" for his country.

"I've made a lot of sacrifices. I work very, very hard. I've created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs, built great structures," Trump said.

Trump's comments sparked immediate outrage on social media, including from Republican strategists, who criticized Trump both for attacking a mourning mother and because many considered them racist and anti-Muslim.

Senior Republican leaders, including House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, remained silent, as did vice presidential nominee Mike Pence.

Hillary Clinton told voters gathered in a Youngstown gymnasium late Saturday: "Donald Trump is not a normal presidential candidate. Somebody who attacks everybody has something missing."

"He attacked the distinguished father of a soldier who sacrificed himself for his unit, Captain Khan," she said. "I think it is fair to say he is temperamentally unfit and unqualified." [...]

Trump's comments about Khan came a day after he criticized retired four-star Gen. John Allen and slammed a Colorado Springs, Colorado, fire marshal for capping attendance at the event. The fire marshal, Brett Lacey, was recently honored by the city as "Civilian of the Year" for his role in helping the wounded at a 2015 mass shooting at a local Planned Parenthood.

Posted by orrinj at 6:39 AM


These 3 Conservative Policies Have Allowed Indiana's Economy to Flourish (Sen. Dan Coats, July 06, 2016, Daily Signal)

Here are three policies that are working in Indiana: 

1. Reduce Bureaucratic Red Tape

Republican leaders made it easier to do business in Indiana. They reduced bureaucratic red tape and eliminated many unnecessary regulations. Rather than burdening employers and trying to micromanage how businesses operate, Republicans put in place policies that have allowed our state to grow.

2. Balance the Budget

The state put its fiscal house in order. Statehouse leaders cut government spending, balanced the budget, created a surplus, and built a near record reserve fund.

Indiana earned a triple-A credit rating in 2010 and has maintained it ever since. These strategies help put the state in a better position to weather a future financial downturn.

3. Largest Tax Cut in Indiana History

Finally, and most recently, Indiana enacted the largest tax cut in state history. Lawmakers cut taxes for corporations, small business owners, and individuals. They eliminated personal property taxes for half of filers and simplified the tax code.

July 30, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 10:09 PM


Donald Trump rescued from stalled elevator in Colorado city (The Associated Press, 7/30/16)

The Colorado Springs Fire Department says that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump had to be rescued from an elevator that was stuck between the first and second floors of a resort.

Posted by orrinj at 9:30 PM


Pocket US Constitution becomes best-seller after speech (AP, July 30, 2016)

 A pocket version of the U.S. Constitution has become a best-seller on Amazon.com.

The 52-page pamphlet printed by the National Center for Constitutional Studies sells for $1 and was in the Top 10 best-selling books on Amazon on Saturday afternoon. The site produces an hourly list of its best sellers.

The Constitution emerged as a best-seller days after Muslim-American lawyer Khizr Khan, whose son was killed while serving in Iraq, flashed a pocket Constitution and offered to lend it to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump during a speech at the Democratic National Convention.

A Muslim American immigrant has his fellow citizens studying the principles of the Founding.  Sublime.

Posted by orrinj at 9:25 PM


Draft-Dodger Trump Said Sleeping Around Was My 'Personal Vietnam' (Tim Mak, 2/16/16, Daily Beast)

In a 1997 interview with shock jock Howard Stern, Trump talked about how he had been "lucky" not to have contracted diseases when he was sleeping around.

"I've been so lucky in terms of that whole world. It is a dangerous world out there. It's scary, like Vietnam. Sort of like the Vietnam-era," Trump said in a video that resurfaced Tuesday on Buzzfeed, "It is my personal Vietnam. I feel like a great and very brave soldier."

It wasn't the only time the Republican frontrunner for president would liken his personal life to wartime service: Trump has claimed that his military-themed boarding school education was essentially equivalent to having being trained in the military.

When Trump had his chance to join the military and fight in Vietnam, he did not take it. Instead, the rich kid got multiple student deferments from the draft and a medical deferment. Meanwhile, men like John McCain were being tortured as prisoners of war, but Trump has said that is dishonorable. '

Posted by orrinj at 9:10 PM


Koch Brothers' Network of Donors Meets Without Donald Trump (REBECCA BALLHAUS, Jul 30, 2016, wsj)

About 400 donors in the network backed by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch gathered at a resort here this weekend to hear from an array of Republican lawmakers and governors--but not GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Mr. Trump, who held a campaign rally here on Friday afternoon, wasn't invited to the seminar, and the Koch network has said it won't spend money on the presidential race, focusing instead on the U.S. Senate. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:42 PM


For First Time, Trump's Image on Par With Clinton's (Frank Newport, 7/30/16, Gallup)

[T]rump's speech got the least positive reviews of any speech we have tested after the fact: 35% of Americans interviewed last weekend said it was excellent or good. Of the nine previous speeches we have rated, the top one was Barack Obama's in August 2008, which 58% of Americans rated as excellent or good. The lowest-rated speech other than Trump's was Mitt Romney's in 2012, with 38% excellent or good.

Among just those who reported that they watched "a great deal" of the GOP convention, Trump's speech rating was much better: 58% of this group rated Trump's speech as excellent or good (with only 1% not having an opinion or saying they didn't watch the speech). Of those who watched very little or none of the convention, 19% rated Trump's speech as excellent or good, with 26% saying they didn't watch or didn't have an opinion. But this same type of disparity has been evident in our previous reviews of reactions to acceptance speeches as well, and the key finding is that, putting it all together, Trump's speech received lukewarm ratings, based on historical comparisons.

The self-reported net impact of the GOP convention was also negative. Overall, 51% of Americans say the convention made them less likely to vote for Trump, while 36% said it made them more likely to vote for him. This is the highest "less likely to vote" percentage for a candidate in the 15 times Gallup has asked this question after a convention. 

Photo published for Donald Trump insults a fire marshal, calls email stupid, and makes a baby cry in Colorado

Posted by orrinj at 6:36 PM


An Oil Pipeline Nearly As Long As Keystone XL Has Been Fully Approved (ALEJANDRO DAVILA FRAGOSO JUL 28, 2016, Think Progress)

Despite several months of heavy opposition, an oil pipeline slated to cut through four Midwestern states has all the regulatory permits it needs for full build-out.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers gave the final blessing to the Dakota Access pipeline on Tuesday. Developers now have the last set of permits they need to build through the small portion of federal land the line crosses, which includes major waterways like the Mississippi and the Missouri rivers.

Once he distracted them with Keystone, the UR could do whatever he wanted; like W's steel tariffs....

Posted by orrinj at 6:21 PM


Quality of Care in VA Health System Compares Well to Other Health Settings (Rand Corporation, July 18, 2016)

"We found that the overall quality of care in the VA health system compares favorably to other segments of the U.S. health care system," said Dr. Courtney Gidengil, co-author of the study and a physician scientist at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. "In some areas, the quality of care provided by the VA exceeded what we found in other settings, although there were areas where the quality of VA care fell short."

The RAND study updates and expands a similar one conducted in 2009 and was a part of a large examination of the VA health care system conducted at the request of the U.S. Congress. The VA is the nation's largest integrated health care system.

RAND researchers searched the medical literature to identify research published between January 2005 and January 2015 about the quality of care at VA health facilities compared to non-VA health facilities. A total of 69 articles across dimensions including safety and effectiveness were found.

Twenty-two of the 34 studies on safety and 20 of the 24 studies focusing on effectiveness showed that the same, if not better, quality of care is provided in VA facilities. These studies took into account safety measures and best practices that aim to avoid the illness, injury or death of patients receiving care, such as complications after surgical procedures. Surgical patients in the VA system and VA nursing homes patients had death rates similar to patients in other health systems.

Rates of surgical complications and the availability of services had the least favorable results, but these results were mixed rather than consistently poor.

In terms of effectiveness, VA facilities had similar or superior quality to non-VA facilities with respect to preventive, recommended and end-of-life care, as well as managing medications. For example, outpatient care generally rated higher in VA facilities for diabetes care and screening tests related to heart disease and cancer.

Posted by orrinj at 1:28 PM


Obama Returns to His Biography : Twelve years after introducing himself to the American public as the son of an immigrant, the president recast himself as a bearer of Scotch-Irish values. (YONI APPELBAUM  JUL 27, 2016, The Atlantic)

He spoke not just of his grandparents in Kansas, whose stories he has told many times before, but of their kin and communities, of their vision and values. They were, he said:

Scotch-Irish mostly, farmers, teachers, ranch hands, pharmacists, oil-rig workers. Hardy, small-town folk. Some were Democrats, but a lot of them, maybe even most of them, were Republicans--Party of Lincoln. My grandparents explained that the folks in these parts, they didn't like show-offs. They didn't admire braggarts or bullies. They didn't respect mean-spiritedness, or folks who were always looking for shortcuts in life. Instead, what they valued were traits like honesty and hard work. Kindness; courtesy; humility; responsibility; helping each other out. That's what they believed in. True things. Things that last. The things we try to teach our kids.

It's a different kind of American story. Not the son of a Kenyan goatherd rising directly to the highest office in the land, but working families toiling for generation after generation with quiet pride, relying on each other.

Posted by orrinj at 1:18 PM


In Tribute to Son, Khizr Khan Offered Citizenship Lesson at Convention (RICHARD A. OPPEL Jr.JULY 29, 2016, NY Times)

Mr. Khan met his wife at Punjab University in Lahore, Pakistan. They moved to Dubai, where their two eldest sons were born, then arrived in Houston, renting a $200-a-month apartment. Eventually they settled outside Washington, where Mr. Khan worked at a mortgage company and law firms.

Captain Khan attended John F. Kennedy High School in Silver Spring, Md. In his free time, he taught disabled children to swim. At the University of Virginia, he joined the R.O.T.C. program, and majored in psychology, his father said. He planned to attend law school.

His last conversation with his parents was on Mother's Day 2004. His mother said: " 'I don't want you to be a hero. I want you to return back to me safely,' " Mr. Khan recalled. "Of course I will," he promised her. "But Mother, you should know I have responsibility for these soldiers, and I cannot leave them unprotected."

The bomber who took Captain Khan's life drove an orange-and-white taxi toward the base. Had the captain not warned his men to take cover, "there would have been more casualties," his brigade commander, Dana Pittard, said in an interview.

Recalling the captain's potential as he watched Mr. Khan's speech, Mr. Pittard said, "I had to leave the room, it brought back such a flood of memories."

After their son's death, Mr. Khan and his wife, who had moved to Charlottesville to be close to their other sons, had the university's R.O.T.C. cadets over for dinner once a year. Mr. Khan would give them each a pocket-size copy of the Constitution, just like the one he brandished on Thursday, said Tim Leroux, who used to run the R.O.T.C. program.

University officials let Mr. Khan read an application essay his son wrote for a residential college. In the essay, Captain Khan wrote of how "liberty requires vigilance and sacrifice" and that those who are "beneficiaries of liberty must always bear this in mind, and keep it safe from attacks."

"That summed up his later life," Mr. Khan said.

Donald Trump to Father of Fallen Soldier: 'I've Made a Lot of Sacrifices' (STEVE TURNHAM Jul 30, 2016, ABC News)

In his first response to a searing charge from bereaved Army father Khizr Khan that he'd "sacrificed nothing" for his country, Donald Trump claimed that he had in fact sacrificed by employing "thousands and thousands of people." He also suggested that Khan's wife didn't speak because she was forbidden to as a Muslim and questioned whether Khan's words were his own.

Posted by orrinj at 1:09 PM


Updated Nationwide Presidential Poll Results (Brad Anderson, Tim Albrecht, 7/30/16, rabaresearch.com)

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has opened a significant lead over Republican nominee Donald Trump, now leading him by 15 points, according to a new online nationwide survey conducted on Friday, July 29th by RABA Research, a bipartisan polling firm.

Among likely voters, Clinton garners 46% support to Trump's 31%.  Libertarian Gary Johnson now captures 7% of the vote, while Jill Stein sits at 2%.

A RABA Research poll conducted the day after the Republican convention showed a tighter race, with Clinton at 39% and Trump at 34%. Johnson was at 8% in that survey, while Stein found 3% support.

Posted by orrinj at 10:11 AM


Brother-in-law of IS leader al-Baghdadi said killed in Iraq (TIMES OF ISRAEL, July 30, 2016)

Some 13 senior Islamic State figures, including the brother-in-law of the terror group's leader, were killed in an airstrike in Iraq, the Iraqi joint operations command reported on Saturday.

The airstrike on Friday in the Iraqi town of al-Qaim in Anbar province, near the border with Syria and some 400 km northwest of the capital Baghdad, killed Ahmed Hassan Abu Kheir, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's brother in law as well as one of his deputies, according to Saudi news channel al-Arabiya.

Posted by orrinj at 10:04 AM


Bright Shining as the Sun : Infused with the spirit of the black church, the Democrats became the party of optimism. (Jamelle Bouie, 7/30/16, Slate)

In this celebration of American strength and greatness, the faces were overwhelmingly black and brown. The father representing his son to the world and rebuking Donald Trump's attacks? A Muslim American immigrant. The Medal of Honor winner speaking for veterans who might lose out in a Trump administration? Another immigrant. The parents honoring their son, a police officer who died on duty in Cleveland? They were black.

From Monday to Thursday, each night of the Democratic National Convention was marked by incredible diversity, represented by a wide array of colors and creeds. They weren't just voices of normalcy--people who represent the extent to which Democrats have claimed the mantle of "normal" America, where normal includes nonwhites, unauthorized immigrants, and the LGBTQ community. They were also voices for optimism.

It was the startling fact of this entire convention. On Monday alone there was Michelle Obama and her forceful defense of America's "greatness" and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker's attempt to raise his profile with a soaring national speech. All week long, if you craved a message of optimism, your best bet was a brown or black face. But that makes sense. Despite deep problems of discrimination and racial inequality, it's nonwhites--blacks, Hispanics, and other groups--who have the most optimistic view of the United States and its future. For them, the country is closer than not to its self-conception as a city on the hill, and for good reason. If you're black, if you're Latino, if you're gay--life is unquestionably better now than it was in the past.

In the hands and mouths of underrepresented groups, these symbols of patriotism and national pride took on new meaning. This wasn't a crude jingoism. It was an expression of pluralistic nationalism and deep civic pride, a progressive patriotism that acknowledges the nation's failures but strives to overcome them.

What is remarkable is the extent to which this kind of patriotism--and much of the mood surrounding the convention--is rooted in black traditions of political and religious rhetoric. In ways small and large, the lifeblood of the Democratic National Convention was the black church. You saw this, in a literal way, with the stream of black politicians and black religious leaders who took the stage. The Rev. William Barber, the North Carolina preacher and head of his state's NAACP who founded the "Moral Mondays" movement, gave a speech that was emblematic of the language on display, a language and cadence drawn from the traditions of the black church. "Now, my friends, they tell me that when the heart is in danger, somebody has to call an emergency code, and somebody with a good heart will bring a defibrillator to work on the bad heart," said Barber in his thundering address. "[W]e are being called like our foremothers and fathers to be the moral defibrillators of our time. We must shock this nation with the power of love. We must shock this nation with the power of mercy. We must shock this nation and fight for justice for all." [...]

This progressive patriotism wasn't just a cudgel to use on Donald Trump, whose solipsism and fearmongering have exposed him to a Democratic attack on the basis of values and temperament. It was part of the bedrock of the argument against Trump and Trumpism--that he and his cause were fundamentally un-American, that electing him would deal an irreparable blow to the bonds of multicultural democracy.

And so we have Monday's speech from Michelle Obama, which stands as a paean to that conception of democracy. We have Wednesday's speech from Barack Obama, in which the president made a vigorous defense of American pluralism. "Fair to say, this is not your typical election. It's not just a choice between parties or policies, the usual debates between left and right," said Obama, emphasizing the extent to which he views Trump as a threat to America's democratic traditions. "This is a more fundamental choice--about who we are as a people and whether we stay true to this great American experiment in self-government."

Not the least of Trump's evils is that has ceded love of country to the Democrats. All of his pronouncements reflect a hatred of the America that actually exists.

Posted by orrinj at 9:45 AM


How a Flex-Time Program at MIT Improved Productivity, Resilience, and Trust (Peter Hirst, JUNE 30, 2016, Harvard Business Review)

Working directly with our human resources department, we launched a remote work pilot for our team of 35 employees. The program has several key principles:

Everyone is encouraged to work remotely at least two to three days per week

Wednesdays are our "work in the office if you physically can" days

You don't need to work a strict 9-to-5 schedule, but be mindful of regular business hours and don't expect others to match your unique working hours

Don't feel that you need to be connected 24/7

This foundation proved instrumental in having the team understand the opportunities and responsibilities in having a flex-time schedule. After our six-month trial period, we surveyed the team to determine if this arrangement was a viable and successful long-term benefit of working for our department. The survey found that 100% of the team said they would recommend working remotely to other departments.

At first glance, the financial gain is negligible; it's simply a benefit we added that did not increase our personnel budget. But looking deeper there are tangible bottom-line benefits to our flex-time program. For example, our employees report feeling less stressed, simply because -- for some -- we reduced or eliminated a grueling commute. According to Psychology Today, commuting can have a significant detrimental impact on people:

Commuting "can be a major cause of stress due to the unpredictability and a sense of loss of control"

It is "associated with increased blood pressure, musculoskeletal problems, lower frustration tolerance, and higher levels of anxiety and hostility"

It "can cause bad moods when arriving at work and coming home, increased lateness and missed work, and worsened cognitive performance"

Just one additional hour of commuting has been linked to a 6% decrease in health-related activities such as sleep, exercise, and family time

By reducing the number of days our team members need to come to Cambridge -- a notoriously bad commute -- we've reduced or eliminated a core area of stress. That benefit should reap results in healthier and happier employees who take fewer unplanned sick days. In its 2014 survey on workplace flexibility, the Society for Human Resource Management found that one-third of companies participating in the survey saw a decrease in absenteeism after they implemented flex-time policies.

Our flex-time program also delivers financial gain for us in the form of increased productivity, regardless of the weather. 

Those two hours a day when we actually work are simply more productive if we're happier.

Posted by orrinj at 9:35 AM


Conservatives Did Not Like Hillary's Speech, Did Like Her Convention (Jeremy Stahl, 7/30/16, Slate)

Conservatives--those who have not yet embraced Donald Trump--have been giving the Democratic National Convention largely positive reviews this week. On Monday, Michelle Obama earned plaudits from conservatives for a speech full of "heart, poetry and grace." On Wednesday, President Barack Obama was compared by conservatives to Ronald Reagan. The final day was more of a mixed bag--Hillary Clinton's big speech faced heavy criticism, but other key parts of the program brought longtime Republicans to tears. Overall, the response was fairly consistent: This had been a good week for the Democratic Party. [...]

The biggest success of the night, though, according to conservatives was the stirring testimonial of Khizr Khan, a Muslim American father whose son died a war hero in Iraq.

Posted by orrinj at 9:18 AM


Why the Bush Family Should Endorse Hillary Clinton : Donald Trump's Russian flirtations are a rebuke of the family patriarch's greatest foreign policy legacy. (DANA HO, 7/29/16, New Republic)

[George H.W. Bush] was and remains a member of the New England-New York elite. Though he referred to his grandchildren as "the little brown ones," he appears to have embraced having a family blended with Mexican immigrants. He was a serious adult as president, in particular in his conduct of foreign policy. He didn't have to be pushed to repudiate David Duke.

And unlike Donald Trump, he never suggested we should abrogate international treaties, toss aside our international commitments, and disdain diplomacy and international institutions. He didn't invite Russian aggression by saying we may not come to the defense of NATO allies. And he never held a press conference in which he asked Russia, sarcastically or otherwise, to conduct espionage against his election opponent.

Bush dedicated his career to maintaining an international order that kept the U.S. in a preeminent position of global power, and that prevented the USSR and Russia from extending its power beyond its contiguous sphere of influence. As president, he oversaw what he hoped would be the creation of a new Europe, with a shrunken Russia unable to intimidate Eastern Europe and unable to keep the West on a constant war footing.

If he can get past naked partisanship, it should be easy to endorse Hillary Clinton--the only nominee in at least a century whose experience and preparation for the presidency rival his when he was a candidate.

What about the rest of the Bush family? Barbara appears to loathe Trump. Jeb has already said he will not vote for Trump. Laura hinted she may have already decided to vote for Hillary. And one of his closest former colleagues, former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft, has already endorsed Clinton.

George W. Bush has pledged to support Republican candidates for Senate. But he has openly mused that he may be the last Republican president. George W. Bush may have misread Vladimir Putin, but he didn't openly play footsie with him. That--plus Trump's attacks on his brother, and on his own legacy--might be enough to switch sides, especially if it was an endorsement accompanied by an endorsement from his father.

Would a Bush family endorsement be a net gain for Hillary? Without a doubt. It might embolden more Republicans to at least disavow Trump. It would make it even harder for the press to treat Trump like something other than an unstable extremist grossly unfit to be in charge of our nuclear codes, military and prosecutorial power, and state secrets. Like Gaullist-Socialist alliances against Marine LePen's National Front in France, it would signal that Trump is outside what's acceptable in a liberal democracy, and that protecting the republic is more important than inter-party rivalries. A Bush family endorsement of Hillary Clinton would convince many mainstream Republicans (especially college-educated Republicans and Republican women) to vote for Clinton--there might even be enough converts that Trump would have no path to victory.

Given the good relations amongst them, Bill should co-ordinate a joint appearance with GHWB, W, and the UR.

Posted by orrinj at 9:04 AM


Scientists can now create liquid fuel from solar energy (ETH Zurich, 8 July 2016)

The sun's energy is already being harnessed in various ways: whilst photovoltaic cells convert sun light into electricity, solar thermal installations use the vast thermal energy of the sun for purposes such as heating fluids to a high temperature. Solar thermal power plants involve the large-scale implementation of this second method: using thousands of mirrors, the sun light is focused on a boiler in which steam is produced either directly or via a heat exchanger at temperatures exceeding 500 °C. Turbines then convert thermal energy into electricity.

Researchers at the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI and the ETH Zurich have collaborated to develop a ground-breaking alternative to this approach. The new procedure uses the sun's thermal energy to convert carbon dioxide and water directly into synthetic fuel.

"This allows solar energy to be stored in the form of chemical bonds," explains Ivo Alxneit, chemist at the PSI's Solar Technology Laboratory. "It's easier than storing electricity." The new approach is based on a similar principle to that used by solar power plants." Alxneit and his colleagues use heat in order to trigger certain chemical processes that only take place at very high temperatures above 1000 °C. Advances in solar technology will soon enable such temperatures to be achieved using sun light.

Posted by orrinj at 8:53 AM


Eccentricity and Domesticity: The World of the Nero Wolfe Mysteries (Benjamin Welton, 7/30/16, Imaginative Conservative)

The detective story seems predicated on action. Even the most leisurely or snobbish mystery novels contain some semblance of motion, and typically it is the primary detective who does most of the legwork. Of course, the level of sweat is based on who is writing the story. The British school of mystery writing, especially during its supposed "Golden Age" between the two world wars, places a greater emphasis on logic, deduction, and the puzzling nature of its central crime (which is almost always murder). The best examples of this style are any one of Dame Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple mysteries, plus for those interested in the subject, Dorothy L. Sayers and her insufferable aristocrat Lord Peter Wimsey offer up yet another view into the peculiar world of the "cozy" mystery.

As a reaction to this school of mystery writing, American authors working in the pulp market during this time developed a more brutal, less intellectual style of mystery writing. Later termed "hard-boiled," this school puts a premium on action and violence, not dazzling displays of mental gymnastics. The foremost masters in this line are the trinity of Dashiell Hammett (who had been a real-life private eye for the Pinkertons before taking up the typewriter), Raymond Chandler, and the often overlooked Ross Macdonald. For his part, Mr. Hammett, who first started publishing his hard-hitting Continental Op stories in the early 1920s,"took murder out of the Venetian vase and dropped it in the alley." These are the words of Raymond Chandler, who, in his 1944 essay "The Simple Art of Murder," took to task the "Golden Age" mystery and instead upheld the more realistic and deeply cynical "hard-boiled" novel. In the groundbreaking essay, Mr. Chandler holds special venom for two things: 1) A.A. Milne's novel The Red House Mystery, and 2) those American writers who wrote in the British vein. For the latter, Mr. Chandler concludes that American detective fiction is the "Junior Varsity" to its British seniors, and to make matters worse, the American detective novel about "pseudo-gentility" is far inferior to even to the most foppish British mystery.

Mr. Chandler's thoughts on Rex Stout are hard to come by, but then again the usually tetchy Mr. Chandler probably would have found things to loathe about Mr. Stout's Nero Wolfe mysteries. Beginning with 1934's Fer-de-Lance, Mr. Stout would go on to write an astonishing thirty-three novels between 1934 and 1975. That is quite the accomplishment, especially since Wolfe, the series's namesake, rarely leaves his brownstone apartment and has all the eccentricities of a "Golden Age" British detective. Built like a whale, Wolfe, a Montenegrin by birth but a naturalized American citizen, is a private detective with peculiar habits. First of all, as he says with trademark restraint in Before I Die, "I rarely leave my house. I do like it here." Wolfe, like Jacques Futurelle's little-known "Thinking Machine" Professor Augustus S.F.X. Van Dusen, is an all-consuming mind that almost never shows traces of being wrong or mislead. On top of that, Wolfe is also an all-consuming belly, and every single one of Mr. Stout's novels contain detailed examinations of Wolfe's fussy eating habits, from his preference for unopened beer bottles to his profound appreciation for shad roe.

While this may sound Proustian, Mr. Stout managed to keep his character from sounding too self-absorbed, despite his diva-esque dietary demands. Besides, as Criminal Element writer Robert Hughes points out, "It's Archie [Nero's airy and streetwise sidekick and the narrator of the series] we want to read." Wolfe is but one piece of a larger household. Besides Wolfe and Archie there is Fritz Brenner, Wolfe's Swiss butler and exceptional cook, and Theodore Horstmann, the sometimes volatile florist who helps Wolfe to maintain his vast collection of orchids. The wonderful dynamics of this household often overshadow the cases in each novel, and throughout the entire length of the series, Mr. Stout highlighted the wonderful nature of domestic life in a way akin to Hergé, the creator of the popular character Tintin. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:44 AM


Ask 7 Cents a Plastic Bag and 90% of English Say 'No Thanks' (Jess_Shankleman, July 29, 2016, Bloomberg)

Requiring U.K. consumers to pay 5 pence (7 U.S. cents) for a plastic shopping bag yielded almost a 90 percent drop in their use.

Charging people for choosing a plastic bag may be good news for the planet's seas. Around eight million tons of plastic makes its way into oceans each year globally, which is ingested by 31 species of marine mammals and more than 100 species of sea birds, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said in a statement on Saturday.

Such Neoconomics explains why it's so easy to do things like reduce health care spending and oil use.

Posted by orrinj at 8:31 AM



Bert Stern was a legendary photographer whose images, like the iconic Egyptian-pyramid ad for Smirnoff and the poster photo for Stanley Kubrick's Lolita, helped spur advertising's "creative revolution" in the 1960s. But he was more than just an "Original Mad Man," as one 2011 documentary dubbed him. He was also a magazine photographer who shot Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, Kate Moss, and, most famously, Marilyn Monroe, in the nude, weeks before her death. His iconic LA session with Monroe is known as "The Last Sitting."

And so it makes sense that Stern's lone feature film, the documentary Jazz on a Summer's Day, which he shot at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, feels like an alluring advertisement or a live-action magazine spread. The colors are vibrant: bright red lipstick, white sailboats slicing through blue water, gleaming saxophones and trumpets. And the scenes are hypnotic: a 31-year-old Chuck Berry stomping across the stage during "Sweet Little Sixteen," showing off hip-swiveling moves that clearly inspired Elvis Presley; Anita O'Day singing "Sweet Georgia Brown" while dressed immaculately in a black evening gown, white gloves, and a feather-festooned hat. "There is not a moment that, freeze framed, would not be an absolutely stunning still picture," the film critic Judith Crist once said of the film. The Chicago Reader calls it "probably the best feature-length jazz concert movie ever made."

And yet the film seems half-forgotten. You won't find it on best-musical-documentary lists by Vulture, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, the Telegraph, or The Village Voice. TIME once called it an "overlooked" summer movie. For whatever reason, Jazz on a Summer's Day feels left out of a canon that includes Woodstock, Monterey Pop, Gimme Shelter, The Last Waltz, Wattstax, and Stop Making Sense.

This is a shame. Because the 1960 film precedes--and, in many ways, paved the way for--those later documentaries. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:49 AM


Celebrating William F. Buckley Jr.'s Firing Line (Hoover.org)

The year 2016 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the launch of Firing Line, the legendary public affairs television show on which William F. Buckley Jr. hosted many of the twentieth century's most influential political and cultural figures. The Hoover Library & Archives, which holds the most complete archival collection of original recordings and materials from the show, is marking the anniversary with an exhibition titled Civil Discourse: William F. Buckley Jr.'s Firing Line, 1966-1999.

We invite you to join us in commemorating this anniversary by exploring some of the most remarkable moments from Firing Line's thirty-three years on the air.

Posted by orrinj at 7:43 AM


Study: Mammograms haven't cut cancer rate (ALBANY dAILY sTAR, 7/30/16)

A new report raises fresh questions about the value of mammograms. The rate of cancers that have already spread far beyond the breast when they are discovered has stayed stable for decades, suggesting that screening and early detection are not preventing the most dangerous forms of the disease.

The report, in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine, is by three prominent cancer specialists and is based on federal statistics going back to the 1970s.

It comes a week after the American Cancer Society scaled back its mammography advice, saying most women should start annual screening at age 45, not 40, and switch to every other year at 55. A government task force recommends even less -- every other year starting at 50.

"We're undergoing what I think for the public is a very confusing debate" about screening, but it's really "a course correction" prompted by more awareness of its risks and benefits to various groups of women, said Dr. H. Gilbert Welch, a health policy expert at Dartmouth Medical School. "All they heard for years was, 'there are only benefits.' "

July 29, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:14 PM


George Washington's Constitutional Morality (Samuel Gregg, July 27th, 2016, Public Discourse)

But to grasp more clearly what Washington had in mind, it's worth examining a lesser-read text. Though written to state governors, the intended audience of Washington's June 1783 Circular Letter to the States was clearly all Americans. Like the Farewell Address, it contains recommendations such as the need for a strong union of states. Yet the letter's third paragraph also succinctly outlines the constitutional morality that Washington thought should inform what he didn't hesitate to call "the Nation" of the United States:

The foundation of our Empire was not laid in the gloomy age of Ignorance and Superstition, but at an Epoch when the rights of mankind were better understood and more clearly defined, than at any former period, the researches of the human mind, after social happiness, have been carried to a great extent, the Treasures of knowledge, acquired by the labors of Philosophers, Sages and Legislatures, through a long succession of years, are laid open for our use, and their collected wisdom may be happily applied in the Establishment of our forms of Government; the free cultivation of Letters, the unbounded extension of Commerce, the progressive refinement of Manners, the growing liberality of sentiment, and above all, the pure and benign light of Revelation, have had ameliorating influence on mankind and increased the blessings of Society. At this auspicious period, the United States came into existence as a Nation, and if their Citizens should not be completely free and happy, the fault will be entirely their own.

Washington never claimed to be a philosopher; he was not as well-educated as founders like John Witherspoon or Charles Carroll. Yet in these 167 words, Washington identified a distinct set of ideas that he thought should shape what he and others called an "Empire of Liberty"--classical republicanism, eighteenth-century English and Scottish Enlightenment thought, and "above all" Revelation. [...]

Enlightenment thought was part of the air breathed by the Revolutionary generation. Whether it is the Circular Letter's references to the "rights of mankind," "the free cultivation of Letters," "the unbounded extension of Commerce," "the progressive refinement of Manners," or the "growing liberality of sentiment," this is the language of the eighteenth century.

There was, however, more than one Enlightenment. Washington's phraseology points toward that of eighteenth-century Britain rather than the world of Rousseau and Voltaire. Rousseau's negative views of commerce are a matter of record, while Voltaire's satirical polemics were the polar opposite of good manners. Conversely, Washington's Circular Letter is reminiscent of Edmund Burke and Adam Smith. In fact, Smith's Wealth of Nations was one of the few books in Washington's library in which he penned a note in his own hand.

Washington's emphasis on liberty under law is a motif that permeates the eighteenth-century English and Scottish Enlightenments and distinguished them from continental Enlightenment admirers of enlightened absolutism. [...]

It's not, however, Enlightenment thought to which Washington's Circular Letter attributes the highest place in America's political culture. This is accorded to "above all, the pure and benign light of Revelation."

Much ink has been spilled on Washington's precise religious beliefs. Some regard Washington's religious habits and language as typical of Virginia Anglicans of his time. Others see him as somewhat deistic. Yet the word "Revelation"--especially when capitalized--in Washington's Circular Letter took its readers beyond a Supreme Watchmaker.

"Revelation" is an act or a series of acts that makes known truths that humans would otherwise have difficulty fully knowing. Given the context, Washington is surely referring to the Jewish and Christian Scriptures. The language of Revelation also indicates that Washington didn't regard religion as a mere tool for domesticating simple people. Revelation, after all, brings light to our minds, causing us to look beyond utility when making free choices, including political decisions.

This doesn't mean that Washington believed America was or should be a "Christian nation." In Washington's God, Michael Novak and Jana Novak observe that the God who most comes to mind when reading Washington's statements about religion is the God of the Hebrew Prophets. This is a being whose ways are often inscrutable and mysterious, but who is working through human history to bring about great things and who "alone," as Washington reminded Benedict Arnold in a 1775 letter, "is the Judge of men's hearts." Such words weren't used by deists--they characteristically described God as one who simply sets the world in motion and sustains its existence.

Washington's way of underscoring Revelation's significance allowed him to stress religion's importance for American public life in a manner that not only transcended the divisions among Protestants in an overwhelmingly Protestant nation but also included two small groups then distrusted by many Protestant Americans. Among the remarkable features of the two letters written by Washington in 1790 to Jews and Catholics is how phraseology such as "father of all mercies," "Divine Providence," "natural rights," "liberal policy," "liberality," "the cultivation of manners, morals and piety," "free government," and "good government" echoes the sources referenced by the Circular Letter.

Posted by orrinj at 7:04 PM

WORTH A TIME-ZONE VIOLATION (self-reference alert):

Hip-Hop Hamilton (Barbara J. Elliott, 7/29/16, Imaginative conservative)

The musical Hamilton is star-spangled patriotic and worthy of attention, even though hip-hop may not be the favorite musical genre of most Imaginative Conservatives. Why? Intelligence finds the answer to a question, but genius answers a question no one else has thought to ask. The genius of Lin-Manuel Miranda leapt across three centuries to answer the question of how to make the history of America's Founding come alive in a musical. Mr. Miranda's genius brings the American Revolution to life with a cast of multi-racial revolutionaries, mirroring the face of America today, who sing and dance in today's revolutionary genres of rap and hip-hop. Mr. Miranda created and played the role of the "$10 Founding Father without a father" himself.[1]

Terry Teachout of The Wall Street Journal called Hamilton "the best and most important Broadway musical of the past decade."[2] New York Times columnist David Brooks described it as "one of the most exhilarating experiences I've had in a theater... bold, rousing, sexy, tear-jerking and historically respectful -- the sort of production that strips things down and asks you to think afresh about your country and your life."[3]

The musical Hamilton opened off-Broadway in New York in February 2015 and was so popular that it moved to Broadway in August 2015 and has been packing in audiences to sold-out performances eight times a week ever since. An avalanche of awards and prizes has followed. Hamilton received a record-breaking sixteen Tony nominations and took home eleven. The musical won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and received the Kennedy Prize for Drama Inspired by History. The cast album received a Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album, and was named the number two Album of the Year 2015 by Billboard. Among many honors since, Lin-Manuel Miranda received the George Washington Prize Special Achievement Award and a "Genius Award" from the MacArthur Foundation.

Why does the musical Hamilton evoke such a seismic response? First and foremost, it is a powerful story, brilliantly told. Secondly, through Hamilton's story, we experience the dramatic story of the birth of our nation all the way from the American Revolution through the ratification of the Constitution and the presidency of John Adams. Third, Hamilton's biography runs parallel to that of the musical's creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda in striking ways. Both are immigrants and outsiders whose sheer genius has left a mark on history. And finally, this rendition of Hamilton's personal story embodies many of the classical elements of tragedy Aristotle describes in his Poetics, making this biography a piece of high literary art.

A moment of truth about this author: Like most people in America, I have not yet been able to see the Broadway production of Hamilton. 

we got tickets for the Chicago show in December.

Posted by orrinj at 6:51 PM


"I Believe in Science" Should Not Be a Showstopper (Zack Kopplin, 7/29/16, Slate)

Thirty minutes into Hillary Clinton's speech accepting the Democratic Party's nomination for president, she made a simple admission that, in 2016, should not be remarkable but somehow was. "And, I believe in science!" she exclaimed. And then she laughed uncomfortably as the crowd applauded, perhaps uncomfortable themselves.

This is bizarre, because in 2016, stating a belief in science should not be a line in a presidential candidate's speech.

She was, of course, speaking to people who demand we stop vaccinating children and start labeling GMO foods.

Posted by orrinj at 6:43 PM


The Last Cowboy Standing Is Going To Be This Cattle-Herding Robot (ADELE PETERS 07.25.16, Co.Exist)

In the Australian outback, a cattle ranch called Suppleback Downs is only slightly smaller than the state of Rhode Island. Unsurprisingly, it can be hard to keep track of cows in such a massive area. That's where Swagbot, an Australian cowboy robot, comes in: The robot is designed to herd cattle on sprawling ranches that humans can't easily cover on their own. [..]

Swagbot can't handle a lasso or play the banjo. But the robot can herd cattle through rugged terrain, and the researchers plan to fit it with temperature and motion sensors that try to detect if an animal is sick or hurt. Other sensors can monitor the landscape to make sure the cows have enough to eat.

Posted by orrinj at 6:39 PM


Donald Trump Faults GOP for Poor Convention Ratings : "I didn't produce our show. I just showed up for the final speech." (INAE OHJUL. 29, 2016, Mother Jones)

Donald Trump is suddenly distancing himself from last week's Republican National Convention, after television ratings show that the Democratic National Convention consistently pulled in more viewers across the country for three consecutive nights.

"I didn't produce our show," Trump told the New York Times. "I just showed up for the final speech."

While the ratings for the fourth night have yet to be announced, Trump did appear anxious that Hillary Clinton's final convention night on Thursday would top his own. Earlier that morning, the Republican nominee sent a campaign letter to his supporters urging them not to tune in.

Posted by orrinj at 6:28 PM


Tim Kaine Still Believes That Poor People Shouldn't Be Allowed to Pay for Abortions With Medicaid (Eric Levitz, 7/29/16, New york)

On Friday, Kaine snuffed out such ambiguities, telling CNN, "I have been for the Hyde Amendment. I haven't changed my position on that."

In one sense, Kaine's opposition to repealing Hyde may seem irrelevant. There isn't a congressional majority for repealing the law right now, and there won't be for a long time (if ever).

But a Democratic vice-president who supports the Hyde Amendment won't help bring that majority into being.

Posted by orrinj at 4:19 PM


Libyan forces battle Islamic State snipers for streets of Sirte (AIDAN LEWIS, 7/29/16, Reuters)

Libyan forces made a fresh push on Friday to capture ground from Islamic State militants besieged in the center of their former North African stronghold of Sirte. [...]

Losing Sirte would be a major blow for Islamic State, which established total control over the coastal city last year and expanded its presence along about 250 km (150 miles) of sparsely populated land on either side.

The brigades fighting Islamic State are aligned with Libya's U.N.-backed government, which arrived in the capital, Tripoli, in March. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:15 PM


Obama to showcase TPP after trade deal demonized in campaign (ROBERTA RAMPTON, 7/29/16, Reuters)

During a visit from Singapore's prime minister on Tuesday, President Barack Obama will extol the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal and commit to getting the deal done, a top White House official said on Friday, even though Obama's fellow Democrats panned it at their convention this week.

Obama wants the U.S. Congress to approve the 12-nation trade deal, which he sees as a central part of his economic and foreign policy legacy, before he leaves the White House on Jan. 20.

Posted by orrinj at 4:11 PM


Posted by orrinj at 4:04 PM


Home prices have finally recovered from the housing crash (Kathryn Vasel, July 28, 2016, CNN Money)

The median home price in the U.S. was $231,000 last month, according to a report from ATTOM Data Solutions (formerly RealtyTrac). That's 9% higher than a year ago and 1% above the previous record of $228,000 hit in July 2005.

Median home prices have be rising on a national level every month for more than four years, and it's created an affordability issue in many housing markets.

Last month, sellers sold their homes for an average of $41,000 more than their purchase price. [...]

[T]here is some good news for buyers: interest rates have remained low.

"The price you can afford goes up every time rates go down," Blomquist said.

Posted by orrinj at 3:53 PM


Ronald Reagan is having a very good Democratic convention (Becca Stanek, July 28, 2016, The Week)
Hillary Clinton tore into Donald Trump's message of doom and gloom Thursday night, accusing the Republican presidential candidate of wanting Americans "to fear the future and fear each other." "He's taken the Republican Party a long way, from 'Morning in America' to midnight in America," Clinton said, referencing former President Ronald Reagan's ad campaign, "Morning in America," and the widespread assessment that Trump's Republican National Convention speech last week painted an apocalyptic vision.

Posted by orrinj at 3:45 PM


Unholy Alliance: Kleptocratic Authoritarians and their Western Enablers (Carl Gershman, July 2016, World Affairs)

The need to address the problem of kleptocracy is of central importance to activists who are promoting the rule of law and democratic governance in countries ruled by hybrid and autocratic governments. These activists are on the frontlines in the struggle against resurgent authoritarianism where regimes are tightening political controls and closing civic space.

One of them is Khadija Ismayilova, the courageous journalist from Azerbaijan whose investigative reporting established the links between Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and his family to massive corrupt enterprises. Ms. Ismayilova was sent to prison on patently trumped up charges. The fact that her arrest and the arrest of other dissidents has not damaged Azerbaijan's participation in Western institutions is a cause of great concern. As Gerald Knaus pointed out in a July 2015 Journal of Democracy article entitled "Europe and Azerbaijan: The End of Shame," Azerbaijan's kleptocracy has a profound and corrosive effect within but also beyond the country's borders. Knaus explains in painful detail the ways in which the authorities in Azerbaijan "captured" the Council of Europe and in the process managed to neuter its human rights work.

Similarly, Rafael Marques de Morais of Angola has reported in World Affairs and elsewhere how that country's political elite has taken personal control of virtually all of the country's public wealth derived from minerals and, more recently, from massive investments by China. Here, too, the Angolan kleptocrats do not simply deprive their own country of critically needed resources for improving health, education, and infrastructure, but use this wealth beyond national borders to acquire an influential hand in media and financial institutions inside Portugal, an EU member state. Russia's kleptocracy has managed similar feats in Latvia, also an EU member state.

No country has suffered more from kleptocracy than Ukraine. Deeply entrenched and, indeed, institutionalized corruption has been an extraordinary challenge since Ukraine achieved its independence a quarter century ago. But in the four years that former President Viktor Yanukovych was in power, he took the country's corruption to new heights, enabling the theft of nearly $40 billion of Ukraine's public wealth. This massive corruption funneled wealth primarily to the president, his relatives, and a limited circle of businessmen around the president. As journalist Oliver Bullough has observed, "In 1991, Ukraine's GDP was about two-thirds of Poland's GDP; now it is less than one quarter." He notes that state corruption on such a scale has ruined Ukraine, "dooming a generation of Ukrainians to poor education, unsafe streets and blighted careers." This ravaging of Ukraine's economy and society brought about the EuroMaidan revolt, when millions of people rose up to extract their country from the grip of the kleptocrats and to try to chart a more democratically accountable course.

The fact that these authoritarian regimes are also kleptocratic makes the challenge facing democracy activists in such countries even more difficult because the kleptocrats have established an objective alliance with banks and other institutions that make up the global financial system. These institutions readily accept deposits of stolen funds after being laundered through offshore structures. With these assets safely invested and protected within the global system, the kleptocrats are then free to use their stolen wealth to increase their domination at home and purchase influence abroad, all the while expanding their massive business networks in the West and buying extravagantly priced properties in London, New York, Miami, and other global capitals.

The purchase of multimillion dollar properties, the arrangement of opaque offshore financial instruments, and the laundering of a kleptocrat's public image, do not happen by accident or on its own. Professional intermediaries in the established democracies are critical links for venal kleptocrats, who seek to move ill-gotten gains from authoritarian systems into the democracies and the international finance system, where the rule of law offers their ill-gotten wealth a safe and respectable haven. As journalist Bullough observes, "only with the help of Western enablers can a foreign kleptocrat transform the ownership of a questionable fortune, earned in an unstable country where jail is often one court decision away, into a respected philanthropist" who can be photographed alongside celebrated international figures and media stars.

Anne Applebaum has noted the irony that while the rule of law prevails in Britain, "over the past couple of decades, London's accountants and lawyers have helped launder billions of dollars of stolen money through the British Virgin Islands, among other British overseas territories." Their complicity in kleptocracy has corroded the legal integrity of the British system. As Bullough notes, "what Western enablers do is in a sense more egregious than what foreign kleptocrats do, because in the West we have a genuine, institutionalized rule of law, while kleptocrats operate in systems where no real rules exist. The result is that Western enablers effectively undermine democracy in foreign countries, even as Western governments lecture those same countries about civil society and the rule of law." A crucial element necessary for combating modern kleptocracy will be bringing the professional intermediaries in the West--the enablers--out of the shadows and into the sunlight.

Posted by orrinj at 3:41 PM


Clinton Writes Off the Left : Tim Kaine is a rebuke to disaffected progressives. (MICHAEL TRACEY • July 29, 2016, American Conservative)

Even after a charged, protracted Democratic primary season that revealed deep philosophical fractures in the party, Hillary's willingness to cater to actors on her left remains minimal. Accordingly, the historic Sanders delegate walkout is emblematic of what should now be obvious: there is a level of hostility toward Hillary among activist-minded progressives that never existed toward Barack Obama in 2008 or 2012. For one thing, the composition of the party has changed dramatically over eight years. Ideological progressives, who in 2008 yearned principally for emancipation from the nightmare reign of George W. Bush, have since undergone gradations of radicalization: by the financial crisis, the Occupy movement, the Snowden revelations, Black Lives Matter, and other developments. Their critique of the established order is far more targeted and coherent than it was when Obama first ran. And they situate Hillary squarely within that order.

Hillary may have never won over the bulk of these people, but selecting a vice-presidential nominee who aligned somewhat with their present orientation would have at least constituted an attempt at placating them. Tim Kaine does not constitute any kind of attempt. If anything, he represents a rebuke to disaffected progressives.

Posted by orrinj at 3:35 PM


Obama Argues That Trump Isn't American Enough to Be President (Eric Levitz, 7/28/16, NY Mag)

Donald Trump launched his career in conservative politics by challenging Barack Obama's claim to American identity. On Wednesday night in Philadelphia, Obama returned the favor.

The president did not ask to see the mogul's birth certificate. Nor did he engage with the (disconcertingly plausible) theory that Trump's candidacy is being aided by a hostile foreign government. Rather, Obama argued that the intolerant authoritarianism that Donald Trump embodies is alien to our nation's bedrock values.

"He's betting that if he scares enough people, he might score just enough votes to win this election," Obama said of the GOP nominee, in his address to the Democratic National Convention. "That is another bet that Donald Trump will lose. Because he's selling the American people short. We are not a fragile or frightful people. Our power doesn't come from some self-declared savior promising that he alone can restore order. We don't look to be ruled."

Posted by orrinj at 3:28 PM


Trump Says He Wanted to 'Hit a Couple of [DNC] Speakers So Hard' (MICHAEL EDISON HAYDEN,  Jul 28, 2016, ABC)

"You know what I wanted to. I wanted to hit a couple of those speakers so hard," Trump said. "I would have hit them. No, no. I was going to hit them, I was all set and then I got a call from a highly respected governor."

Trump didn't immediately clarify what he meant, but he said he was made particularly upset by an unspecified person he called a "little guy."

"I was gonna hit one guy in particular, a very little guy," he said. "I was gonna hit this guy so hard his head would spin and he wouldn't know what the hell happened."

Presumably this one.
Posted by orrinj at 9:19 AM


Maybe Negative Yields Are a Sign of Prosperity (Tyler Cowen, 7/27/16, Bloomberg View)

 On average, yields on Treasuries have been falling since 1926 (!), due largely to their safety and liquidity. They've almost become a form of money, offering liquidity and safety comparable to cash. So it shouldn't come as a complete surprise if longer-term U.S. government securities and some corporate bonds recently have followed a similar path because that would just represent an extension of the historical trend. 

In this view, very low or negative yields need not reflect major cause for concern. The many years of falling yields include periods of both rising and falling economic growth, so higher global growth in the future may not reverse the trend. In fact, higher growth and greater wealth could raise rather than lower the demand for insurance and liquidity, and thus lower yields.

Perhaps the most overlooked point is that the supply of negative-yielding securities is not so large relative to total global wealth. A recent Credit Suisse estimate suggested that global wealth could reach $369 trillion by 2019, reflecting growth rates of perhaps 7 percent a year. Such numbers are typically inexact, because who can measure the value of all the land in China and the buildings in Uzbekistan? Nonetheless, this number is truly large and it has been growing rapidly. By comparison, the negative-yield securities seem like not such a big deal.  

Maybe it's time we started thinking of negative securities as the equivalent of fire or earthquake insurance for that wealth. If there is truly $300 trillion in global wealth, is it so crazy to think that investors would pay a premium to buy $10 trillion dollars' worth of insurance? 

...is insufficient American debt.

Posted by orrinj at 7:49 AM


Moody's: Clinton economy would create 10 million jobs (Charles Riley, July 29, 2016, CNN)

Moody's Analytics estimates that if the Democratic presidential nominee's proposals are enacted, the economy would create 10.4 million jobs during her presidency, or 3.2 million more than expected under current law.

The pace of GDP growth would also accelerate to an annual average of 2.7%, from the current forecast of 2.3%. [...]

Moody's published a similar analysis of Donald Trump's plans in June. It concluded that the Republican presidential nominee's policies would result in an economic downturn that would last longer than the Great Recession. About 3.5 million Americans would lose their jobs, unemployment would jump to 7% and home prices would fall.

The reports are based on a forecasting model similar to those used by the Federal Reserve and Congressional Budget Office.

July 28, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 8:23 PM


How President Obama Stole the Republican Party's Greatest Hits and Retook the American Center : During Wednesday's DNC, the Democrats systematically appropriated traditional GOP strengths, from religion to national security, that Donald Trump had jettisoned (Yair Rosenberg, 7/28/16, Tablet)

By the time Obama was done with his address, conservative intellectuals and officials were marveling at how he'd co-opted their narrative.

"American exceptionalism and greatness, shining city on hill, founding documents, etc--they're trying to take all our stuff," tweeted National Review editor Rich Lowry. "Take about five paragraphs out of that Obama speech and it could have been a Reagan speech," said John Podhoretz, editor of Commentary. "Trust me. I know." (Podhoretz is a former Reagan speechwriter.) "Watching Democrats talk about America the way Republican candidates used to talk about America," lamented Tony Fratto, former deputy press secretary to George W. Bush.

These reactions were not hyperbolic. Consider three traditionally Republican talking points that were woven into the night's speeches:

National security. For decades, the GOP has owned this issue, whether it comes to supporting the American military, fighting terrorism, or dealing with despots. Back in 2004, Democrats were so worried about George W. Bush's advantages on this score that they nominated decorated war veteran John Kerry in an attempt to negate it. He famously opened his convention acceptance speech with "I'm John Kerry, and I'm reporting for duty," throwing in an actual salute for good measure.

But in this election, Donald Trump has completely vacated the battlefield on national security. He has threatened to compel American servicemen to commit war crimes, derided war hero John McCain for being captured and imprisoned, and praised dictators from Saddam Hussein to Kim Jong-un to Vladimir Putin. This week, Trump even encouraged the latter's regime to hack his political opponent Hillary Clinton. He's also threatened to break up NATO, said he might not protect its members from Russian aggression, and attacked the European Union, thus imperiling two American-backed projects to keep the peace abroad.

Trump's stances on foreign policy have been so alarming that nearly all of the Republican party's national security apparatus has condemned them, with many signing an open letter declaring Trump "utterly unfitted to the office" of president. Remarkably, some former Bush and Reagan officials are actively backing Hillary Clinton.

Last night, Democrats took this opening and pounced. "No major-party nominee in the history of this nation has ever known less and been less prepared to handle our national security," thundered Vice President Joe Biden. "We cannot elect a man who belittles our closest allies while embracing dictators like Vladimir Putin."

Hours later, Obama drove the point home. "Donald Trump calls our military a disaster," he noted. "Apparently, he doesn't know the men and women who make up the strongest fighting force the world has ever known. He suggests America is weak. He must not hear the billions of men and women and children, from the Baltics to Burma, who still look to America to be the light of freedom and dignity and human rights." It was a patriotic peroration worthy of Reagan, and the sort of broadside that Republicans have been leveling at Democrats for years. "Ronald Reagan called America 'a shining city on a hill,' Donald Trump calls it 'a divided crime scene' that only he can fix," Obama went on, turning his subtext into text.

Religion. Faith and family have long been another area of Republican dominance--at least until they nominated a twice-divorced serial philanderer for president in 2016. Trump, now the standard-bearer of the party of most of America's evangelical Christians, infamously bungled his biblical citations when he spoke at the evangelical Liberty University. He has appeared on the cover of Playboy, bragged about his infidelities, and said he doesn't believe in heaven or hell.

Amazingly, the original text of Trump's acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention did not even end with the traditional "God bless America" or contain any mention of God at all. In the end, Trump ad-libbed a "God bless you," but still made no reference to America. By contrast, last night, Obama did not forget the traditional closing.

Posted by orrinj at 8:16 PM


Former Republican presidential nominees cheered at Democratic convention (Catherine Garcia, July 27, 2016, The Week)

Romney appeared in a video that featured prominent Republicans and conservatives commenting on their opposition to Trump. He wasn't the only one to get applause -- Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and former New York Gov. George Pataki were also well-received. After the video played, John Hutson, a retired rear admiral and former judge advocate general, came onstage, and announced, "Unlike Donald Trump, there are two things that I know an awful lot about: Law and order." He called Trump out for "endorsing torture at a minimum" and inviting Russia to hack a U.S. entity. "It's embarrassing enough that he's the face of one of our political parties," Hutson said. "The real disaster would be if we let Donald Trump become the face of the country we love."

The DNC Turns to the Right  (William Saletan, 7/28/16, Slate)

Trump presents an unusual threat but also an unusual opportunity. He's invading Democratic turf by running against free trade, entitlement cuts, and military interventionism. Democrats would be foolish not to counterattack on Republican turf. They can court center-right voters who feel betrayed by Trump's desertions of conservative principle, or who are put off by his bigotry, low character, and temperamental unfitness for office.

In Wednesday's convention speeches, President Obama, police chiefs, and relatives of cops talked about gun control as a law-and-order issue, protecting officers who are "outgunned by weapons of war." Speakers hammered Trump for insulting prisoners of war and lying about his donations to organizations that support veterans. A video showed Republican Sen. Marco Rubio agreeing that Trump's jab at John McCain for being captured in Vietnam disqualified Trump from the presidency. "Donald, you're not fit to polish John McCain's boots," said Hutson.

Two former Marines hit Trump with the kind of language normally heard at a Republican convention. One said Trump "praises dictators who've killed Americans." Another fumed that Trump "questions the loyalty of those who served our country, without ever himself serving." Panetta, noting Trump's bromance with Vladimir Putin, challenged the Republican nominee's patriotism. "Donald Trump today once again took Russia's side," said the former CIA boss, addressing the apparent Russian hack on the Democratic National Committee. He's "asking one of our adversaries to engage in hacking or intelligence efforts against the United States of America."

The three most important speakers of the night appealed directly for Republican support. Michael Bloomberg, the former GOP mayor of New York, told the crowd he disagreed with Democrats on education reform, cutting budgets, and demonizing capitalism. But he urged fellow independents to support Clinton as the only "sane, competent" candidate in the race.

Kaine opened with a "Semper Fi" to his son in the Marines. He recalled his own Jesuit schooling and his time as a missionary. He talked about "faith, family, and work." And he spoke extensively about Republican opposition to Trump. Kaine praised his father-in-law, a former Republican governor of Virginia, for supporting civil rights and voting for Democrats. He hailed Barbara Bush for spurning Trump as a misogynist. He pointed out that Ohio Gov. John Kasich had refused to attend Trump's convention even though it was held in his own state. "If any of you are looking for that party of Lincoln," Kaine told disaffected Republicans, "we've got a home for you right here in the Democratic Party."

Obama, too, contrasted Trump with Reagan. He said his own Midwestern ancestors were mostly Republicans but didn't like bullies or braggarts. Obama blasted Trump as a fake hawk who "cozies up to Putin, praises Saddam Hussein," insults the military, and undermines NATO. "What we heard in Cleveland last week wasn't particularly Republican," said the president. "And it sure wasn't conservative."

Posted by orrinj at 8:11 PM


The easiest way to double your money (Chuck Saletta, 7/28/16, The Motley Fool)

You contribute $1,000 to your Traditional 401(k) plan.

Your employer contributes $500 as a 50% match on your investment, which brings the total invested on your behalf to $1,500.

When you file your taxes, your $1,000 contribution is excluded from your taxable wages. If you're in the 25% tax marginal tax bracket, that saves you $250 in taxes.

You do the math and realize that the $1,500 now invested in your 401(k) only cost you $750 in otherwise spendable money, doubling the money you've got working on your behalf.

Posted by orrinj at 8:05 PM


Trump says was being 'sarcastic' in Russia hack comments (DOINA CHIACU, 7/28/16, Reuters)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on Thursday tried to quell the furor over his call for Russia to find Hillary Clinton's deleted emails, saying he was being sarcastic.

That's the problem when everything you say is laughable.

Posted by orrinj at 7:50 PM


Key Presidential Swing States See Stronger-Than-Average Economic Growth (BEN LEUBSDORF, Jul 27, 2016, WSJ)

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will compete this fall in key battleground states where economic growth has been outpacing the modest national average.

Economic output expanded in early 2016 across the majority of states, including four of the biggest prizes up for grabs in the November presidential election: Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Together, the four swing states offer a combined 80 electoral votes, more than a quarter of the total needed to win the White House. None of the four saw growth slower than the national average in the final three months of 2015 and the first three months of 2016, according to newly released Commerce Department data.

July 27, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 8:02 PM


Unemployed More Likely to Go Shopping Than Look for a Job (Ali Meyer, July 25, 2016 , Free Beacon)

Unemployed Americans are more likely to shop for things other than food and gas than to look for a new job on an average day, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Only 18 percent of unemployed Americans spent time searching or interviewing for a job on an average day, while 41.1 percent shopped online, in store, or by phone. About one in five unemployed Americans, or 21.2 percent, went shopping for items other than food and gas.

Nearly all of the unemployed, or 96.6 percent, socialized, relaxed, or took part in leisure activities, and 83 percent watched television and movies on an average day. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:58 PM


The war on women is far from over. (BECCA ANDREWS, JUL. 25, 2016, Mother Jones)

The closure of clinics in Texas was already a problem years before HB 2 passed. Amy Hagstrom Miller, who owns Whole Woman's Health, the lead plaintiff in the Supreme Court case, told Mother Jones she remembers a time prior to 2008 when the passage of abortion restrictions became a regular feature in the state Legislature. Then there were between 60 and 70 clinics throughout the state. By 2013 there were 40, and the law shuttered more than half of them. When the Supreme Court got involved, only 19 clinics remained open, and there was a massive swath from San Antonio to El Paso without a single clinic. Many Texas women who needed abortions went to neighboring New Mexico.

Two Whole Women's Health clinics were forced to close after Gov. Rick Perry signed HB 2 into law three years ago, and the admitting privileges requirement reduced the number of physicians on their staff. Hagstrom Miller had filed away spreadsheets detailing a contingency plan in case the ruling didn't go her way. "It's different to have to throw those spreadsheets away--I kind of wanted to have a ritual burning." 

In April 2014, Reproductive Services of El Paso--one of the other plaintiffs in the Supreme Court case--shuttered after its physician lost her admitting privileges at a local hospital, meaning the clinic was no longer in compliance with HB 2. Last September, the clinic, which has historically served 2,000 patients every year, reopened at a new location after a federal judge blocked the admitting-privileges provision from being enforced pending the Supreme Court decision.

But before opening its doors, Reproductive Services still had to take the Texas Department of Health and Human Services to court over a licensing disagreement involving whether the clinic had to adhere to the surgical center standards that had recently been put on hold in federal court. The judge threatened to hold the state health department in contempt for insisting the clinic adhere to the standards that weren't supposed to be enforced and for not issuing the license. Aside from the cost of litigation, Hagstrom Miller said the clinic has had an inspection every three months since it opened.

Opening a new clinic in Texas takes a lot of money, resources, and patience. A license can cost a provider more than $5,000, a nonrefundable fee. Heather Busby, executive director at NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, explains there are a series of inspections that each clinic must undergo before opening, but staff members have to be hired and equipment has to be installed to meet the requirements to obtain licensure. "It's not like you get licensed and then you staff up and buy equipment," she says, "you have to do all those things first."

Another threat for providers has been the Texas Department of Health and Human Services, which has evolved, Hagstrom Miller said, to become a "more political, gotcha endeavor." Four days after the Supreme Court ruling, officials at the state Department of Health and Human Services published a proposal in the Texas Register that would require providers to cremate or bury fetal remains, regardless of gestational stage. The final rules are expected to take effect in September, and Gov. Abbott has expressed approval at the update.

Bryan Black, a spokesman for the health commission, told Mother Jones that the rules aren't a major change, and that they only seek to eliminate a very specific form of tissue disposal. He said the incineration method most commonly used is appropriate under the code. Black also said it was Abbott's office that requested that the agency look into creating an amendment back in January. Arkansas, Indiana, and Georgia have similar laws on the books. Ohio, South Carolina, and Mississippi have all considered requirements to this effect as well.

Posted by orrinj at 7:53 PM


Scientists Develop Shape-Shifting Microbots That May Soon Be Used To Carry Out Precise Medical Operations (AVANEESH PANDEY, 07/25/16, IB Times)

[I]n a new study published in the journal Nature Communications, these researchers have now described a new method for building such "microbots."

"We show that both a bacterium's body and its flagellum play an important role in its movement," EPFL scientist Mahmut Selman Sakar -- a co-author of the study -- said in a statement. "Our new production method lets us test an array of shapes and combinations to obtain the best motion capability for a given task. Our research also provides valuable insight into how bacteria move inside the human body and adapt to changes in their microenvironment."

According to the researchers, these microrobots -- made of biocompatible hydrogel and magnetic nanoparticles -- are soft, flexible, and motorless. The magnetic nanoparticles serve two purposes -- they give the bots their shape and they make them move under the influence of an electromagnetic field.

"Building one of these microrobots involves several steps. First, the nanoparticles are placed inside layers of a biocompatible hydrogel. Then an electromagnetic field is applied to orientate the nanoparticles at different parts of the robot, followed by a polymerization step to 'solidify' the hydrogel. After this, the robot is placed in water where it folds in specific ways depending on the orientation of the nanoparticles inside the gel, to form the final overall 3D architecture of the microrobot," the researchers explained in the statement.

Posted by orrinj at 7:44 PM


Mashaal: Hamas is no IS, will accept state based on '67 lines (TIMES OF ISRAEL, July 27, 2016)

Khaled Mashaal does not believe that Hamas is a terrorist organization, and would be prepared to accept a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 lines with Jerusalem as its capital and with the "right of return" for Palestinian refugees, he told India's English-language New Delhi Television (NDTV) station .

Speaking from his home in Doha, Qatar in an interview aired on July 18, Mashaal stated that Hamas would accept a Palestinian state along 1967 borders.

"We are keen to unify the Palestinian front, the Arab front and attract the support of the world for our rights. And that's why we have agreed in consensus among us Palestinians on a national program that is supported by the Arabs on establishing a sovereign independent Palestinian state along the lines of the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as the capital, with the right of return for the Palestinians in exile," he said, according to a translation provided by NDTV.

Posted by orrinj at 7:34 PM


A Baptist Scholar Debunks Anti-Catholic Historical Hogwash : a review of Bearing False Witness by Rodney Stark (ANN CORKERY July 25, 2016 2:06, National Review)

That is, the so-called Dark Ages, for Stark is at his best in showing how an era or age came by its name and how the vast historical evidence belies the easy -- or intentionally hostile -- handle. Enter the Dark Ages, which is said to have "fallen" over Europe following the collapse of Rome in a.d. 300 and lasted to at least 1300, a benighted millennium hostile to progress and knowledge, thanks to orthodox Christendom. Even the most educated will be forgiven for accepting this view, which writers from Petrarch to Voltaire, Rousseau to Gibbon advanced for their own purposes. Yet, as Stark points out, "serious scholars" have known for decades that this organizing scheme for Western history is a "complete fraud" and, as Warren Hollister wrote, "an indestructible fossil of self-congratulatory Renaissance humanism." 

The Romans may have called the conquering Goths "barbarians," but their chieftain (Alaric) had been a Roman commander, and many of the soldiers had served in the Roman army. It's also the case that the "barbarian North" had been under the rule of Rome. While intellectuals have not been able to appreciate the technological, commercial, and moral progress that took place in the small communities of medieval Europe, that doesn't mean the advances did not take place. On the contrary, revolutions in agriculture, weaponry, nonhuman power (water and wind power), transportation, manufacturing, education (the first universities in Paris and Bologna), and morals (the fall of slavery) occurred. Scholars have concluded that the flowering of science that followed during the Scientific Revolution in the 16th century was "an evolution, not a revolution." As Stark writes: "Just as Copernicus simply took the next implicit step in the cosmology of his day, so too the flowering of science in that era was the culmination of the gradual progress that had been made over previous centuries." 

All this progress didn't happen in spite of the Catholic Church or get started only in the fourth century or the 17th century. According to Stark, the rise of the West began late in the second century because of an "extraordinary faith in reason and progress" that originated in Christianity, which held that human reason could unlock God's creation.

Posted by orrinj at 7:22 PM


So Sweden has high taxes? Not as high as you might think (The Local, 26 Jul 2016)
Swedes could celebrate 'Tax Freedom Day' - the day they stopped working for the state and started working for themselves - on June 22nd this year, two days before they celebrated Midsummer's Eve, according to a study of EU countries by the Institut Economique Molinari, a Franco-Belgian research institute. 
By contrast, the French won't be able to mark the occasion until this Friday, more than a month later. The Italians, Greeks, Germans, Hungarians, Austrians and Belgians also all work longer than the Swedes to pay their dues to the state. 
And things have gone in the right direction for those Swedes who want to pay less tax: in 2010, they weren't 'free' from taxes until July 1st. The tax cutting centre right government helped move that date forward nine days, before the centre-left government that took power in 2014 pushed it back one day later. 
In some other countries, including France, Austria and Italy, people spend considerably more time working for the taxman than in 2010.

Posted by orrinj at 7:15 PM


What do ordinary citizens in the Arab world really think about the Islamic State? (Mark Tessler, Michael Robbins and Amaney Jamal, July 27, 2016, Washington Post)

The findings were stark: Not many Arabs sympathize with the Islamic State. The percent agreeing with the Islamic State's goals range from 0.4 percent in Jordan to 6.4 percent in the Palestinian territories. The percent agreeing with the Islamic State's use of violence range from 0.4 percent in Morocco to 5.4 percent in the Palestinian territories. The percent agreeing that the Islamic State's tactics are compatible with Islam range from 1.0 percent in Jordan to 8.9 percent n the Palestinian territories. [...]

What about younger and poorly educated men, who seem to be a primary audience for the Islamic State message? Breaking out the responses of male respondents age 36 or under who have had less than secondary schooling shows that even among this key demographic there is also little support for the Islamic State's goals or for its use of violence, and that few consider the Islamic State's tactics to be compatible with the teachings of Islam. Indeed, in some instances, positive attitudes toward the Islamic State are held by fewer individuals in the key demographic category. 

Posted by orrinj at 3:44 PM


Trump Is Driving Catholic Voters Toward Clinton (Leah Libresco, 7/27/16, 538)
[A]ccording to a recent report by Pew, Trump's doing terribly with Catholic voters, particularly those who are regular churchgoers.

Catholics who attend Mass weekly have increased their support for the Democratic nominee by 22 percentage points relative to 2012. They support Hillary Clinton at about the same rate as fallen-away Catholics; even though among white, non-Hispanic Catholics, those who attend Mass less frequently are slightly more likely to be registered Democrats.

In fact, Trump has done more to drive weekly churchgoers to the Democrats than Clinton has done to attract them. Evangelicals and Catholics who attend church regularly and favor the Democratic nominee consider Clinton a less appealing choice than Obama was.

Posted by orrinj at 3:39 PM


Trump Asks Russia to Dig Up Hillary's Emails in Unprecedented Remarks (Andy Greenberg, 7/27/16, Wired)

DONALD TRUMP'S SCHADENFREUDE in the DNC's embarrassing email leak is standard practice in America's messy electoral politics. Today, though, his casual request that Russian hackers dig up Hillary Clinton's emails--sent while she was U.S. Secretary of State--for his own political gain has sparked a new level of outrage among cybersecurity experts.

As the controversy continues to swirl around a likely-Russian hack of the Democratic National Committee, Trump responded to a reporter's question at a press conference Wednesday by inviting Russia to do him another favor: collect and leak the emails that Clinton deleted from the private server she ran during her time as Secretary of State. "Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you'll be rewarded mightily by our press," he said.

Posted by orrinj at 3:26 PM


Reagan Shooter John Hinckley Jr. to Be Released From Mental Hospital (DEVLIN BARRETT, July 27, 2016, WSJ)

John Hinckley, who tried to assassinate President Ronald Reagan in 1981, will be released from a psychiatric hospital after a judge on Wednesday set a series of conditions for him to live with his mother in Virginia.

The 103-page opinion from U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman said Mr. Hinckley's doctors have found he has "no signs of psychotic symptoms, delusional thinking, or any violent tendencies,'' and therefore "presents no danger to himself or to others in the reasonable future if released.''

Mr. Hinckley may be released as early as Aug. 5, the judge ruled.

The ruling means that 35 years after an attack that severely wounded the president and three others, Mr. Hinckley will be a free man--albeit with restrictions on his travel, communications, work and use of the internet.

Mr. Hinckley, 61, was found not guilty by reason of insanity in 1982 and committed to St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington, D.C.

Just as the Gipper would have wished:

 President Offered in '83 To Meet With Hinckley (Henri E. Cauvin, 6/12/04, Washington Post)

It wasn't enough that Ronald Reagan had forgiven John Hinckley Jr. in his heart. He wanted to forgive the young man to his face.

Pope John Paul II had extended his hand to the man who tried to kill him, and Reagan was apparently inspired to do the same.

So in 1983, the president asked the White House physician to see whether a meeting with Hinckley would be possible, according to people involved in the effort. Hinckley was at St. Elizabeths Hospital, the Washington psychiatric hospital, after being found not guilty by reason of insanity in the shooting of Reagan and three others.

It would be a remarkable moment, the president face to face with the man who tried to assassinate him.

"I had the feeling he really wanted to do it," said Roger Peele, then head of psychiatry at St. Elizabeths.

But Reagan wanted to know what Hinckley's caregivers thought. Peele found himself on the phone with the president, who called from Air Force One.

"He said he only wanted to do what was in Mr. Hinckley's best interests," Peele recalled in an interview. The psychiatrist joked that the president should join the treatment team. "He laughed," Peele said.

Then the conversation turned serious. Peele said it would not be wise for Reagan to meet with Hinckley.

"I was concerned that it would diminish Mr. Hinckley's sense of responsibility," said Peele, who oversaw but was not directly involved in Hinckley's treatment.

We're a much better people than the Left and Right wish to believe we are.

July 26, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 8:00 PM


A Mormon Tycoon Wants to Build Joseph Smith's Mega-Utopia in Vermont : David Hall is snapping up farmland to bring his vision of a sustainable high-density community to life. The neighbors are horrified. (Caroline Winter | July 20, 2016, Bloomberg Businessweek

Nicole Antal, a 30-year-old librarian in Sharon, Vermont, was putting together a town report in late January when she stumbled upon a series of odd land purchases: In just three months, a Utah-based foundation had quietly bought more than 900 acres of nearby farmland, an area larger than Central Park. All of the land was either adjacent or close to the birthplace and memorial of Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon Church. "I've always loved mysteries," says Antal. "And this seemed like a good one."

That evening, when Antal got home to the 450-square-foot house she's building with her husband, she strapped on a headlamp. The house doesn't yet have electricity and she needed to prepare dinner for her 5-year-old son, Robin. She also wanted to poke around online. Standing next to her wood-burning stove, Antal flipped open her precharged laptop and Googled the name of the Utah organization: NewVistas. "This strange website popped up," she says. "It had all these architectural models with fake people walking around. I didn't know what to think."

NewVistas, Antal soon discovered, was started by a wealthy Mormon engineer named David Hall, who wants to build sustainable, high-tech, high-density communities all across the globe. From the looks of things, he hoped to build one right in her backyard, in rural Vermont.

During the next few weeks, Antal was busy starting the year's maple syrup harvest. She also quit her part-time job at the library to focus on homesteading and raising her son. But in her free time, she scoured the NewVistas website and public records, and resolved to write a story for a local blogging platform called Daily UV. When she contacted Hall by e-mail, he replied almost immediately, and, after some back and forth, suggested they speak on the phone. "I was pretty nervous," says Antal, who's shy, with a round face, asymmetrical haircut, glasses, and a French accent from growing up in Belgium. "Talking on the phone is very uncomfortable for me. But it was also exciting."

On the scheduled day, Antal parked her red Toyota Tacoma pickup next to a nearby bridge, known among locals for having reliable phone reception. She pulled out a Moleskine notebook, summoned her courage, and dialed Hall. They introduced themselves and talked about their respective backgrounds and interests, and then, over the span of an hour, Hall blew Antal's mind. Yes, he said, he was planning an elaborate, 20,000-person community that would extend over four small towns, including hers, and the blueprint was based on the so-called Plat of the City of Zion, a Mormon document depicting a vision that Joseph Smith and two colleagues jotted down in 1833. And while that all sounded a bit far-fetched, Hall revealed that he already had more than 150 engineers working on technology and architecture for the project. "One hundred and fifty engineers!" says Antal. "Before then, it was all just conceptual. All of the sudden it seemed like, oh my God, this is going to happen tomorrow."

Posted by orrinj at 7:53 PM


The Chilling Rise of Copycat Mass Shooters : From Baton Rouge to Munich, a dark phenomenon rears its head. (MARK FOLLMANJUL. 26, 2016, Mother Jones)

[I]nvestigators have uncovered a range of evidence suggesting Sonboly was a textbook copycat attacker. The many parallels with past cases are striking:

One such piece of evidence was literally a textbook: In the apartment where Sonboly lived, investigators found a German-language edition of Why Kids Kill: Inside the Minds of School Shooters. The book's author, American psychologist and school shootings expert Peter Langman, told me that his "heart sank" when he learned of that discovery. It was not the first time an attacker displayed an interest in Langman's case studies. The 18-year-old who went on a rampage at Arapahoe High School in Colorado in December 2013 also had a copy of the book. Investigators in Munich also learned that Sonboly had collected news coverage and other information on past attacks, a behavior familiar from the Newtown killer and many other mass shooters.

Such content helps fulfill the need of aspiring killers to find people they can identify with, says Langman. "Having a role model or an ideology that supports their violent intentions may serve the purpose of transforming what is otherwise aberrant and abhorrent into something admirable," he says. "It validates their urge toward violence."

Sonboly went on his rampage precisely five years after one of Europe's worst massacres in modern history, the attack carried out in July 2011 in Norway by a lone killer who took the lives of 77 people and injured hundreds of others. As with the Norway massacre, which took place primarily at a youth summer camp, most of Sonboly's victims were teenagers.

The desire to strike on the anniversary of a high-profile mass killing is not uncommon among would-be copycats, as I documented last year in my investigation of the "Columbine effect." Since 1999, at least 14 perpetrators who emulated the Columbine killers have plotted to attack schools around the United States on that same date in April.

Forensic psychologists specializing in threat assessment have documented numerous mass shooters who cultivated a "pseudocommando" image--those who were obsessed with military weapons and paraphernalia and aspired to a "warrior mentality." In Sonboly's case, he may have nurtured such tendencies in part through first-person shooter games, including Counter-Strike: Source, a game that German investigators said he was obsessed with.

Posted by orrinj at 7:47 PM



It's a remotely controlled, unmanned vehicle that resembles nothing so much as a rugged golf cart. And it's the result of at least 30 years of work. The concept was approved in 1985, and the first prototype drove onto the Army's Aberdeen Proving Grounds in 2000. It was originally designed to patrol storage sites and warehouses, places that are the trifecta of big, dull, and dangerous in the wrong hands.

There are several different bodies for the vehicle, but they all work roughly the same. They can drive off-road, watch in both normal vision and infrared, and scan the terrain around them with lasers (well, LIDAR), to make sure they're avoiding obstacles. They can also navigate autonomously, which frees the human driver to instead monitor the video coming in.

And now they're driving around parts of the Horn of Africa. Operated by Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, which is based in Djibouti, the task force works to train local militaries. Somalia and Yemen, which border Djibouti by land and just across the sea, respectively, house their share of hostile militant groups, including the al Qaeda affiliated Al Shabaab. Patrolling with robots like MDARS means keeping troops out of danger, and making it so more of them can respond to danger when it happens.

Posted by orrinj at 6:49 PM


Renewed oil weakness sparks demand fears (JESSICA RESNICK-AULT, 7/26/16, Reuters)

The demand response has been slower than bulls had hoped. U.S. drivers have covered fewer miles than expected this summer, and as they speed toward the Labor Day holiday in September, the overhang of gasoline in storage may put downward pressure on crude and refined product prices.

"Right now, the only thing that would drive prices higher is robust demand," said John Paisie, executive vice president at Stratas Energy Advisors, a Houston-based consultancy. The growth must be across the board, for products including distillates like diesel and jet fuel, as well as gasoline.

"Demand just can't be made up by one product," he said, and demand for diesel has been lagging.

Instead of seeing $60 a barrel, which would support an increase in production, the demand questions, and ongoing supply concerns, mean oil could fall further. U.S. crude settled at $43.13 on Monday, after earlier hitting a three-month low.

"Demand is growing very moderately," said veteran oil economist and independent consultant Phil Verleger. "There's no real surge to it - call it the great moderation."

Posted by orrinj at 6:42 PM


Turkey's coup failed everywhere, except in Egyptian media (AHMED MAGDY YOUSSEF 26 July 2016, OpenDemocracy)

On Friday, July 15, in the throes of Turkey's deep crisis which left international media befuddled by who was truly in power, numerous Egyptian media outlets jumped the gun in their reportage. They prematurely declared that the attempted coup had ended in success, heralding the Turkish army's control over the country and overthrow of President Erdogan.

Within hours of the start of the attempted coup, these outlets exposed their unprofessionalism by falling prey to propaganda. Despite confirmed news sources proving that the democratically-elected government remained in charge, and people taking to the streets to support Turkish democracy, several Egyptian state-run as well as privately owned newspapers came out on Saturday, July 16, with headlines and front pages showing a different trajectory.

State-run newspaper Al-Ahram main front page banner headline stated that the Turkish Armed Forces succeeded in ousting President Erdogan. The red headline said "The Turkish army overthrows Erdogan" and was followed by the subhead "The armed forces seize power, declare martial law and Recep Tayyip vanishes." 

State-owned Akhbar Al-Youm, announced in its main headline "A military coup in Turkey," while the subhead said "The military announced it has taken over to protect democracy and human rights, Erdogan calls on supporters to take to the streets to safeguard legitimacy." 

Taken in this light, Egyptian newspaper's choice of the word "legitimacy" is a reminder of when former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi was mocked for repeating the same word in his final late-night televised speeches when he addressed the nation before being ousted by his army generals three years ago.

How Egypt's Brotherhood helped counter Turkey's coup attempt (Amr Mostafa,  July 26, 2016, Al Monitor)

Ankara has not demanded the departure of any of the group's leaders, as Qatar did in September 2014, nor has it opened numerous investigations into the extent of the Brotherhood's involvement in terrorism, as Britain has. Perhaps that is what drove the Brotherhood to call upon Egyptians and Syrians living in Turkey, as well as governments around the world and Turkish civil society, to defend Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after he was targeted by a coup launched by some members of the army.

On its official webpage, the Muslim Brotherhood posted a statement dated July 16 saying it would stand in solidarity with the Turkish people and their right to rally around their elected government. The statement also called upon "all free people around the world, peoples, civil society groups and elected governments to support democracy in every nation equally and reject backward [rebel] ideas." [...]

Mohamed Abd al-Qadir, chief editor of Turkish Affairs magazine and an analyst at Al-Ahram Center for Political & Strategic Studies, told Al-Monitor he is certain the Brotherhood's leadership and young people in Turkey played a significant role in mobilizing Egyptians and Syrians.

"The Syrians [living in Turkey] number around 2.7 million, and the Egyptians' numbers are also massive, with a significant portion of them being students who are [beneficiaries of] Turkish scholarships and initiatives." These young people in Turkey are in contact with a wide network of their counterparts in Egypt and Syria, who "have a great deal of experience in mobilizing in the streets through [the social media networks] that spread throughout Egypt following the January [2011] revolution and during the Brotherhood's rule," Qadir said.

"They [use the networks] to spread notions of participating in some demonstrations and protests." Much of their knowledge is being extended to Turkey, "and they have a great deal of experience in dealing with military operations," he added.

Posted by orrinj at 3:24 PM


Donald Trump gripes about hotel hot air, says he might not pay bill (The Associated Press, 7/26/16)

"I don't know what hotel this is, but you ought to try turning on the air conditioning or we're not going to get you paid," Trump said.

Hotel officials told WDBJ in Roanoke that the air conditioning system "was on and working properly throughout the event." The hotel said temperatures in the 90s did pose "a challenge" while doors were open for two hours to let hundreds of people enter the ballroom. It says staff did everything possible to keep guests comfortable.

In his extended rant, Trump said he is "really good" at the hotel business and knows owners can save money by turning off the air conditioning.

"But this is ridiculous," Trump said. "So then there'll be an article, 'Donald Trump refuses to pay the bill.' Of course. And you know what, the smart people say, 'Trump is smart.' The other people would say, 'Oh, isn't that terrible.' Ok. I think the ballroom and the people that own this hotel should be ashamed of themselves."

TRUMP SLUMP: Donald Trump's Real Estate Empire Is Suffering A YUGE SWOON In 2016 (Eric Owens, 07/25/2016, Daily Caller)

The value of Donald Trump's various luxury real estate ventures is suffering because of his presidential run, according to a Yahoo Finance analysis of national real estate prices.

The analysis, conducted by residential real estate company Redfin, shows that the condominium values in several Trump-branded properties have fallen during the otherwise generally steady housing market of 2016.

Posted by orrinj at 12:36 PM


Isis claims priest's killing as Hollande vows all-out war (The Local, 26 Jul 2016)

President Francois Hollande vowed Tuesday to wage war against terror group Isis "by every means" within the law after two men linked to the jihadist group killed a priest in a French church.

When even the French are all in....
Posted by orrinj at 12:29 PM


Labour as far behind Tories under Jeremy Corbyn as when Michael Foot handed Thatcher landslide in 1983 (Ben Riley-Smith, 26 JULY 2016, The Telegraph)

Jeremy Corbyn's Labour is now as far behind the Conservatives as when his predecessor Michael Foot lost by a landslide to Margaret Thatcher, according to a new poll.

Just 27 per cent of voters would back Labour at an election while 43 per cent would support the Tories, the pollster ICM found - almost identical figures to when Mrs Thatcher won re-election in 1983. 

The findings will increase comparisons between Mr Corbyn and Mr Foot, a Left-winger whose election manifesto was famously dubbed the "longest suicide note in history".

Posted by orrinj at 12:15 PM


...that the Gipper promised us.
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 PM


New home sales hit 592,000 in June, versus 560,000 estimate (Reuters, 7/26/16)

New U.S. single-family home sales rose more than expected in June, reaching their highest level in nearly 8-1/2 years, the latest sign that the housing market was gathering momentum.

July 25, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 6:20 PM


Do You Live in a Bubble? A Quiz (PAUL SOLMAN AND ELIZABETH SHELL   March 14, 2012, PBS Newshour)


You got 63 points.

See below for scores Charles Murray would expect you to get based on the following descriptions. Note that there are ranges of possible scores for categories and some overlap. In the graphic, your score is denoted by the horizontal black line, and typical scores for each range are marked with gray lines. The possible overlap is represented by the blue bars.

The higher your score, the thinner your bubble. The lower, the more insulated you might be from mainstream American culture.

48-99: A lifelong resident of a working-class neighborhood with average television and movie going habits. Typical: 77.

42-100: A first-generation middle-class person with working-class parents and average television and movie going habits. Typical: 66.

11-80: A first-generation upper-middle-class person with middle-class parents. Typical: 33.

0-43: A second-generation (or more) upper-middle-class person who has made a point of getting out a lot. Typical: 9.

0-20: A second-generation (or more) upper-middle-class person with the television and movie going habits of the upper middle class. Typical: 2.

Posted by orrinj at 3:44 PM


A Third Woman Alleges She Was Sexually Assaulted By Donald Trump (Kali Holloway, July 25, 2016, National Memo)

Although there's been scant coverage of the allegations, Harth is the third woman to accuse Trump of sexual assault. In June, a lawsuit was filed in Manhattan federal court accusing Trump of raping a 13-year-old girl in 1994, the same era as Harth's attack. That attack allegedly took place during a party held at the home of Trump's admitted billionaire friend, Jeffrey Epstein, who in 2008 served 13 months in jail for soliciting underage girls for sex. (Epstein remains a registered sex offender.) Death and Taxes quoted directly from the lawsuit at the time it was filed:

In the court filing, "Defendant Trump" allegedly "initiated sexual contact with Plaintiff at four different parties. On the fourth and final sexual encounter with Defendant Trump, Defendant Trump tied Plaintiff to a bed, exposed himself to Plaintiff, and then proceeded to forcibly rape Plaintiff. During the course of this savage sexual attack, Plaintiff loudly pleaded with Defendant Trump to stop but with no effect. Defendant Trump responded to Plaintiff's pleas by violently striking Plaintiff in the face with his open hand and screaming that he would do whatever he wanted."

In the next section, she adds that "Immediately following this rape, Defendant Trump threatened Plaintiff that, were she ever to reveal any of the details of the sexual and physical abuse of her by Defendant Trump, Plaintiff and her family would be physically harmed if not killed."

Another anonymous woman, identified as "Tiffany Doe," corroborates those charges, and says she witnessed the rape. As AlterNet previously noted, "Tiffany Doe testified that between 1991 and 2001, Epstein put her on his payroll, tasking her with bringing underage girls to parties."

The earliest charge of rape against Trump come from his first wife, Ivana Trump. The allegations were made during a deposition taken during the contentious divorce between the two. The book, written by reporter Harry Hurt III and revisited in a Daily Beast article last year, includes a graphic description of a "violent assault" on Ivana by Trump. Before the book was released, Ivana recanted her accusations in a statement provided by Trump's own lawyers

Posted by orrinj at 1:39 PM


Delusions of Chaos (Paul Krugman, 7/25/16, NY Times)

Last year there were 352 murders in New York City. This was a bit higher than the number in 2014, but far below the 2245 murders that took place in 1990, the city's worst year. In fact, as measured by the murder rate, New York is now basically as safe as it has ever been, going all the way back to the 19th century.

National crime statistics, and numbers for all violent crimes, paint an only slightly less cheerful picture. And it's not just a matter of numbers; our big cities look and feel far safer than they did a generation ago, because they are. People of a certain age always have the sense that America isn't the country they remember from their youth, and in this case they're right -- it has gotten much better.

How, then, was it even possible for Donald Trump to give a speech accepting the Republican nomination whose central premise was that crime is running rampant, and that "I alone" can bring the chaos under control?

Of course, nobody should be surprised to see Mr. Trump confidently asserting things that are flatly untrue, since he does that all the time -- and never corrects his falsehoods. Indeed, the big speech repeated some of those golden oldies, like the claim that America is the world's most highly taxed country (when we are actually near the bottom among advanced economies).

But until now the false claims have been about things ordinary voters can't check against their own experience. Most people don't have any sense of how their taxes compare with those paid by Europeans or Canadians, let alone how many jobs have been displaced by Chinese competition. But 58 million tourists visited New York last year; tens of millions more visited other major cities; and of course many of us live in or near those cities, and see them every day. And while there are, as there always were, bad neighborhoods and occasional violent incidents, it's hard to see how anyone who walks around with open eyes could believe in the blood-soaked dystopian vision Mr. Trump laid out. 

...when even Mr. Krugman is more positive about America than the GOP nominee.

July 24, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:03 PM


Remember When Republicans Wanted to Stand Up to Putin? (Eli Lake, 7/21/16, Bloomberg View)

Remember when the Republican Party was a reliable foe of Russia's autocratic leaders? It actually wasn't that long ago. When President Barack Obama forged the New Start treaty with Moscow in 2010, Republican leaders opposed the treaty in part because Russia under Vladimir Putin could not be trusted with an arms control agreement.

Now the Republican nominee for president in 2016 is suggesting he may not honor U.S. commitments to NATO, which exists to counter Russian aggression. In an interview with the New York Times,he said he would only come to the aid of Baltic states if they were attacked by Russia, if "they have fulfilled their obligations to us."

This is not a unique position. The view that America should not necessarily honor its mutual defense agreements in NATO is popular among many foreign policy academics, particularly those in the "realist" school. Many progressives too, like the editors of the Nation Magazine, have mused that America's push to expand NATO is the root cause of Putin's aggression in Ukraine. Pat Buchanan, the White House speechwriter (and the force who resurrected the pre-World War II mantra of "America First") also thinks NATO's expansion has baited the Russian bear.

Posted by orrinj at 12:15 PM


See CNN Host's Reaction When Pro-Life Guest Says This About Tim Kaine and Planned Parenthood (Carly Hoilman, 7/24/16, The Blaze)

Conservative Christian radio talkshow host and author Eric Metaxas appeared on "CNN Tonight" with Don Lemon Friday to discuss Hillary Clinton's newly appointed running mate, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine.

Metaxas explained to Lemon that Clinton has some obstacles to overcome if she hopes to gain the votes of religious pro-life voters. He noted that her decision to choose Kaine, a practicing Catholic who personally opposes abortion, as her vice president is a smart one, but the challenges facing her party remain.

"I mean, [Clinton] has to deal with the fact that ... the Democrats are considered the party of Planned Parenthood and selling baby parts," he said. "Now, that's gruesome. She has to deal with that. So I think she probably reached to a religious candidate because she realizes that she's gonna be attacked on that."

When Lemon noted that Kaine is well liked by Planned Parenthood, the pro-life talkshow host interjected.

"Right!" Metaxas fired back. "Now that he's out of the womb."

Lemon nodded at first, until he realized what had been said.

"OK," Lemon said, seeming a little agitated by the comment.

"Enough?" Metaxas asked.

Lemon smiled and rolled his eyes before saying, "yeah," and moving on.

Posted by orrinj at 12:02 PM


Donald Trump loses battle with Teleprompter in GOP acceptance speech (Brian Lowry, July 22, 2016, CNN Money)

Those consuming this through the lens of TV couldn't see the speech's other major player, but Trump's TelePrompTer occupied a central role in the drama. Clearly committed not to extensively riff or drift off script -- as was his habit on the campaign trail -- the candidate frequently sounded awkward, raising his voice and emphasizing words and phrases ("regime change," "ever") for what felt like no reason.

Setting aside the content of the speech, the structure created problems for Trump that became more apparent as the delivery wore on. He started by rattling off an almost dizzying litany of facts and figures, then turned into sections filled with such a depressing, woe-is-America vision as to create few spaces for obvious applause lines, which seemed to stifle the appreciative crowd. [...]

Ivanka Trump concluded the parade of Trump-branded children who spoke this week, and introduced her father in warm, measured tones. The stylistic mismatch between Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump felt even more striking once her father began to shout whole sentences.

"We can't ignore the presentation," said Fox News' Chris Wallace. "For some reason, he shouted the speech. ... He said each word so slowly that it kind of became an endurance test."

During the pre-coverage, Fox News' Bill O'Reilly said that the text -- which was available in advance -- was "designed for television." Yet if it gave that impression on the page, it actually yielded the opposite effect.

Donald Trump doesn't read much. (Marc Fisher July 17, 2016, Washington Post)

 As he has prepared to be named the Republican nominee for president, Donald Trump has not read any biographies of presidents. He said he would like to someday.

He has no time to read, he said: "I never have. I'm always busy doing a lot. Now I'm more busy, I guess, than ever before."

Trump's desk is piled high with magazines, nearly all of them with himself on their covers, and each morning, he reviews a pile of printouts of news articles about himself that his secretary delivers to his desk. But there are no shelves of books in his office, no computer on his desk.

Presidents have different ways of preparing to make decisions. Some read deeply, some prefer to review short memos that condense difficult issues into bite-size summaries, ideally with check-boxes at the bottom of the page. But Trump, poised to become the first ­major-party presidential nominee since Dwight Eisenhower who had not previously held elected office, appears to have an unusually light appetite for reading.

He said in a series of interviews that he does not need to read extensively because he reaches the right decisions "with very little knowledge other than the knowledge I [already] had, plus the words 'common sense,' because I have a lot of common sense and I have a lot of business ability."

Posted by orrinj at 10:05 AM


Buying the Deepest Stock Dips in 2016 Returned Three Times S&P 500 (Oliver Renick, July 24, 2016, Bloomberg)

The buy-the-dip strategy that's been a hallmark of the U.S. stock rally is outdoing itself in 2016, where buying stocks in the most extreme state of free fall is paying like rarely before. An index tracking shares in the Russell 3000 Index that register as "oversold" on a momentum metric is up 28 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The durability of strategies focusing on momentum reversals is a gift to traders who've been otherwise hamstrung in a market that just spent 13 months going nowhere before breaking to a new high earlier in July. From the 11 percent decline in first two months of the year to the 5.3 percent drop after Brexit, U.S. companies have been quick to shake off losses tied to the economy, earnings and global turmoil.

Every over-arching economic trend is positive for the U.S.. Perhaps the most hilarious example of "bad news" that markets have sold on the pasty few years being declining energy costs.

Posted by orrinj at 9:33 AM


A Pope Like None Before. Somewhat Protestant : The idyll between Francis and the followers of Luther. The alarm of cardinals and bishops against the "Protestantization" of the Catholic Church. But also the distrust of authoritative Lutheran theologians  (Sandro Magister, July 22, 2016, Chiesa)

In the alarmed letter that thirteen cardinals from five continents were preparing to deliver to Pope Francis at the beginning of the last synod, they were warning him against leading the Catholic Church as well to "the collapse of liberal Protestant churches in the modern era, accelerated by their abandonment of key elements of Christian belief and practice in the name of pastoral adaptation:"

Then at the last moment the thirteen deleted these two lines from the letter that was actually put into the hands of the pope. But today they would put them back in word for word, seeing the ever more pronounced idyll that is developing between Francis and the followers of Luther.

On October 31, Jorge Mario Bergoglio will fly to Lund, Sweden, where he will be met by the local female bishop, to celebrate together with the Lutheran World Federation the five hundredth anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. And the closer that date gets, the more sympathy the pope manifests for the great heretic.

At the last of his in-flight press conferences, on the way back from Armenia, he sang the praises of Luther. He said that he was moved by the best of intentions, and that his reform was "medicine for the Church," skimming over the essential dogmatic divergences that for five centuries have pitted Protestants and Catholics against each other, because - these are again his words, this time spoken in the Lutheran temple of Rome - "life is greater than explanations and interpretations":

The ecumenism of Francis is made like this. The primacy goes to the gestures, the embraces, some charitable act done together. He leaves doctrinal disagreements, even the most profound, to the discussions of theologians, whom he would gladly confine "to a desert island," as he loves to say only half-jokingly.

Benedict was the first protestant Pope, completing the Church's acceptance of the End of History -- democracy, capitalism  and protestantism -- and finishing the Reformation:

A Tocquevillian in the Vatican (Samuel Gregg, 2/08/06, Acton)

Upon Joseph Ratzinger's election to the Papacy in April 2005, many commentators correctly noted that Benedict XVI's self-described theological "master" was St. Augustine. The fifth-century African bishop is widely acknowledged as a giant of the early church whose life and writings are counted, even by his detractors, among the most decisive in shaping Western civilization. Pope Benedict's first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est , is full of citations and themes drawn from Augustine's texts.

The encyclical's publication appears, however, to confirm that another, more contemporary thinker has influenced the way that Benedict XVI views religion in free societies and the nature of the state. That person is the nineteenth-century French social philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville.

The author of classic texts such as Democracy in America , Tocqueville's own relationship with Christianity is best described as "complex." Raised in a devout French aristocratic family, Tocqueville was appalled at the French Revolution's assault on the Catholic Church -- an attack involving looting of church property and violence against clergy and laypeople alike. But Tocqueville also disapproved of the post-Revolutionary clergy's tendency to attach itself to political absolutism. On a personal level, Tocqueville oscillated between doubt and faith for most of his life.

What Tocqueville did not doubt, however, was religion's importance in sustaining free societies. This theme is addressed at length in Democracy in America . More importantly, it has attracted Joseph Ratzinger's attention. Upon being inducted into the Académie des Sciences Morales et Politiques of the Institut de France in 1992, then-Cardinal Ratzinger remarked that Tocqueville's " Democracy in America has always made a strong impression on me."

Describing Tocqueville as " le grand penseur politique ," the context of these remarks was Ratzinger's insistence that free societies cannot sustain themselves, as Tocqueville observed, without widespread adherence to " des convictions éthiques communes. " Ratzinger then underlined Tocqueville's appreciation of Protestant Christianity's role in providing these underpinnings in the United States. In more recent years, Ratzinger expressed admiration for the manner in which church-state relations were arranged in America, using words suggesting he had absorbed Tocqueville's insights into this matter.

Posted by orrinj at 9:17 AM


Shooter received inpatient psychiatric care (AP, Jul. 24, 2016)

The spokesman for Munich prosecutors' office says the teenage gunman who killed nine people in the city on Friday had received psychiatric treatment last year.

The 18-year-old, identified only as David S., "received inpatient treatment in 2015 for two months and after that received outpatient care," said Thomas Steinkraus-Koch.

"The suspect had fears of contact with others" and also depression.

The shooter took his own life following the attack. [...]

[Bavarian investigator Robert Heimberger] said the shooter [...] likely got his illegal weapon through the internet's "dark net" market...

Obama Takes His Last Shot at Gun Control : Congress won't act on the problem that now kills more Americans than cars kill so the president is going it alone by shrinking major loopholes for sellers.  (Eleanor Clift, 1/04/16, Newsweek)

On Tuesday in the East Room of the White House, Obama will unveil a series of actions to strengthen gun laws and gun safety--and infuriate his critics.

Why didn't he do it sooner? That question was posed to administration officials in a call with reporters, and the answer could be summed up in a phrase Obama often uses: Enough is enough--and time is running out on his watch.

The central element of his executive actions is shrinking what is commonly called the "gun show loophole." Gun dealers who sell over the Internet or have a booth at a gun show or flea market where they sell firearms for profit will no longer be exempt from conducting background checks on buyers. The exemption for hobbyists and collectors will still remain, though.

"Just because you shop for guns with a mouse and not with your feet, you can't escape background checks," Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser, told reporters.

Norway shooter: Ammo from U.S. (REID J. EPSTEIN, 07/28/11, Politico)

The Norwegian man who allegedly killed dozens at a kids summer camp claims he legally bought high-capacity ammunition clips by mail from the United States, prompting Capitol Hill's leading gun-control advocate to say on Thursday that America should be ashamed such purchases aren't against the law.

Anders Behring Breivik wrote in a 1,500-page manifesto that he bought 10 30-round ammunition clips for his .223 caliber rifle from an undisclosed, small U.S. supplier, which had acquired the clips from other suppliers. Norway forbids the sale of clips for hunting rifles that hold more than three bullets, according to Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten.

Breivik wrote in his manifesto that while he could have purchased the high-capacity magazines in Sweden, they would have been significantly more expensive than ordering them from a U.S. supplier. He wrote that he spent $550 for the 10 clips. [...]

[D]ennis Henigan, the acting president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said the world is endangered by American gun laws.

"It now appears that not even Norwegian children at a youth camp are safe from the battlefield firepower so easily available in America," he said. "Large-capacity assault clips are instruments of mass killing, yet federal law leaves them completely unregulated."

Posted by orrinj at 9:10 AM


Posted by orrinj at 9:04 AM


Turkey ruling, opposition parties to rally together after coup (GARETH JONES, 7/24/16, Reuters)

Supporters of Turkey's ruling and main opposition parties, usually bitter foes, were set to rally together on Sunday in support of democracy following a failed military coup as President Tayyip Erdogan tightens his grip on the country.

In another demonstration of unity after the coup, which was staged by a faction within the armed forces, the head of Turkey's air force issued a rare statement stressing "absolute obedience" to the chief of the military General Staff. Some members of the air force were involved in the coup.

The chief of the military General Staff, Hulusi Akar, who was held hostage by the plotters on the night of July 15, condemned the plotters on Sunday as "cowards in uniform" who had greatly harmed the nation and the army.

Egypt's Regime Faces an Authoritarian Catch-22 (AMR ADLY, July 21, 2016, Carnegie Endowment)

The regime of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is stuck between a rock and a hard place. The country's current economic crisis deprives the regime of the financial and economic resources needed to sustain a solid social base among public sector employees, and hence hinders the consolidation of authoritarian rule. But at the same time, the regime's reliance on this group gives it little latitude to pursue economic reform. The regime may survive, but at the high price of continued repression and an inability to alleviate worsening socioeconomic conditions.

A Self-Defeating Alliance for the Sisi Regime

Past Egyptian authoritarian regimes consolidated power through rules governing interaction in state bodies and between the state and the society. They sustained themselves by depending less on repression and more on efforts to establish institutions of control through which the interests of key constituencies could be represented.

Despite relative stabilization of the country following the military takeover in 2013, Egypt's macroeconomic situation has improved little.

To secure its power, the Sisi regime has relied on an alliance between the military, the security forces, and public sector employees that formed in opposition to the January 2011 uprising against Hosni Mubarak, as well as repressive tactics.

Egypt's economic and fiscal challenges deny the regime the resources needed to maintain support among public sector employees. To avoid alienating the public sector, the Sisi regime will not pursue reform that would make resources available. This catch-22 will continue to hinder its consolidation efforts.

...Egypt too would be a democracy today.

Posted by orrinj at 8:57 AM


'In choice between territories and peace, I prefer peace,' Ben-Gurion said in 1968 (TIMES OF ISRAEL, July 24, 2016)

The former prime minister, celebrated even in life, told kibbutz members he had no wish to receive any special treatment.

"I told them my name is David, not Ben-Gurion. Every morning I came to see what David has to do and I went to do the work," he said.

Ben-Gurion wanted to serve as an example of what Israel could be, and how Israeli leaders should live.

In the interview, conducted a year after the 1967 Six Day War in which Israel conquered the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Old City, the Sinai Peninsula, Golan Heights and Gaza Strip, Ben-Gurion spoke at length of his belief that Israel was still far from achieving its purpose of serving as "a light unto the nations."

Israel's moral compass, he maintained, was inexorably tied to its treatment of the non-Jews living under its rule.

Ben-Gurion criticized those who believed that the biblical commandment to "Love thy friend as thyself" pertained only to Jews, saying that "In the same chapter they said a little later, 'If a stranger will live among you, he should be to you like a citizen and you should love him like yourself because you were strangers in Egypt.' So it doesn't mean only Jews."

He also took the unpopular position in those days of post-war euphoria that Israel should immediately relinquish the territories it had taken if this could secure peace.

"If I could choose between peace and all the territories which we conquered last year, I would prefer peace," he said. He did have two exceptions though: Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

He also voiced opposition to the then-nascent settlement project in the West Bank and Gaza, wondering out loud why it was necessary to settle an area with large Arab populations when the nearly unpopulated Negev desert was available. He said pre-war Israel had enough room for all the Jews who would come to live here in the next 20 or 40 years.

The film also shows a post-war Knesset speech by the former prime minister in which he warns that "our standing in the world will be determined not by our so-called material riches, and not by our military's bravery, but by the moral virtue of our undertaking.

Posted by orrinj at 8:26 AM


Don't Overstate the Terrorist Threat : The mass murder in Nice was horrific, but it doesn't mean that ISIS is on the rise. (MICHAEL FUMENTO • July 22, 2016, American Conservative)

As the investigation of the massacre in Nice continues, authorities continue to find no evidence that killer Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel had any ties to terrorist networks. So why have so many so quick to invoke ISIS? And more importantly, why do so many continue to conflate "ordered or planned by ISIS" with "ISIS-inspired"?

For all the speculation of real connections--and ISIS' own attempt to claim "credit"--the evidence has pointed the other way from the start. Compare the awful expertise and professionalism shown by the ISIS killers in Paris the night of November 17 with Bouhlel's awful wild ride. The Paris attack involved three coordinated attacks, suicide belts, shooting prowess, and slipping past security guards. In Nice, the perpetrator simply rented the biggest truck he could a couple of days beforehand and cased the location. Bouhlel didn't even wear easily obtainable body armor that might have allowed him to kill far more people before being shot himself. The reports of the truck being packed with weapons including grenades proved false, although he did have one working gun. [...]

[T]here's no shortage of evidence that Bouhlel was the proverbial ticking time bomb. He had previously been convicted of assault, having hurled a wooden pallet at another driver after a traffic accident. His wife had recently thrown him out of his home, taking his kids away in the process, for allegedly physically abusing her and other family members. This is not only evidence that he was already unbalanced, but also the sort of thing that could have pushed him even further in that direction. His father said that his mental health indeed deteriorated after the separation.

It appears Bouhlel has long had serious mental-health problems. His father said he suffered from nervous breakdowns in which he "broke everything," and that, while still living with his family, he "defecated all over the place" and shredded his daughter's teddy bear.

Religiously motivated? Though nominally Muslim, "Bouhlel was not religious," his wife's cousin, Walid Hamou, told the British Daily Mail. "He did not go to the mosque. He did not pray. He did not observe Ramadan. He drank alcohol, ate pork and took drugs. This is all forbidden under Islam." Not to mention his womanizing and bisexuality.

July 23, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 9:26 PM


Energized white supremacists cheer Trump message (STEVE PEOPLES July 24, 2016, Times of Israel)

The well-dressed men who gathered in Cleveland's Ritz-Carlton bar after Donald Trump's speech accepting the Republican nomination for president prefer the term "Europeanists," "alt-right," or even "white nationalists." They are also die-hard Trump supporters.

And far from hiding in chat rooms or under white sheets, they cheered the GOP presidential nominee from inside the Republican National Convention over the last week. While not official delegates, they nevertheless obtained credentials to attend the party's highest-profile quadrennial gathering.

Several gathered in the luxury hotel well after midnight following Trump's Thursday address, a fiery appeal they said helped push the Republican Party closer to their principles.

Posted by orrinj at 8:54 PM


Posted by orrinj at 7:20 PM


If California's a 'bad state for business,' why is it leading the nation in job and GDP growth? (Michael Hiltzik, 7/22/16, LA Times)

State and federal statistics released as recently as Friday make it clear: California is smoking hot, economy-wise.

The state gained 40,300 jobs in June and 461,000 over the year. With a gain of 2.9%, that was the best 12-month record of any large state except Florida, which won by a nostril with a gain of 3%, and much better than the nation as a whole (1.7%). According to the congressional Joint Economic Committee, California leads the nation in growth in its gross domestic product, which grew by 4.2% in 2015 -- more than twice the national rate.

Posted by orrinj at 6:00 PM


Munich gunman was treated for depression; 'no evidence' of IS link (TIMES OF ISRAEL, July 23, 2016)

Munich prosecutors said Saturday that the shooter in the attack -- named in the media as 18-year-old Iranian-German national Ali Sonboly, the son of a taxi driver -- had been in psychiatric care and treated for depression. The attack appears to be a "classic shooting rampage" and not terrorism, the prosecutor said. Police said investigators suspect the gunman was "deranged."

Mass Killings Inspire Copycats, Study Finds (MAGGIE FOX, 10/05/15, NBC)

Police have said so for years and now scientists have measured the effect: Mass shootings and school attacks do inspire copycats.

As many as 20 to 30 percent of attacks are set off by other attacks, according to researchers at Arizona State University and Northeastern Illinois University. The effect lasts about 13 days, they write in the report published Thursday in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS ONE.

And mass killings -- such as the 2012 attack on small children at Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut, the 1999 Columbine massacre, and last month's shooting of nine people at a prayer meeting in Charleston -- are becoming alarmingly common in the United States.

Posted by orrinj at 5:52 PM


AP Poll: Support grows among Americans for stricter gun laws (LISA MARIE PANE and RYAN J. FOLEY, July 23, 2016, AP)

Americans increasingly favor tougher gun laws by margins that have grown wider after a steady drumbeat of shootings in recent months, but they also are pessimistic that change will happen anytime soon, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll.

Nearly two-thirds of respondents expressed support for stricter laws, with majorities favoring nationwide bans on the sale of semi-automatic assault weapons such as the AR-15 and on the sale of high-capacity magazines holding 10 or more bullets.

Posted by orrinj at 5:43 PM


By Picking Anti-Abortion Tim Kaine, Hillary Is Testing Feminists' Loyalty (Nora Caplan-Bricker, 7/22/16, Slate)

It's not just that Kaine, like all 47 veeps in our nation's history, is a white dude, not a "first" who could have driven home just how historic Hillary's candidacy is. He's also, at least in his personal views, opposed to abortion due to his Catholic faith--a symbolic kick in the teeth for the feminist organizations that faithfully championed Hillary over Bernie throughout the long primary season. "Is Clinton a progressive? Not if she chooses Tim Kaine," Jodi Jacobson of the reproductive rights site Rewire wrote Thursday.

Hillary Clinton: You Can 'Absolutely' Be A Feminist And Pro-Life (Sam Levine , 4/05/16, HuffPo)

"I respect the opinions and beliefs of every woman," Clinton said. "The reason why being pro-choice is the right way to go is because it is a choice, and hopefully a choice that is rooted in the thoughtfulness and the care that women bring to this decision. So of course you can be a feminist and be pro-life."

She is not who the Left and Right want her to be, any more than the UR and W were.  That's why they win presidential elections.
Posted by orrinj at 5:22 PM


Is Donald Trump a Racist? (Nicholas Kristof JULY 23, 2016, NY Times)

One early red flag arose in 1973, when President Richard Nixon's Justice Department -- not exactly the radicals of the day -- sued Trump and his father, Fred Trump, for systematically discriminating against blacks in housing rentals.

I've waded through 1,021 pages of documents from that legal battle, and they are devastating. Donald Trump was then president of the family real estate firm, and the government amassed overwhelming evidence that the company had a policy of discriminating against blacks, including those serving in the military.

To prove the discrimination, blacks were repeatedly dispatched as testers to Trump apartment buildings to inquire about vacancies, and white testers were sent soon after. Repeatedly, the black person was told that nothing was available, while the white tester was shown apartments for immediate rental.

A former building superintendent working for the Trumps explained that he was told to code any application by a black person with the letter C, for colored, apparently so the office would know to reject it. A Trump rental agent said the Trumps wanted to rent only to "Jews and executives," and discouraged renting to blacks.

Donald Trump furiously fought the civil rights suit in the courts and the media, but the Trumps eventually settled on terms that were widely regarded as a victory for the government. Three years later, the government sued the Trumps again, for continuing to discriminate. [...]

Another revealing moment came in 1989, when New York City was convulsed by the "Central Park jogger" case, a rape and beating of a young white woman. Five black and Latino teenagers were arrested.

Trump stepped in, denounced Mayor Ed Koch's call for peace and bought full-page newspaper ads calling for the death penalty. The five teenagers spent years in prison before being exonerated. In retrospect, they suffered a modern version of a lynching, and Trump played a part in whipping up the crowds.

As Trump moved into c[****]s, discrimination followed. In the 1980s, according to a former Trump c[*****]o worker, Kip Brown, who was quoted by The New Yorker: "When Donald and Ivana came to the c[****]o, the bosses would order all the black people off the floor. ... They put us all in the back."

In 1991, a book by John O'Donnell, who had been president of the Trump Plaza Hotel and C[*****]o in Atlantic City, quoted Trump as criticizing a black accountant and saying: "Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day."

No one hates just Mexicans.
Posted by orrinj at 5:16 PM


Pokemon GO blamed for illegal border crossing from Canada to U.S. (Reuters, 7/23/16)

Two youths unaware of their surroundings when they were playing Pokemon GO on their cell phones made an illegal border crossing this week from Canada into the United States in a remote part of Montana, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol said.

Posted by orrinj at 12:57 PM


Joy Reid: Progressives Disappointed at Kaine Pick, Democrats Should Be Concerned (David Rutz, July 23, 2016, Free Beacon)

Liberal MSNBC commentator Joy Reid said Democrats should be concerned at the disappointment among progressives with Hillary Clinton's selection of Sen. Tim Kaine (D., Va.) as her running mate. [...]

Reid said it felt like a continuation of Clinton running effectively as a third term of Barack Obama, who Kaine supported for president. [...]

The Washington Post reported that groups with ties to far-left Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), whose presidential run was far stronger than expected, were critical of the choice because of Kaine's prior votes on Wall Street and trade agreements.

Democratic Party Chair Kaine Upsets Abortion Advocates With Choose Life Bill OK (Steven Ertelt, March 31, 2009, LifeNews.com) 

Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine may support legal abortions but he has signed two bills that are causing some to question why he is the national Democratic Party chairman. Kaine signed a Choose Life license plate bill but also signed a measure blocking taxpayer funding for embryonic stem cell research.

The decision puts Kaine at odds with President Barack Obama, who overturned an executive order earlier this month and made taxpayers fund the controversial research that involves the destruction of human life.

Obama made Kaine the head of the Democratic Party after he was elected last November.

The bill Kaine signed prohibits money from a state fund form going to organizations or businesses that engage in "research in Virginia on human cells or tissue derived from induced abortions or from stem cells obtained from human embryos."

Lynda Tran, the governor's communications director, told CNN that Kaine's decision to sign the bill is "in keeping with his faith and his personal beliefs."

"The governor is opposed to the use of state funds to fund embryonic stem cell research, but he generally agrees with the national platform broadly, that there are scientific values to stem cell research," Tran said. "In Virginia, where there has been strong opposition to embryonic research, he has made it a choice to focus on other forms of research like adult and placental stem cell research."

But Kaine's decision to sign the Choose Life license plate bill is not going over well with abortion advocates.

NARAL president Nancy Keen said, "It is unfortunate that, even after receiving thousands of messages from Virginians and pro-choice activists across the country, Gov. Kaine has opted to sign [the bill]."

And Paulette McElwain, the president of the Virginia League for Planned Parenthood told Politico, "It is surprising that Governor Kaine would do this, but it's all the more surprising that he would do it as chair of the DNC."

Posted by orrinj at 9:42 AM


Iran condemns Munich mall attack that killed 9 (AFP AND TIMES OF ISRAEL STAFF July 23, 2016)

 Iran on Saturday condemned a shooting spree at a busy shopping center in Munich a day earlier, in which a teenage German-Iranian gunman killed nine people before committing suicide.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi denounced "the killing of innocent and defenseless people" and expressed Iran's solidarity with the German government and people, official IRNA news agency reported.

Ghasemi also called for a "relentless and comprehensive fight" to eradicate violence.

Posted by orrinj at 9:36 AM


Erdogan's mass appeal saved him on coup night (PASCALE TROUILLAUD, July 23, 2016, Times of Israel)

In the tense hours when rebel troops attacked with fighter jets and tanks, and commandos were closing in on him, Erdogan called directly on the Turkish people to resist the mutineers.

Using the social media he previously despised, and sometimes blocked, he mobilized the citizens who confronted and stopped the plotters.

"What makes Erdogan different is that he knew the people would move when he asked them to," said Can Acun, a researcher with Turkish think-tank SETA.

"He was aware of the strong linkage between him and the people that he had strengthened through long years."

Having risen from working-class roots, Erdogan served as Istanbul mayor and went on to lead the nation, as premier and then president, in a success story celebrated by his loyal Muslim conservative base. [...]

[I]n many working-class areas and the vast Anatolian heartland, Erdogan is beloved by millions who celebrate a bigger role for Islam in public life, have benefited from a revitalized economy, and share a new sense of national pride under a potent ruler.

Erdogan won the 2014 election with 52 percent of the vote, making him "the first directly elected president of the people, with an added legitimacy," said Pierini.

Unfortunately, the Brotherhood moved too slowly in Egypt, so it was ill-equipped to thwart a similarly anti-democratic coup.

Posted by orrinj at 9:17 AM


Tim Kaine, Pro-Israel Centrist From Virginia, Hillary Clinton's Vice President Pick (Nathan Guttman, Jul 22, 2016, Forward)

Virginia's Kaine is a centrist pro-Israel choice who should please moderate Jewish voters as Hillary's No. 2.

"He's not going to appeal to the Bernie Sanders voters. He's a centrist," Ron Halber, executive director of the Greater Washington JCRC, told the Forward. [...]

Kaine, who has also served as head of the Democratic National Committee, has visited Israel several times and has supported the funding of Iron Dome systems and the U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act. Halber noted that he was a "very good friend" of the U.S.-Israel partnership, but he added that if chosen as vice president, he may want to see movement on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. "His social background and his sympathy to the oppressed will likely make him want to see a solution," he said, "but he will also support defending Israel in the U.N. and expanding the relationship."

Kaine is a member of a small group of senators who participate in a biweekly reflection group organized by the Faith and Politics Institute.

"I had many, many personal deep conversations with him, and he is genuinely a friend of Israel," said Rabbi Jack Moline, one of the group's moderators. Moline believes that much of Kaine's worldview was shaped during his work as a Jesuit missionary in Honduras. "It had an immense influence on his understanding of the need to make the world a better place."

In Virginia, Kaine hosted the first Passover Seder in the governor's mansion.

Before entering the U.S. Senate the well-liked Kaine had been the mayor of Richmond, governor of Virginia and chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Kaine, 58, is a fluent Spanish speaker after serving as a missionary in Honduras, and his presence on the ticket could help Clinton in Virginia, a heavily contested swing state.

Tim Kaine's abortion predicament : Once again, the Democratic VP prospect's record on abortion rights is under scrutiny. (DARREN SAMUELSOHN and DANIEL STRAUSS 07/04/16, Politico)

Tim Kaine has been here before: a leading vice-presidential contender with a complicated stance on abortion that doesn't neatly align with the one held by the top of the ticket.

His personal opposition to abortion generated significant scrutiny back in 2008 when Barack Obama, an abortion rights supporter, included the then-Virginia governor on his shortlist of running mates. Kaine's hometown newspaper in Richmond flagged the potentially awkward partnership right away, pointing out the philosophical and policy differences in a side-by-side graphic widely republished by media outlets across the country. [...]

He pledged in his 2005 gubernatorial campaign to reduce the number of terminated pregnancies in the state by promoting adoption and abstinence-focused education. That cycle, the state NARAL chapter ripped Kaine's GOP opponent, Jerry Kilgore, as "an extremely anti-choice candidate" but still withheld its endorsement of Kaine because he "embraces many of the restrictions on a woman's right to choose."

In a 2007 NARAL scorecard, Kaine was described as a "mixed-choice" governor and his state got an F grade thanks in part to a number of laws and other policies restricting access to abortions. Two years later, Kaine upset both local and national reproductive rights groups by signing a law that authorized the sale of customized "Choose Life" license plates. Kaine argued he was supporting free speech, but his critics complained that the law would fund pro-life organizations and didn't square with another very important hat that he was wearing at the time: Obama's personally picked head of the Democratic National Committee.

Kaine brings many other attributes as a running mate, including a widely respected reputation for bipartisanship, after serving just under four years in the Senate, and his own proven political chops winning three straight statewide races in the critical battleground of Virginia. But the hot button issue of abortion, where he has a much more nuanced stance than many of his fellow Democrats, is the baggage he carries.

The next presidential race just got tougher for the GOP, because the sitting VP will already own the issues Republicans need to run on to win.

It's a very savvy appeal to constituencies she can poach : Catholics, neocons, Bushies, Evangelicals, goo-goos, etc.

The now-defunct Project Exile that Kaine backed was so unusual it was championed by Republicans and Democrats alike and by both the top U.S. gun lobby group and gun-control advocates. But the federal program launched in 1997 in Richmond, Virginia, was also criticized at the time as a racially biased initiative that condemned young black men to lengthy prison terms. [...]

As Richmond mayor from 1998 to 2001, Kaine, 58, was a vocal supporter of Project Exile, crediting it with reducing the city's murder rate.

Its goal was to literally live up to its name by making illegal gun possession a federal, not a state, crime, which allowed prosecutors to send convicted felons, most of them black, to a distant federal penitentiary for at least five years.

July 22, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:18 PM


Trump loves to talk about ratings, but his convention speech got beat by John McCain (Sarah Frostenson, July 22, 2016, Vox)

Donald Trump has spent much of his presidential campaign touting his ability to drive ratings -- but his speech at the Republican National Convention Thursday didn't quite deliver. [...]

Trump drew 32.2 million viewers to watch the final night of the RNC. That falls well behind the 40 million who watched John McCain accept the Republican nomination in 2008 -- and slightly ahead of the 30.3 million who tuned in for Mitt Romney's 2012 address.

Posted by orrinj at 4:38 PM


Many 2012 Republican campaign promises have come true under .... Obama? (Christine Romans, 7/22/16, CNNMoney)

Mitt Romney four years ago pledged to bring the unemployment rate down to 6% by the end of 2016. Back then the jobless rate was above 8%. But it has moved steadily lower, falling below 5% today. The economy has added some 9 million jobs. In 2014, the U.S. saw the fastest job growth since 1999, and the second best in 2015.

The "Obama economy" has also delivered on other Republican promises.

Four years ago, presidential hopefuls Michele Bachmann and Newt Gingrich promised gas prices below $2.50 a gallon and the GOP platform called for more domestic oil production. During the second Obama administration, domestic oil production has surged to a record (in part because of fracking) and America's abundant oil supplies have helped slam oil prices and bring gas prices down to $2.20 a gallon.

In the stock market, blue chips have never been higher. Since the week of the 2012 convention in Tampa, the Dow has shot up more than 40%, rising from 13,000 to over 18,500.

The bitter reality for the Right and the Left is that the UR is who we hoped McCain/Romney would be.
Posted by orrinj at 4:29 PM


Fact-checking Donald Trump's Republican National Convention speech: 6 things he got wrong  (ALFRED NG, 7/21/16, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)

Here are six parts of the reported draft that were about as real as Trump's "publicist," John Miller.

"Decades of progress made in bringing down crime are now being reversed by this administration's rollback of criminal enforcement"

Nationwide, violent crime is actually at its lowest point since 1970, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Uniform Crime Reporting Statistics, and the number is steadily declining.

"In our nation's capital, killings have risen by 50%"

Assuming the billionaire is referring to Washington, D.C., 2016 murders have actually decreased by 9%, from the same date in July in 2015, according to the city's police department

Trump could be referring to a 54% increase in D.C. murders from 2014 to 2015, but he's ignoring the fact that overall crime actually dropped 4% that same year. Murders have actually been gradually decreasing since 2008, when President Obama took office, until the 2015 spike.

Posted by orrinj at 4:25 PM


Please clap: Kansas jobs are up but so is unemployment rate (YAEL T. ABOUHALKAH, 7/22/16, Kansas City Star)

[K]ansas had the seventh worst job growth rate in the country from June 2015 to June of this year at a puny 0.2 percent.

The state has been among the bottom 10 in the nation for adding jobs in much of the last year, along with North Dakota, Wyoming, Oklahoma, Alaska and Louisiana, among others. [...]

Summed up, the promises by Brownback that his 2012 tax cuts were going to stimulate a strong surge in employment haven't come true, even while dozens of other states are doing far, far better than Kansas. The Brownback claim that the national economy is dragging down the Kansas economy looks pretty weak, given the impressive job gains in states such as Utah, Oregon and California.

Posted by orrinj at 4:22 PM


S&P 500 CLOSES AT ALL-TIME HIGH: Here's what you need to know (Akin Oyedele , 7/22/16, Business Insider)

[T]he S&P 500 inched above its previous closing high once again. 

The Dow finished the week higher, after breaking a nine-day streak of gains to all-time highs on Thursday.

First, the scoreboard:

Dow: 18,570.79, +53.56, (0.29%)

S&P 500: 2,175.03, +9.86, (0.46%)

Nasdaq: 5,100.16, +26.26, (0.52%)

WTI crude oil: $44.19, -$0.56, (-1.3%)

Posted by orrinj at 4:05 PM


Posted by orrinj at 4:00 PM


Housing Market Moving At Fastest Pace In Nearly A Decade, Study Reveals (Troy McMullen, 7/22/16, FORBES)

June marked the fastest, most competitive housing market since 2009, according to a survey by national real estate brokerage Redfin.

The realtor says homes went under contract in just 41 days in June, the shortest time seen since Redfin began tracking the market in 2009, and four fewer days than last June. And 25.9 percent of homes went off the market in just two weeks, up from 22.6 percent last year.

Not surprisingly, a shortage of supply and soaring demand in many places is driving the trend, says David Blitzer, managing director and chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. 

Posted by orrinj at 3:52 PM


$42 Billion of Medicare and Medicaid Fraud Thwarted by 'Big Data' Analytics (Eric Pianin, July 22, 2016, Fiscal Times0

Touting a breakthrough in combating rampant fraud in the Medicare and Medicaid health care systems, the Obama Administration on Wednesday told Congress that it had prevented $42 billion of improper payments to doctors and other medical providers in fiscal 2013 and 2014 by using more sophisticated detection methods. [...]

The results have marked a turnaround in the government success rate in preventing the loss of billions of dollars allotted to the healthcare of seniors, the poor, children and the disabled. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) says every dollar that was invested in the agency's Medicare "integrity efforts" saved $12.40 for the Medicare program.

Posted by orrinj at 2:52 PM


How Erdogan has managed to create a lasting appeal in Turkey (Thomas Seibert, July 3, 2016, The National)

One reason for Mr Erdogan's lasting appeal is the economy. Many Turks who still remember the days of hyperinflation and economic crashes cherish the stability and growing affluence under Mr Erdogan's rule. Turkey's GNP has almost tripled since his Justice and Development Party (AKP) took power in 2002. The number of cars on Turkish roads has more than doubled. Many people can afford an apartment to live in and a holiday for the first time in their lives. Although two-digit growth rates are a thing of the past, the economy is expanding enough to keep many people reasonably happy. Warning signs such as rising credit card debts have so far failed to make voters blame Mr Erdogan for their woes.

Another big factor is the president's undisputed political talent. Even though he lives in a 1,100-room palace in Ankara, he still succeeds in presenting himself as the simple man from Kasimpasa, the lower middle-class neighbourhood in Istanbul where he grew up, lacing his speeches with colloquialisms and tough talk to fire up his supporters.

Mr Erdogan, a practising Muslim, can pull this off because he rose to fame as the leader of a social sea-change in Turkey. Under the AKP's rule, the country's traditional secularist elites were pushed out by a new class of more observant Turks. The Islamic headscarf is a symbol of that change: 20 years ago, the only women in headscarves in posh Istanbul malls were the ones cleaning the rest rooms; today they drive their Porsches right up to the valets and toss them the car keys as they swan in to shop at designer boutiques.

Turkey coup: How mobiles beat tanks and saved Erdogan (Thom Poole, 7/18/16, BBC News)

Hours after the attempted coup began, Turkey's defiant president appealed to supporters to take to the streets and confront the rebels.

But when President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addressed the nation as events unfolded on Friday, he did not do it from the back of a tank, but from a smartphone held up to the camera of broadcaster CNN Turk.

It was an extraordinary moment on an extraordinary night, but one that tells us much about why Mr Erdogan is still in power, and why thousands of soldiers are now in jail.

The coup failed for a number of reasons. Chiefly, the organisers lacked broader military backing and failed to gain public and political support.

But another explanation may lie in the very different ideas the two sides had about how to get their message across. [...]

Troops also stormed CNN Turk during the night, its Facebook live feed left showing an empty desk and chair.

"We are broadcasting until the last minute, as we think it is important for Turkish democracy and the future of the country," said CNN Turk anchor Basak Sengul, before being ushered out of the studio.

It was Mr Erdogan's message, however, that proved most important and which, combined with similar statements from other senior Turkish politicians, showed the country's democratic leadership was safe and well.

By the time he flew back to Istanbul from the Marmaris holiday resort in southern Turkey, thousands had defied the curfew, some lying down in front of tanks to halt their movement.

Even if those behind the coup had been able to control traditional media, they could not stop people accessing news on Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp and other platforms.

Posted by orrinj at 2:45 PM


Libyan forces report gains against IS in battle for Sirte (Reuters, 7/22/16)

Libyan forces said on Friday they had edged further into the center of Sirte as they seek to recapture the city from Islamic State, following heavy fighting until late the previous evening that left dozens dead.

Forces aligned with Libya's United Nations-backed government in Tripoli advanced rapidly on the militant group's Libyan stronghold in May, but they have faced resistance from snipers, suicide bombers and mines as they have closed in on the city center.

Sirte had been controlled by Islamic State since last year, becoming its most important base outside Syria and Iraq, and its loss would be a major setback for the group.

When the Arab world looks like Eastern Europe in twenty-five years, everyone will claim credit for the work the Bush and Obama administrations did largely without any support from the opposition party.

Posted by orrinj at 2:41 PM


Catalan support for split from Spain grows: poll (Reuters, 7/22/16)

Catalonia, which has its own language and accounts for about a fifth of Spain's economy, has long harbored a strong separatist movement.

Pro-independence parties have since last year held a majority in the local parliament, though public support for a breakaway has ebbed and flowed since soaring in 2012 at the height of a nationwide recession.

According to the survey published on Friday by the regional government's official pollster, 47.7 percent of Catalans responded positively when asked if they wanted Catalonia to become an independent state. Some 42.4 percent said no.

Posted by orrinj at 2:25 PM


In first general election speech, Donald Trump rants about how Ted Cruz's dad plotted with JFK's assassin (Becca Stanek, 7/22/16, The Week)

As Trump explained it, he just "had to" respond to Cruz's reasons for refusing to endorse him. "I don't know his father. I met him once. I think he's a lovely guy," Trump said of Rafael during his farewell address in Cleveland. "All I did is point out the fact that on the cover of the National Enquirer there was a picture of him and crazy Lee Harvey Oswald having breakfast."

And, Trump continued, the National Enquirer is usually a pretty reliable source of information. "This was a magazine that, in many respects, should be well-respected," Trump said. "I mean if that was The New York Times, they would have gotten Pulitzer Prizes for their reporting."

Posted by orrinj at 11:04 AM


The Boom Goes On: China's Electric Car Sales Up 162% So Far This Year (Tycho De Feijter, 7/21/16, Forbes)

The spectacular growth of the New Energy Vehicle (NEV) market in China continues; state media reports that sales were up a massive 162% to 170,000 units in the first half of the year. NEVs include pure-electric vehicles (EV) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV).

July 21, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 8:41 PM


Here's what every speaker at the Republican convention should have, but didn't, tell you (Dara Lind, July 18, 2016, Vox)

Violent crime has been declining since the early 1990s -- and it dropped every year from 2008 to 2015. The US/Mexico border is more secure than it was when Obama became president, and there are fewer unauthorized immigrants living in the US -- although since immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than American citizens, that shouldn't matter to your safety anyway.

Posted by orrinj at 7:59 PM


More Republicans Favor Path to Citizenship Than Wall (Jeffrey M. Jones, 7/20/16, Gallup)

Two-thirds of Americans oppose immigration plans advocated by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump -- building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and deporting immigrants living in the U.S. illegally. In contrast, 84% favor a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants living in the U.S., a plan backed by Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Notably, significantly more Republicans favor a path to citizenship than support building a border wall or deporting illegal immigrants. [...]

At least three in four Republicans (76%), independents (85%) and Democrats (91%) favor a path to citizenship for immigrants living in the U.S. illegally who meet certain requirements over a period of time.

...to assume everyone else must naturally be as racist as you are.  Americans aren't.

Posted by orrinj at 11:57 AM


Low mortgage rates help boost U.S. home resales to 9-year high (Reuters, 7/21/16)

U.S. home resales unexpectedly rose in June to their fastest pace in more than nine years as low mortgage interest rates drew buyers into the market, a positive sign for the economy.

The National Association of Realtors said on Thursday existing home sales increased 1.1 percent to an annual rate of 5.57 million units last month, the highest level since February 2007. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast a 5.48 million-unit pace in June. Sales were up 3 percent from a year ago.

U.S. jobless claims hit three-month low (LUCIA MUTIKANI, 7/21/16, Reuters)

The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week, hitting a three-month low as the labor market continues to gather momentum.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits slipped 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 253,000 for the week ended July 16, the lowest reading since April, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Claims for the prior week were unrevised.

Claims are near the 43-year low of 248,000 touched in mid-April. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast initial claims rising to 265,000 in the latest week.

Posted by orrinj at 11:51 AM


How they blew the coup (A Correspondent in Turkey, July 20, 2016, Al Monitor)

The National Intelligence Organization (MIT) had received information about a possible coup attempt. It was not the first time that MIT had received such raw intelligence. Director Hakan Fidan worked diligently from 3 p.m. until early the next morning to abort the attempt. Fidan contacted the top brass at the General Staff and took measures to potentially head off any coup. At that point, the coup plotters, much better organized and greater in number than initially thought, decided to move the timing forward rather than abort the operation. In short, Fidan's diligence forced them to launch their plot six hours earlier than planned.

This had important repercussions that made the plotters appear incompetent. First, they failed to impose proper command and control over the armed forces. Indeed, early in the process, Brig. Gen. Semih Terzi, a prominent plotter, was killed by a junior officer. Terzi's death not only demoralized the coup plotters but also crippled their command and control system. The plot could no longer be controlled from a single center, and instead weakly linked groups launched uncoordinated actions.

One question has perplexed many: If the operation were a real coup attempt, why was Erdogan not detained at the start? Because some of the groups lacked means of communication and therefore did not know that the timing had been changed. The members of the elite commando unit that had been tasked with seizing Erdogan at the resort town of Marmaris had turned in their mobile gadgets and thus could not be alerted to the altered plan. Sticking to the original plan, they went to detain Erdogan at around 3 a.m. and couldn't find him.

High-level security personnel told Al-Monitor that the coup plotters had not planned to kill Erdogan or Fidan, but rather to hold them captive to further humiliate them. The most elite forces of the Turkish air force Search and Rescue Team and Underwater Defense and Attack were charged with capturing Erdogan. That is why his hotel in Marmaris was not bombed. There are lingering fears that unaccounted-for commandos from these coup units could carry out targeted assassinations.

Failures were also evident in the efforts of the coup plotters to take control of Turkish media outlets. First, they failed to seize Turksat, Turkey's satellite and cable communications company, and therefore take control of mobile communications, including disabling them. Had they done so, it would have prevented Erdogan from using FaceTime to speak to the public and broadcast his message on television. The small detachments sent to take control of state and private channels were not only too late, but also too small in numbers to be effective.

Once it was understood that the coup plotters were not going to back down, the MIT activated its anti-aircraft guns (DShK "Dushka" 12.7 mm). This caught the coup plotters by surprise, because they did not know that the MIT possessed and was able to deploy these weapons. Anti-aircraft weapons similarly protected the Presidential Palace, which is why it did not sustain heavy loses, unlike special operations units and police headquarters in Ankara. It was the first time that the MIT demonstrated its ability to engage in combat. The helicopters transporting forces to take the MIT could not land. The MIT got through the coup attempt with only three of its personnel wounded.

Posted by orrinj at 11:44 AM


Behind the scenes, Ryan touts his agenda in Cleveland, not Trump's (GINGER GIBSON AND EMILY STEPHENSON, 7/20/16, Reuters)

"Everybody knows the tough spot Paul Ryan is in," said Annie Dickerson, a New York delegate to the convention and close adviser to Republican financier Paul Singer, referring to Ryan's dilemma in backing a candidate as the party's standard bearer in the Nov. 8 presidential election who does not represent many of its traditional values.

"He's the antidote to all the frustration that's in Cleveland this week," she said, noting that despite a public push for unity, there are those still unhappy with Trump's nomination.

Ryan, 46, is chairman of the convention at which Trump was officially nominated on Tuesday. But he has kept a low profile, avoiding the convention's opening day on Monday, and instead holding meetings with state delegations and addressing private gatherings of Republican supporters, according to aides and attendees.

At the meetings, according to attendees, Ryan has been pushing his "Better GOP" platform, a six-part agenda that shares strong similarities to the form of conservatism President George W. Bush advocated - reduced regulation, lower taxes, and welfare reform. It contrasts with the speeches typically delivered by Trump, who prefers to lambaste his opponents and skip detailed policy discussions.

Doug Heye, a former House Republican leadership aide close to Ryan, said Ryan's platform "gives them something that they can talk to constituents about that isn't divisive, that isn't name calling."

Posted by orrinj at 11:37 AM


Donald Trump's Hollywood Walk OF Fame Star Gets A Wall (MARY PASCALINE, 07/21/16, IB Times)

In Hollywood, an artist who goes by the pseudonym Plastic Jesus built a miniature wall around Trump's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The 6-inch tall grey concrete is complete with "Keep out" signs and topped with razor wire.

Vicente Fox should offer to pay for that wall.

Posted by orrinj at 11:30 AM


GM posts record earnings and promises better times ahead (Chris Isidore, 7/21/16, CNNMoney)

GM, the nation's largest automaker, reported $2.9 billion in profit in the second quarter. That was more than double what it made a year ago. Strong sales in both the United States and China lifted sales and earnings. [...]

[E]ven if U.S. sales start to fall at GM, it is far better positioned than it was last decade, when uncompetitive labor contracts and excess factories resulted in deep losses and a bankruptcy. GM can be profitable even if sales dip dramatically from the current record levels.

Posted by orrinj at 11:23 AM


Anger grips Republican convention as Cruz snubs Trump (Simon Carswell, 7/21/16, Irish Times)

The freshman Texas senator, a conservative firebrand famed for his rebellious streak and unpopularity in Congress, was booed from stage after he told Republicans to vote their conscience in the November 8th election and declined to offer his endorsement of the New York businessman.

He sparked scenes of fury around the convention hall and one of the most dramatic moments at a modern US political party convention. It was a level of vitriol not seen since 1964 when New York governor Nelson Rockefeller was booed after calling on Republicans to repudiate ideological extremists.

The clash undermined renewed efforts by the party to restore order to a Republican convention already shaken by internal revolts and a plagiarism scandal involving Mr Trump's wife Melania.

The refusal of a prime-time speaker at a national convention to back the party's presidential nominee is highly unusual and followed a number of speakers last night who supported Mr Trump but barely mentioned his name during their addresses to the Republican gathering.

..when a man with none can plausibly lecture you about conscience.

Posted by orrinj at 8:07 AM


Trump says he might not protect NATO countries against Russia (AFP July 21, 2016)

Asked about Russian activities that have alarmed the Baltics, NATO's newest members, Trump said that if Russia attacked them, he would decide whether to come to their aid only after reviewing whether those nations "have fulfilled their obligations to us."

Hillary understands our obligations.

July 20, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:19 PM


Jill Harth, woman who sued Trump over alleged sexual assault, breaks silence : Harth stands by claims of incident described in 1997 lawsuit as 'attempted rape' and wants apology from Trump: 'Don't call me a liar' (Lucia Graves, 20 July 2016, The Guardian)

In an hour-long interview at the Guardian's New York office on Tuesday, Harth said she stands by her charges against Trump, which run from low-grade sexual harassment to an episode her lawyers described in the lawsuit as "attempted 'rape'".

She first met Trump in December 1992 at his offices in Trump Tower, where she and her then romantic partner, George Houraney, were making a business presentation. The couple wanted to recruit Trump to back their American Dream festival, in which Harth oversaw a pin-up competition known as American Dream Calendar Girls. Harth described that meeting as "the highlight of our career".

But in other ways, it was something of a lowlight: Trump took an interest in Harth immediately and began subjecting her to a steady string of unwanted sexual advances, detailed by Harth in her complaint.

There was the initial leering in that first December meeting in Trump Tower, and the inappropriate questions after her relationship status. It continued the next night over dinner at the Plaza Hotel's Oak Room, where at a dinner with beauty pageant contestants she alleges he groped her under the table.

It culminated in January 1993, when Harth and Houraney were visiting his Florida mansion, Mar-a-Lago, to finalize and then celebrate the beauty pageant deal with a party.

After business concluded, Harth and Houraney were on tour of Mar-a-Lago along with a group of young pageant contestants - Trump wanted to "see the quality of the girls he was sponsoring", Harth recalled - when he pulled her aside into one of the children's bedrooms.

"He pushed me up against the wall, and had his hands all over me and tried to get up my dress again," Harth recalled, "and I had to physically say: 'What are you doing? Stop it.' It was a shocking thing to have him do this because he knew I was with George, he knew they were in the next room. And how could he be doing this when I'm there for business?"

One could argue that he's using racial and religious hatreds as a tactic, but his misogyny lies at the core of his being.

Posted by orrinj at 4:15 PM


Why Paul Ryan Should Vote for Hillary Clinton (Ciro Scotti July 20, 2016, Fiscal Times)

In his speech, Ryan called for party unity, but as Reuters reports, he has been pushing his own agenda behind the scenes in Cleveland. An adviser to GOP super-donor Paul Singer called Ryan the "antidote" to all the frustration, and presumably impotency, that the establishment feels with having the national showcase snatched out of its hands.

Ryan's "Better Way" blueprint of where to take the country is at once a more traditional Republican path on the economy, taxes and national security and a methodical vision in competition with the fiery, off-the-cuff positions taken by Trump.

More important, if the GOP's 2012 vice-presidential candidate is able to save Congress from a Democratic sweep, he is going to be a hero to his party with a Santa Claus-sized sack of IOUs from politicians across the country whose bacon he has saved from what could be a Trump inferno on Nov. 8.

To pull that off, Ryan needs money, and he's getting it.

Related: Cleveland Protests Turn Violent as Trump Receives GOP Nomination

According to The Hill, the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee will have raised close to $48 million between January and June, its biggest six-month haul ever. Most of that is being attributed to Ryan's fund-raising prowess.

But also driving that fat-cat number, The Hill says, is the fact that a lot of the GOP's big donors are declining to put their money where Trump's mouth is and are supporting Ryan and his fellow down-ballot candidates instead. 

July 19, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 8:45 PM


The Man Who Created Bigfoot (Leah Sottile  Jul 5, 2016, Outside)
Bob Gimlin was a small town cowboy when his friend coaxed him into hunting the famous mythical creature 50 years ago. Today, as the legend of Bigfoot has grown, Gimlin is viewed by the community of believers around the country as something of a prophet.

For weeks in the fall of 1967 the cowboys rode from sunrise to sunset in search of the creature no one had ever captured on film. Two rodeo men from Washington's apple country, they'd traveled to Northern California's thick forest. They'd read headlines of unidentifiable footprints. The smaller cowboy was driven by a long obsession with the mythic beast known as Bigfoot; the other liked to see things for himself.

One late October afternoon near Bluff Creek, the men trundled on horseback, half a day's ride from the nearest signs of civilization. The sun shone bright, lighting the leaves all around them in a grand finale of orange and red and yellow. Roger Patterson rode in front, pausing his quarter horse to point his lens toward the leaves, the film chattering inside his rented 16mm Cine Kodak camera. When he finished, he tucked the camera into his saddlebag, leaving the leather flap open.

Bob Gimlin brought up the rear. He rode a quarter horse, leading a pony loaded with supplies behind him.* Patterson navigated around a bend where a large tree had fallen and jammed up the nearby creek--its root system upturned and exposed, like blind fingers reaching for an anchor.

The horses saw it first. Patterson's reared, kicking and protesting, then Gimlin's. Less than 100 feet away, the men saw why: a hulking gorilla-like figure covered in dark hair hurried on two legs along the creekbed. Its sloped head and torso were pushed forward, its upper back hunched, thigh muscles rippling, long arms swinging, breasts exposed.

Patterson scrambled off his spooked animal, holding its reins just long enough to reach inside his saddlebag for the camera. Gimlin, a cowboy famous through the Yakima Valley for taming wild colts and running in breakneck "suicide races" (in which riders careen down steep slopes), dropped the packhorse's rope and gripped the reins of his frightened pony to steady it.

Patterson scrambled across the uneven ground, waving the camera in one hand, the film blurry as he ran. He stopped to crouch and steady himself, then trained the lens on the strange figure, the camera shaking from his breathing. "Bob! Cover me!" he yelled over his shoulder to Gimlin, who rode toward the creek, dismounting his horse and drawing his rifle.

The picture steadied as the creature, mid-stride, turned to look over its right shoulder--just a glance--before it disappeared into the forest. A skunky, rank odor hung heavy in the air. The whole affair was over in less than a minute.

The final 59.5-second film, which the men would airmail back home to be developed, would soon become the world-famous Patterson-Gimlin film--arguably one of the most scrutinized pieces of video footage ever made. It is the cryptozoological equivalent to the Kennedy assassination's Zapruder film. The film met immediate criticisms accusing Patterson and Gimlin of being master pranksters who simply filmed a man in an ape suit and laid fake footprints in the mud.

The film tore Patterson's and Gimlin's friendship apart. Patterson partnered with his brother-in-law, Al DeAtley, to take the film on a national tour as a way to raise funds for a full-fledged expedition back at Bluff Creek. The three took equal shares in the film, but soon Gimlin felt edged out, and sold his share of the rights for less than $10 to another Bigfoot researcher.

After five years estranged, Patterson and Gimlin made amends in 1972 as Patterson lay on his deathbed, dying of cancer at age 38. Patterson apologized for ousting Gimlin, pleading with him that when he recovered that they would go back to California and catch Bigfoot. He died the next day.

Posted by orrinj at 8:27 PM


Afghan Taliban dismiss reports of slowdown since change of leader (Reuters, 7/19/16)

Afghan government and NATO officials have said government forces have had growing success against the Taliban since U.S. commanders were granted more freedom to conduct air strikes and other operations against the insurgents.

They have also pointed to apparent leadership problems within the Taliban since former leader Mullah Mohammad Akhtar Mansour was killed in a U.S. drone strike and replaced by the hardline cleric Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada.

Posted by orrinj at 7:57 PM



[C]ameron's strangely faceless time in office speaks to something deeper than his own individual brand of non-stick PR-cum-politics; it speaks to the uniformity of the political class itself. It speaks to its shared outlook, its common policymaking trajectory, its interchangeable cast of unremarkables. That's why Cameron's time in office is so lacking in distinction. He was Tony Blair with a blue rosette: his Tory governments, albeit largely (and tellingly) in coalition, were continuations of their New Labour predecessors. What really marks Cameron out is precisely the extent to which he, and the modernised, de-toxified, de-traditionalised Conservative Party as a whole, didn't stand out - that is, the extent to which they continued the small, shrunken politics of the New Labour years, continued the long, drawn-out political retreat from arguments over socioeconomic issues, and continued the focus on the politics of behaviour, of ever earlier interventions into family life, of policies aimed at changing the way we eat or drink. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:52 PM


One Way Ted Cruz's Supporters Are More Like Hillary Clinton's Than Donald Trump's : They're not as racist, according to polling from Reuters. (Lisa Wade, 7/19/16, Pacific Standard)

A set of polls by Reuters/Ipsos -- the first done just before Ted Cruz and John Kasich dropped out of the primary race and the second sometime after -- suggests that, when it comes to attitudes toward African Americans, Republicans who favored Cruz and (especially) Kasich have more in common with Hillary Clinton supporters than they do Donald Trump supporters.

The first thing to notice is how overwhelmingly common it still is for Americans to believe that "black people in general" are less intelligent, ruder, lazier, and more violent and criminal than whites. Regardless of political affiliation of preferred candidate, at least one-in-five and sometimes more than one-in-three will say so.

But Trump supporters stand out. Clinton and Kasich's supporters actually have quite similar views. Cruz's supporters report somewhat more prejudiced views than Kasich's. But Trump's supporters are substantially more likely to have negative views of black compared to white people, exceeding the next most prejudiced group by 10 percentage points or more in every category.

Posted by orrinj at 7:44 PM


John Kasich Pre-Buts Trump's Worldview : The Ohio governor takes apart The Donald's positions without mentioning his name. (David Catanese, July 19, 2016, US News)

"When I look at immigration, I look at a new level of energy," he continued.

Risking America's trade deals wouldn't only have economic impact, he argued, "it's also an issue of global security."

Trump's campaign slogan "Make America Great Again" drips with nationalism. The presumptive GOP nominee has advocated forcefully for constructing a wall along the Mexican border, promising that the Mexican government would pay for it. He's called for the end of free trade agreements in order to negotiate better deals to reboot U.S. manufacturing. He would impose sizable tariffs on imports and punish domestic companies that take their business offshore.

Kasich never mentioned Trump's name, but it was clear who he was talking about in pinpointing these issues.

"I'm very worried about it, I'm very, very concerned about it," he said.

Additionally, Kasich critiqued the view that NATO is no longer relevant -- another opinion espoused by Trump, who has complained that its member countries haven't put enough financial skin in the game.

A Bipartisan Bashing for the Big Banks (Andrew Soergel, July 19, 2016, US News)

Though he has repeatedly labeled them "goofy" and "crazy," presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump appears ready to join ranks with progressives like Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in calls for the return of a Depression-era banking bill designed to handcuff America's largest financial institutions. [...]

[I]n a bizarre twist of fate, Trump and members of the GOP appear ready to rally behind Warren's and Sanders' efforts in bringing about a Glass-Steagall renaissance. Some have suggested that the reference is an attempt by the Trump campaign to win over Sanders supporters who haven't gotten on board with presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Trump hadn't previously taken a firm public stance on Glass-Steagall's revitalization, and analysts generally met its inclusion with surprise.

The reference itself even appears to be buried in the contents of the mission statement. Glass-Steagall is referenced only once in the text and is tacked onto the end of a paragraph that attacks the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Labor and the Federal Communications Commission, among other targets.

And although Glass-Steagall was repealed in the late 1990s under Clinton's Democratic administration - potentially making it an attractive target for members of the GOP as they prepare for a general election against the former First Lady - further burdening banks with new regulation is not typically a stance Republicans would embrace. This is especially true given the GOP's vehement opposition to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which Trump has previously called "terrible" and which the GOP's new platform describes as "Democrats' legislative Godzilla."

Posted by orrinj at 7:26 PM


Stephen Colbert Revives Right-Wing Persona To Mark Start Of GOP Convention (Eric Deggans, 7/19/16, NPR)

The move highlights what Colbert's been missing since he took the helm of The Late Show.

Posted by orrinj at 4:24 PM


Inside the GOP's Shadow Convention : Banking on an Election Day loss, the party's elders and elite lay the foundation to rebuild post-Trump. (SHANE GOLDMACHER July 19, 2016, Politico)

[F]ew were as dark about the Republican Party's future as former President Bush himself. In a more intimate moment during the reunion, surrounded by a smaller clutch of former aides and advisers, Bush weighed in with an assessment so foreboding that some who relayed it could not discern if it was gallows humor or blunt realpolitik.

"I'm worried," Bush told them, "that I will be the last Republican president." [...]

In interviews with more than 40 of the Republican Party's leading strategists, lawmakers, fundraisers and donors, a common thread has emerged heading into the general election: Win or lose in November (and more expect to lose than not), they fear that Trump's overheated and racialized rhetoric could irreparably poison the GOP brand among the fastest-growing demographic groups in America.

And so, to an almost unprecedented extent, as the 50,000 Republican activists, officials and media pour into Cleveland this week, there is something of a convention within the convention. Many of these GOP titans--the intellectual and financial pillars of the party and its possible future elected leaders--are plotting a parallel course.

In delegation breakfasts, private hotel suites and steakhouses across Cleveland--and farther afield for those, like Jeb Bush and his family, who are skipping the festivities--they are laying the foundations for the next political battles they believe can actually be won: first, to preserve the GOP majorities in the House and Senate this fall, then to save the Republican Party itself.

From the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch to an increasingly influential GOP financier Paul Singer, from those who fell short in 2016--Ted Cruz and Scott Walker--to those who could be fresh faces in 2020--Tom Cotton, Ben Sasse, Nikki Haley--from House Speaker Paul Ryan to the not-so-subterranean contest for the chairmanship of the RepublicanNational Committee, the maneuvering is underway to pick up the shards of the shattered GOP.

"There's a school of thought that Trump, who's gonna get crushed, will somehow teach the party a lesson and they'll get it out of their system," said Stuart Stevens, who was Mitt Romney's chief strategist in 2012. "I don't have confidence in that."

The great cure for Tea Partyism remains the same : they're old and dying off.

Posted by orrinj at 4:14 PM


Melania Trump Is One Of The Least Popular Spouses Of A Nominee Since 1988 (Harry Enten, 7/19/16, 538)

According to Gallup, Melania Trump has just a 28 percent favorable rating compared to a 32 percent unfavorable rating. That means her net favorability rating is -4 percentage points. That's lower than Bill Clinton's net favorability, which is +6 percentage points, according to a recent CNN/ORC survey. It's also lower than the net favorability of every presidential nominee's spouse in every final campaign poll that asked the question since 1988.

Her husband taints everything he touches.
Posted by orrinj at 4:06 PM


INTERVIEW / 'I said to myself, what's wrong with Israel? Why haven't you gone there?' :Why Springsteen never made another album like 'Born to Run,' and other questions only Mike Appel can answerThe Boss largely stopped pushing music's boundaries after his epic third album, which happened to be around the time he fell out, spectacularly, with his original manager. Coincidence? (DAVID HOROVITZ July 19, 2016, Times of Israel)

The Times of Israel. I'm so glad this finally worked out... The truth is I'm no different to tens of millions of people around the world who love Bruce Springsteen's music. I bought Born to Run when I was 14. And I just loved it. And I was interested to meet with you because I don't think he ever equaled that third album, and you were obviously pretty central to that period of his life, and I wanted to ask you a few things about it, and him, and you.

So, first of all, the songs on that album, are almost operatic in ambition -- epic.

Mike Appel: Yes, absolutely.

And I would argue that he never really did that again. There are some amazing songs since, but much more formulaic. That post-Born to Run transition from wild poetry and drama to much more conventional songwriting was a bit of a loss, [...]

But to get back to Bruce, and if he had aspirations to be, let's use a name, Elvis Presley, if that was his idol, somehow, if he wanted to be that big... That stardom is what he wanted. Deep down, that's what he wanted.

You have to want it, and you have to want it badly, to put up with all the hell that goes with being a star. There is a lot of hell that goes with it. Your life is not your own anymore. It's not so easy to be a star and be friendly to everybody, and be what everybody expects you to be on the one day that they're at your concert. Not easy.

But, in any case, that was always there. Yet, here he is coming with these songs that are Dylanesque, if you will. We recorded the first album (1973's Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.) with Dylan more in mind than Elvis, for sure. And then we did the second album (The Wild, the Innocent...), and then it kind of grew. Artistically it grew. Musically it grew. But we still had not given in to Elvis Presley, to any Elvis Presley leanings.

Then he says to me, when we're coming home from Richmond, Virginia, one night -- he's in the back seat of the car; I'm driving. He says, hey Mike, you know what I want to do? I wanna utilize Phil Spector's production values in music, with my lyrics. I said, Well, if you look at the number of words on a Phil Spector recording, there's maybe 30 words in the whole song. You have 130, on every song. So, for you to pare down your lyrics to the point where you can actually be doing musical production values, something's gotta give here. I don't know how you're going to do that.

Next thing I know, he says, I've got a new song. I was doing the sound at Swarthmore College. And it was an outdoor concert. And he and the band played Born to Run for the first time. He asked me what I felt. I said, well, I could understand the guitar, but I really couldn't hear what we were going to do with it, or anything like that yet. He said, alright, well, let's take it to the studio and see how it turns out.

Then he turns to me and says, do you know how Phil Spector made his records - what techniques he used to make the Wall of Sound? I said, yes, I do. I said, do you remember Jimmy Cretecos? Jimmy used to be my partner. He was my partner through the second album, but not the third album.

Jimmy, I said, used to be very close with a kid who was starring in Hair at the time, Robin MacNamara. And Robin MacNamara had a record deal with Jeff Barry. And Jeff Barry of course, wrote Da Doo Ron Ron and so many of the Phil Spector recordings and hits. So Jeff was very familiar with the techniques that Phil used. He was at a million sessions. In the control room a thousand times. Out in the studio with other musicians. And he learned how Phil made his Wall of Sound. I said, Jimmy imparted all of that information to me because Jimmy got it from Jeff. He's oh, that's great. So then we started utilizing these techniques.

When we got into the record just a little bit, especially once we got Clarence (Clemons') saxophones on, you got that "Ahhhhhh, dada-dada-da" (Appel hums the percussive intro of Born to Run), you got that Da Doo Ron Ron sound right away. And he said, oh jeez, yeah. It is starting to sort of work.

Then I said to myself, what about all his lyrics? We haven't concentrated on any lyrics yet. I haven't heard him sing a word. I don't even know how the song goes anymore. But I'm hearing the music. And he's just directing the band out there in the studio.

I said, why don't you give me kind of a rough vocal, see how these lyrics are ever going to work? It doesn't have to be a final take. We'll do it a hundred times. Just do it, so I'll have a notion. So he does. He goes through the whole damn song and it's not that many words. It's okay. It works somehow. It's like Phil Spector meets Bruce Springsteen.

We had a great engineer, Louis Lahav.

Israeli. Suki's husband.

He was great... So, we're going through the record and one night I remember distinctly the bleating of the horns and the power of the entire track disappeared. It was very late, like 4 in the morning, and I'd been up since 8 a.m. And I said, stop, stop, stop. So Louis stops the machines. I said, why am I not liking this track anymore? What is happening? So Bruce answers. Bruce rats out Louis. He says, Louis is turning up the reverb and he's washing the saxophones out. I said, is that what you're doing? There was no guts, no grit, no impact. I said, turn the reverb completely off. Now we'll start again. And the minute I heard it again, I said, thank god. Once that happened, we were on our way again.

So you did manage to produce a record that was true to all of the wild poetry -- more disciplined than the first two albums, but still, it had that operatic sensibility.

Yes, it did.

And that did set him on the way to Elvis-style stardom.

Yes, it did.

And yet he never really made another record as epic.

No. And by epic you have to include the definition of how important the lyrics were, up through that third album. After that, the lyrics became more plain, more direct. Not that he never had a great line afterwards... Like Brilliant Disguise.

But the lyrics were more disciplined and the song structures were much more disciplined.



Because (of Springsteen's subsequent and still manager) Jon Landau, as well as Bruce... Deep down, Bruce needs to be coaxed. But if whatever you're trying to coax out of him is in him anyway, then you're going to hit paydirt. Because he's going to do what he wants to do anyway in the end. And that's what he wanted to do, what he wanted to be: He wanted to have hit songs on the radio. He didn't want to be some obscure, poetic character strumming his guitar in the forest. He really wanted to be center stage, be a star. That's what he wanted, and that's what he got.

Posted by orrinj at 3:44 PM


Turkey's coup plotters 'sold each other out' : Journalist Ahmet Şık believes Turkey's July 15 military coup attempt failed because the alliance between followers of cleric Fetullah Gulen and other segments of the military fell apart. (Deutsche-Welle, 7/19/16)

DW: The July 15 coup attempt has left many questions unanswered and fueled media speculation. The government accuses the US-based cleric Fetullah Gulen of being behind the coup; do you share this view?

Ahmet Şık: If we look at the information and documents coming out now--and I must emphasize that their accuracy is debatable--yes, the Gulen movement is behind the job. But I'm adding my own note: they weren't alone. I think that there was an alliance inside the military, but that members of this alliance sold each other out prior to the night of the coup attempt and in the ensuing process. I think that the [coup plotters affiliated with] the Gulen movement and a group accompanying them were left on their own. There was an obvious coup alliance and yes, the Gulen movement was part of the brains of this alliance.

Posted by orrinj at 3:39 PM


World's Smallest Hard Drive Writes Data Atom-By-Atom (MARY PASCALINE, 07/19/16, IB Times)

Dutch scientists have developed a unique solution to deal with the data storage problem. By manipulating single atoms, researchers have created the world's smallest hard drive capable of storing 1 kilobyte of data (8000 bits) in a space under 100 nanometers across. The technology means that all the books in the world could be stored on a device the size of a postage stamp.

In a study published Monday in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, scientists from the Technical University of Delft (TU Delft) said that they have created an atomic hard drive with a storage density that is 500 times greater than current hard drive technology.

Posted by orrinj at 3:34 PM


Donald Trump Misses Meeting With Corporate Donors in Cleveland (Jay Newton-Small, 7/19/16, TIME)

On a bright sunny Tuesday morning, the Trump Leadership Council gathered at FirstEnergy Stadium for their second official meeting. The group of 40 CEOs and top executives had flown to Cleveland to attend the Republican National Convention and meet with the nominee presumptive, billionaire businessman Donald Trump.

This was the second meeting of the council; the first convening happened a few weeks ago with the nominee presumptive at Trump Tower in New York. The companies represented were there to ostensibly advise Trump on 10 business sectors, such as transportation, healthcare, etc. But it was understood that each of the companies had either already donated money to his campaign, or would in the future--and most were sponsoring convention-related events in Cleveland, according to three people involved in the council.

The group of 40 from companies such as Continental Resources, BNSF Railway and C Spire mingled with Republican members of Congress around breakfast tables set up on one of the stadium's concourses. The Republican representatives addressed the group, ostensibly stalling for Trump. Rep. Tom Price from Georgia mentioned the plagiarism scandal over Trump's wife Melania's speech the evening before. Price blamed the liberal media, who he said, had made the whole thing up, according to people present.

Eventually, though, the speeches ran out and Trump never showed. He had, they found out later, unexpectedly flown back to New York overnight with no word on when he might return. 

Posted by orrinj at 3:28 PM


Chat Room of RNC Live Stream Becomes a Playground for Anti-Semitism (Jesse Bernstein, July 19, 2016, Tablet)

The Republican Party was forced to shut down the chat room on their YouTube stream of the RNC yesterday after a flood of anti-Semitic comments overwhelmed the conversation. Unfortunately, this somehow comes as no surprise given that many Trump supporters are neo-Nazis, inspired by the words by doctors like David Duke. And when bigotry is combined with the Internet...

The idiocy occurred when Linda Lingle, the former governor of Hawaii--and the first woman and the first Jew to serve in that position--was touting the progress that the Republican Party had made with Jewish voters in the last few election cycles (dubious, it appears, but whatever), extolling GOP positions on Israel, and connecting BDS with anti-Semitism. As soon as Lingle began on those themes, well... it's the Internet, so anti-Semitism had to get a quick, faceless word in.

Hopefully the 30% don't have mirrors.

Posted by orrinj at 3:16 PM


Robots, Workers And Amazon (Jon Markman, 7/18/16, Forbes)

Two weeks ago, a team of Dutch engineers won the Amazon Picking Challenge. The international competition honors engineering teams for building robots with human-like dexterity.

It's not tough to see why such robots appeal to Amazon. The company is a recognized leader in the drive for workplace automation -- and that's a good thing given its razor-thin margins. Back in 2012 it bought Kiva, a robotic outfit, for $775 million. At the time the company was building out several gigantic warehouses. The Kiva implementation was eye opening because its tiny motorized robots moved entire shelves. Very quickly humans became the minority in the new state-of-the-art fulfillment centers, relegated to picking products from shelves whizzing by.

Now Amazon wants to replace the pickers too.

Posted by orrinj at 1:32 PM


THE LIBERTARIANS' SECRET WEAPON : The third-party candidacy of Gary Johnson might make the most unpredictable election in modern times even weirder. (Ryan Lizza, 7/19/16, The New Yorker)

Johnson, who is sixty-three, tan, and fit, with spiky gray hair, has long been unrepentant about his use of marijuana. During his first campaign for governor, in 1994, he was asked to quantify his earlier use. "I came up with two and a half times a week," he told me. Still, as governor, he earned plaudits from the right for being one of the more conservative governors. National Review praised him as the "New Mexico maverick" and as a "Reaganite antitax crusader," who cut income-tax rates, slowed the growth of government, and eliminated the jobs of hundreds of state employees. During his two terms as governor, Johnson vetoed more than seven hundred bills passed by a Democratic legislature.

In 1999, after winning a second term, Johnson became the highest-ranking elected official in America to call for the full legalization of marijuana. His approval rating dropped into the twenties, and he returned to his agenda of lower taxes and less spending. He left office with an approval rating in the high fifties. Today, he is willing to make other concessions to the political mainstream. When we met, Johnson wore Nikes with a suit, his signature style since 2012. But, after a lively debate with his campaign advisers, he showed up for his CNN appearance wearing dress shoes.

There hasn't been a serious challenge from a third-party Presidential candidate since 1992, when Ross Perot, the eccentric Texas billionaire, ran as an independent and bought hours of TV time to educate voters about the large federal budget deficit. Perot won entry into the Presidential debates and received nineteen per cent of the vote against Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush. Bush blamed Perot for his loss, though the best analyses of the race concluded that Perot had drawn equal numbers of voters from Bush and Clinton.

This year, the unpopularity of Clinton and Trump has created an opportunity for Johnson to at least match Perot's impressive showing. Last week, Republican delegates in the Never Trump movement attempted to change the rules for the Republican National Convention, in a failed effort to deny Trump the nomination. For anti-Trump conservatives still searching for an alternative, Johnson may be the only option. On the left, anti-Clinton Democrats, including some determined supporters of Bernie Sanders, would prefer a candidate who is more socially liberal and noninterventionist than Clinton.

"We have arguably the two most polarizing candidates," Johnson told me. "Hillary has to go out and she has to appeal to this 'everything's free, government can accomplish anything, what can you give us' constituency. She's doling it out as fast as she can. Trump is appealing to this anti-abortion, anti-immigration, 'bomb the hell out of them, lock them up, throw away the key' constituency."

Johnson is charming and more transparent than most politicians--sometimes to a fault--and has a knack for putting a happy face on the rougher edges of libertarianism. Weld has a shabby-genteel bearing and a boarding-school sarcasm that comes across as both appealing and arrogant. Together, Johnson and Weld represent the first Presidential ticket with two governors since 1948, when the Republicans nominated Thomas Dewey, of New York, and Earl Warren, of California. One of the Johnson-Weld campaign slogans is "A Credible Alternative to ClinTrump."

Posted by orrinj at 5:19 AM


Melania Trump under fire after appearing to lift Michelle Obama speech (AP AND TIMES OF ISRAEL, July 19, 2016)

Melania Trump's well-received speech Monday to the Republican National Convention contained two passages that match nearly word-for-word the speech that First Lady Michelle Obama delivered in 2008 at the Democratic National Convention.

You can certainly understand that she'd prefer to be Mrs. Obama. You half expected her to start blinking SOSs....

July 18, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:34 PM


Why Placebos Really Work: The Latest Science : New evidence suggests the fake drugs may cause changes in the body, not just the mind (SUMATHI REDDY, July 18, 2016, WSJ)

Studies have shown that administering placebos reduces pain and symptoms in patients with irritable bowel syndrome and migraines, even when patients know they are taking a placebo. Scientists are exploring if they can get the same result in chronic back pain and cancer-related fatigue.

Parkinson's-disease researchers discovered that stopping patients' real medication and substituting a placebo continues to ease their symptoms, likely because the body is preconditioned to trigger the same response.

Numerous studies have documented neurobiological effects that placebos have in the brain, resulting in the release of neuromodulators that can help reduce pain and symptoms of illness. New evidence suggests the fake drugs may also affect the body, in particular the immune system, according to an animal study published online in July in the journal Nature Medicine.

Posted by orrinj at 7:25 PM


The Trump and Clinton Awfulness Relativity Index (Steven Waldman, July 17, 2016, Washington Monthly)

Posted by orrinj at 7:04 PM

SAVE POOR TONY, IF YOU PLEASE (profanity alert):

DONALD TRUMP'S GHOSTWRITER TELLS ALL : "The Art of the Deal" made America see Trump as a charmer with an unfailing knack for business. Tony Schwartz helped create that myth--and regrets it. (Jane Mayer, 7/18/16, The New Yorker)

If he were writing "The Art of the Deal" today, Schwartz said, it would be a very different book with a very different title. Asked what he would call it, he answered, "The Sociopath."

The idea of Trump writing an autobiography didn't originate with either Trump or Schwartz. It began with Si Newhouse, the media magnate whose company, Advance Publications, owned Random House at the time, and continues to own Condé Nast, the parent company of this magazine. "It was very definitely, and almost uniquely, Si Newhouse's idea," Peter Osnos, who edited the book, recalls. GQ, which Condé Nast also owns, had published a cover story on Trump, and Newhouse noticed that newsstand sales had been unusually strong.

Newhouse called Trump about the project, then visited him to discuss it. Random House continued the pursuit with a series of meetings. At one point, Howard Kaminsky, who ran Random House then, wrapped a thick Russian novel in a dummy cover that featured a photograph of Trump looking like a conquering hero; at the top was Trump's name, in large gold block lettering. Kaminsky recalls that Trump was pleased by the mockup, but had one suggestion: "Please make my name much bigger." After securing the half-million-dollar advance, Trump signed a contract.

Around this time, Schwartz, who was one of the leading young magazine writers of the day, stopped by Trump's office, in Trump Tower. Schwartz had written about Trump before. In 1985, he'd published a piece in New York called "A Different Kind of Donald Trump Story," which portrayed him not as a brilliant mogul but as a ham-fisted thug who had unsuccessfully tried to evict rent-controlled and rent-stabilized tenants from a building that he had bought on Central Park South. Trump's efforts--which included a plan to house homeless people in the building in order to harass the tenants--became what Schwartz described as a "fugue of failure, a farce of fumbling and bumbling." An accompanying cover portrait depicted Trump as unshaven, unpleasant-looking, and shiny with sweat. Yet, to Schwartz's amazement, Trump loved the article. He hung the cover on a wall of his office, and sent a fan note to Schwartz, on his gold-embossed personal stationery. "Everybody seems to have read it," Trump enthused in the note, which Schwartz has kept.

"I was shocked," Schwartz told me. "Trump didn't fit any model of human being I'd ever met. He was obsessed with publicity, and he didn't care what you wrote." He went on, "Trump only takes two positions. Either you're a scummy loser, liar, whatever, or you're the greatest. I became the greatest. He wanted to be seen as a tough guy, and he loved being on the cover." Schwartz wrote him back, saying, "Of all the people I've written about over the years, you are certainly the best sport."

And so Schwartz had returned for more, this time to conduct an interview for Playboy. But to his frustration Trump kept making cryptic, monosyllabic statements. "He mysteriously wouldn't answer my questions," Schwartz said. After twenty minutes, he said, Trump explained that he didn't want to reveal anything new about himself--he had just signed a lucrative book deal and needed to save his best material.

"What kind of book?" Schwartz said.

"My autobiography," Trump replied.

"You're only thirty-eight--you don't have one yet!" Schwartz joked.

"Yeah, I know," Trump said.

"If I were you," Schwartz recalls telling him, "I'd write a book called 'The Art of the Deal.' That's something people would be interested in."

"You're right," Trump agreed. "Do you want to write it?"

Schwartz thought it over for several weeks. He knew that he would be making a Faustian bargain. A lifelong liberal, he was hardly an admirer of Trump's ruthless and single-minded pursuit of profit. "It was one of a number of times in my life when I was divided between the Devil and the higher side," he told me. He had grown up in a bourgeois, intellectual family in Manhattan, and had attended élite private schools, but he was not as wealthy as some of his classmates--and, unlike many of them, he had no trust fund. "I grew up privileged," he said. "But my parents made it clear: 'You're on your own.' " Around the time Trump made his offer, Schwartz's wife, Deborah Pines, became pregnant with their second daughter, and he worried that the family wouldn't fit into their Manhattan apartment, whose mortgage was already too high. "I was overly worried about money," Schwartz said. "I thought money would keep me safe and secure--or that was my rationalization." At the same time, he knew that if he took Trump's money and adopted Trump's voice his journalism career would be badly damaged. His heroes were such literary nonfiction writers as Tom Wolfe, John McPhee, and David Halberstam. Being a ghostwriter was hackwork. In the end, though, Schwartz had his price. He told Trump that if he would give him half the advance and half the book's royalties he'd take the job.

Such terms are unusually generous for a ghostwriter. Trump, despite having a reputation as a tough negotiator, agreed on the spot. "It was a huge windfall," Schwartz recalls. "But I knew I was selling out. Literally, the term was invented to describe what I did." Soon Spy was calling him "former journalist Tony Schwartz."

Posted by orrinj at 3:52 PM


The Spanish Civil War, 80 years after (Julián Casanova, 7/18/16, Eurozine)

The war lasted almost a thousand days, leaving long-lasting scars on Spanish society. The total number of dead, according to historians, was nearly 600,000, of whom 100,000 were due to the repression unleashed by the military rebels, and 55,000 due to the violence in the republican zone. Half a million people were crowded in prisons and concentration camps.

The Spanish Civil War was followed by a long uncivil peace. The official end of the war on 1 April 1939 did not end the violence. Thus began a new period of mass executions, prison and torture for thousands of men and women. Death was unleashed with total impunity, the same impunity that had guided the massacres undertaken by the military rebels since July 1936. At least 50,000 people were executed in the decade following the end of the war, to say nothing of the thousands of deaths caused by hunger and disease in the various prisons. It was a purge that dismantled the culture and social foundations of the Republic, the labour movement and secularism.

From April 1939 onwards, Spain experienced the peace of Franco, the consequences of the war and of those that caused it. Spain was left divided between victors and vanquished. The churches were filled with plaques commemorating those who had "fallen in the service of God and the Fatherland". On the other hand, thousands of Spaniards killed by the violence initiated by the military rebels in July 1936 were never registered nor even had an insignificant tombstone to remember them by; their families are still searching for their remains today.

The reformist discourse of the Republic and all that this form of government meant was swept up and scattered over the graves of thousands of citizens; and the workers' movement was systematically eliminated along with its organizations and its culture, in a process that was more violent than that suffered by other anti-Fascist movements in Europe. This was the "surgical operation on the social body of Spain" so vehemently demanded by the military rebels, the land-owning classes and the Catholic Church.

The climate of order, patria and religion overrode that of democracy, the Republic and revolution. In short, in Franco's long and cruel dictatorship lies the exceptional nature of Spain's twentieth-century history if it is compared to that of other western capitalist countries.

Except that the entire point of the Spanish Civil War is that, thanks to Franco, Spain's twentieth-century history is an exception to eastern communist countries.  To take just one example of the damage he saved his country from : Spanish GDP per capita is more than double that of Poland.

Posted by orrinj at 1:32 PM


Clinton Beats Trump Among Latinos 76 Percent to 14 Percent (CARRIE DANN, 7/18/16, NBC)

Donald Trump remains overwhelmingly unpopular with Latinos, a new NBC News/ Wall Street Journal/Telemundo poll shows, with only about one in seven Latino voters say they support the presumptive GOP nominee.

A whopping 76 percent of the 300 Latino registered voters in the poll said they back Hillary Clinton in a head-to-head race, while just 14 percent said they back Trump.

What's more, 82 percent of Latino voters say they have an unfavorable view of Trump, while just 11 percent view him positively.

...until those final 14% are driven out...

July 17, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:35 PM


The interesting thing that happened when Kansas cut taxes and California hiked them (World Economic Forum, 7/17/16)

[T]he divergent experiences of California and Kansas run counter to a popular view, particularly among conservative economists, that tax cuts tend to supercharge growth and tax increases chill it.

California's economy grew by 4.1 percent in 2015, according to new numbers from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, tying it with Oregon for the fastest state growth of the year. That was up from 3.1 percent growth for the Golden State in 2014, which was near the top of the national pack.

The Kansas economy, on the other hand, grew 0.2 percent in 2015. That's down from 1.2 percent in 2014, and below neighboring states such as Nebraska (2.1 percent) and Missouri (1.2 percent). Kansas ended the year with two consecutive quarters of negative growth -- a shrinking economy. By a common definition of the term, the state entered 2016 in recession.

Posted by orrinj at 7:30 PM


Amid Trump's Rise, Americans Warmer on Free Trade and Immigration -- Poll (WILLIAM MAULDIN, Jul 17, 2016, WSJ)

Americans overall remain positive on immigration and free trade, and their support appears to have increased slightly amid the rise of Donald Trump, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.

Posted by orrinj at 5:58 PM


Coup Plotters Targeted Turkish President With Daring Helicopter Raid (DION NISSENBAUM in Istanbul,  ADAM ENTOUS in Washington and EMRE PEKER in Ankara, July 17, 2016, WSJ)

A trio of Turkish helicopters filled with rebel forces buzzed the country's Turquoise Coast below a waxing moon early Saturday as they homed in on their target: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

For the first time in more than 35 years, members of Turkey's military were trying to forcibly overthrow their government.

As the small group of elite Maroon Beret soldiers on the Turkish Riviera staged their make-or-break mission to try to capture or perhaps kill the country's democratically elected president, it seemed as if the coup plotters had the upper hand.

In Istanbul, tanks commandeered by the rebels closed Istanbul's international airport. Soldiers opened fire on Turkish teenagers storming their barricades on a vital bridge connecting the two sides of the city. F-16s attacked Turkey's parliament building, and helicopters fired at the country's intelligence headquarters. The country's top general was detained at gunpoint by one of his top aides.

Yet the commandos who raided the resort where Mr. Erdogan had been staying missed their target. After a brief gunbattle with his presidential security force, the rebels were repelled. Before they ever arrived, Mr. Erdogan had slipped away. [...]

Mr. Erdogan, who has lost the sympathy of Western leaders who object to his broad domestic crackdown on his political foes, likely owes his survival to a counteroffensive that marshaled military might, technology and religion.

He beckoned the Turkish people to take to the streets and defend his government. In an ostentatious gambit, Mr. Erdogan sent a text message to every mobile phone in the country, a job so massive that some of the texts were still being received Sunday.

Loudspeakers at Turkey's mosques crackled to life in the late-night hours with a call to prayer that was widely understood by many as a call to action.

The dramatic attempt to seize power faltered as Mr. Erdogan's call to resistance fueled huge crowds already marching against the putsch and rushing to critical locations such as parliament to show solidarity with the government.

It was the first time in Turkey's history that its citizens rose up to prevent a military coup. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:14 PM


Social media activism just helped Zimbabwe's anti-Mugabe movement score a major victory (Lynsey Chutel, July 14, 2016 Quartz)

Evan Mawarire, a Zimbabwean pastor instrumental in organizing recent mass anti-government protests in the country, was released from prison yesterday (July 13) after protests over his arrest mounted on social media. Mawarire's quick release, one day after his arrest, was no small feat in a country known for crackdowns on activists.

A social media protest campaign under the hastag #ThisFlag began in the country in April after Mawarire posted a spoken word performance to YouTube. In the piece, Mawarire lamented issues like corruption, joblessness, a failed currency and mass emigration, that he says have become synonymous with the Zimbabwean flag. The campaign went viral, as Zimbabweans posted pictures of themselves with their flag, demanding that the country's pride be restored.

Emboldened by social media and further infuriated by a law banning vital imports, delayed salaries and endless roadblocks, Zimbabweans last week staged the largest protests since contested elections in 2008, paralyzing major cities either by staying home or blocking roads. They began as a call for change in the desperate economy, but soon became braver, calling for President Robert Mugabe to step down.

Posted by orrinj at 9:36 AM


Art of the spin: Trump bankers question his portrayal of financial comeback (EMILY FLITTER, 7/17/16, Reuters)

Donald Trump, who often says he only likes winners, tells one grand tale of loss: In 1990, he nearly went bankrupt and was forced to ask dozens of banks to whom he owed money to change the terms on their loans and forgive some of his debts.

It was, the real estate developer admits in his 1997 book "The Art of the Comeback," the darkest period of his professional life. In his telling, it's a story of redemption, of resilience, and proof of his exceptional negotiating skills and shrewd thinking.

Six people who participated in the loan workout negotiations have a different recollection, raising questions about a key part of the personal narrative that many of Trump's supporters have found compelling as he campaigns to be the next president of the United States on Nov. 8. On the campaign trail he has portrayed himself as a survivor and a master negotiator.

Trump says his comeback began when he recognized a downturn in the real estate market and quickly asked banks to renegotiate his loans. "That decision was perhaps the smartest thing I did," he wrote.

The six bankers and lawyers involved in the talks say the bailout wasn't based on any overture Trump initiated with the banks - and the terms of the deal were dictated by what was best for the banks, not Trump.

Three of the participants say Trump didn't acknowledge he had a problem until his lenders reviewed his books, realized he was on the brink of collapse, and summoned him for debt restructuring talks.

Posted by orrinj at 7:25 AM


Report says Trump, negotiating TV deal, wondered if he needed a Jewish agent (JTA, 7/17/16)

Donald Trump, negotiating his reality TV show, reportedly wondered whether a Jewish agent could get him a better deal.

"Don't you think I should get a Jewish agent, so he can negotiate better for me?" Trump asked, according to an unnamed Jewish executive present at talks between NBC and Trump about his hit show, "The Apprentice." [...]

Last year, appearing at a Republican Jewish Coalition candidates forum, Trump told the room, "I'm a negotiator like you folks."

He also told the crowd, "You're not going to support me because I don't want your money."

A disgruntled former employee once wrote that Trump, while running casinos in New Jersey in the early 1990s, once said, "The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day."

Posted by orrinj at 7:17 AM


Turks rally to defend democracy, govt seeks coup suspects (DOMINIQUE SOGUEL and SUZAN FRASER, 7/17/16, Associated Press)

Chanting, dancing and waving flags, tens of thousands of Turks marched through the streets into the wee hours Sunday in half a dozen cities to defend democracy and support the country's long-time leader after a failed military coup shocked the nation.

It was an emotional display by Turks, who rallied in headscarves and long dresses, T-shirts and work boots, some walking hand-in-hand with their children. Rather than toppling Turkey's strongman president, the attempted coup that left some 265 dead and 1,440 wounded appears to have bolstered Recep Tayyip Erdogan's popularity and grip on power.

"Just a small group from Turkish armed forces stood up against our government ... but we, the Turkish nation, stand together and repulse it back," Gozde Kurt, a 16-year-old student at the rally in Istanbul, said Sunday morning.

Posted by orrinj at 7:09 AM


Why 4% of Patients Consume 25% of Medicare Spending (Eric Pianin, July 15, 2016, Fiscal Times)

[T]he new study by the Kaiser Family Foundation released on Thursday pokes a big hole in that assumption.

Of the 2.6 million Americans who died in this country in 2014, eight out of ten were enrolled in Medicare, the premier national health care program for seniors. However, the Kaiser study found that Medicare spent significantly more per capita on medical services and treatment for people in their late 60s and early 70s than on much older beneficiaries.

Indeed, the analysis concluded that per capita Medicare spending at the end of life actually declines with age - peaking at $43,353 for those 73 years old and then gradually declining to $33,381 for 85-year-olds and just $27,779 for people 90 and older.

The report says that it's hardly surprising that a "disproportionate share" of Medicare resources goes to beneficiaries at the end of life. Many of those beneficiaries suffer serious illnesses like Alzheimer's disease, congestive heart failure, kidney problems, cancer and multiple chronic conditions that require inpatient hospitalization, post-acute care and hospice.

Yet per capita spending for inpatient services "is lower among decedents in their eighties, nineties, and older than for decedents in their late sixties and seventies, while spending is higher for hospice care among older decedents," the report states.

"These results suggest that providers, patients and their families may be inclined to be more aggressive in treating younger seniors compared to older seniors, perhaps because there is a greater expectation for positive outcomes among those with a longer life expectancy, even those who are seriously ill," notes the report, which was written by Juliette Cubanksi, Tricia Neuman, Shannon Griffin and Anthony Damico.

Posted by orrinj at 6:52 AM


Bahrain court dissolves main Shi'ite opposition group Wefaq (Reuters, 7/17/16)

A Bahrain court on Sunday dissolved the main Shi'ite opposition group al-Wefaq and liquidated the group's funds, media in Bahrain and neighboring Saudi Arabia reported, deepening a crackdown on dissent in the U.S.-allied Gulf kingdom.

The group's funds would be claimed by the state treasury, media organizations reported.

Bahrain's opposition al Wasat newspaper reported that the court found that the group's political activities had "deviated" toward incitement to violence and the encouragement of mass protests and sit-ins that could lead to sectarian strife.

If the regime won't allow the 70% to govern, then it has to go, one way or another.

Posted by orrinj at 6:47 AM


UK Opens 'Very Fruitful' Trade Talks With Canada, Says Minister (REUTERS, 07/17/16)

Britain opened "very fruitful" trade talks with Canada on Friday, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox told the Sunday Times newspaper as he prepares to renegotiate Britain's commercial ties following its vote last month to leave the European Union. [...]

He said was "scoping" about a dozen free trade deals outside the EU to be ready for when Britain leaves, some with countries that had indicated they wanted a quick deal and others with some of the world's major economies.

"We can make Britain a beacon for open trade," he told the paper. "We have already had a number of countries saying 'we'd love to do a trade deal with the world's fifth-biggest economy without having to deal with the other 27 members of the EU.'"

Earlier, Prime Minister Theresa May's office said Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had told her he would like to strike a free trade deal with Britain as soon as possible.

July 16, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:09 PM


The Lazarus File : In 1986, a young nurse named Sherri Rasmussen was murdered in Los Angeles. Police pinned down no suspects, and the case gradually went cold. It took 23 years--and revolutionary breakthroughs in forensic science­--before LAPD detectives could finally assemble the pieces of the puzzle. When they did, they found themselves facing one of the unlikeliest murder suspects in the city's history. (MATTHEW MCGOUGH  JUNE 2011, The Atlantic)

IN FEBRUARY 2003, a year and a half after its formation, the cold-case unit made its first arrest, solving the 1983 murder of a young nurse and mother named Elaine Graham. A suspect, Edmond Marr, had been identified at the time but was never prosecuted; confronted with wiretap evidence and a DNA report that linked him to the murder, Marr eventually pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 16 years to life.

Seven months later, in September, the unit cleared four cases at once when it arrested its first serial killer, Adolph Laudenberg. A 77-year-old grandfather with a bushy white beard, Laudenberg was suspected of having raped and strangled four women between 1972 and 1975; the media quickly dubbed him the "Santa Claus Strangler." The detectives possessed the killer's DNA profile, but had no sample from Laudenberg with which they could compare it. A warrant could have forced their suspect to give them a sample, but they weren't sure they had enough evidence to get one. They could also have asked Laudenberg to submit a sample voluntarily, but that would have alerted him that he was a suspect.

Detectives have a third way to get a suspect's DNA sample without running afoul of the Fourth Amendment: collect a voluntarily discarded sample. In this case, it would not be easy. Laudenberg lived in a mobile home that he moved sporadically around Los Angeles. Eventually, a detective arranged to meet at a doughnut shop to discuss what he described as a series of burglaries from automobiles. Afterward, the coffee cup the old man had used was whisked to the lab and his DNA was harvested from the brim. The profiles matched, and Laudenberg is now serving a life sentence. "The press loves these cases," Lambkin says. "I mean, it is all positive every time you solve one. If you don't solve one, well, no one solved it. But when you do, you're like a freaking magician."

During the summer and fall of 2003, Lambkin's unit was working its way, case by case, through the 1,400 unsolved homicides it had flagged as having good forensic potential. On September 19, DNA analysis was requested on evidence from the 1986 murder of Sherri Rasmussen. The request reached the desk of a criminalist at the LAPD crime lab, but given staffing shortages, no action was taken on it for more than a year.

In December 2004, a criminalist named Jennifer Butterworth noticed the unworked request sitting on her colleague's desk and volunteered to handle it. The first article Butterworth analyzed was a blood swatch taken at the victim's autopsy, which gave her Rasmussen's DNA profile. When she turned to the crime-scene evidence, the items she initially tested--a piece of fingernail, a bloodstained towel--yielded only the victim's profile. Then Butterworth noticed that the property sheet listed a bite-mark swab. Yet she couldn't find the swab in the rape kit or anywhere else. A week went by before the coroner's office could locate the missing evidence.

The 5-by-7-inch envelope, new and crisp when Lloyd Mahany had sealed it in 1986, was no longer so pristine. Its condition would later be described in court as "pretty beaten up" and "ratty." There was a tear at one end, from which protruded the red-capped top of the tube holding the swab, but the tube itself appeared intact. When Butterworth analyzed the swab, it yielded a mixture of two DNA profiles, one of which matched Rasmussen's. The other presumably belonged to her killer.

This mystery profile did not return a CODIS hit, which meant the suspect was not in the FBI's DNA database. But a curious detail caught Butterworth's eye. DNA profiles developed since the late 1990s typically include a gender marker. In most violent crimes, the suspect comes up XY, or male. But the DNA results in front of Butterworth were XX, meaning that the person who bit Sherri Rasmussen was female. Without the case file, Butterworth had little information regarding theories of the case or possible suspects, and so lacked context for her discovery. But it was certainly unusual. She typed up her conclusions and sent the report to the cold-case unit on February 8, 2005.

As it happened, just a few months before, California voters had overwhelmingly approved Proposition 69, a ballot measure co-authored by Lisa Kahn. Prop 69 required police to collect DNA samples from all individuals arrested for a felony or a sex crime, as well as from all state-prison inmates who had been convicted of such crimes. The DNA profiles of tens of thousands of California inmates were uploaded to the FBI's vast database. As a result, in 2005 Lambkin's unit was swamped with CODIS-based "cold hits": DNA reports implicating suspects previously unknown to detectives.

As tantalizing a clue as Butterworth's DNA report provided in the Rasmussen case--namely, that a woman might be the murderer--it did not point directly to a specific suspect, unlike the many cold hits rolling in thanks to Prop 69. Perhaps for this reason, Butterworth's report went into the Rasmussen case file, and the case file itself went back on the shelf, where it would sit for a few years more.

BY EARLY 2007, when David Lambkin retired, the Cold Case Homicide Unit had solved more than 40 old murder cases. His successor was Robert Bub, another veteran homicide detective. Bub estimates that when he took over the unit, it numbered 10 detectives and had about 120 cases open. The team had by then moved to a new, slightly more spacious squad room on the fifth floor of Parker Center, the LAPD's legendarily decrepit headquarters, but it still didn't have enough space for all the murder books that it had accumulated. Detectives boxed up whichever cases weren't being actively worked and sent them back to the divisions where they had originated, if there was room for them, or to the LAPD archives if there wasn't.

As a result, sometime in 2007, the Sherri Rasmussen case file was returned to the Van Nuys Division in a cardboard box. By coincidence, Bub followed it in March 2008, when he accepted a transfer to run the Van Nuys homicide unit, which had just lost its supervising detective and two others to retirement. When the dust settled, the squad consisted of Bub and three other detectives: Pete Barba, Marc Martinez, and Jim Nuttall.

Whereas Van Nuys once recorded 30 to 40 homicides a year, nowadays it averages five to seven. "It's a very manageable number of murders for three guys to work," Bub says. In early February 2009, with the squad's most recent homicide cleared, Nuttall and Barba began poking around for an interesting cold case. They settled on Sherri Rasmussen's.

"It was four books when it reached me, four books deep," Nuttall says of the case file. "They kept a pretty good chronological record of everything that was done over 23 years." When Nuttall reached the 2005 DNA-analysis report, he saw immediately that the gender marker was incompatible with the original theory of the case. "That jumps off the page at you, because when you have that, and you're aware that the case is based on two male burglars--well, that alters the entire course of the investigation. You have to go back to square one."

The detectives went back over the whole investigation--but this time with the assumption that they were looking for a female suspect. When they finished going through the case file, they had a list of five names, among them that of Stephanie Lazarus, who was cited in the original police work as John Ruetten's ex-girlfriend, with the further notation "P.O." Nuttall didn't make anything of the initials until he called Ruetten, who told him that Lazarus had been a Los Angeles police officer.

Nuttall was stunned at the thought that a cop might have killed someone and gotten away with it. "It was extremely difficult initially to process that possibility," he says. Wondering whether she might still be on the job, the detectives typed her name into the LAPD's directory, and there she was: Detective Stephanie Lazarus. Nuttall phoned Bub and told him they had identified the police-officer ex-girlfriend whom Nels Rasmussen had brought up all those years before. The suspects on the squad's list were numbered 1 through 5. Lazarus, considered the least likely suspect, was No. 5.

Posted by orrinj at 12:40 PM


New Concentrating Solar Tower Is Worth Its Salt with 24/7 Power : A California firm is converting sunlight to heat and storing it in molten salt so it can supply electricity when the wind is calm or the sun isn't shining (Knvul Sheikh, July 14, 2016, Scientific American)

The 110-megawatt Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Facility in Nevada is the first utility-scale concentrating solar plant that can provide electricity whenever it's needed most, even after dark.  Credit: SolarReserve
Deep in the Nevada desert, halfway between Las Vegas and Reno, a lone white tower stands 195 meters tall, gleaming like a beacon. It is surrounded by more than 10,000 billboard-size mirrors focusing the sun's rays on its tip. The Crescent Dunes "concentrating solar power" plant looks like some advanced communication device for aliens. But the facility's innovation lies in the fact that it can store electricity and make it available on demand any time--day or night.

Crescent Dunes, the flagship project of Santa Monica-based firm SolarReserve, has achieved what engineers and proponents of renewable energy have struggled with for decades: providing cheap, commercial-scale, non-fossil fuel electricity even when winds are calm or the sun is not shining. The facility is touted as being the first solar power plant that can store more than 10 hours of electricity, which translates into 1,100 megawatt-hours, enough to power 75,000 homes. "We can ramp up electricity generation for utilities based on the demand. We can turn on when they want us to turn on and we can turn off when they want us to turn off," SolarReserve CEO Kevin Smith says.

Posted by orrinj at 10:42 AM


Obama: All parties in Turkey should support Erdogan gov't (AP< July 15, 2016)

President Barack Obama on Friday urged all sides in Turkey to support the democratically elected government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan amid a military takeover of the key NATO ally.

In a statement issued after a meeting with his national security advisers, Obama also urged everyone in Turkey to show restraint and avoid violence or bloodshed.

The UR appears to have learned the lesson of Egypt.

July 15, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:14 PM


GM's Roboglove Will Turn Workers Into Cyborgs  (Alex Davies, 7/13/16, Wired)

NASA and GM built Robonaut 2 for tasks too dangerous or demeaning for humans on the International Space Station. The super creepy humanoid was strong enough to lift 40 pounds and dexterous enough to tap out texts on an iPhone.

GM's now working with Swedish med-tech company Bioservo to adapt the Robonaut's grip to gloves. Pressure sensors and actuators mimic nerves and muscles, so the glove knows when the hand inside is picking something up. It's gentle enough to handle eggs but firm enough to maintain a strong grip, so you aren't wasting energy holding your hammer.

Posted by orrinj at 7:08 PM


Rabbi Haskel Lookstein Will No Longer Speak at RNC (Jonathan Zalman, 7/15/16, Tablet)

Haskel Lookstein--the longtime rabbi of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun in New York City, and former principal of the Ramaz School, a Modern Orthodox Day school on the Upper East Side--has cancelled his scheduled appearance at the RNC in Cleveland next week.

Posted by orrinj at 6:53 PM


The Keystone Cop Candidate  :  Trump's VP announcement has been a mess. (Nancy LeTourneau, July 15, 2016, Washington Monthly)

First of all, the rumors were flying yesterday that Pence would be his choice. Apparently that didn't sit well with the candidate.

NBC's Kelly O'Donnell has more reporting here: "Sources tell me that Donald Trump was watching news coverage from his Beverly Hills home Thursday and was described as surprised and 'irritated' that leaks were identifying Gov. Pence as his choice early in the day."

That's not the story they want getting out there, so they came up with another one. [...]

Then this morning, Trump tweeted the announcement up above. To make matters worse, now we hear this:

 Kelly O'Donnell ✔ @KellyO
Sources tell me @realDonaldTrump was on phone till midnight making calls, asking if he could change course on VP pick
2:22 PM - 15 Jul 2016
  1,401 1,401 Retweets   1,131 1,131 likes

The campaign had two jobs this month. One was to roll out their VP nomination. We've seen how they handled that. The other is to plan the Republican Convention. It isn't going any better.

Remember when we heard that the speakers were going to be people like Mike Ditka and Mike Tyson? Not gonna happen. Then this week all the chatter was about Tim Tebow having a speaking slot. Here he is saying, "No can do."

Beyond speakers, the convention is apparently short on cash due to the exit of so many major corporate sponsors. So the host committee had to go hat in hand to Sheldon Adelson for a $6 million bailout.

Posted by orrinj at 4:51 PM


Death of rebel leader fuels renewed anger in Kashmir (AIJAZ HUSSAIN, Jul. 13, 2016, AP)

When Indian forces announced last week that they had killed a top Kashmiri rebel leader, they called it a major victory in the fight against militants in the disputed Himalayan region. They clearly didn't expect the backlash that followed -- an outpouring of public anger, daily protests and dozens dead in the streets.

The killing of Burhan Wani drew tens of thousands to rise up and renew demands for "azadi," or freedom, from Indian rule. At least 31 people have died in clashes and hospitals are struggling with hundreds of injured.

Each day this week has brought a new surge of resistance by young, rock-throwing protesters in jeans and bandanas defying curfews to face down Indian troops firing live ammunition, pellet guns and tear gas.

Officials worry that they've unwittingly revived a rebellion that may be hard to control.

Posted by orrinj at 4:47 PM


Finally, You Can Choose A Doctor By How Much They Charge With This App (ADELE PETERS 07.14.16, Co.Exist)

Unlike almost anything else you buy, it's usually impossible to know how much you're going to pay for a visit to a doctor or hospital until you've already agreed to pay. And depending where you go, the cost can be wildly different: When researchers tried to figure out how much it costs to get your appendix removed in California a few years ago, they found that the price ranged from $1,529 to $182,955.

A new tool is designed to help--either when you're first choosing a doctor, or when you're at an appointment getting a referral to another specialist. Amino, a San Francisco-based consumer health care company, designed a free cost estimate tool that can show price differences on an interactive map.

Posted by orrinj at 4:42 PM


EU and U.S. seek trade deal this year, knowing large hurdles remain (PHILIP BLENKINSOP, 7/15/16, Reuters)

The two sides are trying to agree on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which supporters say could boost each economy by some $100 billion at a time when growth in China and emerging markets is slowing.

Chief EU negotiator Ignacio Garcia Bercero and U.S. counterpart Dan Mullaney told a news conference after a 14th round of talks that both sides were committed to sealing a deal before U.S. President Barack Obama leaves office at the turn of the year.

The partners have made progress on tariff elimination and on regulatory cooperation.

Posted by orrinj at 4:35 PM


Well, it is a penetrating image anyway.....

Posted by orrinj at 4:27 PM


Investors prefer Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump (Heather Long, July 15, 2016, Money)

Among investors, 45% think Clinton would be better for the stock market versus 34% for Trump, according to the latest quarterly survey from E*Trade Financial (ETFC). The survey captures the views of people with at least $10,000 in an online trading account.

July 14, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 6:05 PM


Closed-Door Meeting's Recording Reveals Newt Gingrich's Real Thoughts About Donald Trump (ROBERT FATURECHI, JUL. 14, 2016, ProPublica)

Newt Gingrich, a leading candidate to be Donald Trump's running mate, told Republicans at a closed-door meeting earlier this year that Trump is not a conservative, speaks to voters "at the lowest level of any candidate in either party," and could lose in a landslide if he didn't significantly change his approach to campaigning.

Gingrich suggested Trump's move from campaigning to governing would be challenging: "How we make the transition from, you know, language for fourth graders to real policy, I don't know."

His comments came in a February speech in Washington to the Republican State Leadership Committee, months before he began angling to become Trump's vice presidential choice.

Posted by orrinj at 6:00 PM


U.S. trade chief holds talks on UK trade deal possibilities (Reuters, 7/14/16)

The Obama administration's top trade official said on Thursday he has held preliminary discussions with British government officials about how the two countries could pursue bilateral trade relations after Britain leaves the European Union.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman told a Christian Science Monitor media breakfast that he discussed the subject earlier this week with Sajid Javid and Mark Price, Britain's outgoing business and trade secretaries.

Posted by orrinj at 5:53 PM


The US Throws Away as Much as Half Its Food Produce (SUZANNE GOLDENBERG, 07.14.16, Wired)

Food waste is often described as a "farm-to-fork" problem. Produce is lost in fields, warehouses, packaging, distribution, supermarkets, restaurants and fridges.

By one government tally, about 60 million tons of produce worth about $160 billion is wasted by retailers and consumers every year--one third of all foodstuffs.

But that is just a "downstream" measure. In more than two dozen interviews, farmers, packers, wholesalers, truckers, food academics and campaigners described the waste that occurs "upstream": scarred vegetables regularly abandoned in the field to save the expense and labour involved in harvest. Or left to rot in a warehouse because of minor blemishes that do not necessarily affect freshness or quality.

When added to the retail waste, it takes the amount of food lost close to half of all produce grown, experts say.

Posted by orrinj at 5:01 PM


Joseph Chamberlain, Theresa May's new lodestar : Joseph Chamberlain brought working-class radicalism to the Conservatives (John O'Sullivan, 16 July 2016, Spectator)

Chamberlain is little celebrated today. But he was the most brilliant, inventive, and unpredictable politician in late Victorian England, and his brilliance seems to be understood by May's adviser Nick Timothy. Originally a successful businessman, Chamberlain became Liberal mayor of Birmingham while still young, and pioneered large-scale improvements in education, housing, and social services. He entered Parliament with an established reputation as a radical but effective social reformer; Queen Victoria thought him dangerous; Lord Salisbury described him as a 'Sicilian bandit'.

From his position as leader of the radical Liberal caucus, he campaigned for major social reforms within the party from 1884 onwards, then, crossing the floor to the Tories, he sought to transform the ramshackle British empire into an efficient economic federation that would sustain Britain's great power status indefinitely -- and he might have succeeded if he had not been cut down by a stroke. He was ambitious in everything he did, being later described by Winston Churchill as a 'man who made the weather'.

May's speech had too many echoes of Radical Joe to be a coincidence. Chamberlain presented himself as a reliable friend of the working class in politics, an affection that was reciprocated. Chamberlain was known as 'Our Joe' to the workers, and he never neglected his links with them. He pushed the Salisbury Tories into a series of moderate social reforms even before crossing the floor, and one of his motives for tariff reform was to finance a larger welfare state.

May was no less clear in her declarations. The third of her principles of government was 'a country that works not for the privileged few but for every one of us'. This was followed by a grim account of the difficulties facing a working class family in today's economy (under George Osborne) that climaxed with: '...under my leadership, the Conservative party will put itself -- completely, absolutely, unequivocally -- at the service of ordinary working people'.

Chamberlain wasn't averse to a strong dose of class war. In 1885 he made what  became known as the 'ransom speech', which assumed that the new democratic electorate would demand social reform. How would that be financed? He argued that it must come from the rich -- and continued ominously: 'But then, I ask, what ransom will property pay for the security which it enjoys?' 

Posted by orrinj at 4:52 PM


Ruth Bader Ginsburg Apologizes for Attacks on Trump (David Rutz, July 14, 2016, Free Beacon)

She wrote in a statement that her comments to the media that blistered Trump were "ill-advised."

"On reflection, my recent remarks in response to press inquiries were ill-advised and I regret making them," she wrote. "Judges should avoid commenting on a candidate for public office. In the future I will be more circumspect."

Now go away.

Posted by orrinj at 4:40 PM


Are we ready for Trump? (Avi Berkowitz, 7/13/16, Times of Israel)

From a letter written by Mr. David Friedman, Donald Trump's top Israel adviser, we learned that a Trump Administration would not automatically support the Two State Solution for resolving our conflict with the Palestinians. Instead, a Trump Administration would consider other solutions for resolving the conflict, including a One State Solution in which Israel extends its sovereignty throughout Judea and Samaria and grants full citizenship rights to the indigenous Arab population. 

Go ahead. Rub your eyes and feel free to re-read the bolded words above.

Yes, the election of Donald Trump to the Presidency of the United States would present us, the partisans of Greater Israel, with a chance to win the day, rapidly and peacefully. If we play our cards right, our fifty year struggle to reclaim the homeland - dunam by dunam, settlement by settlement - would conclude in very short order and with the extension of Jewish sovereignty throughout all of the Land of Israel, from the river to the sea. Moreover, all of this will happen with the firm and generous support of the democratically elected Trump Administration, whose policy makers will be celebrating alongside of us the return of the Jewish people, of the Children of Israel, to their Biblical boundary lines.

But even if the unthinkable does not happen, even if Donald Trump does not become President of the United States and after November we find ourselves back at the grinding, tedious, and altogether too often life-threatening work of reclaiming our Homeland by homestead - dunam by dunam, settlement by settlement - the Trump campaign's willingness to look favorably upon the extension of the Jewish sovereignty up to the territorial boundary lines of Biblical Israel has permanently altered the context of our cause.

It is less shocking that this is a repudiation of the Israeli founding than that it is a repudiation of the American Founding.

Posted by orrinj at 2:47 PM


Kerry to offer Russia military coordination on Syria: Washington Post (DAVID MDZINARISHVILI, 7/14/16, Reuters)

The United States will propose increasing military cooperation and sharing intelligence with Russia to identify and target Islamic State and al Qaeda headquarters, training camps and supply routes in Syria, the Washington Post reported. [...]

A senior State Department official told Reuters that Kerry would discuss how to deal with Islamic State and al Qaeda in Syria, as well as efforts to reduce the violence, allow humanitarian access and move towards political transition.

So, in exchange for them conceding to regime change we let them fight ISIS for us?  This stint at State stands to redeem the rest of Cabana Boy's public career.

July 13, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 6:53 PM


X or King? : Two sides of the American republican tradition. (BRADLEY J. BIRZER, July 13, 2016, aMERICAN cONSERVATIVE)

If one believes in the superiority or inferiority of a person based on accidents of birth, one is simply not a conservative. A conservative, going back to Socrates, understands the individual dignity of every person, regardless of skin color or gender. Socrates might have spoken for the Athenians, but he also spoke for all of humanity when he stressed the need always to do good, never evil, and certainly never to do evil for the sake (as it seemed) of good. The true conservative, with St. Paul, believes that the divine image in which we're made transcends Greek and Jew, male and female. The true conservative, with Martin Luther King Jr., recognizes that we must judge another by the content of his character, not the color of his skin. The true conservative, with Robert Nisbet, recognizes that racism is entirely a modern construct, the result of perversions of science.

Less personally, let me make the second argument--that the passage of the legislation in 1964 and 1965 seems much more of a conclusion of an era than a beginning of one. The two dominant personalities in the black community--that of Malcolm X and that of Martin Luther King Jr.--each represent very serious parts of the American and Western traditions. Far from being unique and revolutionary, they each gained immensely from the past and its successes, as well as its failures.

The brilliant and jaw-dropping opening to The Autobiography of Malcolm X reveals much more than its mere words might at first indicate. As X describes the KKK raid against his pregnant mother in Omaha, Neb., he argues that he knew from the earliest moment of his awareness that his life would end in violence. Though Malcolm X rejected the name and the faith of his father, he embraced the republican tradition of violence so pronounced throughout American history. His response to racism differs very little from the response of the men of Lexington to the invasion of 6,600 British soldiers in 1774. Blacks, as exemplified by Malcolm X, embraced the republican notion of protection of hearth and home in the 20th century. They are little different from other Americans in this respect: they just came to their violence later.

In so many ways, X was not only a reflection of the Lexingtonian of 1775, but, even in his personal ethics, of the English Puritanism of the 1640s. In a brilliant and wonderful scene in Spike Lee's biopic of X, Lee has two FBI agents surveilling X, noting that X seems a perfect saint compared to the rather worldly desires of Martin Luther King.

Though almost the same age as X, Martin Luther King Jr. embraced a very different tradition. As he noted in his "Letter From a Negro Brother"--remembered popularly as the "Letter From Birmingham Jail"--the movement for black equality in the United States worked because it had embraced and integrated the personalist and nonviolent movements of the Western tradition. In his brief letter, MLK draws upon great Western figures from Socrates to St. Augustine to St. Thomas Aquinas to T.S. Eliot. Indeed, King sounds almost like Russell Kirk in his letter. They draw upon the same sources, and they each embrace the witness of virtue against the irrationality of bigotry.

My point in writing all of this is far from profound, I suppose, and the events of last week--one of the most depressing news weeks in my adult life--made me really understand that I truly am a white guy from a small, idyllic Kansas town who has been sheltered from much of the horrors of bigotry and violence in our modern world. Still, if we want a world free of bigotries based on the accidents of birth, we must know our history. It's not enough to claim that the two pieces of legislation passed in 1964 and 1965 solved the problem. At best, they tempered the problem, and, at worst, they stopped the real and permanent societal and civic progress dead in its tracks.

The two heroes of the black movement in the 1950s and 1960s--X and MLK--were profoundly interesting men. By their own accounts, however, they had not created anything new, but rather embraced the best of the past. Though one stood for violence and the other for nonviolence, they each represented deep and abiding strains and tensions in the Western and republican traditions. Far from being the harbingers of brave new worlds, they each saw the hope for equality and liberty in the past.

It has long seemed to me that the problem with the King model prevailing over the X model is that white America was able to give itself credit for giving black America what it was already due.  In essence, we were allowed off the hook just for fulfilling our obligations and equal rights became a function of our continued paternalism.

Posted by orrinj at 6:47 PM


GOP convention to be short on Jews (RON KAMPEAS, July 14, 2016, Times of Israel)

They'll be barely visible, and the reason has everything to do with the presumptive nominee, Donald Trump.

The Republican Jewish Coalition usually rolls out major shebangs at party conventions, starting with a news conference where you can count on director Matthew Brooks to confidently project growth in the GOP share of the Jewish vote.

Not this year, an RJC spokesman said in an email that noted plans for "a couple of events" closed to the media. One is a "salute to pro-Israel elected officials" -- in governors' mansions, in the US House of Representatives and in the Senate -- which is typical of past conventions.

Jewish donors who have undergirded much past campaigning? Try to find them.

"I'm going to watch on TV," emailed one donor who has been a constant at the conventions and asked not to be named. "Should be quite a show."

He said many of his GOP Jewish donor compadres also had cats to clean and hair to shampoo and long walks in the woods planned for next week.

Posted by orrinj at 4:51 PM


Islamic State says 'minister of war' Shishani killed: Amaq news agency (Reuters, 7/13/16)

Abu Omar al-Shishani, who the Pentagon described as Islamic State's "minister of war", was killed in combat in the Iraqi city of Shirqat, south of Mosul, a news agency that supports the militant group said on Wednesday.

Posted by orrinj at 4:43 PM


There is no Pro-Life Case for Donald Trump (Matthew Lee Anderson, 7/12/16, Mere Orthodoxy)

For one, the argument treats treats gaining conservative justices as so important that they trump to any other end or goal. The reasons for this judicial myopia are deep and important within the pro-life world. No pro-lifer can say that Supreme Court opinions simply do not matter, for reasons that are obvious. But ironically, shouting "The Judges!" as a political clincher deepens the very doctrine of judicial supremacy that Roe and other similarly bad rulings have exacerbated. Pro-lifers should play a role in deflating the Supreme Court's singular power over American political life: The use of such power to enact social change has exacerbated tensions in American society, and undermined the conditions for long-term stability and peace.

But the claim also rests upon a highly contentious and narrowly selective account of the consequences of getting the justices we want.

What do I mean? Let us think for a moment about the effects of a Trump/pro-life alliance beyond the Courts. For one, supporting Trump means that every Republican candidate going forward need only offer the thinnest of overtures to pro-lifers to win their support, and that there will be nothing conservatives can do if such candidates do not deliver. If Trump were to be nominated and fail to appoint conservative justices, the logic of the "Dumb and Dumber" argument would mean that there could be no reprisals. The idea that there is a chance the Republican nominee elects better justices because he says he will do so is impervious to any kind of falsification, and as such, eliminates any kind of meaningful political reprisal against the party that fails in its pro-life duties.

To put the point differently, it is reasonable in our political system for minority factions to offer their support only in exchange for meaningful attention to their interests and concerns. By supporting Trump, pro-lifers make it astoundingly clear what kind of price the party has to pay to win their votes. The value of the pro-life vote has plummeted, given that Trump's nominal outreach efforts seem to have worked. But the only way to raise that price and extract more meaningful concessions from Republicans in the future is by refusing to do business with them. If pro-lifers really believe that the Republican party is the only vehicle that they have in American political life to reach their ends -- which is what the "Dumb and Dumber" argument rests upon -- then they should absolutely refuse to support this candidate on the grounds that abstention is the only way of keeping the value of their vote up in every subsequent election.

On one level, I really get it: Having deep and abiding moral commitments to the cause of life might mean an irrational, utterly foolish willingness to continue to be abused in such manner by the only party who will at least invite you to their cocktail parties and fundraisers. But pro-lifers lose every ounce of their future leverage over the party by accepting Trump.

In normal conditions, I could easily see pro-lifers voting for non-optimal candidates on the basis of the likelihood of political pressures making them more pro-life than their instincts might otherwise lead them to be. This was, for what it's worth, a huge part of my argument for supporting Mitt Romney in the general election last time around. There were many questions about the depths of his pro-life commitments: I defended him on the basis that, even if he himself had intuitions that I disagreed with, he clearly wanted to be a two-term President and needed pro-lifers desperately.

But Romney also was (and is) clearly an incredible family man. His early pro-choice policies were worse than his own personal life. And the importance of that cannot be understated: Romney gave pro-lifers the chance of justices and the rest of it in a package that fundamentally endorsed the cultural conditions which we think are essential for minimizing abortions, namely, stable families.

This case is clearly different. Trump is a walking-anecdote for the various cultural ideologies and trajectories that the pro-life movement opposes. Specifically, by voting for Trump, they endorse someone who in his personal life has not merely lived in, but reveled in the moral atmosphere and commitments that stand beneath our abortion culture.

If abortions happen because of the breakdown of marriage, then there is nothing 'pro-life' about electing someone who is at best a serial monogamist. If the abortion culture has anything to do with the wider degradation of our society's sex and morals -- as pro-lifers have argued it does for as long as I have been alive -- then there is nothing pro-life in endorsing a candidate who has bragged about the number of his sexual partners. It matters that Trump is unwilling to answer whether he personally has funded abortions. It matters a great deal.

Let me be as explicit as possible about what pro-lifers supporting Trump means: It means lending their aid to someone who (with Bill Clinton) was friends with Jeffrey Epstein who was eventually convicted of pedophilia. And Trump knew of it and commended Epstein. I mean, look at this glowing endorsement: "I've known Jeff for fifteen years. Terrific guy. He's a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it -- Jeffrey enjoys his social life."

Think about that for a second: Conservative evangelicals and other pro-lifers have rushed to find any justification they can think of to vote for a fellow who almost certainly knew of pedophilia occurring, and, for all we do know of him, did nothing to prevent it. At the very least, he was not the one who went to the police about it. That pro-lifers have been reduced to this beguiles the mind, to put it gently.

And now Trump himself has been named in a second lawsuit alleging that he engaged in rape of a minor. This one claims to have a witness. That would be incredible for such a case, but would also not be unlikely given the nature of Jeffrey Epstein's parties. I have no position on whether Trump is in fact guilty of such charges: I only know that if we vote for him because "there's a chance" he'll give the world conservative justices, then we should also include in our political calculation that "there's a chance" such unspeakably wicked events happened. In this instance, pro-lifers do not have time to await the justice system to act: We face a vote, both next week at the Republican convention, and in November. We must instead assess whether the strength or weakness of the purported victim's claims justifies the risk of throwing our support behind someone who has been accused of such horrendous acts.

I will confess at this point that it is hard for me to get beyond a raging anger at the fact that pro-lifers are throwing their support behind someone for whom such allegations cannot be treated as naked, political attempts to destroy an otherwise good person's character. Think of it: if it turned out that such allegations are true, would anyone be that surprised given Donald Trump's life and what we know of how sexual immorality works (namely, that it breeds more immorality, not less)?

Again: I am not saying anything about whether these allegations are true. In the court of law, there is a presumption of innocence. But in the assessment of a person's character...past performance leads to future results. Pro-lifers who support Trump can dismiss these allegations as entirely baseless: But on what grounds? Certainly not because of Trump's life history. Or they will have to consider such allegations in assessing Trump's fitness for office, and tell a complicated story about suspending judgment while the judicial process does its thing. I am not the brightest of bulbs, but it sure seems that when explanations are complicated, things are not going well.

Posted by orrinj at 4:35 PM


New Black Panther Party Members Will Guns To The Republican Convention (CLARK MINDOCK, 07/13/16, ib tIMES)

Following the attack last week in which five police officers were slain by a sniper who set out explicitly to attack white officers, members of the New Black Panther Party have said they have no plans of giving up their second amendment rights when they protest the Republican National Convention next week.

Posted by orrinj at 1:41 PM


What the Iran deal has meant for Saudi Arabia and regional tensions (Bruce Riedel | July 13, 2016, bROOKINGS)

One unintended but very important consequence of the Iran nuclear deal has been to aggravate and intensify Saudi Arabia's concerns about Iran's regional goals and intentions. This fueling of Saudi fears has in turn fanned sectarian tensions in the region to unprecedented levels.

Of course stoking Saudi angst and perhaps even paranoia was not the intention of the deal's negotiators. 

Posted by orrinj at 1:36 PM


The End Of ISIS? (CRISTINA SILVA, 07/13/16, IB Times)

The Islamic State group has signaled to its fighters that they are on the losing side in an international war against terror that has seen months of bloody territorial battles in Iraq and Syria and brought together global leaders in a coalition against radical Islam. Two years after the militants also known as ISIS declared a caliphate in Iraq, the group's leaders have begun to prepare for what happens next if its remaining strongholds fall, the Washington Post reported Wednesday.  

Posted by orrinj at 1:32 PM


Japan Population Crisis: After Massive Yearly Drop, Rate Of Decline Fastest On Record (TIM MARCIN 07/13/16, IB Times)

Japan's population saw an unprecedented decline last year, the Japan Times reported Wednesday. The country's population, excluding foreign nationals, fell at its fastest pace ever, down 271,834 to 125,891,742 from the year prior as of Jan. 1.

That's according to government figures that have tracked the population since 1968. The most recent data released Wednesday marked the seventh consecutive year of decline, with the population dipping under 126,000,000 for the first time in 17 years, according to Japan's Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.

Posted by orrinj at 1:27 PM


Justice Ginsburg's Mistake (MATT FORD  JUL 12, 2016, The Atlantic)

[I]t's still stunning that Ginsburg would publicly criticize a presidential candidate during an election campaign. The Constitution grants her and her colleagues lifetime tenure precisely to insulate them from these forces. While the current justices are far from cloistered monastics--nor should they be--they still avoid commenting on electoral politics or specific candidates. If another Supreme Court justice has publicly criticized a political candidate during an election in the past century, I'm not aware of it.

How serious a breach of judicial norms did Justice Ginsburg commit, if any? Bloomberg's Noah Feldman noted the Constitution doesn't require justices to be nonpartisan. Even John Marshall, the father of American constitutional law, served as both chief justice and John Adams's secretary of state at the same time, he pointed out. "As a lawyer and as a citizen, I'd always rather know what justices and judges think rather than have enforced silence and pretend they have no views," UC Irvine law professor Erwin Chemerinsky added.

Others are less forgiving. In assessing Ginsburg's remarks alongside declining trust in American institutions, the Washington Post's Dan Drezner said if Ginsburg does not apologize for her remarks, she "bears almost as much responsibility as Trump for the slow-motion crisis in American democracy."

That's a stretch, to say the least. Trump frequently expresses contempt for basic norms of American democracy, including pluralism and the rule of law. Ginsburg does not. Nor is Ginsburg bound by the federal judges' code of ethics, as Drezner suggested, which forbids them from supporting or opposing candidates. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in 2011 that he and the other justices "follow the same general principles respecting recusal as other federal judges, but the application of those principles can differ due to the unique circumstances of the Supreme Court."

Just stop talking to the press.

July 12, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 8:02 PM


Iran Says Agreement Reached With France On Nuclear Fusion Project (Radio Liberty, July 12, 2016)

Iran says it has reached an agreement with France to take part in a multinational nuclear fusion project.

Known as the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reaction (ITER), the project aims to build a prototype fusion reactor in southern France.
Iran Says Agreement Reached With France On Nuclear Fusion Project (Radio Liberty, July 12, 2016)

Iran says it has reached an agreement with France to take part in a multinational nuclear fusion project.

Known as the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reaction (ITER), the project aims to build a prototype fusion reactor in southern France.

Posted by orrinj at 7:55 PM


Trump's Ca[**]no Broke a Big Promise to Give Millions to Charity : The GOP presidential nominee fought hard to avoid giving proceeds from his ca[**]no to local charities. (STEPHANIE MENCIMER, JUL. 8, 2016, Mother Jones)

At the time Trump sought the ca[**]no license in Gary, the city's population was about 80 percent black, and nearly 17 percent of its population lived in deep poverty. The city was dubbed the murder capital of America. In an effort to revive its flagging fortunes after the collapse of the steel industry, Gary officials had sought to capitalize on its proximity to Chicago to turn it into a gambling hub.

Trump had long opposed opening ca[**]nos in Indiana. Such a move would threaten his Atlantic City operation. In 1990, he told the Chicago Tribune that he would never open a ca[**]no in Gary and that setting up gambling establishments there would be a "very bad idea, not only for Gary but also for the Chicago area." He contended that a Gary ca[**]no would "empty the pockets of people in Chicago" and increase welfare costs in Gary. "Gambling has not been the savior of Atlantic City," Trump said. "We still have slums here."

But a few years later, Trump changed his tune. In 1993, Indiana legislators voted to allow 11 riverboat ca[**]nos to open on Lake Michigan and elsewhere. Gary requested two of those ca[**}no licenses, and Trump wanted one of them. The competition for Gary's licenses was fierce. Trump reportedly spent $1 million on a campaign to win the backing of local officials.

Charles Hughes was on the Gary city council at the time and in the room for many of the negotiations with Trump. "He promised everything," Hughes recalls. "He was going to build these magnificent edifices in Gary. He was going to build giant hotels, he was going to hire all these people. He was going to change our world, until it came time to put it in writing."

Posted by orrinj at 5:05 PM


What to Do About an Imperial Iran : Tehran has regional ambitions of glory and influence dating back to the Persian Empire. And here's why that should worry the West. (JAMES STAVRIDIS, JUNE 30, 2015, Foreign Policy)

The headlines: A charismatic and wily Iranian leader seeks to expand the borders of his nation, pushing aggressively against neighbors in the region and especially to the West. Iran exerts dominance in a wide range of regional capitals, from Baghdad to Beirut. Trade routes are opening, and wealth will begin into flow to the nation, enabling further adventurism. Sound familiar?

Actually, this describes the foundation of the Persian Empire about 2,500 years ago by Cyrus the Great. The empire at its peak ruled over 40 percent of the global population, the highest figure for any empire in history. It stretched from the littoral of the eastern Mediterranean to the coast of the Persian Gulf, encompassing what are today Libya, Bulgaria, Turkey, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Iran, and Afghanistan. Cyrus the Great said, "You cannot be buried in obscurity: You are exposed upon a grand theater to the view of the world."

We don't tend to think of today's Iran as an imperial power, but the Iranians certainly do -- indeed, it is woven into their national DNA and cultural outlook. And we need to decide how to deal with the reality of Iranian geopolitical outreach, which will only increase if the sanctions come off.

Tehran's geopolitical strategy -- underpinned by the Shiite faith as a religious movement -- is taken directly from the playbooks of the first three Persian empires, which stretched over a thousand years. Iran seeks regional dominance, a significant global level of influence, and the development of a power center that is not a bridge between East and West, but rather a force in its own right.

As the West grapples with the significant issues surrounding Iran's pursuit of weapons of mass destruction -- and rightly tries to resolve them through diplomacy -- we need to be keenly aware of the imperial ambitions of Iran and how they will be significantly empowered by the lifting of economic sanctions. A full lifting of the economic sanctions would, by some estimates, cause a surge of revenue to Iranian coffers in the range of $100 billion a year or more, by putting to work as much as a third of the economy that has idled due to the economic barriers. Some of this would be used to improve the economy in Iran, of course, but it would at a minimum provide much additional funding for external activities around the region and the world.

A glance around the region shows the power and reach of Iran today, despite the significant imposition of sanctions. Indeed, Iran is deeply and successfully dominating politics in the capitals of four major states in the region from Beirut to Baghdad, Sanaa to Damascus.Iran is deeply and successfully dominating politics in the capitals of four major states in the region from Beirut to Baghdad, Sanaa to Damascus. And Iran is also punching above its weight in Kabul and Bahrain. If the sanctions are lifted, a significant amount of those resources would be available to fund a variety of causes -- from Lebanon's Hezbollah to Yemen's Houthis.

Posted by orrinj at 4:59 PM


What Abe's stunning win means for Japan's pacifist Constitution (Gavin Blair, JULY 11, 2016, CS Monitor)

The result of Sunday's House of Councillors election opens the door for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) government to reform the Constitution for the first time in its 70-year history, including the pacifist Article 9 clause. Securing the necessary two-thirds "super majority" in the Diet's upper house (it already had one in the more powerful lower house) is only the first step. A complex process and considerable opposition lie ahead.

Australia PM Turnbull's conservatives win tight election (BBC, 10 July 2016)

Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has declared victory for his conservative coalition in last week's closely fought general election.

His comments came after opposition Labor Leader Bill Shorten conceded defeat and congratulated him.

There was basically only one nominee who could lose to Hillary, the one who isn't a Republican, nevermind a conservative.

Posted by orrinj at 4:54 PM

MR. 30%:

Clinton extends lead over Trump to 13 points: Reuters/Ipsos (CHRIS KAHN, 7/12/1, Reuters)

Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton extended her lead over Republican rival Donald Trump to 13 percentage points in a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released on Tuesday, up from 10 points at the end of last week.

The July 8-12 poll showed 46 percent of likely voters supported Clinton, the former secretary of state, while 33 percent supported Trump, a celebrity real estate developer. 

Posted by orrinj at 4:24 PM


Spaghetti with Tomatoes, Bacon, and Eggs Recipe (Sally Vargas, 7/12/16, Simply Recipes)


2 tablespoons white vinegar, for poaching the eggs
12 ounces (3/4 box) spaghetti
6 slices (about 5 ounces) thick cut bacon, cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
7 to 8 (12 ounces) small (1 1/2-inch) tomatoes, quartered
4 large eggs
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/2 cup packed basil leaves, torn into pieces
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Olive oil, for garnish

1 Bring two pans of water to a boil: For the pasta, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil (at least 4 quarts of water and 2 tablespoons of salt). For the eggs, fill a wide saucepan with 2 inches of salted water and bring to a boil. Add the vinegar to the saucepan for the eggs.

2 Cook the bacon, garlic, and tomatoes while the water heats: In a large (12-inch) skillet over medium-high heat, cook the bacon until browned. Transfer to plate. Add the garlic and the tomatoes, and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes, or just until the garlic turns pale golden and the tomatoes soften slightly. Remove the pan from the heat.

3 Cook the spaghetti: Add the spaghetti to the large pot of boiling water, and cook for 8 to 9 minutes, or until al dente. Remove 1 cup of the pasta water with a measuring cup.

4 Poach the eggs while the pasta cooks [...]

5 Assemble the pasta: Set the skillet with the garlic and tomatoes back over low heat. With tongs, add the cooked spaghetti. Add the cooked bacon, Parmesan, basil, salt, and pepper and toss together. [...]

6 To serve: Divide the spaghetti among 4 plates or shallow bowls and top each with a poached egg. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with freshly ground pepper, if you like.

Posted by orrinj at 4:21 PM


Robots Replacing Developers? This Startup Uses Automation To Build Smart Software (Julian Mitchell, 7/12/16, Forbes)

For companies dependent on manpower to manage these responsibilities, efficiency becomes contingent upon talent and training, guided by sharp instincts and relentlessly working around the clock to assure tasks are not only completed effectively, but to further offset the likelihood of human error. For software developers, who have an extremely detailed and meticulous role, being such an invaluable piece to the puzzle can prove to be very risky, time-consuming and equally as expensive; especially as testing, predicting and automating becomes increasingly paramount. As companies aim to cut costs without sacrificing quality, while understanding the core function of technology is to provide streamline solutions to complex problems, what arises is the notorious battle of man versus machine, and also where a company like Dev9 steps in.

Dev9 is a custom software development company focused on Java and Java Script technologies, working with companies to construct best-in-class software development teams. Building software solutions based on Continuous Delivery, a set of principles and practices using Lean and heavy automation, Dev9 assembles teams that use artificial intelligence to develop custom software, eliminating strenuous processes and drastically reducing manual overhead. In addition to providing an extensive suite of web services, Dev9 also builds mobile applications for platforms such as iOS and Android.

Using teams of 3-8 people, with expertise ranging from architecture, development, project management, quality and deployment, Dev9 develops original technology that rapidly, reliably and repeatedly pushes software enhancements and bug fixes to customers at a low risk. Implementing techniques such as automated testing, continuous automation and automated deployments allows the Seattle-based company to meet a high standard, easily packaging and deploying into test environments. By automating traditionally manual processes, Dev9 empowers businesses to focus on growth, collaborating to fulfill technical needs in a way that consolidate complex workflows into a simple handoff.

Posted by orrinj at 1:13 PM


Pro-Fracking, Pro-Colonialism, Anti-Single Payer: Dem Platform Disappoints (Nika Knight, 7/11/16, cOMMON dREAMS)

When contentious Democratic Party platform negotiations finally came to a close late on Saturday, progressives again left disappointed. 

"I'm so disappointed that I walked out, as many of my friends as well did ... [We] walked out in disgust."
--Steve Wisniewski, Communications Workers of America Local 3108 

At the committee's final meeting in Orlando, Florida, supporters of Hillary Clinton successfully voted down amendments supporting a single payer healthcare system, a nationwide ban on fracking, as well as an amendment objecting to Israel's occupation of the West Bank and characterizing the settlements as illegal.

The losses stung progressives already dismayed by the committee's refusal to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal in the platform earlier that day, among other defeats.

Posted by orrinj at 11:29 AM


Russia may have lied about losing a gunship to ISIS (Andrew Roth and Thomas Gibbons-Neff July 12, 2016, Washington Post)

[A]ccording to newspaper and expert reports, the helicopter was not an Mi-25 (the export version of Russia's old Mi-24 attack helicopter), but Russia's new state-of-the-art Mi-35M helicopter, which first appeared in Syria in December and, crucially, is operated only by the Russian military.

Along with Kalibr cruise missiles, the TOS-1A multiple rocket launcher and the Sukhoi Su-34 strike fighter, the Mi-35M is part of a high-tech deployment that has turned the Syrian conflict into a training ground for Russia's advanced weaponry. The gunship features advanced avionics and can carry more and heavier weapons than the Mi-24.

If the helicopter was an Mi-35M, it would indicate that the gunship was Russian, not Syrian, and likely on a combat mission, instead of a training run. 

Posted by orrinj at 11:24 AM


Faroe Islands fit cameras to sheep to create Google Street View (Will Coldwell, 12 July 2016, The Guardian)

Living across 18 tiny sub-polar islands in the north Atlantic, Faroe islanders are used to working in difficult conditions. So tired of waiting for Google Street View to come and map the roads, causeways and bridges of the archipelago, a team has set up its own mapping project - Sheep View 360.

With the help of a local shepherd and a specially built harness built by a fellow islander, Durita Dahl Andreassen of Visit Faroe Islands has fitted five of the island's sheep with a 360-degree camera.

July 11, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 8:10 PM


Jared Kushner, Shanda : How the scion of one tri-state crime family married into another, in a story equal parts 'Sopranos' and 'Game of Thrones.' (James Kirchick, July 11, 2016, Tablet)

Like smoking crack or joining the Communist Party after the Moscow purge trials, supporting Donald Trump makes you say and do stupid things you'll come to regret. Distinguishing Jared Kushner's submission to the genre of Trump defenses from those of other Trumpkins was its exploitation of the Holocaust. Kushner tells us that this is the first time he has shared this story of familial agony, an admission that, given the context, would be execrable enough even without his galling accusation that it is his father-in-law's "detractors" who are "manipulate[ing] the public." And Kushner revealed this heirloom of family suffering--which is hardly his own suffering--for what? To defend a man who plays political footsie with the former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan?

To understand how Jared Kushner could reach such depths, one must first understand that not only is he the son-in-law of an abusive sociopath, but the son of one as well. Charles Kushner, a child of Holocaust survivors, inherited a family real estate development business and grew it into a billion-dollar empire with properties across six states. If one wants to rise from mere landlord to true real estate mogul, it is necessary--given the role that the legislative and judicial systems play in determining who may use property to what end, i.e. the value of property--to become a political power broker. And so Charles took a lesson from his future in-law Donald Trump: He invested heavily in politics, becoming one of the biggest Democratic donors in the country. His greatest investment was a young New Jersey politico named Jim McGreevy, who as governor, appointed Kushner to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Charles Kushner seemed to have an insatiable appetite for money and power, and recognized the role politics played at the nexus of both. To maximize his influence, Kushner circumvented federal campaign finance laws by funneling money to candidates and elected officials with donations made in the names of other people and through the over 100 separate real estate development partnerships he controlled. In one of this already absurd campaign's more novelistic ironies, Kushner's dirty dealings caught the attention of a young, ambitious federal prosecutor named Chris Christie, who opened up an investigation that called Kushner's sister, Esther, and brother-in-law, Billy, as witnesses. Determined to prevent Billy from testifying, Charles set up a honey trap for his brother-in-law in a motel room--fully equipped with video cameras--and paid a prostitute $10,000. Kushner then sent a tape of the assignation to his sister, who promptly turned her brother's attempt at blackmail over to the authorities.

Now charged with obstruction of justice and witness tampering in addition to campaign finance violations, Kushner pleaded guilty to all 18 felonious counts against him. He was sentenced to two years in federal prison, and had to pay one of the highest ever fines levied by the Federal Election Commission--all of which amounted to a slap on the wrist given the nature of his conduct, the mountains of incontrovertible evidence against him, and his lack of any evident remorse, despite pleading guilty. "What is truly extraordinary is that Charles Kushner has failed to accept full responsibility for his outrageous criminal conduct," said Christie, who today is one of Trump's closest advisers, alongside the son of the man he had arrested.

Kushner was also implicated in the simultaneous downfall of his political protégé McGreevy, who became infamous for a live televised resignation during which he announced to the world that he was "a gay American." Thanks to this cynical deflection, most today remember McGreevy as having done nothing worse than commit marital infidelity under the duress of his decision to marry a woman and live his life in the closet. But the main reason McGreevy was forced to step down from his post was that his former lover, an Israeli man named Golan Cipel whom he had put on the state payroll in a make-work job, was threatening to sue him for sexual harassment.

So who was Golan Cipel? McGreevy had met Cipel several years earlier in Israel, and it was Charles Kushner who sponsored the young Israeli's work visa to the United States, and then generously employed Cipel in one of his companies before the governor hired him. Some speculated that Kushner, recognizing the blackmail potential of this arrangement, persuaded Cipel to threaten McGreevy with exposure. That would explain why, 10 minutes before McGreevy's tearful confession, a lawyer representing Cipel called McGreevy's office conveying the message that the jilted lover would keep their affair secret if the governor fulfilled an odd request: grant a charter to Touro College allowing it to open a medical school in New Jersey--a medical school for which Charles Kushner had raised money and hoped to name after his late mother. (At the time, Kushner, through his lawyer, denied any involvement.)

With his father in the slammer, Jared became the nominal head of the family business, and he remained a loyal son. Unlike Andrew and Mark Madoff, who never spoke a word to their dad after turning him over to the feds, Jared regularly visited Charles in federal prison, trekking down to Alabama once a week, and defended him publicly. Jared's role in this lurid, Jewish "Sopranos"-like clan explains how the scion of one tri-state crime family could fit so naturally into another.

Posted by orrinj at 7:54 PM



To better understand how ancient vertebrates moved, Georgia Tech researchers built a robot. From it, they learned that tails may have been essential to climbing out of the primordial ooze.

"MuddyBot" is based on the movement of the African mudskipper, an amphibious fish that's believed to be similar to the first animals that crawled out of water 360 million years ago to walk on land. The researchers recreated riverbank-esque sand and slopes for their bot to struggle against, much like the banks early land-dwellers may have crawled upon before evolving legs.

By watching how MuddyBot crutched its way around using tail-flicks and front appendages, the researchers were able to better understand the physics and mechanics involved in early terrestrial locomotion.

Posted by orrinj at 7:31 PM


Judge Rules Virginia Can't Force Delegates to Back Donald Trump (REID J. EPSTEIN, Jul 11, 2016, WSJ)

Virginia can't require Republican National Convention delegates to back Donald Trump, a federal judge in Richmond said Monday, though he made no ruling on whether the party can itself bind its delegates.

U.S. District Judge Robert Payne said the Virginia state law requiring delegates who oppose Mr. Trump to vote for him next week at the party's convention creates "a severe burden" on First Amendment rights.

Posted by orrinj at 7:22 PM


Trump Never Stopped Dominating The Media (Farai Chideya, 7/11/16, 538)

Donald Trump and the race to be the Republican presidential nominee dominated political coverage in the first half of 2016, according to a study released Monday by Harvard's Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy. Coverage of Trump largely drowned out the Democratic race and prevented a deeper conversation about the issues behind the race, the study concluded.

"The Republican contest got 63 percent of the total coverage between Jan. 1 and June 7," states the report, "compared with the Democrats' 37 percent -- a margin of more than 3 to 2." The report was based on the Shorenstein Center's examination of data from Media Tenor, an organization specializing in content analysis.

The study was a follow-up to an earlier report by the Shorenstein Center on the "Invisible Primary" of 2015 -- the year of coverage before Iowa and New Hampshire. According to that report, the high volume and positive tone of media coverage of Trump "helped propel Trump to the top of Republican polls."

The media needs to do some soul-searching about how their coverage can possibly have been positive,

Posted by orrinj at 5:27 PM


Non-Orthodox Jews Give up on Western Wall Compromise, Sue Israeli Government (Eetta Prince-Gibson, July 11, 2016, Forward)

The letter indicates that the Conservative and Reform movements in Israel have given up hope that the government would implement its plan, announced in January 2016, to create a new space for worshippers, mostly from the Reform, Conservative, and other liberal movements, who wish to pray at the Kotel in a mixed-gender service.

According to the current status quo at the Western Wall, the men's and the women's sections are separated by a partition. The government's most recent plan is the culmination of nearly three decades of fighting between the ultra-Orthodox, who control the Western Wall, and the non-Orthodox movements; numerous appeals to Israel's High Court of Justice; and three years of intensive negotiations between the government, the Heritage Foundation, the ultra-Orthodox organization that manages the Western Wall, and the representatives of the liberal movements in Israel and abroad.

Posted by orrinj at 5:02 PM


How a young Big Papi beat Griffey, A-Rod in the greatest home run derby you've never heard of (Scott Lauber, 7/11/16, ESPN)

Twenty years ago, on the last Monday in July, baseball's biggest superstar and his heir apparent came to a rain-soaked field 100 miles north of Milwaukee. Nearly 6,000 people crammed into Fox Cities Stadium to get a glimpse of them -- backward-cap-wearing Ken Griffey Jr. and skinny, fresh-faced Alex Rodriguez -- in an exhibition game for the Seattle Mariners.

It was as hot a ticket as there ever was in the decadeslong history of minor league baseball in Appleton, Wisconsin.

"And then," David Ortiz says, "I stole the show."

Ortiz wasn't Big Papi then. Heck, he wasn't even David Ortiz. As a 20-year-old first baseman in his first full season of pro ball after the Mariners had signed him four years earlier out of his native Dominican Republic, he went by David Arias, his mother's maiden name.

Posted by orrinj at 12:33 PM


Libertarian Gary Johnson Could Spoil The Southwest For Trump (Christopher Huffaker, McClatchy)

Johnson is well known to voters in the Southwest as a former governor of New Mexico, and this election could put multiple states there in play. Johnson's experience as the CEO of a marijuana company might win support in perpetual swing state Colorado, and forecaster Nate Silver predicts that Arizona, where Johnson is averaging 8 percent, is the closest state between Trump and presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Johnson might also do well in Utah, where Mormons are "particularly rankled" by Trump's proposed temporary ban on Muslims entering the country, according to the Los Angeles Times. Johnson received 16 percent support in his best state poll there and won 13 percent in the most recent poll, which tied Clinton and Trump at 35 percent. In 2012, Mormon Mitt Romney took 72 percent of the vote in Utah.

Were Johnson to throw Arizona and Utah to Clinton, their combined 17 electoral votes would be enough to insulate her from losing Michigan's 16 electoral votes, if Trump's focus on the blue-leaning state pays off. Winning Arizona and Utah might allow her to lose every other swing state but Florida and still reach 270 electoral votes.

Posted by orrinj at 12:26 PM


S&P hits record high (Yahoo Finance , 7/11/16)

The celebratory mood continues on Wall Street. All three major averages (^DJI, ^GSPC, ^IXIC) are solidly higher with the S&P setting all-time intraday high following Friday's jobs inspired rally as investors brace for second quarter earnings to kick off.

Posted by orrinj at 12:19 PM


As Japan's population shrinks, bears and boars roam where schools and shrines once thrived (Julie Makinen, 7/10/16, LA Times)

All across Japan, aging villages such as Hara-izumi have been quietly hollowing out for years, even as urban areas have continued to grow modestly. But like a creaky wooden roller coaster that slows at the top of the climb before plunging into a terrifying, steep descent, Japan's population crested around 2010 with 128 million people and has since lost about 900,000 residents, last year's census confirmed.

Now, the country has begun a white-knuckle ride in which it will shed about one-third of its population -- 40 million people -- by 2060, experts predict. In 30 years, 39% of Japan's population will be 65 or older.

If the United States experienced a similar population contraction, it would be like losing every single inhabitant of California, New York, Texas and Florida -- more than 100 million people.

Though demographers have long anticipated the transformation Japan is now facing, the country only now seems to be sobering up to the epic metamorphosis at hand.

Police and firefighters are grappling with the safety hazards of a growing number of vacant buildings. Transportation authorities are discussing which roads and bus lines are worth maintaining and cutting those they can no longer justify. Aging small-business owners and farmers are having trouble finding successors to take over their enterprises. Each year, the nation is shuttering 500 schools.

Posted by orrinj at 12:04 PM


Cheap Money Talks (Paul Krugman, JULY 11, 2016, NY Times)

[T]here has been an extraordinary plunge in long-term interest rates. Late last year the yield on 10-year U.S. government bonds was around 2.3 percent, already historically low; on Friday it was just 1.36 percent. German bonds, the safe asset of the eurozone, are yielding minus -- that's right, minus -- 0.19 percent. Basically, investors are willing to offer governments money for nothing, or less than nothing. What does it mean?

Some commentators blame the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank, accusing them of engineering "artificially low" interest rates that encourage speculation and distort the economy. These are, by the way, largely the same people who used to predict that budget deficits would cause interest rates to soar. In any case, however, it's important to understand that they're not making sense.

For what does "artificially low" mean in this context? Compared to what? Historically, the consequence of excessively easy money -- the way you know that money is too easy -- has been out-of-control inflation. That's not happening in America, where inflation is still below the Fed's target, and it's definitely not happening in Europe, where the central bank has been trying to raise inflation, without success.

If anything, developments in the real economies of the advanced world are telling us that interest rates aren't low enough...

Since the dollar you get back when you loan money will buy more than the one you leant, why would you also receive interest?

July 10, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 3:15 PM


Possible Trump VP pick says he supports abortion rights (JAMES OLIPHANT, 7/10/16, Reuters)

Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, under consideration by Republican Donald Trump as a possible vice presidential choice, said on Sunday he favors a woman's right to choose whether to have an abortion. [...]

Asked about his position on abortion on ABC News' "This Week," Flynn, a registered Democrat, said "women have to be able to choose" and that women "have to make the decision because they're the ... ones that are going to decide to bring up that child or not." [...]

The Washington Post reported on Saturday that Trump is becoming increasingly infatuated with Flynn, who ran the Defense Intelligence Agency from 2012-2014 under President Barack Obama, because he believes national unrest and the threat of terrorism may demand a "tough and steady" presence on the ticket.

Advertising his own support for abortion removes the last delusion that Republican supporters were clinging to in order to differentiate him from Hillary.

Posted by orrinj at 3:12 PM


Sanders Supporters Fail in Efforts to Highight Palestinian Plight in Democratic Platform (Nathan Guttman, July 9, 2016, Forward)

The party's platform committee, convened in Orlando for two days of voting on proposed amendments to the platform, maintained the language agreed upon in the earlier round of debate and defeated amendments aimed at recognizing the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, demanding "an end to illegal settlements" and supporting the re-building of the Gaza Strip.

Posted by orrinj at 3:08 PM


Israel, Egypt working 'feverishly' to arrange Netanyahu-Sissi meet (TIMES OF ISRAEL, July 10, 2016)

Israel and Egypt are working "feverishly" to arrange a visit by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to meet President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in Egypt, a TV report said, as Sissi's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry held talks with Netanyahu in Israel on Sunday night.

...it is steadfast opposition to democracy for Arabs.  

Posted by orrinj at 11:39 AM


Bernie Sanders Defeated on Trade in Democratic Platform Fight (ALEX SEITZ-WALD, 7/09/16, NBC)

In a major defeat during an otherwise fruitful process for him, Bernie Sanders failed to get strong language opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership inserted in the draft Democratic platform at a party meeting here Saturday.

Posted by orrinj at 11:35 AM


Cheap robots are coming for our farm jobs by taking the most brutal tasks first (Michael J. Coren, 7/09/16, Vox)

Weeding lettuce is slow, expensive, and potentially dangerous due to chemical exposure. Farm workers must spray individual weeds from a pesticide-filled backpack. Automated systems like the one designed by Danish firm F. Poulsen Engineering replace this with mechanical weeding and computer vision to distinguish between crops and pests. The company says it can do the job much faster and at no extra cost. That hits the sweet spot for inexpensive machinery to replace high-cost labor.

"Agriculture for hundreds of years has been an intuition business," says Lux's lead agricultural analyst Sara Olson in an interview. That will end as "precision agriculture" brings data and automation to traditional tasks, making farming more productive and profitable, she predicts. At first, robots will make existing jobs more productive. But jobs will ultimately be lost as robots assume more and more of the work. "Over time, there would have to be a shift," says Olson. "It will happen slowly enough that I see an opportunity for people who want to be in the industry to learn how to operate machinery, manufacture the equipment, and service and support these new systems."

Robots will likely make inroads fastest in areas where the labor is backbreaking, and peak harvest times create a short supply of workers. 

Posted by orrinj at 10:42 AM


How Israel Is Losing America (Shlomo Ben-Ami, 7/05./16, Project Syndicate)

[S]omething is definitely different. Questions about Palestine are now highly polarized in American politics, with younger generations affected much more by images of an illiberal Israel tyrannizing a disenfranchised Palestinian nation than by the fading memory of the original Zionist epic. For them, the Israel-Palestine conflict has become a human-rights issue - and a highly contentious one at that. Israeli apologists are now facing pro-Palestine activism on university campuses on a level unseen in the US since students were protesting the Vietnam War.

A 2014 Gallup poll showed that, while a narrow majority of all Americans considered Israel's 2014 assault on Gaza justified, only 25% of people under 30 did; 51% of people under 30 declared Israel's actions to be unjustified. According to a 2014 Brookings Institution poll, a massive 84% of Democrats and 60% of Republicans would favor a one-state solution, in which a single democratic government guarantees equal rights for all citizens, Israeli and Palestinian. A December 2015 poll by the same organization indicated that 66% of Americans support a more evenhanded US policy in the Israel-Palestine conflict; among Democrats under 35, that proportion rose to 80%.

US politicians are paying attention. In recent months, Democratic lawmakers, headed by Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, have called for an investigation into Israel's "gross violations of human rights," including torture and extrajudicial executions, against Palestinians. And Dan Shapiro, the US ambassador in Israel, lit up the Israeli establishment last January, when he suggested in a speech that Israel is essentially implementing apartheid in the West Bank. [...]

The Republican Party is also threatening to turn against Israel, but in a much more damaging way. Donald Trump, the party's presumptive nominee for the presidential election in November, has indicated that he would not endorse America's automatic support for Israel, hinting that he thinks Israel holds more responsibility in the failure of the two-state solution. Instead, he would be, he says, "a sort of neutral guy" in the Israel-Palestine conflict.

This seems to go over well with his supporters, many of whom like Trump for his anti-establishment approach. If the establishment politicians they despise support Israel, the logic goes, there must be something wrong with that policy.
The danger lies in the fact that Trump has tapped into an overtly xenophobic element of the conservative voter base. Indeed, he has been endorsed by white supremacists, including former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. Given this, Trump's rise is very bad news for American Jews - and, indeed, all of America's minority groups. Making matters worse, Trump's impact may even extend beyond the US, with far-right leaders elsewhere, such as Austria's Norbert Hofer, emulating his tactics to stoke and capitalize on atavistic nativism.

...is peace.
Posted by orrinj at 10:30 AM


Why 'socialist' Obama is more of a free marketeer than Trump (James Pethokoukis, July 8, 2016, The Week)

[A] clear-eyed view of Obama shows not some power-mad redistributionist, but a leader pushing the sort of pro-market economic reforms that the GOP's own presumptive presidential nominee should be suggesting. [...]

Free marketeers everywhere, I implore you: Compare that populist policy agenda to what's been coming from the left-wing, pro-trade Obama White House in recent months.

First, Obama is calling on states to pass reforms that would reduce unnecessary and overly broad occupational licensing. Nearly one-quarter of all U.S. workers need a government license to do their jobs, up from fewer than five percent in the 1950s. These costly rules reduce job opportunity, wages, and geographic mobility. For instance, according to the Institute for Justice, the average cosmetologist spends 372 days in training vs. 33 for the average EMT.

Second, the Obama administration is developing a set of "best practices" that will help state legislatures address the misuse of non-compete agreements. Nearly a fifth of American workers have contracts barring them from working at a competing employer within a certain period of time after leaving their current job. Research suggests noncompetes reduce worker bargaining power and stifle innovation. The success of Silicon Valley may be due in part to California not enforcing such contracts, making it easier for techies to start businesses and spread their know-how to existing firms.

Third, Team Obama continues to point out how excessive or unnecessary land-use or zoning regulations hurt economic mobility, worsen income inequality, and damage economic growth. Laws restricting housing supply make housing more expensive -- such as in high-productivity, high-income cities such as Boston and San Francisco -- and make it harder for workers to move to where the good jobs are. Only high-income workers can easily move to these places, "which reinforces existing inequality," as CEA Chair Jason Furman recently noted.

You'll have to look long and hard to find those clear-eyed...

Posted by orrinj at 10:23 AM


Illegal Immigrants - Trump Says Deport Them - But Obama Should Pardon Them (Andy J. Semotiuk, 7/07/16, Forbes)

In a recent article in the New York Times, Peter L. Markowitz, a professor at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, drew attention to the fact that President Obama is able, through the constitutional pardon power of the President, to grant undocumented immigrants unconditional pardons for their civil immigration violations, thereby irrevocably protecting them from punishment and prosecution while leaving the law unchanged related to all other current or future offenders. The example Markowitz cited was President Jimmy Carter's pardon of around half a million men who had violated draft laws to avoid military service in Vietnam. He pointed out that other past presidents, including Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln, also granted broad amnesties from prosecution to large groups in the public interest. Such a proposal brings to mind the saying that there is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come. [...]

As President Obama approaches the end of his term, he has an opportunity to make a courageous move to address this decades-old problem and leave a legacy that could very well make him one of the greatest presidents in American history. As Professor Markowitz has suggested, President Obama can initiate a Presidential pardon to deal with the problem. One possible scenario would be to implement a pardon that effectively moves the registry date that enables anyone who has been in the country since that date to apply for landing, currently set at January 1st, 1972, to say, November 1st, 2006. Such a move would provide relief to over half the undocumented immigrants in the country on the argument that, as in other legal matters, for due process and  practical reasons, there needs to be a limitation date by which an action to remedy a legal problem should have been started. Setting such a limitation date for removals of illegal immigrants would fall in line with the concept of cancellation of removal currently employed in immigration proceedings where illegal immigrants who can show they have been in the U.S. for 10 years or more and meet some other narrowly defined criteria, can gain permission to remain.

The pardon would simply acknowledge that anyone who has been present in the United States for over 10 years, in the absence of any criminal behavior and having paid taxes, deserves a chance to correct his or her life.

...that it isn't even judiciable. Not to mention he'd break Reagan's record for immigration amnesty.

Posted by orrinj at 9:43 AM


TRUE CRIME : A postmodern murder mystery. (David Grann, 2/11/08, The New Yorker)

One afternoon in the fall of 2003, Jacek Wroblewski, a thirty-eight-year-old detective in the Wroclaw police department, unlocked the safe in his office, where he stored his files, and removed a folder marked "Janiszewski." It was getting late, and most members of the department would soon be heading home, their thick wooden doors clapping shut, one after the other, in the long stone corridor of the fortresslike building, which the Germans had built in the early twentieth century, when Wroclaw was still part of Germany. (The building has underground tunnels leading to the jail and the courthouse, across the street.) Wroblewski, who preferred to work late at night, kept by his desk a coffeepot and a small refrigerator; that was about all he could squeeze into the cell-like room, which was decorated with wall-sized maps of Poland and with calendars of scantily clad women, which he took down when he had official visitors.

The Janiszewski case was three years old, and had been handed over to Wroblewski's unit by the local police who had conducted the original investigation. The unsolved murder was the coldest of cold cases, and Wroblewski was drawn to it. He was a tall, lumbering man with a pink, fleshy face and a burgeoning paunch. He wore ordinary slacks and a shirt to work, instead of a uniform, and there was a simplicity to his appearance, which he used to his advantage: people trusted him because they thought that they had no reason to fear him. Even his superiors joked that his cases must somehow solve themselves. "Jacek" is "Jack" in English, and wróbel means "sparrow," and so his colleagues called him Jack Sparrow--the name of the Johnny Depp character in "Pirates of the Caribbean." Wroblewski liked to say in response, "I'm more of an eagle."

After Wroblewski graduated from high school, in 1984, he began searching for his "purpose in life," as he put it, working variously as a municipal clerk, a locksmith, a soldier, an aircraft mechanic, and, in defiance of the Communist government, a union organizer allied with Solidarity. In 1994, five years after the Communist regime collapsed, he joined the newly refashioned police force. Salaries for police officers in Poland were, and remain, dismal--a rookie earns only a few thousand dollars a year--and Wroblewski had a wife and two children to support. Still, he had finally found a position that suited him. A man with a stark Catholic vision of good and evil, he relished chasing criminals, and after putting away his first murderer he hung a pair of goat horns on his office wall, to symbolize the capture of his prey. During his few free hours, he studied psychology at a local university: he wanted to understand the criminal mind.

Wroblewski had heard about the murder of Janiszewski, but he was unfamiliar with the details, and he sat down at his desk to review the file. He knew that, in cold cases, the key to solving the crime is often an overlooked clue buried in the original file. He studied the pathologist's report and the photographs of the crime scene. The level of brutality, Wroblewski thought, suggested that the perpetrator, or perpetrators, had a deep grievance against Janiszewski. Moreover, the virtual absence of clothing on Janiszewski's battered body indicated that he had been stripped, in an attempt to humiliate him. (There was no evidence of sexual abuse.) According to Janiszewski's wife, her husband always carried credit cards, but they had not been used after the crime--another indication that this was no mere robbery.

Wroblewski read the various statements that had been given to the local police. The most revealing was from Janiszewski's mother, who had worked as a bookkeeper in his advertising firm. On the day that her son disappeared, she stated, a man had called the office at around 9:30 a.m., looking for him. The caller made an urgent request. "Could you make three signs, quite big ones, and the third one as big as a billboard?" he asked. When she inquired further, he said, "I will not talk to you about this," demanding again to speak to her son. She explained that he was out of the office, but she gave the caller Janiszewski's cell-phone number. The man hung up. He had not identified himself, and Janiszewski's mother had not recognized his voice, though she thought that he sounded "professional." During the conversation, she had heard noise in the background, a dull roar. Later, when her son showed up at the office, she asked him if the customer had called, and Janiszewski replied that they had arranged to meet that afternoon. According to a receptionist in the building, who was the last known person to see Janiszewski alive, he departed the office at around four o'clock. He left his car, a Peugeot, in the parking lot, which his family said was very unusual: although he often met with customers away from the office, he habitually took his car.

Investigators, upon checking phone records, discovered that the call to Janiszewski's office had come from a phone booth down the street--this explained the background noise, Wroblewski thought. Records also indicated that, less than a minute after the call ended, someone at the same public phone had rung Janiszewski's cell phone. Though the calls were suspicious, Wroblewski could not be certain that the caller was a perpetrator, just as he could not yet say how many assailants were involved in the crime. Janiszewski was more than six feet tall and weighed some two hundred pounds, and tying him up and disposing of his body may have required accomplices. The receptionist reported that when Janiszewski left the office, she had seen two men seemingly trailing him, though she could not describe them in any detail. Whoever was behind the abduction, Wroblewski thought, had been extremely organized and shrewd. The mastermind--Wroblewski assumed it was a man, based on the caller's voice--must have studied Janiszewski's business routine and known how to lure him out of his office and, possibly, into a car.

Wroblewski pored over the materials, trying to find something more, yet he remained stymied. After several hours, he locked the file in his safe, but over the next several days and nights he took it out again and again. At one point, he realized that Janiszewski's cell phone had never been found. Wroblewski decided to see if the phone could be traced--an unlikely possibility. Poland lagged behind other European countries in technological development, and its financially strapped police force was only beginning to adopt more sophisticated methods of tracking cellular and computer communications. Nevertheless, Wroblewski had taken a keen interest in these new techniques, and he began an elaborate search, with the help of the department's recently hired telecommunications specialist. Although Janiszewski's telephone number had not been used since his disappearance, Wroblewski knew that cell phones often bear a serial number from the manufacturer, and his men contacted Janiszewski's wife, who provided a receipt containing this information. To Wroblewski's astonishment, he and his colleague soon found a match: a cell phone with the same serial number had been sold on Allegro, an Internet auction site, four days after Janiszewski disappeared. The seller had logged in as ChrisB[7], who, investigators learned, was a thirty-year-old Polish intellectual named Krystian Bala.

It seemed inconceivable that a murderer who had orchestrated such a well-planned crime would have sold the victim's cell phone on an Internet auction site. Bala, Wroblewski realized, could have obtained it from someone else, or purchased it at a pawnshop, or even found it on the street. Bala had since moved abroad, and could not be easily reached, but as Wroblewski checked into his background he discovered that he had recently published a novel called "Amok." Wroblewski obtained a copy, which had on the cover a surreal image of a goat--an ancient symbol of the Devil. Like the works of the French novelist Michel Houellebecq, the book is sadistic, pornographic, and creepy. The main character, who narrates the story, is a bored Polish intellectual who, when not musing about philosophy, is drinking and having sex with women.

Wroblewski, who read mostly history books, was shocked by the novel's contents, which were not only decadent but vehemently anti-Church. He made note of the fact that the narrator murders a female lover for no reason ("What had come over me? What the hell did I do?") and conceals the act so well that he is never caught. Wroblewski was struck, in particular, by the killer's method: "I tightened the noose around her neck." Wroblewski then noticed something else: the killer's name is Chris, the English version of the author's first name. It was also the name that Krystian Bala had posted on the Internet auction site. Wroblewski began to read the book more closely--a hardened cop turned literary detective.

Posted by orrinj at 9:26 AM


DONALD TRUMP, MAN OF FAITH (Matthew Schmitz, August 2016, First Things)

For Peale, "attitudes are more important than facts." The man who displays "a confident and optimistic thought pattern can modify or overcome the fact altogether." The first fact that Peale's positive thinking had to overcome was the fact of human frailty. Peale knew about the difficulties some encounter in alcohol, in troubled marriages, and in economic hardship, but he never could accept the inevitability of misfortune or that all must pay the wages of sin. Like one of Job's comforters, he told the suffering that they simply needed to look on the bright side. Where the Bible urges man to search his heart and know his faults, Peale encourages him to "make a true estimate of your own ability, then raise it ten percent." For Jeremiah the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, but for Peale its dark recesses are bathed in California sunshine.

Thus the necessity of repentance recedes. It is important to think positively, and a negative thought, such as Domine, non sum dignus, can be injurious to spiritual health. Yet the gloomy aspect of traditional Christian practice is also the wellspring of Christian compassion. At the moment a Christian asks for forgiveness, he must acknowledge his own weakness and look mercifully on the weakness of others. In the Our Father, the Christian asks that he be forgiven, just as he in turn forgives. From the holy terror that Peale called "fear thoughts" comes the light of Christian love.

At a campaign event in Iowa, Trump shocked the audience by saying that he had never asked God for forgiveness. All his other disturbing statements--his attacks on every vulnerable group--are made intelligible by this one. The self-sufficient faith Trump absorbed from Peale has no place for human weakness. Human frailty, dependency, and sinfulness cannot be acknowledged; they must be overcome. This opens up the possibility of great cruelty toward those who cannot wish themselves into being winners. A man who need not ask forgiveness need never forgive others. He does not realize his own weakness, and so he mocks and reviles every sign of weakness in his ­fellow men.

Because Peale was a decent man of sincere if not quite orthodox Christian faith, he never drew out the harsh implications of his views. Trump feels no such restraint, and so has taken Peale's teaching to its logical conclusion. He has called the widow whose house he tried to take a "terrible human being" whose lawyer is a "loser." He has mocked a reporter for having a disfigured hand. He has demeaned a contestant on one of his reality shows by suggesting how she'd look in a pornographic scenario. And he has applauded Planned Parenthood for doing "very good work."

Peale is now largely forgotten, and his bestseller languishes in used book stores. This is a shame, for it has led us to underestimate the influence and power of the self-sufficient faith that he promoted, and that he imparted to his greatest student. Peale meant to preach a gentle creed, one that made hellfire and terror into mere afterthoughts. In Trump it has curdled into pagan disdain. Both forms of this philosophy have captured the public imagination, and both stand at odds with the faith taught by Christ.

Christianity is a religion of losers. To the weak and humble, it offers a stripped and humiliated Lord. To those without reason for optimism, it holds up the cross as a sign of hope. To anyone who does not win at life, it promises that whoever loses his life for Christ's sake shall find it. At its center stands a truth that we are prone to forget. There are people who cannot be made into winners, no matter how positive their thinking. They need something more paradoxical and cruciform.

Posted by orrinj at 9:18 AM


One Shooter; No Snipers--Grossly Inaccurate Police And Media Information About Dallas Killings (Steven Rosenfeld, July 9, 2016, National Memo)

The mainstream media in the U.S. and abroad badly botched the reporting of the Dallas police shooting that killed five officers Thursday, egged on by speculation by police sources that a team of snipers was bent on avenging the killing of two black men in Minnesota and Louisiana by white cops the day before.

Even after the Dallas Morning News changed its headline Friday afternoon to read, "Dallas sniper was loner, Army vet with stash of arms, bomb parts at home," the article's second paragraph said, "Four Dallas police officers and a DART officer were shot and killed in a coordinated sniper attack that followed a Thursday night protest."

The incorrect sniper meme was repeated internationally, such as this headline from the British Mirror, "Dallas police shooting: 'Black Power group' claims responsibility for police killings and warns of more assassinations to come."

Meanwhile, in the U.S., Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told reporters, "there appears to have been one gunman," Micah Xavier Johnson, 25, who had "no known links to or inspiration from any international terrorist organization."

The team-of-snipers theory, nonetheless, was repeated in media accounts, including with police-attributed information that multiple snipers positioned themselves on elevated ground to triangulate and hit their targets. What had happened instead was Johnson, a military veteran who served in Afghanistan, used armed combat shooting techniques from a position on the ground to shoot cops one by one.

Posted by orrinj at 8:26 AM


World faces deflation shock as China devalues yuan at accelerating pace (Ambrose Evans-Pritchard 8 JULY 2016, The Telegraph)

China has abandoned a solemn pledge to keep its exchange rate stable and is carrying out a systematic devaluation of the yuan, sending a powerful deflationary impulse through a global economy already caught in a 1930s trap.

The country's currency basket has been sliding at an annual pace of 12pc since the start of the year. This has picked up sharply since the Brexit vote, suggesting that the People's Bank (PBOC) may be taking advantage of the distraction to push through a sharper devaluation.

"This makes a mockery of the PBOC's suggestion that its policy is to keep the currency's value stable," said Mark Williams, chief China economist at Capital Economics. "Markets will not take PBOC policy statements at face value in the future."

Congratulations on your raise.

Posted by orrinj at 8:11 AM


Leslie Odom, Jr. Reflects On Leaving 'Hamilton' And His New Self-Titled CD (Jeryl Brunner, 7/09/16, Forbes)

Brunner: Who are some of your biggest music influences?

Odom: Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway, Nat King Cole, James Taylor. With this record it took us some time to define a lane for ourselves. As a theatrical performer, my job is to be malleable and sing all different styles of music as they're put in front of me in a way that feels authentic and germane. I tried to define a lane for myself which makes sense and is someplace where I feel comfortable. So you wouldn't get a jazz album from me one year, then a rock album from me the next. [...]

Brunner: The many years between Rent and Hamilton you struggled in your career. What kept you going?

Odom: If you stay in this long enough, you're going to run into hard patches. In those lean times when you don't know how you're going to pay your bills, when you don't know, literally, where your next meal is coming from -- those are the times that you ask yourself the question: Why am I doing this?

The answer that I came up with is I am truly in this for connection. I get off on the connection that I have with people. In Hamilton it's the people who are with me on stage. It's the audience. When I'm working on my solo album, it's the musicians. It's that high. That creativity, the sharing that happens in the studio, the way we connect and vibe. We make something that didn't exist five minutes ago. I am hooked on that. That's what I'm here to do. I want to have honest and deep conversations with people through my art.

Brunner: What advice would you give to people just beginning their careers in any profession?

Odom: You can rid yourself of some of the anxiety by trusting your instincts and following your passion. Follow what you love. And eventually, the thing that you love, and I mean love as a verb, will love you back.

I mean, if you love something, read about it, study it, honor it, constantly walk towards it. That's what I would say to somebody interested in law, medicine, fashion, anything. Get up in its face. Keep showing up with your heart open, ready to dig in, ready to roll up your sleeves. It has no choice. Eventually it'll love you back.

Brunner: When you think about Hamilton, what did the show give you?

Odom: Hamilton has restored my faith the theater. There's a part of you that believes deep down in your soul that you might be capable of something great. But until you're given that opportunity, it's just a feeling. Lin gave us the opportunity to prove to ourselves that we were capable of something great, and that, if given the opportunity, we could do something really special. I will never forget that. Now, I have no doubts. That's a wonderful thing.

Posted by orrinj at 8:07 AM



In the language of today's National Rifle Association, "an armed society is a polite society." The aphorism, borrowed from the science-fiction author Robert Heinlein, is the inspiration for one of the N.R.A.'s most popular T-shirts, which bears the word "coexist," spelled out in brightly colored ammo cartridges and guns. To promote the shirt ($17.99), the N.R.A. store says that Heinlein's quote "emphasizes the independent, tolerant nature of gun owners in a fun and thought-provoking way."

It is a vision at the heart of the modern gun movement: the more that society makes the threat of violence available to us, the safer we will be. In forty-eight hours this week, the poisonous flaw in that fantasy has been exposed from multiple angles: on Tuesday, two police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, fatally shot a black man, Alton Sterling, while trying to arrest him. Some reports say that, before police arrived, he was openly carrying a gun, which, under the makeshift patchwork of American gun law, would have afforded him more legal protection, not less. Louisiana is one of the forty-five states that allow residents to carry firearms openly in public, and though Sterling was a convicted felon (and therefore probably ineligible to obtain a concealed-carry permit) police could not have known his criminal record before investigating him. It was absurd not to ask whether a white man, exercising his right to open carry, would have been approached differently.

The next day, during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, a police officer fatally shot a black man, Philando Castile, who, according to his girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, was licensed to carry a concealed firearm. According to Reynolds, who was in the car and broadcast the aftermath on Facebook, Castile had told the officer that he was carrying his gun, but when Castile reached for his license and registration, he was shot. In the hours that followed, as America turned, once again, to the ritual of mourning the killings of black men by police officers, the N.R.A. was silent. Its official Twitter feed, which often draws attention to cases of police questioning gun owners for exercising the right to carry, said nothing, even as the silence became conspicuous. (@CoolJ90: "@NRA care to come to the defense of a man murdered by police who had a license to carry his weapon?")

For critics of the N.R.A., it was an awkward exposure of what is usually left unsaid: the organization is far less active in asserting the Second Amendment rights of black Americans than of white ones.

Posted by orrinj at 8:03 AM


Frank Zappa was so left, he was right  : A documentary profile of the avant-garage musician reveals his political conservatism. (J.R. Jones, 7/07/16, Chicago Reader)

The "porn wars," as Zappa liked to call them, were particularly revealing in that they touched on his own parenting. Eat That Question includes footage from the Senate hearing in which Florida senator Paula Hawkins scolds Zappa for letting his wife buy the children's toys and Zappa invites her over to the house to take a look at them, to the laughter of the audience. In his book, Zappa gently twits himself as the put-upon dad, watching groceries pour into his house and get eaten up by the kids before he can get to them. He describes himself as a laissez-faire parent with a deep suspicion of American education: "We do all the regular stuff, like trying to keep [the kids] away from danger and out of trouble, but after that, we have the responsibility of providing them with the basic data they're never going to get in school." Zappa urged his kids to take the California high school equivalency test as soon as possible. In Eat That Question, when he's asked about his relationship with his children, he replies simply, "They like me."

Schütte has really covered the waterfront with these clips, and one of the more fascinating is Zappa's sit-down with a trooper (and professed Zappa fan) from the Pennsylvania state police in 1981. Zappa favored drug legalization, but he also insisted that his band members leave all drugs behind when they went on tour. In the interview he defends the policy as a business necessity: "Aside from the chemical damage, there's the legal risk that somebody's gonna take their freedom away, and I'm gonna be sitting there going, 'Where's the drummer?' " When the cop asks Zappa if he resents his fans perpetuating the myth of his own drug excess, Zappa blames not the fans but the press. "It's another way that the media keeps me from getting my point of view across. The more abstract and weird they make me look, the less access that I have to a normal channel of communication with the people who might benefit from what I have to say."

What Zappa had to say was always unpredictable. Politically he was a libertarian who wanted the government out of his life, philosophically a secular humanist who wanted the church out of his government. The Real Frank Zappa Book contains a long chapter, "Practical Conservatism," that lays out his wacky political ideas, from a national sales tax on all goods and services to arming every family in America with a bazooka and box of grenades in case of a terrorist attack. His opposition to the drug war is founded on the conviction that "people own themselves" and that "in a democracy, government exists because (and only so long as) individual citizens give it a 'temporary license to exist'--in exchange for a promise that it will behave itself."

Posted by orrinj at 7:50 AM


Islamic State lost quarter of its Iraq, Syria territory in 18 months: IHS (Reuters, 7/10/16)

Islamic State lost an area the size of Ireland - a quarter of its territory - to hostile forces in the last 18 months in Iraq and Syria and is likely to further step up attacks on civilians in coming months, IHS said in a report on Sunday.

The territory controlled by the ultra-hardline Sunni group shrank from 90,800 sq km (35,000 square miles) in January 2015, six months after it declared a caliphate in Syria and Iraq, to 68,300 sq km (26,370 square miles), the research firm said.

This has led the group to step up attacks on civilian targets in the Middle East and in Europe and this is likely to intensify, IHS said.

"As the Islamic State's caliphate shrinks and it becomes increasingly clear that its governance project is failing, the group is re-prioritizing insurgency," said Columb Strack, senior analyst at IHS and lead analyst for the IHS Conflict Monitor.

Two Russian Helicopter Pilots Shot Down, Killed In Syria: Interfax (REUTERS, 07/10/16)

Militants shot down a military helicopter near Palmyra in Syria, killing two Russian pilots on board, Interfax news agency said, quoting Russia's defense ministry.

The two men had been attacking a detachment of Islamic State fighters in the Homs region on Friday, when the Syrian Mi-25 helicopter they were in ran out of ammunition, the ministry said, according to Interfax.

Kurdish militant bomb attack on Turkish army outpost kills two: sources (Reuters, 7/10/16)

Kurdish militants carried out a car bomb attack on a military outpost in southeastern Turkey overnight, killing one soldier and a member of the state-sponsored village guard militia, security sources said on Sunday.

It was the second such attack within 12 hours in the mainly Kurdish region, showing no let-up in a conflict between the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group and the state which flared up a year ago when a two-year-old ceasefire collapsed.

Coalition air strikes, Turkish army kill eight Islamic State militants: Anadolu (Reuters, 7/10/16)

Air strikes by U.S.-led coalition warplanes and artillery fire from Turkey killed eight Islamic State fighters in northern Syria, state-run Anadolu Agency cited the Turkish military as saying on Sunday.

Ten Islamic State targets were hit in the strikes, which also destroyed one building used by the militants as a base, the agency said.

The UR hardly deserves credit for the state of this war, which is driven by the universal demand for self-governance (unleashed in the Arab world by George W. Bush) and the universal rejection of Islamicism (unleashed by ISIS), but he has managed not to get in its way, which is an epic achievement in itself.

Posted by orrinj at 7:42 AM


Edmund Burke on Healthy & Unhealthy Constitutions (Russell Kirk, Imaginative Conservative)

Burke's first constitutional principle is that a good constitution grows out of the common experience of a people over a considerable lapse of time. It is not possible to create an improved constitution out of whole cloth. As he declared in his speech on the reform of representation (1782), "I look with filial reverence on the constitution of my country, and never will cut it in pieces and put it into the kettle of any magician, in order to boil it, with the puddle of their compounds, into youth and vigor. On the contrary, I will drive away such pretenders; I will nurse its venerable age, and with lenient arts extend a parent's breath." An enduring constitution is the product of a nation's struggles. Here, Burke is echoed by one of his more eminent American disciples, John C. Calhoun, in his Disquisition on Government: "A constitution, to succeed, must spring from the bosom of the community, and be adapted to the intelligence and character of the people, and all the multifarious relations, internal and external, which distinguish one people from another. If it does not, it will prove, in practice, to be, not a constitution, but a cumbrous and useless machine, which must be speedily superseded and laid aside, for some other more simple, and better suited to their condition."

A truth that Burke emphasizes almost equally with the preceding "organic" concept of constitutions is the necessity of religious faith to a constitutional order. "We know, and, what is better, we feel inwardly, that religion is the basis of civil society, and the source of all good, and of all comfort," he writes in Reflections on the Revolution in France. "We know, and it is our pride to know, that man is by his constitution a religious animal; that atheism is against, not only our reason, but our instincts; and that it cannot prevail long." An established church is required--parallel with "an established monarchy, an established aristocracy, and an established democracy.... All persons possessing any portion of power ought to be strongly and awfully impressed with an idea that they act in trust, and that they are to account for their conduct in that trust to the one great Master, Author, and Founder of society." The fist clause of the First Amendment to the federal Constitution, and the American circumstances which produced that clause--Burke's "dissidence of dissent, and the Protestantism of the Protestant religion"--had forestalled any established national church in the United States, three years before Burke published his Reflections. But the First Amendment and curious interpretations of its first clause by the Supreme Court in this century leave us today in some perplexity.

A third point in Burke's constitutional principles which needs to be noted here is his emphasis upon the function of a natural aristocracy, in which mingle both "men of actual virtue" (the "new" men of enterprising talents) and "men of presumptive virtue" (gentlemen of old families and adequate means). It is this aristocracy, "the cheap defense of nations," that supplies a people's leadership. (In a more grudging fashion, a similar apology for aristocracy is advanced by John Adams.) Burke asserts also the necessity for an "establishment of democracy"; he is the most practical eighteenth-century advocate, indeed, of popular government. Nevertheless, "A true aristocracy is not a separate interest in the state, or separable from it," Burke writes in his Appeal from the New Whigs. "It is an essential integrant part of any large body rightly constituted."

Fourth--and here we must confine ourselves to four of Burke's constitutional arguments, although there are several others deserving of discussion--Burke contends that the good constitution maintains a balance or tension between the claims of freedom and the claims of order. Natural law is a reality, and from natural law flow certain natural rights; but government does not exist merely to defend claims of personal liberty. The "Rights of Man" claimed by the French revolutionaries are impossible to realize, unlimited, in any civil social order. "By having a right to everything they want everything," Burke writes in his Reflections:

Government is a contrivance of human wisdom to provide for human wants. Men have a right that these wants should be provided for by this wisdom. Among these wants is to be reckoned the want, out of civil society, of a sufficient restraint upon their passions. Society requires not only that the passions of individuals should be subjected, but that even in the mass and body, a swell as in the individuals, the inclinations of men should frequently be thwarted, their will controlled, and their passions brought into subjection.... In this sense the restraints on men, as well as their liberties, are to be reckoned among their rights.

On no point of political theory in America does greater confusion exist than upon this question of "human rights" as set against the need for restraints upon will and appetite.

...which we resolve--without really understanding it anymore-- via republican liberty.

July 9, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 6:41 PM

HOW IS IT NOT 100%?:

GROWING PAINS FOR TRUMP'S EMAIL EFFORT (Sean J. Miller, 7/08/16, Campaigns and Elections)

Late last month, the campaign emailed its entire list for the first time with a fundraising pitch. That email made headlines for reaching Icelandic, Australian, British and Scottish legislators and its high spam rate. Nearly four-in-five emails were caught by spam filters, according to Return Path. "Almost 60 percent of the fundraiser emails from Trump never reached inboxes." 

Since that time, industry estimates have the Trump campaign sending between 30-50 million emails, at times with miserable results.

Adestra, a U.K.-based email service platform, confirmed to C&E that within the last 48 hours it suspended service to Paramount Communication Group, the Beltway-based company working directly with Trump's digital team who was reselling the platform's services.

Posted by orrinj at 6:14 PM


Swapping the employer share of the payroll tax for a consumption tax (Howard Gleckman, TaxVox JULY 9, 2016, CS Monitor)

Would you be willing to swap a new, broad-based consumption tax for your employer's share of the Social Security and Medicare payroll tax? According to a new paper by my colleagues Jim Nunns and Joe Rosenberg, it would be a good trade for all but the highest income taxpayers. Not only that, but the change would be more economically efficient, unlikely to drive up prices, and relatively easy to administer. If it were set at a rate of 4.1 percent, the new consumption tax would raise the same amount of money as the employer share of the payroll tax.

Consumption taxes are in the air--House Speaker Paul Ryan and his GOP caucus proposed a variant (called a business cash flow tax) last month. Three GOP presidential hopefuls--senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio and former governor Jeb Bush--made a business-side consumption tax a key piece of their tax reform plans. And economists of all political stripes are exploring such levies.

Keep the payroll tax.  Cut corporate and income taxes.

July 8, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 4:11 PM


Where machines could replace humans--and where they can't (yet) (Michael Chui, James Manyika, and Mehdi Miremadi, July 2016, McKinsey Quarterly)

While automation will eliminate very few occupations entirely in the next decade, it will affect portions of almost all jobs to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the type of work they entail. Automation, now going beyond routine manufacturing activities, has the potential, as least with regard to its technical feasibility, to transform sectors such as healthcare and finance, which involve a substantial share of knowledge work.

These conclusions rest on our detailed analysis of 2,000-plus work activities for more than 800 occupations. Using data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics and O*Net, we've quantified both the amount of time spent on these activities across the economy of the United States and the technical feasibility of automating each of them. The full results, forthcoming in early 2017, will include several other countries,1 but we released some initial findings late last year and are following up now with additional interim results.

Last year, we showed that currently demonstrated technologies could automate 45 percent of the activities people are paid to perform and that about 60 percent of all occupations could see 30 percent or more of their constituent activities automated, again with technologies available today. 

Posted by orrinj at 8:45 AM


How I LARPed across the Galilee in the footsteps of the Crusaders (ILAN BEN ZION, July 5, 2016, Times of Israel)

Under the cover of darkness, I slunk out of the Crusader encampment by the spring of Saffuriya and set out into the Galilee night. King Guy de Lusignan and his men had concluded their congress in which they resolved to march on toward Tiberias and confront the army of Saladin. Hearing their plan to trudge through the blazing heat in metal armor and heavy wool garments, I reconsidered my participation in what was sure to be an ill-fated mission.

Besides, my cellphone was at 28% and the 12th-century reenactment trousers were itchier than fiberglass mittens. Modern-day Haifa was a hitchhike away and I could make it in time for last call if I hustled.

Let's backtrack a few hours.

Earlier on Thursday I had arrived at the headquarters of the Kingdom of Jerusalem - the home of Genadiy Nizhnik, a tour guide and archaeology student who organizes an annual historic reenactment of the Battle of the Horns of Hattin. The apartment door opened, revealing a topless, barrel-bellied Ukrainian with a grizzled beard, brilliant blue eyes, and a massive scar across his stomach - no doubt a great wound got in battle. Nizhnik, who would act the part of King Guy, struck a regal pose despite wearing just blue hose girded with a leather belt. He ordered I don a jalabiya and Arab headscarf and make my way to the bus outside.

For the past several years, Nizhnik and a small band of followers put on medieval garb, clad themselves in armor, and spend several days in July retracing the steps of the Crusader army and waging a mock battle on the field west of the Sea of Galilee. It's part LARPing -- live action role-playing -- part homage, and part history lesson.

Posted by orrinj at 8:37 AM


Here's the other 'gross negligence' case Comey cited in Clinton email testimony (JOSH GERSTEIN, 07/07/16, Politico)

For more than two decades, FBI Special Agent James ("J.J.") Smith was a highly respected, veteran agent running counterintelligence operations in the Los Angeles area. His main focus was on China: trying to identify the Communist country's intelligence operations in the U.S. and ferret them out.

In 2003, less than three years after he retired from the FBI, Smith was arrested by his former colleagues on shocking and scandalous charges that he carried on a sexual relationship with one of his longtime sources, Katrina Leung. The FBI said in court filings that Smith carried classified documents and other sensitive records in his briefcase and sometimes left the case open and unattended while he visited her residence.

Leung copied many of the records, some of which were recovered from a safe in her home, the court records said. That was particularly worrisome because the FBI had developed Leung as a double agent known to be working with the Chinese government, but in theory working loyally for the FBI.

The story had another major salacious twist: Leung--known by the code name "Parlor Maid"--had also carried on a sexual affair with another FBI agent involved in managing her, Bill Cleveland.

Smith and Leung were arrested and later indicted separately. Smith was charged with four counts of wire fraud for submitting false reports on Leung's activities as an FBI asset and one count of grossly negligent handling of classified information. The latter charge is a component of the Espionage Act, although Smith was not charged with espionage as such.

Hillary Clinton and the Espionage Act (Steve Vladeck, 7/08/16, Slate)

The Espionage Act was written on the eve of the United States' entry into World War I largely as a compromise between Great Britain's comprehensive ban on obtaining and disseminating national security secrets (the 1911 Official Secrets Act), and the United States' somewhat more tolerant views toward speech. Critically, for present purposes, the Espionage Act was written before three major developments: the rise, during and after World War II, of the modern regime for classification of national security information (the statute instead refers amorphously to "information relating to the national defense"); the Supreme Court's sweeping invigoration of the First Amendment's free speech protection, jurisprudence in significant tension with at least some of the Espionage Act's prohibitions on communication and publication; and technological advances that have rendered most of the statute's technical distinctions (such as between a "code book" and a "signal book") superfluous.

Just as importantly, Congress's goal in the Espionage Act was to prohibit classical espionage, which Black's Law Dictionary defines as "[t]he practice of using spies to collect information about what another government or company is doing or plans to do." This piece of legislation was never intended to sweep as broadly as its text suggests it could--all the more so as the universe of "information relating to the national defense" has grown geometrically.

Notwithstanding these shortcomings, Congress has only amended the Espionage Act in detail on a handful of occasions and not significantly since 1950. All the while, critics have emerged from all corners--the academy, the courts, and within the government--urging Congress to clarify the myriad questions raised by the statute's vague and overlapping terms, or to simply scrap it and start over. As the CIA's general counsel told Congress in 1979, the uncertainty surrounding the Espionage Act presented "the worst of both worlds":

On the one hand the laws stand idle and are not enforced at least in part because their meaning is so obscure, and on the other hand it is likely that the very obscurity of these laws serves to deter perfectly legitimate expression and debate by persons who must be as unsure of their liabilities as I am unsure of their obligations.

In other words, the Espionage Act is at once too broad and not broad enough--and gives the government too much and too little discretion in cases in which individuals mishandle national security secrets, maliciously or otherwise.

Posted by orrinj at 8:32 AM

ANY TOKEN IN A STORM (profanity alert):

Trump Touts Endorsement of a Man Who Was Convicted of Murder and Repeatedly Accused of Fraud : The GOP apparent nominee uses boxing promoter Don King as a reference. (RUSS CHOMA, JUL. 8, 2016, Mother Jones)

Trump was animated as he boasted about King's endorsement. But bringing King to the convention to testify in favor of Trump would be an odd move. Despite King's successes in the world of boxing--he has promoted almost every major boxer in the last 50 years--he has a long checkered past, filled with allegations of fraud.

A short list of some of King's sketchier moments includes:

In 1982, Muhammad Ali sued King for allegedly cheating him out of $1.1 million he was owed for fighting Larry Holmes. (Ali dropped the lawsuit after King paid him $50,000.)

In 1984, Larry Holmes sued King for allegedly cheating him out of several million dollars. (Holmes settled for $100,000.)

In 1987, boxer Tim Witherspoon sued King for $25 million, claiming King was violating anti-trust and racketeering laws. (Witherspoon and King settled out of court for $1 million.)

Investigations by Sports Illustrated and PBS' Frontline linked Don King to mob figures, including John Gotti, and the Frontline feature alleged that King had bribed a judge in Cleveland in 1967 to help him beat a murder rap. (King was found guilty of second-degree murder for stomping an employee to death over a debt, but the charge was later reduced by the judge to non-negligent manslaughter, and King served nearly four years. He was pardoned by the governor of Ohio in 1983.)

King has had problems with another one of Trump's celebrity endorsers: Mike Tyson. During some of the most tumultuous years of Tyson's career, Trump "advised" the heavyweight champion, while King promoted his fights. In the end, Tyson sued King for $100 million, alleging King cheated him out of millions. The case was settled for $14 million.

Posted by orrinj at 8:24 AM


Alton Sterling and Philando Castile are 2 of 728 Americans that police killed this year (Sarah Frostenson, July 7, 2016, Vox)

Fatal Encounters is an online database that tracks people killed during interactions with law enforcement.

And in 2016, Fatal Encounters has recorded a police-involved killing for every day except one -- June 17.

There was only 1 day in 2016 when police didn't kill anyone.

This month alone, police officers have been involved in the deaths of 17 people, including Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. The two black men join a growing list of individuals killed by police under questionable circumstances.

Sterling and Castile's deaths have both led to national uproar. But it's important to know Sterling and Castile are just two of 728 people who have died this year in situations involving law enforcement.

Dallas police shooting: Five officers killed, seven wounded by gunmen (BBC, 7/08/16)

The Officer Down Memorial website says 53 US officers have died in the line of duty in 2016, 21 of them as a result of gunfire. The toll does not include those killed in Dallas.

Mr Obama added that "when people are armed with powerful weapons it makes attacks like these more deadly and more tragic", a subject that, he said, must be addressed in "the days ahead".

Posted by orrinj at 8:21 AM


EU authority fraying in reaction to Brexit vote (PAUL TAYLOR, 7/05/16, Reuters)

The European Union's authority is fraying as governments and politicians in many members challenge EU policies and take aim at "Brussels bureaucracy" in the aftermath of Britain's vote to leave the 28-nation bloc.

The Czech president and some contenders for the French presidency have called for their own referendums on continued membership of the pan-European economic and political community, although no such plebiscite is on the cards in the near future.

Verbal assaults on the role of the European Commission and the European Parliament since the British shock almost two weeks ago look more like an attempt to appease domestic public opinion than a concerted drive to strip Brussels of its main powers.

But they could further undermine the legitimacy of the EU's common institutions in the eyes of citizens.

Posted by orrinj at 8:17 AM


Big solar is leaving rooftop systems in the dust (NICHOLA GROOM, 7/05/16, Reuters)

Solar power is on pace for the first time this year to contribute more new electricity to the grid than will any other form of energy - a feat driven more by economics than green mandates.

The cost of electricity from large-scale solar installations now is comparable to and sometimes cheaper than natural gas-fired power, even without incentives aimed at promoting environmentally friendly power, according to industry players and outside cost studies.

Posted by orrinj at 8:06 AM


The Theology of Donald Trump (Peter Wehner, JULY 5, 2016, NY Times)

Time and again Mr. Trump has shown contempt for those he perceives as weak and vulnerable -- "losers," in his vernacular. They include P.O.W.s, people with disabilities, those he deems physically unattractive and those he considers politically powerless. He bullies and threatens people he believes are obstacles to his ambitions. He disdains compassion and empathy, to the point where his instinctive response to the largest mass shooting in American history was to congratulate himself: "Appreciate the congrats for being right."

What Mr. Trump admires is strength. For him, a person's intrinsic worth is tied to worldly success and above all to power. He never seems free of his obsession with it. In his comments to that gathering of evangelicals, Mr. Trump said this: "And I say to you folks, because you have such power, such influence. Unfortunately the government has weeded it away from you pretty strongly. But you're going to get it back. Remember this: If you ever add up, the men and women here are the most important, powerful lobbyists. You're more powerful. Because you have men and women, you probably have something like 75, 80 percent of the country believing. But you don't use your power. You don't use your power."

In eight sentences Mr. Trump mentioned some variation of power six times, to a group of individuals who have professed their love and loyalty to Jesus, who in his most famous sermon declared, "Blessed are the poor in spirit" and "Blessed are the meek," who said, "My strength is made perfect in weakness," and who was humiliated and crucified by the powerful.

To better understand Mr. Trump's approach to life, ethics and politics, we should not look to Christ but to Friedrich Nietzsche, who was repulsed by Christianity and Christ. "What is good?" Nietzsche asks in "The Anti-Christ": "Whatever augments the feeling of power, the will to power, power itself in man. What is evil? Whatever springs from weakness. What is happiness? The feeling that power increases - that resistance is overcome."

Whether or not he has read a word of Nietzsche (I'm guessing not), Mr. Trump embodies a Nietzschean morality rather than a Christian one. It is characterized by indifference to objective truth (there are no facts, only interpretations), the repudiation of Christian concern for the poor and the weak, and disdain for the powerless. It celebrates the "Übermensch," or Superman, who rejects Christian morality in favor of his own. For Nietzsche, strength was intrinsically good and weakness was intrinsically bad. So, too, for Donald Trump.

Those who believe this is merely reductionism should consider the words of Jesus: Do you have eyes but fail to see and ears but fail to hear? Mr. Trump's entire approach to politics rests on dehumanization. If you disagree with him or oppose him, you are not merely wrong. You are worthless, stripped of dignity, the object of derision. This attitude is central to who Mr. Trump is and explains why it pervades and guides his campaign. If he is elected president, that might-makes-right perspective would infect his entire administration.

Posted by orrinj at 8:03 AM


Scientists Use Robots to Study the Evolution of Ancient Aquatic Animals (DANIELA HERNANDEZ, July 7, 2016, WSJ)

The work is part of a growing field that merges biology with often inexpensive robots to examine the complicated physics of movement. A few years ago, his team's robot experiments wouldn't have been possible, according to Dr. Goldman, because the parts for the robo-mudskipper were too expensive. Now, scientists have access to 3-D printing and cheap chips and sensors. The team's robot cost less than $500, he said.

"It's very cool...The key thing about this paper is data," said John Hutchinson, a professor of evolutionary biomechanics at the University of London's Royal Veterinary College who wasn't involved in the study. "It tests things with pretty rigorous modern methods."

Malcolm MacIver, a roboticist and biomedical engineer at Northwestern University's Neuroscience and Robotics Lab who wasn't involved with the work, called it "fascinating," saying bio-inspired robots can help scientists explore unknown concepts in ways that more traditional mathematical models and simulations can't. For instance, Dr. MacIver said he's used robots to study the evolution of swimming behavior in fish. Another study published Thursday in Science describes a robotic stingray modeled after real animals.

Posted by orrinj at 7:58 AM


The Right to Decide: Exit and Basque Self-Determination (Ashild Kolas, 7/07/16, ISN)

A new book edited by Pedro Ibarra Güell and Åshild Kolås, Basque Nationhood Towards a Democratic Scenario, takes stock of the contemporary re-imagining of Basque nationhood in both Spain and France. Taking a fresh look at the history of Basque nationalist movements, it explores new debates that have emerged since the demise of non-state militancy. Alongside analysis of local transformations, the book also describes the impacts of a pan-European (if not global) rethinking of self-determination, or 'the right to decide'.

The significance of democracy for national sovereignty has been highlighted by globalization as well as Spain's political transformation since the late 1970s and the fall of Francoism. Ideological change, together with increasing mobility and a general growth in the standard of living has influenced the perception of Basque nationhood towards increasingly civic features, as against the earlier emphasis on ethnic characteristics. Today, a moderate Basque nationalism is still propagated by the conservative nationalist party, Partido Nacionalista Vasco (PNV), with its strategy of reciprocal relations with the Spanish state. As such, PNV has for long played the role of interlocutor between the state and the nationalist periphery. At present, PNV continues to highlight its differences with left-wing Basque nationalism, especially as expressed by the party Euskal Herria Bildu. The Basque nationalist discourse converges only on 'the right to decide', which is also supported by the Spanish leftwing party Podemos, which is gaining a significant space in Basque politics.

In core areas with strong Basque majorities, Basque nationalists emphasize the majority vote and decision-making, believing that the Basque Autonomous Community could once again negotiate an updated or reconfigured Statute of Autonomy if the citizenry supports such a project. An imagined sovereignty could hence become real if a legitimate Basque majority decided to govern itself, or at least advance towards greater national sovereignty. 

July 7, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:11 PM


A White Nationalist Website Is Sponsoring An RNC Rally Featuring Trump Surrogates (Eric Hananoki, July 7, 2016, National Memo)

The white nationalist website Eternal Sentry is sponsoring an upcoming pro-Trump "unity rally" with longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone and several Trump surrogates. Eternal Sentry is a self-described "altright" website that features racist and anti-Semitic material, repeatedly warns about "White Genocide," and is produced by a Trump activist who said whites need to "fight back" against African-Americans and "send them back to the mud-huts they so desperately and obviously desire."

Citizens for Trump and Roger Stone will host the "America First Unity Rally" in Cleveland on July 18, coinciding with the first day of the Republican National Convention. The event will also feature Trump surrogates Darrell Scott and Diamond & Silk.

Conspiracy theorist radio host Alex Jones will also speak and his website Infowars.com is sponsoring the event.

Posted by orrinj at 7:00 PM


Bonds believes Ichiro could win Home Run Derby (Steven Kubitza, 7/07/16, Call to the pen)

Posted by orrinj at 6:53 PM


Texas Wants Aborted Fetuses Buried or Cremated (Alexa Ura, July 6, 2016, Texas Tribune)

In a new effort to regulate abortion providers, Texas health officials are proposing rules that would require abortion providers to cremate or bury fetal remains.

The new rules, proposed by the Health and Human Services Commission, would no longer allow abortion providers to dispose of fetal remains in sanitary landfills, instead allowing only cremation or interment of all remains -- regardless of the period of gestation. Abortion providers currently use third-party special waste disposal services.

"The Health and Human Services Commission developed new rules to ensure Texas law maintains the highest standards of human dignity," said health commission spokesman Bryan Black.

Posted by orrinj at 4:33 PM


California poll: Donald Trump hitting 'historic' lows in presidential race (Matthew Artz,  07/07/2016, San Jose Mercury News)

Trump, who at least temporarily has shuttered his California campaign offices, trails Clinton by 30 points in a two-person race and by 24 points when Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson is thrown into the mix. [...]

[I]t's hard to fathom Trump prevailing when the poll shows him trailing Clinton among California Latinos 75 percent to 12 percent in a two-person race. With Johnson included, Trump's share of the Latino vote sank to just 9 percent.

That's a long slide from the days of Ronald Reagan, who won 40 percent of Latinos in 1980.

"When you are getting single-digit support from a constituency that is 25 percent of registered voters and increasing, that is almost insurmountable," DiCamillo said.

Posted by orrinj at 4:28 PM


Majority of GOP senators to attend Trump convention (Alexander Bolton - 07/07/16, The Hill)

16 skipping

Kelly Ayotte (N.H.)

Roy Blunt (Mo.) -- Spokesman: "The Missouri primary election is two weeks after the convention."

Mike Crapo (Idaho) -- "I'm in cycle and focusing on my own election."

Steve Daines (Mont.) -- "I'll have my fly rod in my hand with my wife in Montana."

Mike Enzi (Wyo.) 

Jeff Flake (Ariz.) -- "I've got to mow my lawn."

Lindsey Graham (S.C.)

Ron Johnson (Wis.) -- "Right now I don't have plans to."

Mark Kirk (Ill.)

John McCain (Ariz.) -- "I'm up for reelection."

Jerry Moran (Kan.) -- "I haven't made a final decision, but I haven't planned on it."

Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) -- "I'm up in the state."

Marco Rubio (Fla.) -- Spokesman: "Marco had planned to go to the convention before he decided to seek reelection. Since Marco got into the race late, he will be in Florida campaigning and meeting with voters instead of going to Ohio."

Ben Sasse (Neb.) -- Spokesman: "Sen. Sasse will not be attending the convention and will instead take his kids to watch some dumpster fires across the state, all of which enjoy more popularity than the current front-runners."

Richard Shelby (Ala.) -- Spokesman: "I do not believe he plans to attend."

Pat Toomey (Pa.) -- "I'm not planning on being there."

Posted by orrinj at 4:20 PM


Chicago on the Brink : A retreat from proactive policing has unleashed mayhem in the city. (Heather Mac Donald, Summer 2016, City Journal)

Social breakdown lies behind Chicago's historically high levels of violence. Fatherlessness in the city's black community is at a cataclysmic level--close to 80 percent of children are born to single mothers in high-crime areas. Illegitimacy is catching up fast among Hispanics, as well. Gangs have stepped in where fathers are absent. A 2012 gang audit documented 59 active street gangs with 625 factions, some controlling a single block. Schools in gang territories go on high alert at dismissal time to fend off violence. Endemic crime has prevented the commercial development and gentrification that are revitalizing so many parts of Chicago closer to downtown; block after block on the South Side features a wan liquor store or check-cashing outlet, surrounded by empty lots and the occasional skeleton of a once-magnificent beaux-arts apartment complex or bank. Nonfunctioning streetlights, their fuse boxes vandalized, signal the reign of a local gang faction.

But disorder, bad before, seems to be worsening. The night after my conversations with Felicia Moore and City Streets, dozens of teens burst into the intersection of Cicero and Madison on the West Side, stopping traffic and ignoring the loud approach of a fire truck. They hold their cell phones high, the new sign of urban empowerment. Earlier that day, a fight involving at least 60 teens took over a nearby intersection, provoking a retaliatory shooting two days later at a local fried-chicken restaurant. On May 14, a 13-year-old girl stabbed a 15-year-old girl to death in a South Side housing complex; the murderer's mother had given her the knife. In the summer of 2015, wolf packs of teens marauded down Michigan Avenue's Magnificent Mile, robbing stores and pedestrians. The phenomenon started even earlier this year. A couple strolling on Lake Shore Drive downtown on Memorial Day weekend were chased by more than a half-dozen young men, at least one armed with a gun. The two tried to escape across the highway, the teens in hot pursuit. A pickup truck hit the couple, killing the female. A police officer flashed his emergency lights at the teens, and they fled. "If it wasn't for the police being there at the time, I don't know where I might be now," the surviving man told the Chicago Sun-Times. "Six feet under?"

Public-order infractions, otherwise known as "Broken Windows" offenses, abound. Stand just a few minutes on a South or West Side thoroughfare, and someone will stride by hawking bootleg CDs or videos and loose cigarettes. Oliver, a 34-year-old with a Bloods tattoo and alcohol on his breath, has just been frisked by the police in a West Side White Castle parking lot around 9:30 PM. "The police are assholes," he says. "I know my rights; I'm selling CDs, so I know I'm doing something wrong, but they weren't visible in my bag." Oliver then sells two loosies to a passerby, laboriously counting out change from a five-dollar bill.

Some law-abiding Chicagoans blame the rising violence on just such street disorder. After a woman and four men were shot at a bus stop on the South Side in May, a local resident complained about the illegal vending. "This sort of congregation of people who meet at this space dealing drugs and selling loose cigarettes . . . is despicable," he told the Chicago Tribune. The drug trade is less overt but more ubiquitous than the trafficking in CDs and loosies. As I approach a Jamaican jerk restaurant on the West Side, the young men in front melt away. "You saw what happened when you pulled up here--everyone disappeared," a middle-aged man tells me. "They sell drugs everywhere."

The majority of victims in the current crime wave are already known to the police. Four-fifths of the Memorial Day shooting victims, for example, were on the Chicago Police Department's list of gang members deemed most prone to violence.

Depopulate it.
Posted by orrinj at 4:15 PM


Posted by orrinj at 4:10 PM


Trump, seeking GOP unity, has tense meeting with Senate Republicans (Sean Sullivan and Philip Rucker, July 7, 2016, Washington Post) 

Donald Trump's private meeting Thursday with Senate Republicans -- designed to foster greater party unity ahead of the national convention in Cleveland -- grew combative as the presumptive presidential nominee admonished three senators who have been critical of his candidacy and predicted they would lose their reelection bids, according to two Republican officials with direct knowledge of the exchanges.

Trump's most tense exchange was with Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who has been vocal in his concerns about the business mogul's candidacy, especially his rhetoric and policies on immigration that the senator argues alienate many Latino voters and others in Arizona.

When Flake stood up and introduced himself, Trump told him, "You've been very critical of me."

"Yes, I'm the other senator from Arizona -- the one who didn't get captured -- and I want to talk to you about statements like that," Flake responded, according to two Republican officials. [...]

Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) left the meeting worried about Trump's grasp on the basics of the Constitution. At a lunch with reporters afterward, he recalled that the candidate did not seem to know what he was promising to defend.

"I wasn't particularly impressed," said Sanford. "It was the normal stream of consciousness that's long on hyperbole and short on facts. At one point, somebody asked about Article I powers: What will you do to protect them? I think his response was, 'I want to protect Article I, Article II, Article XII,' going down the list. There is no Article XII."

Posted by orrinj at 3:58 PM


Robots will not take over the world : Artificial intelligence expert Professor Nick Jennings says the next generation of smart machines is all about saving lives (Laura Freeman, 9 July 2016, The Spectator)

Professor Nick Jennings, vice-provost of research at Imperial College London, has devoted his working life to artificial intelligence (AI), autonomous-computing and cybersecurity. He is the government's former chief scientific advisor on national security, Regius professor of computer science at Southampton University, and has many letters after his name: CB, FREng, FIEEE, FBCS, FIET. The CB -- Companion of the Order of Bath -- is the most recent, given in the Queen's New Year-Honours for services to national security science. But the letters he is most interested in are AI.

You can turn to Isaac Asimov or computing manuals for long-winded explanations, but Jennings, below, puts it-simply: 'It's about making machines do smart things.' He is sceptical about end-of-days predictions. 'There's been a lot in the press recently about AI-taking over humanity and wiping us all out. That's the kind of thing we see in the films. My take on AI is not that. I see AI very much as complementary to human expertise and endeavour -- working with smarter machines which are able to shoulder the load and engage with us in a more useful way; in systems where lots of different humans and lots of different smart machines come together to do their stuff, then disband again. I call those human-agent collectives.'

For the last five years, he has been working on the Orchid-Project, a research programme that teams computer science-academics with engineering, logistics and-robotics firms. The project has dealt mainly with natural disasters, including the earthquakes in Haiti in 2010 and Nepal last year. It also considered the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 and the failings of technology to locate the wreckage.

The systems Jennings and his team work on fuse information from a vast number of origins: crowd-sourced from social media, data about the environment, maps, electricity grids, water sources, transport routes. Such quantities of data -- particularly the many-thousands of social-media messages sent in the aftermath of a disaster are impossible for a human team to analyse quickly. A smart algorithm can do it very quickly.

Posted by orrinj at 3:53 PM


Unconventional Convention (OLIVER WISEMAN, July/August 2016, Standpoint)

For a man who wants to be President of the United States, Gary Johnson apologises a lot -- often when he doesn't have anything to apologise for. Apologetic modesty is his default setting. When answering questions, even easy ones, he is prone to raise his shoulders in a shrug, tilt his head, smile and begin his answer with "Look . . .", "Listen . . .", "Well . . ." or some other I'm-being-as-reasonable-as-I-can sort of opening. When he complains about not being included in national polls, a regular gripe of his, he does not rail at being shut out of the system; instead, he says calmly, "Hey, why not include this guy?" At one point in the convention he even says, "I constantly apologise for not being the best advocate when it comes to articulating these things." His style, however, is a mixed blessing. The bumbling means media appearances can fall flat and he often misses opportunities to make a clear case for libertarianism. But by avoiding the kind of declarative statements that go down well with doctrinaire libertarians -- "Taxation is theft!" -- he has an appeal to voters susceptible to libertarianism of a more common-sense tinge. Added to Johnson's mild manner is a lack of polish. During one televised press conference in Orlando, a journalist asks how he feels and he releases a loud "Whooooooop!" When asked if he's a fringe candidate his response is usually "Oh, yeah, totally fringe." The last time he ran for president he stripped naked and climbed into a hot tub while a reporter profiling him looked on. 

Johnson spent his life before politics running Big J Enterprises, a thousand-man construction company that grew out of his work as a door-to-door handyman in college. He is lean and fit, not just by the standards of a 63-year-old but by any measure. In his spare time he runs ultramarathons and takes part in Ironman races (extended triathlons). He has climbed Everest and hasn't had a drink in 29 years because alcohol was "stopping me being the best rock climber I could be". He has spent the last few years as CEO of a medical marijuana company and said in March that he uses the drug "occasionally".

To the party faithful, Johnson's name is shorthand for compromise. Many Libertarians are wary -- and weary -- of self-exiled Republicans using their party as a last-chance saloon. Their 2008 candidate for president, Bob Barr, was once a prominent social conservative whose voting record as a Congressman was given a perfect score by the Christian Coalition, and who, in the 1990s, was a leading figure in the impeachment of Bill Clinton, arguing in Congress that "the flames of hedonism, the flames of narcissism, the flames of self-centred morality are licking at the very foundation of our society." Barr had gone on something of a political journey to get from there to a sufficiently live-and-let-live approach to feel at home with Libertarians. Yet while "recovering Republicans", as many describe themselves, make up a significant chunk of Libertarian supporters, there are a good number of members with a left-wing background and, if the Orlando convention is anything to go by, "Republican!" is an insult Libertarians are fond of hurling at each other. 

Among delegates I speak to, the spectrum of opinions on Johnson, the Governor turned pot CEO, range from those who just don't see Johnson as a true Libertarian to those who agree with him when he asks, "If you can't go straight from A to Z, why not start with B?"  

One week before the convention, Johnson burnishes his mainstream credentials by announcing Bill Weld as his preferred running-mate. Weld, 70, was the Republican Governor of Massachusetts from 1991 to 1997. He is about as Yankee-establishment as they come. He is a Harvard man. He sprinkles his speech with sailing metaphors, and the prefix "My old friend" automatically attaches itself to the names of presidents, senators and every other bigwig he mentions. Asked how his family got their money, he once said, "We don't get money, we have money."

Both Johnson and Weld were Republican Governors in "blue" (Democrat)  states, something that adds to their neither-Trump-nor-Hillary appeal. Weld's political reputation is built on fiscal conservatism. He may have an orthodox manner and fuddy-duddy instincts (he irritates delegates in Orlando by telling them people think voting Libertarian means that unsavoury types will move into the neighbourhood), but his social liberalism is sincere. As Governor he was an advocate for gay rights and appointed Margaret Marshall, the judge who would go on to rule that same-sex couples in the state had the right to marry. He says of the two main parties, "The Ds are off-base economically and the Rs are off- base on social issues." 

In Orlando, Weld struggles to shake off the impression that at heart he is still a Republican. He tells me, somewhat unconvincingly, that he feels at home at the convention, which "really isn't that different from a Republican convention, and I've been to plenty of those". 

Posted by orrinj at 3:45 PM


NKorea: US sanctions tantamount to act of war (AP, 7/07/16)

North Korea said Thursday that U.S. sanctions on leader Kim Jong Un and other top officials for human rights abuses are tantamount to declaring war.

Posted by orrinj at 2:21 PM


US bond yields have never been this low--and we looked at data going back to 1786 (Matt Phillips, 7/07/16, Quartz)

[T]o really understand what makes the bond market interesting, you have to look at the big picture. A really big picture. You basically need like 200 years worth of data. Luckily, the good people at Global Financial Data have just provided us with just that in the form of monthly US long-term bond yields stretching all the way back to 1786. Using more than two centuries of amalgamated data on long-term high-quality bonds, we can see that interest rates in the US have struck never before seen low levels recently.

Posted by orrinj at 11:05 AM


Private payrolls, low jobless claims underscore U.S. labor market strength (LUCIA MUTIKANI, 7/07/16, Reuters)

U.S. private payrolls increased more than expected in June and fewer Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, suggesting a rebound in job growth after May's paltry gains.

Thursday's reports underscored the economy's strength and supported views that the United States would weather the impact of last month's British referendum to leave the European Union. [...]

Claims have now been below 300,000, a threshold associated with a healthy labor market, for 70 straight weeks, the longest stretch since 1973.

Posted by orrinj at 10:59 AM


Immigration reformers eye Gang of 8 revival : Several members of the group that fell short of getting immigration reform into law are ready to try again. (SEUNG MIN KIM and BURGESS EVERETT 07/05/16, Politico)

[Lindsey] Graham isn't the only one eyeing a revival of the Gang of Eight, the bipartisan group of senators that shepherded a sweeping immigration bill through the Senate three years ago only to watch it stall in the House a year later. Propelled by a Republican establishment eager to make inroads with minority voters after losing them by steep margins in the 2012 election, it was the closest Congress came in a generation to overhauling the nation's immigration laws,

Several influential lawmakers see another opening for immigration reform in 2017, especially if Hillary Clinton wins and the GOP takes another hit among Latinos. Mitt Romney was hammered for his "self-deportation" rhetoric four years ago. But that pales in comparison to Donald Trump's vow to remove 11 million immigrants here illegally and calling Mexicans who cross the border illegally "rapists" and "murderers."

Gang of Eight leader Chuck Schumer is poised to become majority leader if Democrats take the Senate this year. And the New York senator already said immigration reform would be a top priority, most recently in an interview last week. The recent Supreme Court deadlock that left President Barack Obama's controversial executive actions on hold demonstrated that, for now, major changes to the nation's immigration policy will have to come from Capitol Hill.

Republicans are also under increasing pressure to act. Several GOP senators from Latino-heavy states -- such as David Perdue of Georgia and Thom Tillis of North Carolina -- were elected in 2014 and are eager to dig into the issue.

Posted by orrinj at 10:35 AM


The death cult of environmentalism (Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, July 5, 2016, The Week)

There's nothing new, unusual, or dangerous about GMOs. Nothing. And all the science confirms it. And yet a strong and vocal fringe, and indeed a majority of people in some advanced countries, are opposed to GMOs. Here's Bernie Sanders vowing to fight for GMO labeling at the federal level.

This anti-science fringe is much less attacked than other fringes, because it is associated with the political left, and much of our media and commenting class assume that hostility to science is a value of the political right.

But the environmentalist left has a long history of damaging hostility to evidence, a hostility which has cost many, many lives over the decades.

Let's come up with just two examples. The biggest cause célèbre, which is also known as the founding of the modern environmentalist movement, is the (in)famous case of DDT. As a long article by Robert Zubrin in the review The New Atlantis explains, this miraculous insect-killer eliminated malaria, as well as many other insect-borne diseases, from the Southern United States, Southern Europe, and parts of South Asia, and was poised to do the same thing to Africa until it was banned by a fledgling EPA on unscientific grounds.

In 1970, in a comprehensive review on the pesticide, the National Academy of Sciences stated:

To only a few chemicals does man owe as great a debt as to DDT. It has contributed to the great increase in agricultural productivity, while sparing countless humanity from a host of diseases, most notably, perhaps, scrub typhus and malaria. Indeed, it is estimated that, in little more than two decades, DDT has prevented 500 million deaths due to malaria that would otherwise have been inevitable.

But no matter. DDT might have endangered the spotted owl (there's no evidence it did, by the way). And so it had to go.

Another famous example is nuclear power, which has almost no carbon emissions, is very cheap to run, and works fine. Opposition to nuclear power seems mostly motivated by superstition. Indeed, coal kills 4,000 times more people per unit of energy than nuclear, but in almost every country in the world, it's basically impossible to build a nuclear power plant. After Fukushima, despite a notable lack of tsunamis on German shores, Germany banned nuclear power and replaced it with a mix of dirty coal power and imported French (i.e. nuclear) power.

And what about all those ludicrously insane predictions of Armageddon that all those scientists made in the 1970s, warning that we would all be dead, or something like it, by the year 2000, if we didn't shut down power plants and oil wells right this minute?

Environmentalism sometimes has a little bit of a whiff of a death cult. It sometimes leans towards an anti-human worldview, one that views the Earth goddess as the only valuable "life-form" and humans as parasites. And it sometimes feels like more of a fundamentalist religion than anything else.

Heck, they don't even bother to hide their hatred of humankind anymore.  Alan Weisman's World Without Us was an extended argument--in defiance of physics--that nature would be superior without Man being part of it.  And the recent sci-fi novel, The Three-Body Problem, features an environmentalist heroine who encourages aliens to come and destroy us.

July 6, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 6:42 PM


'World is a better place without Saddam,' Tony Blair justifies Iraq War (Deutsche-Welle, 7/06/16)

In 2002, Blair told former US President George W. Bush that he would support him in the run-up to the invasion. In a note from Blair to Bush written on July 28 2002, the summer before the invasion of Iraq, Blair wrote: "I will be with you, whatever. But this is the moment to assess bluntly the difficulties. The planning on this and the strategy are the toughest yet."

Blair said in his 2002 note to Bush that getting rid of Saddam was "the right thing to do", adding: "He is a potential threat. He could be contained. But containment... Is always risky. His departure would free up the region. And his regime is...brutal and inhumane."

..was that he refused to let his people govern themselves and our resulting sanctions were killing innocent people.

Posted by orrinj at 4:39 PM


The American people deserve better jobs. Passing new laws is not the solution (Peter Morici, July 06, 2016  FoxNews.com)

The U.S. economy is growing again--about 2.5 percent annually in the second quarter and going forward--but good jobs remain scarce and wage gains lackluster. New technologies are reducing the demand for workers but poor government policies are making matters worse.

Friday, the Labor Department is expected to report the economy added 180,000 jobs in June, but this is partially catch up after a Verizon strike hammered down the May figure. The monthly average was about 113,000 from April to June, and that's about half the pace from 2013 to 2015.  

The robotics and artificial intelligence revolution is all around us--even if we don't yet have an android doing our housework.

Uber brings patrons cars without the dispatchers that once took calls at the local car services.  At Amazon Prime, customers point and click without the aid of sales clerks and packages are increasingly assembled by robots at fulfillment centers.  

Tasks requiring complex manual dexterity have proven tougher to replace but automated checkouts are spreading, and robots are at the cusp of not just taking orders at McDonald's but also grasping and handing you hamburgers, fries and soft drinks.

Globalization accelerates these trends by forcing more aggressive substitution of machines for high-wage Americans in factories.

The next generation of Boeing jetliners will be assembled with more robots--moving and fixing components into place. What few people are left will be greatly assisted, for example, by Google Glass and software that aid in assembling the complex wiring and programming of cockpits.

Thankfully, globalization and cometition focus us on replacing the rest of the jobs with automation.
Posted by orrinj at 4:31 PM


Water guns will be banned at Cleveland's Republican National Convention -- firearms won't be (LAURA BULT, 7/01/16, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)

Strict RNC rules call for a ban on soda cans, glass bottles, tennis balls, umbrellas with metal tips and "any projectile launcher" like BB guns, paintball guns and water guns in the 1.7-square-mile "event zone" surrounding the Quicken Loans Arena convention site, where 2,470 delegates will gather to officially name Donald Trump as the party's nominee.

But pistol-packing protesters -- as per Ohio's lax open-carry laws -- can freely carry in public areas, like parks, within the designated zones around the venue.

Posted by orrinj at 4:21 PM


Trump Praised Saddam Hussein for Killing Terrorists. In Reality, the Iraqi Dictator Paid Them Lavishly for Killing Jews. (Yair Rosenberg, 7/06/16, Tablet)

Unlike most of Trump's positions, he has actually been consistent on this one. The candidate previously valorized Hussein's purported counterterror prowess in New Hampshire back in January 2014, then repeated the claim again on Fox News in December 2015.

Like a great many things Trump says, however, this assertion is not only incorrect, but the opposite of the truth--as any Israeli would tell you. To begin with, Hussein infamously terrorized hundreds of thousands of Israel's civilians in 1991 by rocketing Tel Aviv and Haifa with scud missiles during the Gulf War--even though Israel was not a party to the conflict. (He was cynically attempting to provoke an Israeli entry into the war to break up the Arab coalition against him, and used the lives of innocent Israelis as pawns in his sadistic game.)

Hussein also personally bankrolled Palestinian terrorism against Israeli civilians. As numerous media outlets reported in 2002, the Iraqi dictator issued scores of payouts to the families of suicide bombers for sums reaching $25,000. Hussein's incentives appeared to have an impact. As CBS reported in April 2002: "Since Iraq upped its payments last month, 12 suicide bombers have successfully struck inside Israel, including one man who killed 25 Israelis, many of them elderly, as they sat down to a meal at a hotel to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Passover. The families of three suicide bombers said they have recently received payments of $25,000."

In 2004, a congressional investigation found that Hussein had stolen the funds from the United Nations' oil-for-food program. According to Palestinians, the sum total of this blood money ultimately reached an astounding $35 million.

Posted by orrinj at 4:14 PM


Both Joni Ernst and Bob Corker are backing away from being Trump's VP (Becca Stanek, 7/06/16, The Week)

Donald Trump's VP shortlist may have just gotten two names shorter. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) told The Washington Post on Wednesday that he'd taken himself out of the running to be Trump's ticket-mate, saying that "there are people far more suited for being a candidate for vice president, and I think I'm far more suited for other types of things." Corker, who is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he'd already told Trump he wasn't comfortable with being vice president, a position he called a "highly political job, and that's not who I am."

While Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) wasn't quite so honest with Trump, she dropped a big hint that she didn't think being veep was for her. "I made that very clear to him that I'm focused on Iowa," Ernst said Wednesday.

He'll only be able to get someone whose career is already over.
Posted by orrinj at 4:00 PM


Innovating in the Digital Economy : The Global Information Technology Report 2016 (World Economic Index)

Posted by orrinj at 3:55 PM


In Ramadan attacks, ISIS reveals its top target: other Muslims (Taylor Luck, JULY 6, 2016, CS Monitor)

From Istanbul to Saudi Arabia, Baghdad to Bangladesh, the Islamic State has been linked to or is suspected in attacks that deliver a clear message of intimidation to fellow Muslims. They are part of a growing campaign to silence leading Islamic voices who challenge the group's narrow, apocalyptic interpretation of Islam. [...]

It is a stark reminder that, in the self-declared Islamic State's efforts to establish a caliphate, it is rival Muslims - who fail to join their jihad - who are a much greater enemy than non-Muslim "infidels."

Posted by orrinj at 1:26 PM


Obama to leave more troops than planned in Afghanistan (Stephen Collinson and Tal Kopan, 7/06/16, CNN)

Speaking from the White House, Obama said he would draw down troops to 8,400 by the end of his administration, from the initial target of 5,500. Currently there are 9,800 troops supporting the Afghanistan government in its fight against the Taliban, attempts by al Qaeda to regroup and a nascent threat from ISIS.

An ideologue would not have responded to facts on the ground.

Posted by orrinj at 1:10 PM


GOP Strategist Rick Wilson Explains Why White Nationalism Is A 'Feature' Of The Trump Campaign (Germania Rodriguez, July 6, 2016, National Memo)

GOP strategist Rick Wilson appeared on "All In with Chris Hayes" on Tuesday to shine a light on the real reason anti-Semitism and white nationalism keep popping up in the Trump campaign - they are a "feature," not "a bug," of the campaign.

Wilson, a Republican who has firmly opposed Trump from the start, wrote an open letter to RNC chairman Reince Preibus asking him get Trump "to block the neo-Nazis, anti-Semites, overt racists and other scum who litter his timeline." His effort was unsuccessful because Preibus was scared of offending Trump, he said, and Trump doesn't want to offend his base.

That base, Wilson explained, is filled with a "deeply resentful, edge-case group of people who really believe that the Jews control the world and that white nationalism is the future of American politics."

Wilson broke down the depth of the Trump campaign's outreach to extremist groups, pointing out that Trump engages with them, replying to them, retweeting them, and otherwise encouraging them. This is a planned strategy that Trump and his social media team follow as a central part of his campaign.

Clinton Targets College-Educated Whites in Bid for Swing States : Long a Republican mainstay, white college graduates are trending Democratic in 2016. (Margaret Talev, Jennifer Epstein, Gregory Giroux, July 5, 2016, Bloomberg)

Hillary Clinton's path to the White House relies on reassembling the winning Obama coalition of minority voters and women, but her campaign is vying for a demographic long out of reach for Democrats--college-educated whites--that could reshape the map of U.S. swing states this year.

For decades, white voters with at least a bachelor's degree have favored the Republican nominee over the Democrat in U.S. presidential elections, although not by as much as working-class whites.

The 2016 presidential election is turning that dynamic on its head. Polling shows that while presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump is the clear choice among white voters without a college education, whites who've completed college prefer Clinton. It's a trend analysts say is especially apparent among women, and may become more pronounced between now and November.

Posted by orrinj at 1:05 PM


Why Donald Trump praises Saddam Hussein (David Iaconangelo, JULY 6, 2016, CS Monitor)

"Saddam Hussein was a bad guy, right?... But you know what he did well? He killed terrorists. He did that so good," Mr. Trump told supporters. "They didn't read them the rights, they didn't talk. They were a terrorist, it was over." [...]

The terrorists were, of course, the Kurds and the majority Shi'a and their demand was self-governance.  A foreign policy of Realism prefers orderly genocide to messy democracy.  It's also completely consistent with his racism.
Posted by orrinj at 11:11 AM


TRUMP, THE MAN AND THE IMAGE : His words increasingly signify his confusion about who he is and what he has got himself into. (Mark Singer, 7/05/16, The New Yorker)

No one disputes that Trump is not a politician; he is a visionary salesman whose ingenious project, hatched while he was still in his twenties, was to brand and plaster himself everywhere. He started with the family business--real estate--and then expanded to ca{***]os. Despite several bankruptcies, he continued to pursue myriad schemes that epitomized A. J. Liebling's "man who mulcts another man of a dollar, or any fraction or multiple thereof." Trump had long since chosen to reduce--or, in his calculation, surely, to inflate--himself to a persona: "Donald Trump." Pivoting to Trump 2.0 likewise meant having no use for the intimacies and the self-examination inherent in personhood. The praise Trump elicits from voters for his "authenticity," for "telling it like it is," elides the fact that he is committed to hiding his human side from the world and, for that matter, from himself. "I don't like to analyze myself because I might not like what I see," he confessed to one of his biographers, Michael D'Antonio.

Posted by orrinj at 11:07 AM


Air cargo firms feel the pressure from plunge in freight prices (VICTORIA BRYAN, 7/04/16, Reuters)

Following a sharp fall in freight prices air cargo companies are set to trim their fleets and jobs further to battle overcapacity while looking for new partnerships and products to carry, industry executives and analysts say.

Global trade volumes fell for the first time since 2009 by 1.7 percent between the final quarter of 2015 and the first quarter of 2016 and the International Air Transport Association has lowered its growth forecast for air freight demand in 2016 to 2.1 percent from 3 percent.

And while the impact of Britain's Brexit vote on the UK air freight market remains uncertain, prices for air freight generally are down about 15-20 percent compared with last year due to capacity outstripping demand by a factor of three.

"It's a landslide," Lufthansa Cargo (LHAG.DE) CEO Peter Gerber said on Tuesday. "With prices falling so quickly, we have to cut costs."

Posted by orrinj at 10:53 AM


This rapper is trying to get his fellow evangelicals to talk about race. Not everyone is on board. (Michelle Boorstein July 1 , 2016, Washington Post)

Evangelicals love to, well, evangelize, and in recent years they've grown tired of the mostly white cultural ghetto of Kirk Cameron movies and Christian praise bands they'd created over the past few decades. And for the born-again street kid, the clear, black-and-white truth of conservative Christianity was like a new drug he was happily hooked on.

Lately, though, the unlikely union has been hitting some bumps.

As Lecrae's stature as a musician and cultural leader has risen, the 6-foot-4, smiley former drug dealer has become a lightning rod in the evangelical community. Some badly want him to speak out more about issues like Ferguson and Donald Trump's rhetoric on immigration, while others say that he should "stick to the gospel."

Lecrae is part of a cohort that is itself in flux. The stand-off between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton is challenging lots of narratives about American Christianity.

Is an evangelical someone who prioritizes fighting abortion and gay marriage or a pragmatist who looks for the middle ground? Does it go against Christian values to support a candidate who wants to deport Muslims and uses "Mexican" as a slur? And is there an "evangelical" position on police treatment of blacks in 2016?

Cruising Manhattan in the back of a stretch black SUV on a recent afternoon, Lecrae Devaughn Moore knows that he represents a new evangelical archetype. And he loves it.

"What I bring is unique. No one else brings to the table what I am," he said. "That's how I look at myself - a clear voice in the middle of it all."

American Christians, particularly the young, are dying for leaders willing to walk away from partisan polarization, and for some, Lecrae is a beacon. They flock to his concerts, they buy his books and they listen to his lectures.

"This generation doesn't have a Billy Graham," said LaDawn Johnson, a sociologist at Biola University, an evangelical school outside Los Angeles where Lecrae performed in April. "Lecrae is in a position where he could definitely for many young people be that voice and be that model."

July 5, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:42 PM


Turkey's Erdogan Moots Plan To Grant Citizenship To Syrians (REUTERS, 07/05/16)

President Tayyip Erdogan outlined plans on Tuesday to grant citizenship to some of the near 3 million migrants who have fled war in neighboring Syria, particularly those with qualifications of use to Turkey.

"Western nations open their doors to such skilled individuals and they have no choice but to go (to the West) when we do not open the gates (of citizenship) ourselves. We would like to benefit from their knowledge," Erdogan told reporters after praying at an Istanbul mosque.

Posted by orrinj at 7:11 PM


Fed's Williams says Brexit effect as expected, no big deal (Reuters, 7/05/16)

U.S. market reaction to Britain's vote to leave the European Union has played out "more or less" as expected, and the impact on the U.S. economy is much less than other that of other events in recent years, a top Federal Reserve official said on Tuesday.

"The economic effects, on the baseline scenario, are relatively modest, but there still is the uncertainty about how things are actually going to play out," San Francisco Federal Reserve President John Williams said in an interview Friday with Market Watch that was published Tuesday.

"I don't think it is nearly as big a deal as the euro crisis from 2011-2012," he said.

Posted by orrinj at 6:56 PM


Muslim world condemns Saudi holy site bombing (IAN TIMBERLAKE July 6, 2016, AFP) 

The Saudi interior ministry said officers became suspicious of a man heading for the mosque through a parking lot.

"As they tried to stop him, he blew himself up with an explosive belt causing his death and the death of four police," it said, adding five others were wounded.

The targeting of Medina caused shock and outrage across Islam's religious divide.

Shiite power Iran called for Muslim unity and the Afghan Taliban branded it "gruesome".

"There are no more red lines left for terrorists to cross. Sunnis, Shi'ites will both remain victims unless we stand united as one," Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted.

The Taliban said it "condemns this incident in the strongest of terms and considers it an act of enmity and hatred towards Islamic rituals."

Lebanon-based Shi'ite terrorist group Hezbollah also denounced it as "a new sign of the terrorists' contempt for all that Muslims consider sacred."

Posted by orrinj at 6:38 PM


Lagging in Fundraising, Donald Trump Has Aired Zero TV Ads in Last Month -- Report (REBECCA BALLHAUS, Jul 5, 2016, WSJ)

Hillary Clinton has aired 20,000 TV ad spots since June 8, the day after she became the Democratic Party's presumptive nominee.

Donald Trump's ad tally in that period: zero.

That's a historic imbalance in TV ads at this stage in the election, and it illustrates the immediate effect of Mr. Trump having raised little money for his campaign to date.

...is that they don't even get when they're victims of a hoax.

Posted by orrinj at 6:33 PM


Placebos physically boost immunity, Israeli study shows (MARLOWE HOOD July 5, 2016, AFP)

Artificially stimulating the brain's feel-good center boosts immunity in mice in a way that could help explain the power of placebos, a study reported Monday.

"Our findings indicate that activation of areas of the brain associated with positive expectations can affect how the body copes with diseases," said senior author Asya Rolls, an assistant professor at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology's Faculty of Medicine.

The findings, reported in Nature Medicine, "might one day lead to the development of new drugs that utilize the brain's potential to cure," she said.

Posted by orrinj at 4:18 PM


Trump's Twitter War Against Clinton Turns Anti-Semitic, Surprising Nobody (Jesse Bernstein, July 5, 2016, The Tablet)

"But he has Jewish friends/family/employees!"

That's been the refrain since last Saturday (or really, since December) when Donald Trump, or one his campaign surrogates, or one of his adoring fans, makes a questionable comment about Jews. And on Saturday morning, Trump, in attempt to take another shot at "Crooked Hillary," waded into anti-Semitic waters once again [...]

How to decipher the latest from the Donald? The easiest route to take is to call him an anti-Semite, which may very well be true, but doesn't quite get at what makes this so interesting. Mistakes tend to reveal far more about the zeitgeist of a campaign than successes, and this one is no different.

Let's say it was truly a mistake. Scavino, trolling Twitter for a succinct Hillary takedown, happened upon this image and a) didn't check the history of the user who posted it, which was virulently racist and anti-Semitic, and b) hastily grabbed the image without realizing the connotations, which should've been obvious. The smart thing to do, obviously, would've been to disavow the image, acknowledge the mistake, and move on. But contrition isn't really in the Trump playbook, so instead, we get conflicting apologists. Scavino didn't really apologize and sort of blamed Microsoft, while Lewandowski and Trump both claim it was misconstrued.

Former Ku Klux Klan Leader David Duke Defends Donald Trump Tweet (Rachel Dicker, July 5, 2016, US News)

Back in February, there was some confusion over whether Trump had disavowed Duke's endorsement of his campaign.

When given the opportunity to separate himself from Duke in a CNN interview, Trump refused, and later maintained that he could not hear what he was being asked.

Posted by orrinj at 12:01 PM


House Speaker Ryan slams Trump 'star' tweet (Reuters, 7/05/16)

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan on Tuesday slammed as "ridiculous" Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's social media post depicting Democratic rival Hillary Clinton against a backdrop of cash and a Star of David, and said anti-semitic images have "no place in a presidential campaign."

Making America Hate Again (Nicole Hemmer, July 5, 2016, US News)

It should come as no surprise that Donald Trump tweeted an anti-Semitic image of Hillary Clinton over the weekend. Nor should it come as a surprise that the image originated in the putrid swamps of the online alt-right, a group of anti-Semites, white supremacists and others who gather to indulge their various obsessive hatreds.

That's because Trump, despite occasional tepid demurrals, has spent the last year making his campaign a safe space for these groups. A study published in Fortune back in March showed that 67.5 percent of the most influential tweeters of #WhiteGenocide - a hashtag favored by white supremacists - follow Trump. (By comparison, 17.7 percent followed Ted Cruz, and 5.7 percent followed Clinton.)

While candidates can't help who supports them, they can help how they respond. And Trump has responded with something between a secret handshake and a warm embrace. He regularly retweets white supremacists. He hesitated to denounce support from Klan leader David Duke. And he has accrued a substantial collection of his own racist quotes about Muslims, Mexicans and African-Americans. He favors racist policies, too - everything from his Muslim ban to his openness to internment.

Posted by orrinj at 11:43 AM


FBI Will Not Recommend Charges in Clinton Email Case (Morgan Chalfant  , July 5, 2016, Free Beacon)

The FBI will not recommend charges be brought against Hillary Clinton or any of her aides in connection with the former secretary of state's use of personal email to conduct government business, FBI Director James Comey said at a news conference Tuesday morning.

An awful lot of our wingnut friends are going to need a hug today.

Posted by orrinj at 11:25 AM


US oil reserves surpass those of Saudi Arabia and Russia (Anjli Raval, 7/04/16, Financial Times)

The US holds more oil reserves than Saudi Arabia and Russia, the first time it has surpassed those held by the world's biggest exporting nations, according to a new study.

Rystad Energy estimates recoverable oil in the US from existing fields, discoveries and yet undiscovered areas amounts to 264bn barrels. The figure surpasses Saudi Arabia's 212bn and Russia's 256bn in reserves.

Posted by orrinj at 11:19 AM


Meet David Dworken, the teenager who hacked the Pentagon (Anna Mulrine, JULY 5, 2016, CS Monitor)

Within 13 minutes of urging hackers to take their best shot at the Pentagon's public websites, the US government's first-ever bug bounty program had its first submission.

Just six hours later, hackers had already uncovered nearly 200 vulnerabilities in the Department of Defense's networks.

Already a staple for companies such as Google and Facebook, the bug bounty program - which pays friendly hackers to do the sorts of things that recreational hackers might do for fun, and that criminals like to do for far more nefarious purposes - was so successful that Pentagon officials say that they are considering another bug bounty program for later this year. Other federal agencies, they add, would do well to follow their lead. 

The chance to hack the feds drew a wide variety of comers, including David Dworken, 18, who has been a fan of bug bounty programs since middle school. He did it for the T-shirts initially.

Posted by orrinj at 11:06 AM


Russia Budget Deficit Hit Hard By Oil Prices, Reserve Fund Expected To Run Out By 2017 (REUTERS, 07/05/16)

Russia will exhaust one of its two sovereign funds next year, according to a finance ministry proposal seen by Reuters, having by that point run through $87 billion since the beginning of 2014 to fill holes in the budget left by a slump in oil prices.

Russia will also spend over the next three years about a third of another of its funds on covering the budget shortfall, the proposal showed, even though that fund was originally intended to cover long-term deficits in the pension system.

And you wonder why he's come crawling?


On Fourth of July, Putin tries to mend ties with Obama and US (Ben Rosen, JULY 5, 2016, CS Monitor)

Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a message to President Obama on Independence Day, Monday: let's make up for the sake of our countries and the world.

"The history of Russian-American relations shows that when we act as equal partners and respect each other's lawful interests, we are able to successfully resolve the most complex international issues for the benefit of both countries' peoples and all of humanity," said Mr. Putin.

The Russian plan to oust Bashar Al-Assad (Salman Al-Ansari, 7/02/16, The Hill)

All signs currently point to a large, polarizing path in Russian politics, as the facts on the ground prove that Russia is trying to find an exit strategy from the Syrian conflict that maximizes its gains, especially since Russia knows that the Syrian people will not accept Bashar's presence in any means whatsoever, not to mention that it is financially incapable of sustaining a military venture that has no guaranteed outcome.

However, the most important reason of all is Russia's desire to strengthen strategic and economic ties with Arab Gulf states that roundly reject the presence of Bashar, who has killed more than 400 thousand Syrian citizens and caused the displacement of another 12 million.

The question now is, how will Russia be able to save face in front of its allies in the event that it is forced to make Bashar leave? More importantly, does Russia even need to save face to begin with?

July 4, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:33 PM


Geoffrey Hill, 'one of the greatest English poets', dies aged 84 : Famously difficult author acclaimed by former poet laureate Andrew Motion as a writer 'of immense gifts and originality and authenticity' (Alison Flood, 1 July 2016, The Guardian)

Filling the prestigious role of Oxford's professor of poetry from 2010 until 2015, Hill was knighted for his services to literature in 2012 and was greatly acclaimed by critics and fellow poets. Mercian Hymns, published in 1971, was a collection of prose poems that combined the life of the eighth-century Mercian ruler, King Offa, with memories of Hill's own childhood in the Midlands. Broken Hierarchies, a collection published in 2013 that assembled 60 years of poetry, was judged by the Times Literary Supplement to be "work of the first importance".

The son of a village policeman, Hill has said that he was "glad and proud to have been born into the English working class". He went on to study at Oxford University, where he gained a first in English literature and published his first poems.

More than a dozen collections would follow, from King Log to Clavics and Odi Barbare, both nominated for the Forward prize. "What / ought a poem to be? Answer, a sad / and angry consolation," he wrote in The Triumph of Love. One of his most celebrated works, the Funeral Music sequence, concludes with the lines:

If it is without 
Consequence when we vaunt and suffer, or 
If it is not, all echoes are the same 
In such eternity. Then tell me, love, 
How that should comfort us--or anyone 
Dragged half-unnerved out of this worldly place, 
Crying to the end 'I have not finished'.

"Geoffrey Hill was one of the greatest English language poets of the last 70-odd years, and time may well prove him the greatest of all," said the poet Andrew Motion. The late Seamus Heaney had backed Hill to succeed Motion as the poet laureate, ahead of the appointment of Carol Ann Duffy to the position in 2009.

"England - the matter of, and the matter with England - stands at the centre of his work, but the brilliance and ambition with which he tackles themes of historical process, religion, politics and statehood (as well as the personal past), and the way his work combines subtlety with beauty, means that from a local base he is able to address and include the world," said Motion. "From the comparatively lucid earlier poems, all the way through to their later and more difficult counterparts, he has been exemplary: a poet of immense gifts and originality and authenticity."

We used a line of his in the preface to Redefining Sovereignty, where he expressed a delightful hostility to the EU.

Posted by orrinj at 7:28 PM


US coal company to lay off 80 percent of its workers, blames Obama (Nicole Orttung, JULY 3, 2016, CS Monitor)

Murray Energy, the largest privately held coal company in the US, is warning workers of massive layoffs planned for September, caused in part, Murray claims, by Obama's environmental regulations. As many as 82 percent of workers could lose their jobs at the company that employs people across six states.

Posted by orrinj at 7:21 PM


A Revolution Not Made But Prevented (Russell Kirk, Imaginative Conservative)

The most learned editor of Burke's works, E.J. Payne, summarizes Burke's account of the events of 1688-89 as "a revolution not made but prevented." Let us see how that theory may be applicable to North American events nine decades later.

We need first to examine definitions of that ambiguous word "revolution." The signification of the word was altered greatly by the catastrophic events of the French Revolution, commencing only two years after the Constitutional Convention of the United States. Before the French explosion of 1789-99, "revolution" commonly was employed to describe a round of periodic or recurrent changes or events--that is, the process of coming full cycle; or the act of rolling back or moving back, a return to a point previously occupied.

Not until the French radicals utterly overturned the old political and social order in their country did the word "revolution" acquire its present general meaning of a truly radical change in social and governmental institutions, a tremendous convulsion in society, producing huge alterations that might never be undone. Thus, when the eighteenth-century Whigs praised the "Glorious Revolution" of 1688, which established their party's domination, they did not mean that William and Mary, the Act of Settlement, and the Declaration of Rights had produced a radically new English political and social order. On the contrary, they argued that the English Revolution had restored tried and true constitutional practices, preservative of immemorial ways. It was James II, they contended, who had been perverting the English constitution; his overthrow had been a return, a rolling-back, to old constitutional order; the Revolution of 1688, in short, had been a healthy reaction, not a bold innovation.

The Whigs, Burke among them, here were employing that word "revolution" in its older sense. This shift in usage tends to confuse discussion today. If we employ the word "revolution" in its common signification near the end of the twentieth century, what occurred in 1688-89 was no true revolution. In the Whig interpretation of history, at least, the overturn of James II was a revolution not made, but prevented (according to the later definition of "revolution").

But what of the events in North America from 1775 to 1781? Was the War of Independence no revolution?

That war, with the events immediately preceding and following it, constituted a series of movements which produced separation from Britain and the establishment of a different political order in most of British North America. Yet the Republic of the United States was an order new only in some aspects, founded upon a century and a half of colonial experience and upon institutions, customs, and beliefs mainly of British origin. The American Revolution did not result promptly in the creation of a new social order, nor did the leaders in that series of movements intend that the new nation should break with the conventions, the moral convictions, and the major institutions (except monarchy) out of which America had arisen.

Of course, we made the institution of the presidency more powerful than the monarchy and we, unfortunately, lack that final depoliticized check on government that one can provide.
Posted by orrinj at 7:15 PM


What if Ted Williams never left baseball to serve in the military? (Ryan Spaeder, 7/04/16, Sporting News)

Williams actually managed to find some time to play for the Sox during the Korean War, playing 43 total games between 1952 and 1953. He batted .406/.508/.901 (269 OPS+) during that span and slugged home runs at a greater rate (11.82%) than Barry Bonds did during his record 2001 season (10.99%).

Posted by orrinj at 7:06 PM


Open AI Ecosystem Portends a Personal Assistant for Everyone : Artificial intelligence could unlock higher productivity and better health and happiness for millions of people (Dr Corinna Lathan, Stuart Russell, June 23, 2016, Scientific American)

One of the advantages that CEOs and celebrities have over most people is that they don't need to spend much time handling the uninteresting, time-consuming aspects of daily life: scheduling appointments, making travel plans, searching for the information they want. They have personal assistants, or PAs, who handle such things. But soon--maybe even this year--most of us will be able to afford this luxury for the price of few lattes a month, thanks to the emergence of an open AI ecosystem.

AI here refers, of course, to artificial intelligence. Apple's Siri, Microsoft's Cortana, Google's OK Google and Amazon's Echo services are nifty in the way that they extract questions from speech using natural-language processing and then do a limited set of useful things, such as look for a restaurant, get driving directions, find an open slot for a meeting, or run a simple web search. But too often their response to a request for help is "Sorry, I don't know about that" or "here's what I found on the web." You would never confuse these digital assistants for a human PA. Moreover, these systems are proprietary and hard for entrepreneurs to extend with new features.

But over the past several years, several pieces of emerging technology have linked together in ways that make it easier to build far more powerful, human-like digital assistants--that is, into an open AI ecosystem. This ecosystem connects not only to our mobile devices and computers--and through them to our messages, contacts, finances, calendars and work files--but also to the thermostat in the bedroom, the scale in the bathroom, the bracelet on the wrist, even the car in the driveway. The interconnection of the Internet with the Internet of Things and your own personal data, all instantly available almost anywhere via spoken conversations with an AI, could unlock higher productivity and better health and happiness for millions of people within the next few years.

Posted by orrinj at 6:26 PM


Omar Mateen's Gun: How Sig Sauer Cashed In By Selling Assault Rifles To Civilians (ERIC MARKOWITZ, 06/27/16, IB Times)

In 2004, Sig Sauer was on the brink of collapse. The New Hampshire weapons firm, which built the assault rifle used in the June 12 massacre in Orlando, Florida, was well known for high-quality handguns. But sales were flatlining. "It was a company on the verge of bankruptcy and about two seconds away from imploding," company CEO Ron Cohen recalled in a 2010 profile in Management Today.

Then, Cohen made a swift decision that would save the company and turn it into the No. 4 gun manufacturer in America: He turned the company's sites onto "AR-style" assault rifles that would be marketed to civilians. A little more than a decade later, one of those assault rifles, a Sig Sauer MCX, was used by Omar Mateen to kill 49 people and injure dozens more at an LGBT nightclub in Orlando called Pulse.

That Mateen ended up with an assault rifle was no coincidence. The number of handgun owners in America had been in decline, but the expiration in 2004 of a decade-old federal assault weapons ban -- which had been signed into law by President Bill Clinton -- allowed U.S. gun manufacturers to start marketing AR-style assault rifles to civilians. Today, these types of weapons are the most profitable and desirable product line in the U.S. gun business.

Posted by orrinj at 6:19 PM


The Data on Children in Same-Sex Households Get More Depressing (Mark Regnerus, June 29th, 2016, Public Discourse)

A new study released earlier this month in the journal Depression Research and Treatment contributes to mounting evidence against the "no differences" thesis about the children of same-sex households, mere months after media sources prematurely--and mistakenly--proclaimed the science settled.

One of the most compelling aspects of this new study is that it is longitudinal, evaluating the same people over a long period of time. Indeed, its data source--the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health--is one of the most impressive, thorough, and expensive survey research efforts still ongoing. This study is not the first to make use of the "Add Health" data to test the "no differences" thesis. But it's the first to come to different conclusions, for several reasons. One of those is its longitudinal aspect. Some problems only emerge over time.

Professor Paul Sullins, the study's author, found that during adolescence the children of same-sex parents reported marginally less depression than the children of opposite-sex parents. But by the time the survey was in its fourth wave--when the kids had become young adults between the ages of 24 and 32--their experiences had reversed. Indeed, dramatically so: over half of the young-adult children of same-sex parents report ongoing depression, a surge of 33 percentage points (from 18 to 51 percent of the total). Meanwhile, depression among the young-adult children of opposite-sex parents had declined from 22 percent of them down to just under 20 percent.

A few other findings are worth mentioning as well. Obesity surged among both groups, but the differences became significant over time, with 31 percent obesity among young-adult children of opposite-sex parents, well below the 72 percent of those from same-sex households. While fewer young-adult children of same-sex parents felt "distant from one or both parents" as young adults than they did as teens, the levels are still sky-high at 73 percent (down from 93 percent during adolescence). Feelings of distance among the young-adult children of opposite-sex parents actually increased, but they started at a lower level (from 36 percent in adolescence to 44 percent in young adulthood).

Posted by orrinj at 6:06 PM


Bernie Sanders's Case Against Free Trade Is More Ignorant Than Donald Trump's (Jonathan Chait, 7/01/16, New York)

The argument for restricting this trade rests on protecting the interests of the working class in rich countries at the expense of the global poor who are taking their jobs. In an interview last summer, Ezra Klein pushed Sanders into more or less conceding that his trade plans would look out for American workers at the expense of poor workers overseas. "I think what we need to be doing as a global economy is making sure that people in poor countries have decent-paying jobs, have education, have health care, have nutrition for their people," Sanders replied, when asked how he would balance the two. "That is a moral responsibility, but you don't do that, as some would suggest, by lowering the standard of American workers, which has already gone down very significantly."

In his op-ed today, Sanders does not make the straightforward case that American trade policy should look out for American workers first and the rest of the world second. Instead, he argues that global trade is making the entire world poorer:

[I]t's not just the British who are suffering. That increasingly globalized economy, established and maintained by the world's economic elite, is failing people everywhere. Incredibly, the wealthiest 62 people on this planet own as much wealth as the bottom half of the world's population -- around 3.6 billion people. The top 1 percent now owns more wealth than the whole of the bottom 99 percent. The very, very rich enjoy unimaginable luxury while billions of people endure abject poverty, unemployment, and inadequate health care, education, housing and drinking water.

This is just wrong. The global rate of deep poverty is falling rapidly. Last year it dropped to below 10 percent for the first time in human history.
The gains among the global poor can be traced directly to increased trade. 

Posted by orrinj at 6:02 PM


IDF strikes 2 Syrian military targets following cross-border stray fire (Jerusalem Post, 7/04/16)
The IDF struck two Syrian regime military targets on Sunday, it announced Monday, in response to stray Syrian fire that hit an area adjacent to the northern security border fence.

Posted by orrinj at 5:56 PM


Nigel Farage: The bombastic bloke at the pub who changed British history (Karla Adam July 4, 2016, Washington Post)

Farage's leadership -- he took the helm in 2006 -- helped transform UKIP into something of a populist phenomenon. In the 2014 European parliamentary elections, UKIP became the first party in modern history other than the Conservative or Labour parties to win a British national election.

Charismatic and controversial, Farage is not like other politicians in Brussels.

Formerly a trader in London's financial district, he first won a seat in the European Parliament in 1999, where he quickly stood out.

"You have the charisma of a damp rag and the appearance of a low-grade bank clerk," he once told Herman Van Rompuy, the then-president of the E.U.

Posted by orrinj at 5:50 PM


Facing Hillary Clinton-Donald Trump presidential matchup... (NY Daily News, 7/01/16)

Some people would rather see Earth hit by a meteor than have Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump occupy the White House.

A national survey by Public Policy Polling offered the hypothetical "Giant Meteor" option -- and 13% of voters favored the space rock hurling toward our planet as the best option.

Posted by orrinj at 5:43 PM


Bombing near Prophet's Mosque killed 4 Saudi security personnel: ministry (AFP, July 4, 2016)

Four Saudi security personnel were killed and five others were wounded in a suicide bombing Monday outside one of Islam's holiest sites, the Prophet's Mosque in Medina, the interior ministry said.

Posted by orrinj at 4:37 PM


British Finance Minister Cuts Corporate Taxes To Stay 'Competitive' (William Schomberg and Conor Humphries, 7/04/16, Reuters)

Ireland, where a 12.5 percent corporate tax rate has been a cornerstone of economic policy for 20 years, drawing investors such as Pfizer and Apple, said Osborne's announcement showed how quickly the EU's dynamics were changing after the Brexit vote.

"This is a very stark reminder of how the world is changing as a result of the referendum result in the United Kingdom," Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe told RTE radio.

"The tectonic plates are shifting and this is a very early sign of it. It's a sharp reminder here, to us, that your tax system and how it's structured is an essential part of our national competitiveness," Donohoe said.

Ireland's transport minister said Osborne's move was an "obvious attempt" to lure investors away from Ireland.

"If the headline figure was to come down to 12.5 percent in the UK, it would be threatening to us and we would have to adjust accordingly and make ourselves more attractive again," Shane Ross, an independent minister, said.

The Netherlands said it would review its tax rates to ensure it remained attractive. 

A race to zero benefits us all.

Posted by orrinj at 2:22 PM


Posted by orrinj at 1:08 PM


AP Interview: NATO to end central Europe's fears of Russia (The Associated Press, 7/04/16) 

Poland's defense minister says decisions to be approved at this week's NATO summit in Warsaw will build a deterrence force that should make Russia "forget about threatening Poland" and other nations.

Posted by orrinj at 1:01 PM


Young Cuban-Americans get new impressions on island visits (MICHAEL WEISSENSTEIN, 7/04/16, Associated Press) 

The declaration of U.S. detente with Cuba was made possible by the softening of a hard line held for half a century by Florida's powerful Cuban-American community. Expectations for a fearsome backlash to follow any outreach to Cuba grew less so as the first generations of Cuban-American exiles were joined by new waves of economic migrants, and by children and grandchildren who never directly experienced communism.

Now the process of normalization between the U.S. and Cuba is accelerating and widening that softening of attitudes. Inspired by the reestablishment of diplomatic and business ties, the children and grandchildren of exiles are traveling to Cuba in increasing numbers, often as part of programs designed to support family reconciliation and political normalization.   

Among the most notable efforts is CubaOne, the new program that took Hernandez to Cuba. Inspired by Birthright Israel, a program that has sent 500,000 young Jews to Israel since 1999, CubaOne hopes to send three groups of Cuban-Americans to the island by February. Its founders are putting nearly $100,000 of their own money into the fledgling program and hope to raise enough funds for future years from individual donors and the American airlines, hotel companies and other businesses starting to establish footholds in Cuba. 

"It's a new community and a new culture in Miami," said CubaOne founder Daniel Jimenez, a 34-year-old digital executive at Ernst & Young, "Being here and listening to what 11 million Cubans have to say rather than the media in Miami is something every young Cuban-American should go through."

With an average age of 25, CubaOne's inaugural class of nine millennials included artists, entrepreneurs and writers from across the United States, many from families based in South Florida. 

They traveled to the tobacco-growing region of western Pinar del Rio province before returning to Havana for six days of visits with independent business people and artists and stays in private bed-and-breakfasts. 

"Young Cuban-Americans love Cuba, but we express that love differently than our parents," said Giancarlo Sopo, one of CubaOne's founders and the son of a veteran of the U.S.-backed forces in the Bay of Pigs invasion. "For us, loving Cuban means going there to learn about our culture, meet family, and engage the people."

Posted by orrinj at 12:55 PM



Let's take a look at a rundown of the madness:

Three Mets had 11 plate appearances, including Keith Hernandez, who hit for the cycle in what may be the most useless example of a useless baseball achievement. "Man Gets Four Different Hits In Nearly Three Games Worth of At Bats."

The Mets had 28 hits, three shy of the National League record set by the New York Giants in 1901, and five shy of the American League record set by Cleveland in 1932. The Braves managed to hang around for 19 innings with only 18 hits of their own.

Not specific to this game, but the Braves had a person on the field dressed up like a Native American from a John Wayne movie, which is weird and unfortunate.

Lenny Dykstra played, so cocaine was probably involved.

Doc Gooden appeared for two and one third innings, so cocaine was probably involved.

There were still people in the stadium at 3:30 in the morning for Rick Camp's home run, so cocaine was probably involved.

The Mets held a 7-4 lead in the eighth only to give up four runs and the lead in the bottom half of the inning. And the only reason they played 10 extra innings was because Hall of Fame closer Bruce Sutter blew the save in the ninth.

Tom Gorman, who gave up the improbable home run to Camp, had himself a pretty wild season that year. He was the winning pitcher of this 19-inning game, the winning pitcher of an 18-inning game earlier in the season, and took the L on a 26-7 game against the Phillies.

Camp's home run was the second game-tying home run Gorman allowed in the game. The first was all the way back in the 13th inning when Terry Harper hit one off the foul pole, negating Howard Johnson's two run shot in the Mets half.

Seriously, this can't be emphasized enough: a brutally bad hitting pitcher hit a game-tying home run, in the 18th inning, at 3:30 in the morning off an 0-2 pitch, with two outs. Snowballs have better odds in hell.

Before Camp took a swing, the Mets made a big show of bringing the outfielders in.

John Sterling, who was probably super stressed out about missing his soaps: "If he hits a home run to tie this game, this game will be certified as absolutely the nuttiest in the history of baseball."

Two pitches later: "And he hits to deep left, Heep goes back, it is...GONE! HOLY COW. OH MY GOODNESS. I DON'T BELIEVE IT. I DON'T BELIEVE IT. RICK CAMP. RICK CAMP. I. DON'T. BELIEVE IT.

Mets manager Davey Johnson and Darryl Strawberry were both ejected by home plate umpire Terry Tata for arguing balls and strikes in the 17th inning.

Tata, after the game: "There aren't any bad calls at 3 a.m."

After the Mets scored five runs in the top of the 19th, the Braves rallied in their half of the inning so that Camp once again came up to bat as the tying run with two outs. Ron Darling struck him out and the Mets won 16-13.

Fireworks at 4 AM. How many people in Atlanta woke up in the middle of the night worried we were under attack?

Posted by orrinj at 12:43 PM


Poll: Trump Supporters More Likely to View Blacks Negatively (KO BRAGG, 6/29/16, NBC)

Supporters of U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump are more likely to describe African Americans as "criminal," "unintelligent," "lazy" and "violent" than voters who backed some Republican rivals in the primaries or who support Democratic contender Hillary Clinton, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll. [...]

To be sure, not all Trump supporters expressed negative attitudes about blacks. No more than 50 percent of his supporters rated blacks negatively, relative to whites, on any of the six character traits in the poll.

Yet when their answers to the poll questions were compared with responses from supporters of other candidates, Trump supporters were always more critical of blacks on personality traits, analysis of the results showed.

July 3, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 12:42 PM


Trump statements, slow start put pivotal Southwest at risk (THOMAS BEAUMONT, Jul 3, 2016, AP)

Once a swing state in presidential elections, Colorado has teetered on the brink of becoming solidly Democratic. Donald Trump may have pushed it over the edge.

Trump's disparaging words about Mexicans, negative comments about women and weak campaign organization have punctuated the state's shift from a nip-and-tuck battleground to one that's Democrat-friendly. For the first time in more than 20 years, there are now more registered Democrats in the state than Republicans.

"Trump is turning off as many key voter groups as we have in this state," said former state Republican Party Chairman Dick Wadhams. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:23 PM


Star of Outrage (Robert Schlesinger, July 3, 2016, US News)

It looks like Donald Trump's presidential campaign has been dallying with white supremacists. Yet again. [...]

This morning, Mic's Anthony Smith reported that those weren't merely overtones. "Donald Trump's Twitter wasn't the first place the meme appeared," Smith wrote. "The image was previously featured on /pol/ -- an Internet message board for the alt-right, a digital movement of neo-Nazis, anti-Semites, and white supremacists newly emboldened by the success of Donald Trump's rhetoric -- as early as June 22, 2016, over a week before Donald Trump's team tweeted it."

It was all so much fun when he refused to be PC and said all that stuff we really feel about Muslims, Mexicans and Chinese, but then he went beyond the Pale....
Posted by orrinj at 9:24 AM


Gaping hole in ozone layer shows amazing recovery, say scientists (Eva Botkin-Kowacki, JUNE 30, 2016, CS Monitor)

A gaping hole in the ozone layer has been opening up over Antarctica each spring for decades. And now there are signs that the slow process of healing has begun, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Science.

Scientists credit this progress to the 1987 Montreal Protocol, an international treaty that phased out chemicals that eat away at the ozone layer, which shields our planet from deadly levels of radiation.

"The healing of the Antarctic stratospheric ozone level is the most significant environmental success story of the 20th century," Michael Newchurch, an atmospheric chemist at the University of Alabama at Huntsville who was not part of the study, tells The Christian Science Monitor.

Gaia won't even notice the carbon age.

Posted by orrinj at 9:19 AM


Donald Trump isn't really advertising in battleground states. Hillary Clinton is buying ad time in Nebraska. (Peter Weber, July 1, 2016, The Week)

On Thursday, Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign added Nebraska to the list of states where it is running ads, including the traditional swing states of Ohio, Virginia, Florida, Iowa, and Colorado, plus North Carolina. The ad buy is aimed not at the entire heavily Republican state but at the one congressional district President Obama won in 2008 -- Nebraska awards two of its five electoral votes to the statewide winner and one each to the winner of its three congressional districts. Donald Trump, says The Washington Post's John Wagner, "has not started a concerted TV ad campaign in any battleground states."

In another sign that Clinton, buoyed by Trump missteps and sliding poll numbers, is working to expand the electoral map, she moved the site of her first joint campaign appearance with Obama from Wisconsin to Charlotte, North Carolina. 

Posted by orrinj at 9:11 AM


What Manner of Men are Conservatives? (Stephen Tonsor, 7/03/16, Intellectual Conservative)

If conservatives are finally to achieve the common agreement necessary to the establishment of both principle and party, they must reconcile themselves to the dialectic of freedom and authority and must capitalize on the values of their divided heritage. They can achieve this in no better way than through an exploration of the thought of Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) and Lord Acton (1834-1902). Together, their lives spanned the nineteenth century, and together, they elaborated the soundest and most coherent modern body of conservative thought of which contemporary conservatives may avail themselves. They reconciled, in their lives and their thinking, authority and freedom; anticipated the modern world with all of its problems; and worked towards viable and optimistic solutions. They both stood near the center of power; they both mistrusted power and spoke repeatedly of its corrupting influence. Both were active in practical politics, but both were contemplative by nature, preferring the study of power to its exercise. Both were deeply religious men, but both stood near the edge of heresy. Both suspected the worst of human nature, but optimistically hoped for the best. Both were born to an aristocratic order which was in the process of dissolution, and both met the situation, not by reaction but rather by an attempt to understand and to assimilate themselves to the new social processes which were transforming Western society. Both were ethical thinkers of the highest order who would tolerate no concession of principle to practical politics. Both combined in their thought and in their lives such a devotion to both principle and freedom as ought to distinguish the contemporary conservative.

Not only singular personalities, but history itself by slow conjunction unites the opposites which men so often find in contradiction. Providence, which has its own purposes, disposes, and wise men conform themselves to a world whose ordering was only partially theirs. It is difficult, once man accepts the basic proposition of historical purpose, to couple with this acceptance the necessity of individual and collective action. It is all too easy to assume, as others in the past have, that faith and hope make an active charity unnecessary. But it is only through historical understanding, through action, and finally through faith in God's Providence that the reconciliation of opposites becomes possible. Lord Acton and De Tocqueville understood both the necessity of faith and hope and the necessity of immediate political action. Although both were pessimists about human nature, both were optimists largely because of their belief in an overriding Providence. Acton said, "Christ is risen on the world and fails not." Tocqueville wrote, "I cannot believe that the Creator made man to leave him in an endless struggle with the intellectual wretchedness that surrounds us. God destinies a calmer and a more certain future to the communities of Europe. I am ignorant of his designs, but I shall not cease to believe in them because I cannot fathom them, and I had rather mistrust my own capacity than his justice."

But both Acton and Tocqueville recognized that if it is difficult to accept the necessity of action and understanding within the framework of a world ordered by Providence, it has been, for the past two and a half centuries, even more difficult to accept the concept of Providence itself. The attack upon Providence and purpose has been the distinguishing characteristic of modern society, the abandonment of hope and of value its singular mark. Whether in Voltaire's Candide or in the anti-rational and anti-Providential works of the Marquis de Sade, the general conception of a creative Providence which establishes purpose and imposes meaning upon the events of history was denied by the eighteenth century. What has been described as the "revolt against the eighteenth century" was well under way before the eighteenth century was half over. It was only incidentally a revolt against reason, but reason, too, was forced to abdicate its sway, once purpose had been banished. The era of nihilism and the totally absurd begins with a doubt as to the nature and purposes of God in history.

Posted by orrinj at 8:53 AM


Elie Wiesel gave the Holocaust a face and the world a conscience (SARAH WILDMAN, July 3, 2016, JTA)

Elie Wiesel, the Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate who became a leading icon of Holocaust remembrance and a global symbol of conscience, died on Saturday at 87. His death was the result of natural causes, the World Jewish Congress said in a statement.

A philosopher, professor and author of such seminal works of Holocaust literature as "Night" and "Dawn," Wiesel, perhaps more than any other figure, came to embody the legacy of the Holocaust and the worldwide community of survivors.

"I have tried to keep memory alive," Wiesel said at the Nobel peace prize ceremony in 1986. "I have tried to fight those who would forget. Because if we forget, we are guilty, we are accomplices."

Often, he would say the "opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference."

The quest to challenge indifference was a driving force in Wiesel's writing, advocacy and public presence. Though he considered himself primarily a writer, by the end of the 1970s he had settled into the role of moral compass, a touchstone for presidents and a voice that challenged easy complacency about history.

Wiesel spent the majority of his public life speaking of the atrocities he had witnessed and asking the public to consider other acts of cruelty around the world, though he drew the line at direct comparisons with the Holocaust. "I am always advocating the utmost care and prudence when one uses that word." he told JTA in 1980.

It is perhaps wrong to say that the Holocaust would not hold such a central place in our memories but for Mr. Wiesel.  Contrary to myth, it had not been largely ignored until the 60s and there were other survivors who wrote as well, or better, about the camps and their meaning.  But he did become a living symbol. Indeed, it was hard to separate the man from what he had come to symbolize.  

Posted by orrinj at 8:42 AM


Mentally & Emotionally Normal Adults Can't Support Trump (Kevin Williamson, 7/02/16, National Review)

Two things: First, it is impossible for a mentally and emotionally normal adult to support Donald Trump's bid for the presidency without calling into question his judgment or his honor. Second, it is easier to forgive defective judgment than deficient honor. [...]

It would be perfectly defensible -- and honorable -- for Ted Cruz to say: "I made that promise thinking that the chances were remote that Donald Trump would become the nominee, and without fully appreciating what manner of man he was, which really began to dawn on me around the time he suggested my father was somehow mixed up in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and putting out explicitly racist theories about how Mexican-American judges can't fairly preside over cases involving fraud allegations against Trump. I shouldn't have made that promise, and I regret having done so, but there is no way in hell that I am supporting Trump. I care too much about the future of my country and my immortal soul to climb into that particular snake-pit just to avoid the appearance of having made a mistake in judgment, which I clearly did." [...]

Declining to support Trump is an act of integrity and good taste. It isn't anything Cruz or Bush has done that makes Trump unsupportable -- that is Trump's doing, and no one else's. If there is a revolt in Cleveland -- as there should be -- it will be entirely understandable, and justifiable. If the delegates end up playing fast and loose with the nomination rules, it may be that the Republican party needs some new ones -- the Democratic party and its undemocratic "superdelegate" system sure is looking smart right about now: They didn't need McGovern to tell them twice.

Posted by orrinj at 8:27 AM


In sign of progress, Libya's rival NOC oil companies agree to merge (Reuters, 7/03/16)

Libya's state energy company National Oil Corporation has agreed to merge with a rival company established in the east by one of the country's two former competing governments, the NOC said in a statement.

The merging of the two NOCs is a positive step to recovering the OPEC member's oil sector which has been battered by militant attacks, rival export attempts and closures of pipelines and oil ports by armed factions.

It is also a boost for the U.N.-backed unity government and its presidential council in Tripoli that has struggled to extend its influence over hardline factions and their armed supporters who set up rival administrations in the capital and in the east.

One of the problems with opposing the Arab Spring because it occurred on the Obama/Clinton watch is that it cedes credit for some of the inevitable democratization of the Arab world.

Posted by orrinj at 8:19 AM


'Deer Hunter' director Michael Cimino, 77, dies at home in US (DW, 7/03/16)

Cimino's masterpiece was 1978's "The Deer Hunter," the story of the Vietnam War's effect on veterans in rural Pennsylvania.

His first studio film, 1974's "Thunderbolt and Lightfoot," was a heist picture with Clint Eastwood and Jeff Bridges. It led to his landing "The Deer Hunter," which won five Academy Awards, including best picture and best director for Cimino. It helped lift the emerging-legend status of actors Robert De Niro and Meryl Streep. Christopher Walken also won an Oscar for best supporting actor. [...]

At the time, the film critic Roger Ebert called it "one of the most emotionally shattering films ever made."

Deer Hunter is the perfect example of how conservatives and liberals don't watch the same movies and read the same books even when they watch the same movies and read the same books.  The left thinks the rendition of God Bless America at the end of the film is ironic.

Posted by orrinj at 8:14 AM


Clinton's FBI interview may show email probe is nearing end (ERIC TUCKER and KEN THOMAS, 7/03/16, Associated Press)

Hillary Clinton's interview with the FBI may signal that the Justice Department is nearing the end of its yearlong probe of her use of a private email server while secretary of state, a controversy that has hung over her White House bid.

"I've been eager to do it, and I was pleased to have the opportunity to assist the department in bringing its review to a conclusion," Clinton said in describing the FBI session to NBC's "Meet the Press" for an interview to air Sunday. She agreed that the tone of meeting with investigators had been civil and business-like. [...]

The interview, which had been expected to take place before the Democratic National Convention on July 25, did not suggest that Clinton or anyone else is likely to face prosecution. If the former senator and secretary of state and her aides are exonerated, it might help brush aside a major distraction that has made many voters question her trustworthiness.

Posted by orrinj at 7:35 AM


As Obama Years Draw to Close, President and U.S. Seen Favorably in Europe and Asia (RICHARD WIKE, JACOB POUSHTER AND HANI ZAINULBHAI, 6/29/16, Pew Research)

As he nears the end of his presidency, Barack Obama continues to enjoy a broad degree of international popularity. A new Pew Research Center survey conducted in 10 European nations, four major Asia-Pacific countries, Canada and the United States finds that half or more of those polled in 15 of 16 countries express confidence in the American leader. [...]

Yet, as the U.S. economy continues to grow slowly but steadily and as China's once roaring growth rates wane, perceptions of American economic power are on the rise. Today, majorities or pluralities in seven of 16 nations name the U.S. as the leading global economic power; only the Australians say it's China (in the remaining countries, opinions are more divided).

In the European Union, public opinion has moved substantially on this question since it was first asked in 2008. Looking across five EU nations polled each year since 2008 - France, Germany, Poland, Spain and the UK - the median percentage naming the U.S. as the world's top economic power declined rapidly after 2009, but has rebounded steadily since 2012.

American public opinion has also shifted on this question. As recently as 2014, 41% said China was the leading economy, while 40% chose the U.S. Now, just 34% think it's China, while 54% say the U.S.

European attitudes toward President Barack Obama remain very positive. Across the 10 EU nations polled, a median of 77% have confidence in Obama to do the right thing in world affairs, including more than eight-in-ten in Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany and France.

Americans: Hopeful and hardworkingNo confidence in Donald TrumpAmericans again see U.S. as leading economic power

There's a terrific recent Norwegian tv series called Occupied--based on a scenario by Jo Nesbo--in which the US uses its newfound energy dependence to withdraw from world affairs and stop defending allies.  So when a Green government in Norway announces that it's not going to market any oil anymore--replacing its own energy supply and potentially that of all Europe with a new non-carbon element--the EU conspires with the Russians to take over Norwegian oil facilities and keep supplies going.  Gradually, the screw begin to tighten and Russia, with EU connivance, exerts more and more control over the country.

But there's a great scene where--after being taken hostage by fake terrorists--the PM and his assistant flee to the US Embassy. The sight of the US flag flapping in the breeze, by itself, assures you that the two are safe now.

July 2, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:25 PM


Hezbollah says it killed IS commander in Lebanon (AP July 3, 2016)

Hezbollah's media outlet Al-Manar said the group, which shares security responsibilities with the Lebanese army in areas along the eastern border with Syria, killed a commander known as Abu Khatab in a rocket attack. 

Posted by orrinj at 2:40 PM


Does Trump's Anti-Trade Gamble Make Political Sense? (Ed Kilgore, 6/30/16, New York)

[T]rump took care in his speech yesterday to quote Sanders and to cite research from the left-labor Economic Policy Institute. 

But the question immediately presents itself: Are Bernie Sanders voters mostly horny-handed sons and daughters of toil, the quintessential 55-year-old former manufacturing worker now getting by as a Walmart greeter? Not really. The further we got into the Democratic presidential nominating contest the more it became obvious that age, more than economic class or ideology, was what was mostly feeding the Bern. And young Sanders supporters were much more likely to be motivated by a desire for free tuition or forgiven student loans, or legalized pot, or maybe busting up the big banks, than by a determination to cancel NAFTA. Indeed, polling has consistently shown that millennials are reflexively more positive about globalization generally and trade expansion specifically than their elders. 

Nor was it obvious that anger over trade agreements was sweeping the Rust Belt during the Democratic primaries. In Pennsylvania, where Trump conjured up the protectionist ghosts of Smoot and Hawley, Democratic primary participants said trade "creates" rather than "takes away" jobs by a 44-42 margin. Hillary Clinton, by the way, won both categories of voters. But even in states like Michigan and Ohio where anti-trade sentiment was stronger among Democrats, neither Sanders nor Clinton voters were monolithically on either side of the question. So the idea of a big batch of Bernie voters ripe for the picking because Donald Trump is promising to somehow make Mexico and China cough up and return to the U.S. the jobs they've "stolen" is dubious from the get-go. 

Posted by orrinj at 1:55 PM


Trump posts, quickly deletes image of Star of David next to Hillary Clinton's face (GINGER ADAMS OTIS, 7/02/16, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)

Donald Trump ignited a firestorm of criticism Saturday when he called Hillary Clinton the "most corrupt candidate" in history -- and put her face next to a Star of David over a pile of money.

No one just hates Hispanics, Muslims and the Chinese.

Posted by orrinj at 1:50 PM


Hillary Clinton Questioned by FBI Over E-Mails as Top Diplomat (Chris Strohm, Ben Brody, Margaret Talev, July 2, 2016, Bloomberg)

"Secretary Clinton gave a voluntary interview this morning about her e-mail arrangements while she was Secretary. She is pleased to have had the opportunity to assist the Department of Justice in bringing this review to a conclusion," Nick Merrill, a spokesman for Clinton, said in an e-mailed statement.  [...]

Clinton used the private e-mail to send or receive about 60,000 messages from 2009 to 2013. She and her aides said about half were work-related and turned over to the State Department. They said the rest, which they deemed personal, were destroyed. Clinton added that she used the system for convenience.

Following a review, State Department officials said more than 2,000 of the messages Clinton shared contained classified information, with top-secret information appearing in 22. However, no material was labeled as classified when the e-mails were sent or received. Clinton and her aides say that shows she didn't do anything wrong.

In its May 26 report, the State Department's inspector general faulted Clinton for failing to follow guidelines on records management and using the server. The inspector general also faulted the State Department's handling of electronic records and communications generally. It didn't say Clinton had done anything illegal. While previous secretaries of state had also used some form of private e-mail at work, "by Secretary Clinton's tenure, the Department's guidance was considerably more detailed and more sophisticated," according to the report.

Posted by orrinj at 1:43 PM


Israel's Evolving Military (Amos Harel, 6/08/16, Foreign Policy)

Shortly before Gadi Eisenkot became the IDF's chief of staff in February 2015, he met with Dan Meridor, a former member of Netanyahu's security cabinet. "You're going to command an exceptional army," Meridor told me he told Eisenkot. "You only have one problem: there are no serious enemies left to fight." Meridor was exaggerating, but he had a point. Israel's traditional foes no longer pose the threat they once did.

For most of the past few decades, the IDF's nightmare scenario was a repeat of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, when Syrian tanks stormed the Golan Heights and Syrian commandos captured Mount Hermon in a surprise attack. Today, after more than five years of civil war, Syria has disintegrated, and the risk of a conventional conflict with Israel has nearly vanished. In April, Israeli soldiers on Mount Hermon told me that their Syrian counterparts on the other side of the border, unable to obtain supplies, had deserted their positions more than a year earlier. Most of Syria's tank units and artillery batteries have disbanded, and much of the country's massive arsenal of chemical weapons, which Damascus began stockpiling in the 1970s to deter Israel, has been dismantled under international supervision.

As for the Arab countries still con­trolled by the authoritarian old guard, they have grown ever more interested in cooperating with Israel, albeit quietly. Egypt, Jordan, and, to a lesser extent, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have abandoned their past fixation on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and have mostly recognized that the problems they share with Israel are bigger than those that divide them: Iran and its proxies, on the one hand, and ISIS and al Qaeda, on the other. As did Israeli leaders, Saudi officials crit­icized the Obama administration over the nuclear deal with Iran; in recent years, Saudi Arabia has also stepped up its intelligence sharing with Israel.

Posted by orrinj at 1:33 PM


The Roots of the Tree of Liberty in America (Cardinal Donald Wuerl, 7/02/16, Real Clear Religion)

Said John Adams, "Liberty must at all hazards be supported. We have a right to it, derived from our Maker" (Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law (1765)). Thomas Jefferson concurred, asserting that our rights and freedom are not given to us at the beneficence of some worldly ruler, but rather, "God who gave us life gave us liberty at the same time" (The Rights of British America (1774)).

It is remarkable how comfortable the founders were in recognizing God as an integral necessity for a free nation. In declaring us to be a free and independent nation, they affirmed that freedom is endowed to us by our Creator, expressing also their "firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence" in securing our independence.

The founders uniformly agreed that freedom would be in grave danger if people were to live as if God did not exist or if God were to otherwise be excluded from the life of the nation. Asked Jefferson, "Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God?" (Notes on the State of Virginia, XVIII). President George Washington attested as well in his Farewell Address, "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports."

When he first arrived here, the French philosopher and observer Alexis de Tocqueville was particularly struck by the religious aspect of America and by how, with its transcendent moral order, religion helped to lift up and preserve free society. "Religion in America takes no direct part in the government of society," he wrote, "but nevertheless it must be regarded as the foremost of the political institutions of that country; for if it does not impart a taste 
for freedom, it facilitates the use of it" (Democracy in America, vol. I, ch. 17 (1835)).

July 1, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 6:16 PM


Airstrike kills 2 Islamic State commanders near Mosul (LOLITA C. BALDOR, 7/01/16, Associated Press)

 The Pentagon says that a U.S.-led coalition airstrike killed two senior Islamic State commanders last Saturday in northern Iraq, including a fighter considered to be the group's deputy minister of war.

Posted by orrinj at 6:07 PM


Elie Wiesel Visits Disneyland : The Holocaust survivor's underappreciated journalistic work for 'The Forverts,' unearthed--including a dispatch from The Happiest Place on Earth (Menachem Butler, June 27, 2016, Tablet)

From the $1 entrance-fee to Disneyland--in contrast, Disney announced several months a ago that a single-day ticket is now $99--Wiesel takes his reader on a tour around the park, where "before your astonished eyes unfolds a magical realm, where daily worries and troubles have no place." From Main Street, U.S.A. and Frontierland "as [the Western City] would have looked years ago," with its "colorful tramways, pulled by horses [that] traverse the main streets; outmoded taxis; affable, smiling policemen turn around, seemingly having just jumped out of a very old film; and just over there is a store where they sell everything from 'revolvers' to bags of gold, gifts, and cowboy hats." He then boards the train "through a desert where skeletons and Indians look at you with their dead stares" before disembarking to get his ticket for the Mark Twain Riverboat and travel down the giant Mississippi River, remarking "the ship is terrific, the river formidable."

Wiesel finishes his travels through America's past and heads now to "take a stroll through the land of the future, which is also a province of Disneyland" and describes the (now-closed) House of the Future shortly after it opened in the Summer of 1957: "Futuristic man will live such a wonderful life! Everything will come to him so, so easily! If someone knocks at the door, you won't have to go to see who it is: He will appear on the screen of your television. If the telephone rings, you'll be able to see the person you're speaking with and not just hear his voice. And a thousand other such conveniences will turn your house into a royal palace and transform you yourself into a lazy, fat, lonely king."

Several times in the article, Wiesel reflects on his appreciation of Walt Disney--"the person who created this land, this universe, must be a genius, a rare genius"--and then shares the anecdote that he was told of how Walt Disney often walks around Disneyland in disguise. Wiesel understands why: "If one wants to calm his nerves and forget the bitter realities of daily life, there is no better-suited place to do so than Disneyland. In Disneyland, the land of children's dreams, everything is simple, beautiful, good. There, no one screams at his fellow, no one is exploited by his fellow, no one's fortune derives from his fellow's misfortune. If children had the right to vote, they would vote Disney their president. And the whole world would look different."

Wiesel concludes his description of visiting Disneyland with a story from four years earlier, when he was a journalist covering the Cannes Film Festival on the French Riviera and had the opportunity to interview Walt Disney in person after the latter had been awarded the French Légion d'Honneur in honor of his cinematographic contributions. (Wiesel would himself later receive this same award in 1984, two years before he won the Nobel Peace Prize.)

At a ceremony that was flowing with champagne, surrounded by screenwriters, producers, and film personalities from around the world, Elie Wiesel approached Walt Disney and asked: "The whole world loves you; your children's films have brought you honor, renown, and anything one could wish for. I want to ask you: What is your goal? What do you want--what would you want--to achieve with your film work?"

Wiesel then writes:

"Disney thought for a bit, fixing his large eyes on a far off, invisible point in space, and answered:

'Childhood. The goal of my work has always been to awaken a sense of youth in men, in adults. Because--the best part of man's life is his childhood.' "

Wiesel's ending places the Holocaust survivor next to Mickey Mouse, in a way that feels at once jarring and profound and that Walt Disney would certainly have appreciated:

"Difficult as it is to admit, I did not understand his words at the time. I do understand them better now, however, having been to Disneyland.

"Today, I visited not only Disneyland, but also--and especially--my childhood."

Posted by orrinj at 6:02 PM


Kingmaker? Libertarian Gary Johnson poised to influence Trump-Clinton outcome : The former governor is now polling between 7 per cent and 11 per cent even though most voters still don't know of him. (DANIEL DALE, July 1, 2016, Kansas City Star)

"The Libertarians have a ticket with 14 years of public-sector executive experience, which is 14 more years than Trump and Clinton combined. That, I think,puts it in a different category than any third-party campaign I can remember," said David Boaz, executive vice-president at the libertarian Cato Institute. "Whatever criticism you may have of them -- they're not libertarian enough, they're not dealing with the problems America has to face, whatever -- you can't say they're unserious."

Posted by orrinj at 5:58 PM


US and Iceland Sign Defense Agreement (VALA HAFSTAD, 6/30/16, Icelandic Review)

Yesterday, Iceland and the US signed a joint agreement regarding cooperation in the area of defense. The agreement was signed in Reykjavík and Washington, DC, by Iceland's Minister for Foreign Affairs Lilja Alfreðsdóttir and US Deputy Secretary of Defense Roberto O. Worke. The agreement is an addendum to an agreement signed between the two countries in 2006.

The joint declaration states that the security environment in Europe and the North Atlantic region has changed since the US and Iceland signed a joint understanding in 2006, which remains valid, and continues to shape their bilateral defense relationship. The he purpose of the new agreement is to strengthen the basis for future cooperation.

Posted by orrinj at 5:53 PM


Walmart Is Testing A Robot Shopping Cart, So You Can Do The Job Of Low-Wage Workers (CHARLIE SORREL 07.01.16, Co.Exist)

 The cart is called the Dash, and it does a lot more than just following you around, pushing itself.

The Dash (slogan: "Changing the face of the shopping experience") comes from Five Elements Robotics and is being evaluated by Walmart for possible in-store use. The auto-cart actually guides you around the store, helping you to find the products on your list, and then takes your groceries out to the car park, where you can load up your cargo bike. [...]

The Dash also cuts out the checkout queue, allowing you to scan items as you go, and pay the cart, forcing you into doing the job of a minimum-wage worker yourself.